NBA Season Previews, Central Division Part I: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit

Central Division Part I

Odds c/o Bovada

The Central Division at first glance appears to have no contending teams. But that would be greatly depreciating the rapid improvement of the Indiana Pacers and the always-intriguing prospects of the Milwaukee Bucks. We will touch on them both, respectively, in part II of the Central Division analysis, but let us first take a look at the three-worst teams in the division, with an eye—of course—on determining what to do with those pesky over/under on three teams that may be a bit ignored by the casual fan and national stage at large.

That hardly means there is no value in betting these futures bets on Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, though.

Chicago: Over/under 30 wins

The Chicago Bulls are an interesting team for a number of reasons, but the foremost of them is second-year forward Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen comes from Arizona University, and the comparisons for his game have ranged, but the praise remains high, with many likening the youngster to a perhaps more-mobile but less skilled version of Dirk Nowitzki. He made the First Team All-Rookie selections a year ago, and with a healthy Zach LaVine, he could potentially help form a quite underrated duo in the Windy City this year.

Adding to that, the Bulls acquired Jabari Parker, a former No. 2 overall pick who has somewhat disappointed through his NBA career thus far, but also due to the fact he has torn his ACL in the same knee twice now. He may find new life in Chicago. Kris Dunn is a No. 4 overall who came with LaVine when the Bulls dealt Jimmy Butler, and he has made strides as a heady defensive guard who’s well capable of leading a team.

The Bulls lack depth, but Bobby Portis is a bit of a talented ball hog who could bail out the second unit regularly (Though likely ending up despised by his teammates for his lack of sharing). Those are all minor issues for the Bulls, while it focuses on developing chemistry and its young talent in a season that will unlikely result in a postseason berth. Bovada sets the over/under at 30 wins, and this seems just a tad on the low-side, and mostly due to Markkanen. We like the Bulls to just exceed that mark at about 32 to 35 wins, making this an OVER.

Cleveland Cavs: Over/under 30.5 wins

Despite the outlandish words of Tristan Thompson, that the East still runs through the Cleveland Cavaliers, no one outside of the Kardashian family really seems to believe this. The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and it will be a while before it lands a major talent capable of driving it to the levels of success it experienced under hometown legend LeBron James.

Instead, the Cavs will turn to the likes of Rodney Hood and rookie Collin Sexton for production, while even maybe hoping Kevin Love somehow returns to the form he once showed as a Minnesota Timberwolf. But no one is really betting on that, or the Cavs, to make much noise. Sexton is a talented 1-man, and has been a pick by some for the Rookie of the Year award, but he has an uphill battle because point guards typically take the longest to adjust to the rigors of NBA basketball.

Could “this guy” return or is that a little too delusional?

The Cavs do have some depth, but it lacks high-end talent and to expect Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to light the league on fire off the bench is probably also unreasonable. As is the Vegas mark at 30.5 wins. Expect Cleveland to probably be the worst team in the East, particularly if J.R. Smith decides he is now the superstar of this talent-bereft team. We like the UNDER, simply due to the sheer lack of upside on this roster. Even if Sexton breaks out and adjusts rapidly, the best case scenario still involves Love finding form he showed over a half-decade ago, and perhaps Cleveland sports fans now will turn to the Browns as its premier team in a city that has mostly experienced professional sports misery, outside of one trophy brought home by its prodigal son, LeBron James.

Detroit Pistons: Over/under 38.5 wins

The Detroit Pistons are something of an enigma. It features perhaps one of the best 4/5 combos in the East with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Reggie Jackson can certainly, if anything, pour in buckets. And Stanley Johnson is a three-and-D small forward that many teams would likely covet. But there is not much beyond the starters, and Griffin is still struggling to adjust to life without DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul flanking him. Luke Kennard is an intriguing year-two prospect, and he should get playing time, but to expect the Pistons to make any dramatic leap from last season’s disappointment is probably asking a bit much of the team.

After all, it has Ish Smith as a backup who often sees more minutes than his starter (Jackson), and the team seems to always, somehow, just lack direction. The 38.5 wins seem reasonable, but it is just as easy to envision a sheer disaster, because Griffin is a bit on the injury prone side, and the team lacks outstanding talents beyond his dubious contributions. We like the UNDER if a bet is made, but this is also a safe PUSH, simply because the Pistons are probably going to fall just shy of the postseason which means about 38 wins. So again, that is an UNDER or not at all, but to see this team go .500 or better would be somewhat shocking.

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