NBA Season Previews, Central Division Part II: Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks

CENTRAL DIVISION PART II

Now let us dive into the best two teams in the Central Division while giving each a little more time and depth than we did the first few clubs, all of which are likely non-playoff teams. Indiana and Milwaukee could be threats in the East, but neither is expected to win 50 games by Vegas oddsmakers. Did they err? Is there more to the Pacers and Bucks than meets the eye? Let’s find out.

Odds c/o Bovada

Indiana Pacers: 47.5 wins over/under

The Indiana Pacers were the NBA’s biggest surprise last season, and most of it had to do with Victor Oladipo transforming himself from a role player to an All-Star in a single season. His homecoming was bright for the Pacers, as a former Indiana University standout, and he really seems to be in his niche, at long last, as an NBA player. Oladipo increased his three-point output, and he really improved nearly every facet of his game in becoming a premier player on a team no one had really expected much from. That will not be the case for the Pacers this season, and even Vegas is high on Indy, setting the over/under at 47.5 wins.

Indiana is a team with few noticeable major flaws. Darren Collison is a down-grade from George Hill, but he is a competent point guard capable of playing defense and keeping turnovers down. That is probably enough. Bojan Bogdanovic is a lights-out shooter, while Thaddeus Young is a quite underrated stretch-4 in this era. The biggest question mark for the Pacers is whether it can manage to get star production out of Myles Turner or not. Turner impressed a rookie but really failed to get better in his second pro season. He is a premier shot blocker with some shooting range on the offensive end, and the Pacers could certainly deal with him being both more aggressive and more selfish on the offensive end.

Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott are nice additions to the second unit, while Domantas Sabonis showed great touch in the paint and a lot of offensive moves he was unable to display his rookie season in Oklahoma City. That eight-man rotation, along with Cory Joseph and Ike Anibogu, gives the Pacers some sneaky depth to off-set the high-end talents of Oladipo and Turner. This team realistically could surprise the hell out of the entire East and win it. While we are not betting on that prospect necessarily, we are betting the OVER on 47.5 wins. This is a 50-win team if everyone stays healthy, and if only because it features so many outstanding defenders, it easily could manage 55 wins in the regular season. OVER, that is—loud and clear.

Milwaukee Bucks: Over/under 48 wins

The Milwaukee Bucks have perhaps the most versatile and dynamic forward in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Former coach Jason Kidd did little more than hold back the “Greek Freak,” and the thought is that perhaps now he can make true strides with the keys to this engine firmly in his hands. Antetokounmpo overshadows an otherwise quite talented supporting cast, too, with Khris Middleton being a bit of a fringe All-Star and Eric Bledsoe rightfully nicknamed “Mini LeBron.” While Bledsoe’s best basketball seems to be behind him firmly, he is still a rock-solid No. 3 option behind Freak and Middleton.

Malcolm Brogdon enters his third NBA season after winning the Rookie of the Year award two seasons ago, but many suspects he is already playing at his peak level and improvements may not really come. Brook Lopez is a nice offensive addition at the 5-spot, but he is not much of a defender, and John Henson will still see plenty of minutes off the bench due to that. Henson is basically the antithesis of Lopez as a great defender whose offense leaves plenty to be desired. Tony Snell should be a solid sixth man, while eventually, the Bucks hope its first-round pick Donte DiVincenzo of Villanova becomes just that— a great sixth man.

The Bucks do lack depth in some respects, but Antetokounmpo is talented to carry to this team to a plus-.500 record just by himself. Of course, with the over/under sitting 6.5 wins above that mark, this is a precarious bet. Based on potential alone, it is an easy ‘over,’ but games are not won on paper, and the Bucks still lack three-point shooting outside of what Middleton and Snell do.

Will that stunt this team ultimately? Probably.

Will it cap it at 50 wins? Likely.

Do we feel comfortable betting a line like 48.5 wins? Absolutely not.

Calling a PUSH here, while we again “Fear the Deer” for whatever that even means at this juncture in the franchise’s history.

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