Training camps have begun and tip-off is less than a month away, so it’s time to preview the upcoming NBA season. With all the movement in the offseason it is likely that some new teams will rise to the tops of their divisions. Let’s take a look at the Central Division. All odds according to Pinnacle and Bodog Sportsbook.
Chicago Bulls (+850 to win Eastern Conference, +1748 to win NBA title) Last season: 41-41, 3rd in division– Even though Chicago barely made the playoffs last season, the Bulls have enough balance and depth to contend this year. The Bulls had one of the better off-seasons in the league by acquiring Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans to go along with one of the best young cores in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Now with Boozer to go along with Noah down low, Rose should be able to steer on the of the league’s better inside-out games. This team does lack a little depth behind Noah at center, but should still have one of the deepest benches in the Eastern Conference. Their inside game should give trouble to Miami, while Rose will trouble Orlando. This much improved Bulls team that offers good value to win the conference, especially since they should win this division with ease. – Prediction: 50-32, 1st in division.
Milwaukee Bucks (+2500 to win Eastern Conference, +5855 to win NBA title) Last season: 46-36, 2nd in division– This team surprised everyone last year by finishing second in the division and earning the sixth seed in the playoffs (and by giving the Hawks a run for their money in the first round). The Bucks did improve in the offseason, picking up veterans Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden, while also retaining John Salmons. This is a solid team but lacks some depth. Andrew Bogut’s health is still a concern after that brutal fall last spring. Brandon Jennings was both great and terrible last year, and needs to be more consistent this season to lead this Bucks team. If Michael Redd can be half the player he used to be, this team could do some damage. Overall, the Bucks got better, but so did the rest of the Eastern Conference, making it more difficult to move up the ladder. But if Bogut and Redd are healthy, then Bucks offer good long shot value. – Prediction: 42-40, 2nd in division.
Detroit Pistons (+7500 to win Eastern Conference, +16431 to win NBA title) Last season: 27-55, 5th in division – Last year, it seemed like almost every player on the Pistons roster sustained an injury. Ben Gordon missed 20 games. Rip Hamilton missed 36. Tayshaun Prince missed 33 . The list goes on and on. If the Pistons remain healthy this year, they have a good enough team to make a run at the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Greg Monroe is one of the better rookies in the league and Tracy McGrady could have a comeback season. Still, this team doesn’t have enough size or enough depth to contend for a title. – Predicition: 37-45, 3rd in division.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+10000 to win Eastern Conference, +25673 to win NBA title) Last season: 61-21, 1st in division– The Cavs will take a big step back after losing one of the league’s best players. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison are good players, but neither is capable of being a team’s number one scoring option. The fact that Mo Williams claimed he considered retiring after “The Decision” shows just how low the morale is in Cleveland. J.J. Hickson is a great young player who should see a huge increase in minutes this year. But with LeBron James gone, it’s back to rebuilding for Cleveland. – Prediction: 32-50, 4th in division.
Indiana Pacers (+9500 to win Eastern Conference, + 20538 to win NBA title) Last season:32-50, 4th in division– Don’t expect much from the Pacers this year. They traded away one of their best players, Troy Murphy, and didn’t do much in the offseason. They did acquire young point guard Darren Collison in that trade, and expect him to be a bright spot on this team. Danny Granger will average at least 20 points per game, but he needs more help. This is a very young team (three rookies, three second-year players) that is a few years away from being relevant. – Prediction: 28-54, 5th in division.
Overall, the Bulls offer good value given their balance and depth, and should be a top four team in the conference. The Bucks are a good long shot bet, but nothing more. Those are the only two teams worth considering in this rather weak division.
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