Last updated July 29th, 2020
While the Atlantic Division was one of major upheaval, the NBA Central Division has stayed relatively similar this offseason. Most of the top players in the division are still with their teams, and their squads largely seem to be continuing with their plans of either rebuilding or (hopefully) contending.
Of course, there are still slight differences for every team since last season. Let’s preview each team, looking at their odds to win the division and then make some picks with our betting predictions.
Central Division Team Previews & Predictions
Milwaukee Bucks (Best odds: -400 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Bucks were the NBA’s best team during last year’s regular season. This year, they have a chance of repeating the feat.
Of course, that’s more due to the lack of an obvious title favorite than the Bucks having a good offseason. In fact, their offseason wasn’t great. They weren’t able to keep two very important rotation players, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic, and instead got two decent role players (Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez) in the later stages of their careers.
If reigning MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo stays healthy, though, the Bucks are basically guaranteed to be one of the top two teams in the division.
- Record prediction: 56-26
Indiana Pacers (Best odds: +350 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Pacers have given off the “good, but not a legitimate title threat” vibe for the past couple seasons. While they did have a solid offseason, I am picking them to remain at 48 wins for the third straight year.
This season, the Pacers will miss the services of Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Cory Joseph. The additions of Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren were positive. There could be a period of adjustment.
By the end of the season, the Pacers could be dangerous in the Eastern Conference playoffs, if Victor Oladipo returns strong from his quad injury. Will the team regret trading in a defensive approach for a more offensive one?
- Record prediction: 48-34
Detroit Pistons (Best odds: +1600 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
Apparently, the Pistons are content with mediocrity. Detroit went out and had a relatively quiet offseason despite possessing a veteran core of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson that seems to be going nowhere.
In the offseason, Detroit grabbed three more key veterans that it believes can contribute: Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Tony Snell. Personally, I’m not impressed, because this team is still built around a very lackluster core that hasn’t meshed that well in its one and a half years together.
- Record prediction: 41-41
Chicago Bulls (Best odds: +5000 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
The Bulls have some young, exciting players. Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach LaVine and Coby White all have a lot of potential. Otto Porter is reasonably young at 26 years old and he is a very respectable two-way player. Adding veterans like Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young should help give the team some stability.
Is Chicago’s talent developed enough to compete for a playoff spot? Maybe, but there are some injury concerns with the young core that have me a bit apprehensive. I think I need to see a little bit more development and durability from this team before really buying in.
- Record prediction: 33-49
Cleveland Cavaliers (Best odds: +10000 at BetOnline & SportsBetting)
If there’s one team that’s a great bet to be the NBA’s worst defense, it’s the Cavaliers. They have a combination of raw young players and unathletic, overpaid veterans that often creates the perfect storm of defensive incompetence.
Cleveland’s roster is, on paper, bad but not totally terrible. Kevin Love can still prove 20 points and 10 rebounds, when healthy. Jordan Clarkson, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton can all score from the perimeter very well. Tristan Thompson can rebound very well.
I have a strong suspicion that Love might be traded this season, and the Cavs are sorely lacking in talent at the wing positions. Also, the squad will rely heavily on youngsters Garland and Sexton this season. Both guys are talented scorers who have no idea how to facilitate for teammates.
- Record prediction: 21-61
Our Preview’s Central Division Betting Suggestions, Predictions & Picks Verdict
I see the Pacers as the smartest bet here at +350. I see them and the Bucks as the only legit threats to win the division, but Milwaukee’s odds are extremely short at -400. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucks went a little bit more conservative in the 2019-20 regular season after their amazing 2018-19 campaign just resulted in playoff heartbreak.
In the event of that attitude, or a combination of Bucks underachievement and Pacers overachievement, it’s definitely possible to envision Indiana winning the Central. For that reason, this is my Central Division pick:
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.