The NBA season is just about here. BangtheBook is examining all the NBA divisions one by one before the season gets underway. Let’s take a closer look at the Eastern Conference and the Central Division. The Bulls are the favorite with a healthy Derrick Rose, but the Pacers proved they are on the rise with a great season last year. All futures odds listed are from 5Dimes.
2012-2013 Record: 45-37
Odds to Win NBA Central Division: -120
Odds to win NBA Championship: +900
You have to be impressed with how hard the Chicago Bulls fought last year despite being without Derrick Rose. The Bulls got into the second round of the playoffs with an injury-riddled roster. If they can stay semi-healthy, this is definitely a team to be reckoned with this season. Tom Thibodeau does a good job getting his guys to commit themselves on the defensive end. The Bulls frontcourt is among the best in the NBA, and this team can really rebound. Rose looks good in the preseason, and he has what it takes to make this team elite again if he is healthy. The Bulls are the team to beat in this division.
2012-2013 Record: 49-32
Odds to Win NBA Central Division: +105
Odds to win NBA Championship: +1,100
Remember, the Pacers were just one game away from an NBA Finals berth last year. Their Game 7 loss at Miami was an ugly one, but taking the Heat to seven games was a sign that this team had made some major progress. Paul George has turned into a star in the league, and the team locked him up for the long run in the offseason. Roy Hibbert is the anchor of a very good defense. Hibbert is always going to be a force on defense, and as his offense gets even better I expect very big things from him. David West was re-signed in the offseason. Luis Scola gives the team even more depth, and Danny Granger is back. On paper, this team is even better than last year.
2012-2013 Record: 24-58
Odds to Win NBA Central Division: +1,700
Odds to win NBA Championship: +12,000
The Cleveland Cavaliers finished at the bottom of this division last year, but expectations are much higher this year. Cleveland picked Anthony Bennett with the first pick in the NBA Draft, which surprised a lot of people. Bennett should fit in well in this offense though, and his ability to shoot it from mid and long range is a real asset to this team. Kyrie Irving was dinged up most of last year, and he should be much better this season. Irving is arguably the best young guard in the NBA. Will Andrew Bynum ever play for the Cavs? If he does, he could certainly be a help down low.
2012-2013 Record: 29-53
Odds to Win NBA Central Division: +2,000
Odds to win NBA Championship: +20,000
Detroit’s roster looks a lot different this season. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings were both big name signings in the offseason for the Pistons. These two should bring increased attention and more highlight reel plays to the team, but I don’t like that both of them shoot a very low percentage from the floor. Jennings says he will take higher quality shots and be more of a distributor this year. If he does that, it could work out well. Greg Monroe is a budding star down low. The Pistons will be better, but I’m not sure they’ll be as good as most believe.
2012-2013 Record: 38-44
Odds to Win NBA Central Division: +15,000
Odds to win NBA Championship: +35,000
The Bucks lost Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick, Monta Ellis, and Mike Dunleavy in the offseason. Clearly, this backcourt is going to look a lot different in the 2013-2014 season. Brandon Knight is the new starter at point guard. O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal were brought in to stretch the floor. Only Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders are back from last year’s starting lineup. Caron Butler will be the starter at small forward this season. Milwaukee has a new look, but I think they’ll move down in the standings this season.
NBA Central Pick: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have something to prove this year, and I expect big things from this team. Rose is the guy that makes this team go, and he looks to be healthy. The Pacers won’t be far behind, but I like the Bulls to win the division.
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