NBA Central Division Preview: Five-Peat for Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks

Posted on: October 14, 2022, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: October 14, 2022, 01:35h.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in one of the softest divisions in the NBA. So it’s not surprising that they’re an overwhelming betting favorite at -240 odds to win the Central Division for the fifth consecutive season.

Greek Freak Milwaukee Bucks NBA Central Division odds preview Chicago Bulls Cleveland Cavs Pacers Pistons
Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks throws down a slam dunk at Fiserv Arena while teammate Jrue Holiday looks on. The Bucks seek a fifth-straight Central Division title. (Image: USA Today Sports)

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the Bucks’ closest competition at +245 odds. If they prevail, they would win the Central Division for the first time since they unleashed four straight division titles with LeBron James between 2015 and 2018.

2022-23 NBA Central Division Odds

Milwaukee Bucks -240
Cleveland Cavs +245
Chicago Bulls +850
Detroit Pistons +20000
Indiana Pacers +30000

*** Odds via DraftKings

Although a five-peat sounds cool, the Bucks have done it before. They won six straight Central Division titles between 1981 and 1986.

Milwaukee Bucks -240

The Bucks were 51-31 last season and secured the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. If small forward Khris Middleton didn’t injure his knee in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, there was a good chance the Bucks could have successfully defended their NBA title. Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 assists, and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. Without Middleton, the Bucks were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Last season, Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo finished in third place in the 2021-22 MVP voting behind Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Antetokounmpo won the prestigious award twice before, but you can make an argument that last year he had one of his best seasons as a pro. He was the NBA’s second-best scorer, averaging 29.9 points per game, and he was the league’s sixth-best rebounder, hauling down 11.6 boards per game. His PER rating of 32.12 was ranked #2 in the NBA.

The shooting guard, or #2 spot, continues to be the Bucks’ weakest spot. The platoon of Pat Connaughton and Grayson Allen failed to provide additional offense in the postseason when they lost Khris Middleton. The Bucks didn’t have much wiggle room or cap space to address the issue, so it looks like they’ll run it back with the same squad from last season.

There were rumors that Jae Crowder could join the Bucks in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. That would provide the Bucks with the veteran 3-and-D player that they’ve been missing since PJ Tucker left the team.

Aside from the Boston Celtics, the Bucks have the second-highest projected win total of 52.5 o/u.

The Bucks are +800 odds to win the 2023 NBA Championship, making them the fifth-highest team on DraftKings’ futures board. The Bucks are +350 odds to win the Eastern Conference title and return to the NBA Finals for the second time in the last three seasons.

You can back the Bucks at -240 odds to win the Central Division. Out of the five other teams that are favorites to win their division, the Bucks have the best odds and the largest gap between their closest competitor.

Cleveland Cavs +245

If there’s anyone in the Central Division that can give the Bucks a close sweat, it’s the Cleveland Cavs. The Cavs were one of the surprise teams in the NBA last season because prognosticators expected they would be among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Cavs proved all the haters wrong when they went 44-38 and secured a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

The team was decimated by injuries to their backcourt and held onto first place in the division at the start of the season. Big man Evan Mobley had an outstanding rookie season even though he played through an elbow injury. Injuries caught up to the Cavs when they lost center Jarrett Allen. They were unable to secure a playoff seed through the Play-In Tournament and missed the postseason. However, fans caught a glimpse of the future and it’s a bright one.

The Cavs shocked everyone again in the off-season when they secured shooting guard Donovan Mitchell in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz. The New York Knicks were the favorites to land Mitchell, but the Cavs snatched away the All-Star for three first-round draft picks, along with Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Ochai Agbaji.

Mitchell joins a backcourt with point guard Darius Garland and a frontline with Caris LeVert, Mobley, and Allen. Kevin Love is the Cavs’ Sixth Man, and he leads a second unit that includes Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman, Robin Lopez, and Raul Neto.

The Cavs have a projected win total of 47.5 o/u. They’re the second betting favorite on the board at +245 odds to win the Central Division.

Chicago Bulls +850

The Chicago Bulls find themselves at a crossroads. They have enough talented players that they could make a deep playoff run. But will they actually keep the current squad intact? The Bulls have a dangerous scoring duo with small forward DeMar DeRozan (27.9 ppg) and shooting guard Zach LaVine (24.4 ppg).  However, there are rumors the team will trade center Nikola Vucevic (17.6 ppg, 9.1 rebounds).

The Bulls saw their season go off the rails when they lost point guard Lonzo Ball to a knee injury. At the start of the new year, the Bulls were in first place in the Central Division and fighting for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Losing Ball sent the team into a tailspin, and they finished the season with a 46-36 record, slipping to the #6 seed.

Everyone expected Ball would return after a couple of weeks, but he missed the remainder of the season. His recovery from knee surgery went so poorly that he went under the knife again at the end of the summer. The Bulls anticipate that Ball will return to the lineup sooner than later, but we heard that same story last winter. In the meantime, Ayo Dosunmu takes over a point guard, with Alex Caruso and Goran Dragic as the backups.

The Bulls have a win total of 41.5 o/u, and oddsmakers think they’ll be a break-even team this season. The Bulls are +850 odds to win the Central Division, and they’re stuck in the middle of a division that has two terrible teams in the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, and two strong teams in the Bucks and Cavs.

Detroit Pistons +20000

Will the Pistons try to take a step forward and compete for a playoff spot? Or will they be among a handful of teams that will try to tank and lose on purpose to increase their odds of acquiring Victor Wembanyama through the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery?

The Pistons have a projected win total of 29.5 o/u, which puts them among the bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference once again.

The Pistons have been awful for the past few seasons, but they’ve been able to add talented players with first-round draft picks, including guard Cade Cunningham, the #1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft out of Oklahoma State. In 2020, the Pistons selected guard Killian Hayes with the seventh-overall pick and added center Isiah Stewart with the #16 pick.

Most recently, the Pistons added point guard Jaden Ivey from Purdue with the #5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Fans in Motown are frustrated because there’s no specific game plan for the future. It looks like the Pistons are stuck in a rut that a lot of bad teams get themselves into: they restock their team with high drafts picks, but trade away those prospects to other teams instead of rewarding them with contract extensions.

The dysfunctional Pistons are +20000 odds to win the Central Division.

Indiana Pacers +30000

The Indiana Pacers have one of the lowest projected win totals this season at 23.5 o/u. They’re in rebuilding mode after gutting the team last year by ditching stars Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert prior to the trade deadline. They also traded Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics in the off-season. Of course, Myles Turner is the subject of constant trade rumors. But will the big man finally get his wish by escaping Indiana in a trade?

The Pacers are flush with young guards like Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield, both acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the Sabonis trade. Chris Durate looked great last season during his rookie year, averaging 13.1 ppg. The Pacers also selected Bennedict Mathurin with the sixth-overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The Pacers are a moon shot to win the Central Division at +30000 odds. They’re one of the numerous teams that would love to hit the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery and secure the right to draft Wembanyama with the first pick. You know it’s going to be a long season for your team if the dream of hitting the lottery with Wembanyama is the only thing that you have going for you.