Welcome to the next round of my preseason Division Over/Under Predictions. I hope you’re willing to dip into your retirement fund a little, the Central Division is full of bets I like. I would only place 3 of the 5 bets, but I have an opinion I feel pretty good about on all of them. As always, totals and odds from https://www.betonline.ag/sportsbook.
Chicago added great vets and they are getting their health back –they should make an enormous jump in the win column. Detroit made a lot of solid moves on the margins, plus they have young guys who should get better, and they have important pieces in contract years. Milwaukee is running back a very similar roster and it is hard to not expect reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to get better. Cleveland and Indiana are where it gets a little weird. I have faith in Cleveland having enough veterans and solid enough young-guys to win more than 24 games. Indiana is tougher though. We don’t know what they’ll get from returning All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and their roster went through immense turnover.
Favorite: Chicago hitting the over at -110. Health alone makes them better, but they also made great moves this offseason. Now they also have a full season of Otto Porter. This team could make a run at the playoffs.
Least favorite: Indiana hitting the under at -110. I do not think this team will be as good as last year, but they did experience so much turnover, which makes them tougher to predict than some of the more consistently returned teams. There is also the chance that Oladipo ends up playing more than expected this year, which changes everything. This is a bet I’d stay away from, despite predicting them to finish a few games under their total.
Still a solid bet: Detroit and Milwaukee. The thing that is keeping Detroit away from being my favorite is Blake Griffin’s health. They made good moves this offseason, but when your best player is an injury risk it makes betting on them riskier. The Bucks will be really good again this season, but with such a relatively high win projection, betting on them to reach that means being overly confident about both their team and any bad injury luck they could face along the way.
Check out the individual previews below. :
Chicago Bulls: 32.5
This is probably one of my favorite overall bets. Chicago made some great moves this offseason. To start off, they were extremely injured last year and should make improvements just by being healthier. Adding Thad Young is huge for their defense. Now having Otto Porter and Young as their forward defenders, the Bulls have a foundation of a very good defense. This will be crucial with Zach Lavine, their best scorer, being terrible on defense. I love the addition of point guard Tomas Satoransky as well. He should be able to take the better of the guard match-up every night, knock down open threes, and Saty will not take away shots from Lavine. Satoransky is a great compliment to Lavine. Adding to that, there is a very real chance Lavine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. take a leap. Rookie point guard Coby White should be able to slowly work his way into things too. He will be running the second unit and probably playing some minutes with Kris Dunn, who will be guarding the better guard and will be able to provide some ball handling relief. This should lead to a smooth development from White. There is a version of this team that makes the playoffs. If Lavine and Markkanen can score at an above average rate, they are surrounded with enough defensive talent and some solid glue players and maybe one or two of the 2nd-4th year players make a jump that they could easily break 40 wins. At the end of the day I think all of this is very realistic, but I think Lavine and Markkanen’s efficiency won’t quite be good enough to make up for their defense. Both have hovered around league average true shooting % and I do not expect them to improve too much on that.
Prediction: 39 wins
Cleveland Cavaliers: 24.5
Cleveland is in a weird situation, they’re rebuilding but they’re full of vets. Despite all their weirdness, I like this bet. When Kevin Love played last year, the team was so much better, and it really helped Collin Sexton. They drafted Darius Garland this year, who will probably play alongside Sexton a lot. The SexLand combo will be very weird and very bad on defense, but at least it gives them 48 minutes of point guard play. They also have Jordan Clarkson, who is another terrible defender, but he is still someone who can score 15 points a game. Other vets like Matthew Delladova, Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr, John Henson and Brandon Knight might be able to provide value in at least one aspect each. Cedi Osman is also a pretty solid overall player. I’m sure they will trade any vet that nets them at least a second round pick, but I think they will be stubborn in holding onto Kevin Love. At the end of the day, this team has a close to All-Star level player in Kevin Love, some lottery picks, and some solid vets to go with a relatively low win total. I think there is more ways for them to win more than 24 game than there is for them to lose more than 24.
Prediction: 26 wins
Detroit Pistons: 37.5
Detroit got better on the margins this offseason, but so much of their success will rely on Blake Griffin’s health. I like the idea of having Luke Kennard and Tony Snell as wings surrounding Blake Griffin. Kennard will be an elite shooter off the ball and will thrive as a third ball handler who can attack close- outs and run the pick and roll on the weak side. Tony Snell will bring some elements of 3 and D, while being very low maintenance and allowing Blake Griffin to still run the offense. One thing that also must be considered is with Reggie Jackson being in a contract year and Derrick Rose being the backup there is 48 minutes of competent point guard play. The team was at its best last year when Jackson and Ish Smith were both healthy. I also really like the idea of Rose running a pick and pop with Blake Griffin too — you have to respect Blake’s 3-ball, which should open up the lane for Rose. Andre Drummond had a pretty good year last year and it is rumored he’s opting out at the end of the year and he’s treating this as a contract year. We can expect to get peak performance from Drummond. Ultimately, I can see Blake playing at an All-Star level again and this team getting better bench play with Rose and Markieff Morris to go with their young guys getting a little better. I think this team is in a better position to survive a minor Blake injury and will be better than expected.
Prediction: 45 wins
Indiana Pacers: 48.5
It seems like the Pacers always win around 48 games. I think their total is set at a good line so this is a bet I’m staying away from. The Pacers did have a pretty good offseason though. Their talent level is similar to last year, but they have more depth now. They’ll start the year with Oladipo out and Brogdon running the point. All signs point towards management wanting to give the Domantis Sabonis-Myles Turner 4-5 pairing one last try, so expect both to start. TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, and Justin Holiday make up a solid wing rotation. Not knowing how much of Oladipo we’ll get this year also makes this one tough. Last year while he was banged up, he was not quite as good as he was the year prior. There are questions about when he’ll be back, how good he’ll be when he’s back, and if he’ll be load managed when back. I’m going to assume Oladipo plays around 50 games at around 80% the level he was two years ago. The Pacers are well coached by Nate McMillan and staff, and have a lot of solid players. Even without the best version of Victor Oladipo, this team will be a tough match-up every night. They will probably struggle to score with no true play-makers and no one who is elite at getting their own shot. The lack of a true point guard will also cause them to struggle to get into an offensive rhythm at times. That being said, they do have a lot of decent scorers in Brogdon, Sabonis and Warren, this should lead to them being at least solid enough to beat the bad teams. In the end, it seems this team is just going to be relatively solid on both ends, but not great on either end. They will probably beat the bad teams, but I do not see them beating too many teams that have more talent than them.
Prediction: 43 wins
Milwaukee Bucks: 56.5
Milwaukee dominated teams last year. They consistently won games by double-digits and they are bringing the bulk of their 60-win team back for this upcoming season. The loss of Malcolm Brogdon will hurt, but in a weaker Eastern Conference, will that cost them 4 regular season wins? I don’t think so. Swapping in Wesley Matthews for Brogdon won’t hurt the regular season too much. Matthews is a high-volume 3-point shooter at a decent rate and he’ll hold his own guarding his position. It is hard to imagine Giannis not coming back better, he is known as one of the most competitive players in the league. He also missed the most games he’s missed in a season last year. I expect him to be better and to play more games. Robin Lopez and D.J. Wilson will be completely serviceable as backup bigs. Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte Divencenzo will be fine as backup wings. This team will be a very good regular season team again.
Prediction: 59 wins