Once again, the Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks are the team to beat in the Central Division, and they come into this season as a huge favorite at -500 odds to win a fourth-straight divisional crown. The Chicago Bulls (+450 odds) and Cleveland Cavs (+700) are the closest competitors, whiles the bookies give the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons zero chance of dethroning the Bucks.
Gannis ‘Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Buck flexes after hitting a big 3-pointer against the Chicago Bulls in a Central Division battle. (Image: Getty)
The best teams in the Central Division tend to stay dominant for several years in a row. Since the inception of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s, there were only four instances when a new team won the division and failed to win it the next season. The Bucks won four in a row, proceeded by four Central division titles from the Cleveland Cavs.
2023 NBA CENTRAL DIVISION ODDS
Milwaukee Bucks -500
Chicago Bulls +450
Cleveland Cavs +700
Indiana Pacers +20000
Detroit Pistons +20000
So, will the Bucks continued their reign, or is it time for some new blood to take over? Based on the betting numbers and rosters, it looks like another Central Division title for the Bucks this season.
The Bucks were bummed about that Khris Middleton did not suffer an MCL knee injury in the postseason. Without Middleton they were unable to defend their championship after the Boston Celtics needed seven games to knock them out of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Pretty much everyone outside of New England would tell you the Bucks return to the NBA Finals if they had a healthy Middleton.
The Bucks are on a mission this season to return to the NBA Finals and add another title to their collection. It starts with a fifth-consecutive Central Division title, which is why the Bucks are -500 odds to fend off their rivals. At -500 odds, the Bucks also hold the largest favorite margin out of six NBA divisions.
Injuries and COVID derailed a potential breakout season with the Chicago Bulls last year. Da Bulls were decimated with a COVID outbreak around the holidays, and then lost starting point guard Lonzo Ball (ACL knee injury) for the remainder of the season. It looks like the Bulls are going to break up their big three with big man Nikola Vucevic on the trading bloc. But at least they still have DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
The Bulls are in the best position to catch the Bucks, but they’re the best value at +450 odds to win the Central Division.
The Cavs looked like they finally turned a corner last year after they were left picking up the pieces of another LeBron James departure. The Cavs surprised nearly everyone with an auspicious start at the beginning of the season, despite serious injuries to their guards. Rookie Evan Mobley played well enjoy in his first season to garner a few Rookie of the Year votes, but he’s only going to get even better this season paired with Jarrett Allen. Kevin Love is a contender for Sixth Man of the Year, and he provides the young Cavs with a veteran voice in the locker room. Darius Garland earned a well-deserved trip to the All-Star Game, but the Cavs have to decide if they want to run it back with Collin Sexton. Sexton is the most notable free agent who has yet to sign a contract.
The Cavs took a major leap forward to crawl out of the Eastern Conference basement, but they’re still a couple years away from dethroning the Bucks. You can still back the Cavs at +700 odds to win the Central Division.
The Indiana Pacers will try to rebuild around Tyrese Haliburton, who was part of a trade package with Buddy Hield in exchange for Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings. The Pacers cleared house in the offseason by trading Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics. They were close to adding Denadre Ayton in free agency, but they were just being used by his agent to force the Phoenix Suns to re-sign the former #1 pick in the draft. Myles Turner has been begging out of Indiana for the last two seasons, and he might finally get his wish before the season begins. There’s also interest in Buddy Hield from the LA Lakers, but they do not want to take on Russell Westbrook to make that trade happen.
The Pacers are still shuffling their deck, which is why they’re +20000 odds to win the Central Division.
The Detroit Pistons only won 23 games last season as the third-worst team in the NBA. They have numerous young players that could become All-Stars if they’re developed the right way. That includes last year’s #1 pick Cade Cunningham, who happens to be one of the betting favorites to win the Most Improved Player next season. They also added Jaden Ivey with the #5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, and he will make a great backcourt mate with Cunningham. However, the Pistons will continue their tanking ways in order to enter the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes in hopes of landing the #1 pick for a second time in three seasons. Save your money on these Pistons, who come in as a moon shot to win the Central Division at +20000 odds.