By BetAmerica Staff

For four straight years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have dominated the NBA Central Division. Naturally, with LeBron James taking his talents to some beach on the west coach, that’s going to change in the upcoming 2018-19 season. The two franchises pegged as the next up and comers are the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks, who are being handed equal odds of +130 to claim the division and a top spot in the NBA playoffs. It’s going to be a wild and fun in this group, namely because the Detroit Pistons are banging on the door as well as the third favorite.

Indiana came harrowingly close to toppling Cleveland in the playoffs last season, and enjoyed a late-season surge that brought them to second in the NBA Central Division and 5th overall in the Eastern Conference. It’s a stretch to think they’ll challenge the rejuvenated Celtics or the ever-improving Philadelphia 76ers, but we said the same thing when they went toe-to-toe with a fully powered LeBron James in the opening round last spring.

2019 NBA Central Division Futures
Indiana Pacers +130

Milwaukee Bucks +130
Detroit Pistons +650
Cleveland Cavaliers +1200
Chicago Bulls +2000

Victor Oladipo not only took home Most Improved Player honors, he’s also become a surprising cornerstone for a franchise that was thought to be receiving pennies on the dollar in the same trade that saw Paul George leave town. Coupled with Domantas Sabonis – one of the standout rookies from last year’s draft class, and the filler for that deal – and a fun roster, the Pacers could continue to surprise folks. Everyone will see them coming this season, but one of the reasons you can back the Pacers handedly is that they were the 9th best team in terms of points allowed, giving up 104.2 points per game. They were terrific around the edges, and could improve on the boards if Myles Turner and Sabonis evolve alongside one another.

The Pacers were the surprise of the season, going 48-34 SU and 37-35 ATS, the best NBA spread betting record in the group by a mile. Simply put, they already know what they’re doing and have already laid some important foundations down to seize the throne, so to speak.

It’s probably safe to say that the Bucks are being reduced in price for the NBA Central Division crown only because of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a fringe MVP candidate who will benefit greatly from the arrival of Mike Budenholzer in the head coach role. Bud is an exceptional game planner and overall mechanic who thrives in taking stacks of unorganized garbage and turning them in to an IKEA-like dream. The Bucks are a messy assortment that need that type of direction after being league average on both sides of the ball. They’re too talented to be the 7th best team in a diluted Eastern Conference.

“If there’s any longshot worth backing, it’s the Pistons at +650.”

That being said, the Pacers are already a step ahead. Budenholzer surely has his work cut out for him, and there’s no guarantee that he can overhaul the systemic issues that have limited the overall potential of the Bucks. This team went 34-43-5 ATS in NBA spread betting, which speaks to how much they disappointed both backers and Bucks fans alike.

Not to be outdone are the Detroit Pistons, a team which will have a curious and strange pathway through the 2018-19 season. They’re an island of misfit toys from Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond all the way down to Ish Smith and Stanley Johnson. Nobody really thinks that they’re going to be any good, and for all the talk about how beloved new head coach Dwane Casey is, there’s a lot to be said about how he performed in the playoffs.

Still, if there’s any longshot worth backing, it’s the Pistons at +650. Casey is the exact opposite in style to the man he replaced, Stan Van Gundy, and has noticeably improved every franchise he’s had fingerprints on. This includes the Dallas Mavericks and the Toronto Raptors. In fact, Detroit grades out a lot higher compared to what Casey had to deal with when he arrived in Toronto initially. Drummond and Blake are both beasts from a bygone age in the league, but they’re also dominant in the pos, an area that most NBA teams are abandoning. Sometimes you zig when others zag. Detroit doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, but that may be a happy, accidental advantage at the same time.

As for Chicago and Cleveland, they’ll be fighting over who’s worse. The intriguing element will be seeing Kevin Love serving as the focal point of a bad team, a role he excelled at while in Minnesota. Chicago is…very bad. Neither are worth taking long term, though Cleveland might pan out as a cagey sneak play in regular season betting on the spread.

It’s a new age in the NBA Central Division, and right now the Pacers are the team to back. If you’re going to take anyone not from Indiana, then the Pistons actually could grade out as a better value play if Budenholzer isn’t the cure for what ails Milwaukee. Sadly, while four of the five teams will be interesting regular season entities, none of them are going to challenge the cream of the Eastern Conference crop.