- BetOnline has the Milwaukee Bucks (-1500) as ironclad locks to win the NBA’s Central Division
- The Indiana Pacers (+800) expect Victor Oladipo to return in December
- The Pistons, Bulls and Cavaliers all appear years away from contention
The short version of this divisional preview is as follows: “Giannis Antetokounmpo plays for the Milwaukee Bucks so they will almost certainly win the Central.”
That’s how I started my article back in August when the Bucks were at -400 favorites, but after a hot 10-3 start to the 2019/20 season, Milwaukee is now a formidable -1500 lock.
While the Pistons, Bulls and Cavaliers are every bit as bad as everyone expected, the Pacers have toughed out an 8-6 record despite missing star guard Victor Oladipo.
Let’s look at the updated odds at BetOnline and analyze whether Indiana might be worth a wager.
NBA CENTRAL DIVISION ODDS
THE FAVORITE: MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-best 30.1 points, 14.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists through 13 contents this season with 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. Scarier yet, he’s boosted his three-point percentage from 25.6 percent to a still-not-great-but-respectable 32.1 percent.
The Greek Freak is on track to repeat as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, which is excellent news for a Milwaukee team that is missing two of its top contributors from last season’s 60-win squad.
All-Star forward Khris Middleton should return in the next month after suffering a left thigh injury, but something tells me Bucks fans will be feeling the absence of Malcolm Brogdon for a long time.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) November 17, 2019
In a move reminiscent of the Thunder’s decision to trade James Harden, Milwaukee shipped the 26-year-old-guard to Indiana in the offseason rather than match their four-year, $85 million contract and pay the luxury tax.
Brogdon is now putting up career-highs of 19.2 points, 8.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds for the division-rival Pacers.
While this frugal decision will likely cost the Bucks an NBA championship and Giannis himself, when he inevitably decides to leave as a free agent in the summer of 2021, it won’t ultimately matter in the division race. As long as their 24-year-old unicorn stays healthy, Milwaukee will win the Central.
THE LONGSHOT: INDIANA PACERS
Given they’re only 2.5 games behind the Bucks entering Wednesday night, getting the Pacers at +800 to win the division is a decent value, but you’ll need a Giannis injury to cash that bet.
Indiana has been besieged by injuries early in the year, losing center Myles Turner for eight games after already being without Oladipo. With Turner back in the fold and their two-time All-Star guard expected back sometime before Christmas, the Pacers should only improve as the season goes along.
#Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had some things to say about his former teammate Malcolm Brogdon: “Can you imagine this team with Malcolm? Wish he was still here.” @eric_nehm has more: https://t.co/2MWlueifRk #FearTheDeer #NBA #NBATwitter #Pacers
— The Athletic Wisconsin (@TheAthleticWISC) November 15, 2019
Playing in a weak Eastern Conference, Nate McMillan’s young, hard-working squad will continue to rack up wins against lesser opponents, but recent games have proven they can’t hang with the NBA’s upper-echelon. Case in point: a 19-point home loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
Unless you have a Floyd Mayweather-like bankroll to pony up for a sure-thing bet on the Bucks, look to spend your money elsewhere.