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NBA Division Previews: Central Division Preview
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Odds: -400
As long as LeBron James remains in the league, whatever team he is on will be one of the favourites to win – not just their division – but the NBA Championship. The Cavs are expecting to miss a few of their stars for the first few months of the season – most notably Kyrie Irving, who is expected back until the beginning of 2016 - but like last year, the Cavaliers can and will get hot around midseason and easily pace the central division and have a great shot at the best record in the Eastern Conference. The only true concerns for the Cavs are injuries and the current situation involving Tristin Thompson’s contract.
2. Chicago Bulls – Odds: +350
The Bulls tough defensive mentally and the superb big-man pairing of Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah make them the largest competitors for the Cavaliers in the Central division and possibly the second best team in the entire Eastern conference. The health of Derrick Rose is constantly a large detractor to the Bulls’ championship aspirations. Rose lead the Bulls to a league best 62-20 record in the 2010-2011 season – with himself taking home MVP honours. Rose has only played in 100 games over the next four seasons – including missing the entire 2012 – 2013 season. If Rose can finally manage to stay healthy, the Bulls could bolster an early lead in the central over the Cavs and make it a tight race by April.
3. Indiana Pacers – Odds: +3300
Injuries and some roster turnover kept the Pacers out of the postseason in 2015. The team is expected to rebound and has the talent to nab one a lower seed in the East. The Pacers – who were LeBron’s biggest opponent when he was in Miami – will have Paul George back for the entire season. George suffered a grotesque injury during the summer of 2014 and played just the final 6 games of last season. The two-time All-Star helped the Pacers do 5-1 over their final six games and just barely missed out on the eighth seed in the Easter Conference.
4. Milwaukee Bucks – Odds: +2000
Jason Kidd did a great job turning around the Bucks in his first season as head coach. The Bucks have some great young players, including Jabri Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tyler Ennis. The signing of Greg Monroe to go with John Henson, Giannis and Parker give the Bucks one of the largest front courts in the league – with each player at 7’ or taller. The Bucks are still a few years away from being a real threat to Lebron James and the Cavaliers, but like their division rival Pacers, they should contend for a lower seed in the East.
5. Detroit Pistons – Odds: +10000
The Pistons have a top big man in Andre Drummond and a few interesting pieces – specifically Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and rookie Stanley Johnson. Outside of those three players the Pistons roster is lacking depth and filled with some uninspiring veterans like Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson. The loss of Greg Monroe – to the rival Bucks – hurts the most as it erases most of the positive gains the team had shown in the mid and latter parts of the season. The Pistons will likely not be in the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
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