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Eastern Conference Betting Preview: Central Division Predictions

Eastern Conference Betting Preview: Central Division Predictions

NBA Eastern Conference Betting Preview: Central Division Predictions
by Robert Ferringo and Nolan Sinclair

The NBA Central was the home of three playoff teams in the 2006-2007 season, including the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference (Detroit and Cleveland), and was the rising force in a league that seemed to be shifting power from west to east. Then in 2007-08 the bottom fell out faster than it did in the Bush Administration.

Last year it became increasingly obvious that LeBron couldn't do it all by himself, the Pistons aged before our eyes, and John Paxson started treating the Chicago Bulls like a fantasy team (trade, trade, trade…). The first and second seeded Pistons and Cavs fell to the second and fourth seeds, respectively, and the rest of the division had a combined record of - wait for it - 95-151. That is a .386 winning percentage and locked up the Central's claim as the league's worst division.

It might be a stretch, but this could actually be the year that the Central Division returns to "glory". Well, at least respectability. The Pistons are currently 8-to-1 to win the NBA Championship and the Cavaliers continue to build around The King. The Bulls added Derrick Rose to their core of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon. The Pacers got younger and more athletic, and finally removed a 260-pound weight of their back by showing Jermaine O'Neal the door. And the Bucks…well…who cares about the Bucks (even though they have a solid frontcourt).

To quote Heath Ledger as the Joker, "Here…We…Go…"

Detroit Pistons
2007-2008 Record: 59-23
2008-2009 NBA Title Odds: 8/1
2008-2009 over/under win total: 51.5
2008-2009 wins projection: Under
Key Additions: Kwame Brown, Will Bynum
Key Losses: none

The Pistons are projected to win roughly 52 games, they are 8/1 odds to win the NBA Championship, and they didn't lose one significant player. Don't let all of that fool you! This Pistons team is getting OLD. Father time is the sixth man for Detroit this year, and the seventh man is Old Man River. The one good thing is both of those guys can shoot it. The trouble is they don't defend like they used to. The Pistons starters have an average age of 30.5, and with a lot of the teams in the East getting younger, that spells B-A-D news for the men from the Motor City. By no means is this a team short on talent, but they are definitely filled with guys on the downsides of their careers. Travel, playing on back-to-back nights, and any injuries will sideswipe this team. They understand that their legacy is built in the postseason. And they won't go full-bore after a win in December when it might risk what may be their last shot in May.

Cleveland Cavaliers
2007-2008 Record: (45-37)
2008-2009 NBA Title Odds: 12/1
2008-2009 over/under wins total: 48.5
2008-2009 wins projection: Over
Key Additions: Mo Williams
Key Losses: Joe Smith

This Cavs team will definitely be in the playoffs, and will have a chance to go more than one round. Any team with LeBron James on it always has a chance. But the addition of Mo Williams will take a lot of the necessary pressure off James, and he will absolutely help in the one area the Cavs need most: the free throw line. Mo, a career 85 percent free throw shooter, is joining a team that shoots 72 percent from the foul line compared to 78 percent for their opponents. The Cavs have to hope that Mo can be the Robin to LeBron's Batman that Larry Hughes never was. The Cavs have some shooters, a couple solid point guards, and some nice frontcourt depth to work with. That should be more than enough for The King to hold court.

Chicago Bulls
2007-2008 Record: 33-49
2008-2009 NBA Title Odds: 30/1
2008-2009 over/under wins total: 41.5
2008-2009 wins projection: Over
Key Additions: Derrick Rose
Key Losses: Chris Duhon

This Bulls squad is the most difficult team in the Eastern Conference to get a feeling on and they make me very uncomfortable. And betting on them is kind of similar to that feeling you get when you hook up with your friend's hot sister. You know you weren't supposed to do it, but when it goes well you can only think about how awesome it was. But in the long run, probably not your best idea. They took a PG when they had one, and needed a post presence. Their sixth man likes to shoot the ball every time he touches it - disrupting the flow when he comes off the bench instead of assisting it. And, as of yet, they still don't have a post scorer. However, I do like the Bulls to finish over .500, and make the playoffs despite all that. Again - your buddy's hot sister: too hot to pass up. But when its over you may wish that you had.

Indiana Pacers
2007-2008 Record: 36-46
2008-2009 NBA Title Odds: 50/1
2008-2009 over/under wins total: 34.5
2008-2009 wins projection: Under
Key Additions: Jarrett Jack, Rasho Nesterovic, and T.J. Ford
Key Losses: Jermaine O'Neal (well maybe not in my eyes!)

The Pacers should finish with under 34.5 wins, but not by much. This is a team that made some necessary (good) moves this offseason. They finally got rid of Jermaine O'Neal and his never-ending string of nagging injuries and they got younger in the process. The additions of T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, and Jarrett Jack will help in the long run because they will finally have the stability in the backcourt that they've been missing since Marc Jackson left. The Pacers also did well in the draft getting Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush. They have a budding star in Danny Granger and are putting together the necessary pieces for a playoff team. I really like their chances. In 2009-10.

Milwaukee Bucks
2007-2008 Record: 26-56
2008-2009 NBA Title Odds: 75/1 (*Note* opened at 150/1)
2008-2009 over/under wins total: 32.5
2008-2009 wins projection: Over
Key Additions: Richard Jefferson, Luke Ridenour, Joe Alexander (draft)
Key Losses: Mo Williams, Desmond Mason, and Yi Jianlian

I apologize for my earlier ramblings that no one cares about the Bucks, because we all know that during this time of year everyone in Milwaukee is sitting in front of their television and watching the Bucks vs. Golden State, and not the Packers vs. the Vikings. Yi Jianlian finally got his wish and he got to leave Milwaukee, a place he never wanted to be, and I applaud him for that. The Bucks are like the white t-shirt underneath your dress shirt: it is always there but no one pays attention to it. Richard Jefferson, Luke Ridenour and Joe Alexander will help but losing Mo Williams and Desmond Mason will be too much to overcome. This team is filled with guys that have spent more time hurt than playing. Look for them to finish near the bottom of the Central, yet again.

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