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Central Division Preview

Central Division Preview

Central Division Preview
Bovada Sportsbook

For the last two seasons the Chicago Bulls have owned the Central Division. However, with Derrick Rose out with a torn ACL, the entire complexion of the division changes. Will the Bulls be able to stay on top? Here is a look at the Eastern Conference’s Central Division heading into the 2012-13 season.

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The Derrick Rose Factor

If Derrick Rose were healthy, the Chicago Bulls would be the obvious choice to win the Central Division and an obvious threat to win the NBA title. Why wouldn’t they be? After having the best regular season record in the NBA in 2010-11 (62-20), the Bulls had the league’s best record again in 2011-12 at 50-16 straight up. They were also the Eastern Conference’s best team against the NBA basketball odds with a record of 38-27-1.

But when Rose exited Game 1 of the Bulls’ NBA quarterfinals matchup with a torn ACL, Chicago crumbled and lost four of its next five games to fall to the Philadelphia 76ers. How far can this team go without its leader? Optimistic reports indicate the earliest Rose may return is by January, but getting him back at full strength could take longer than that.

The Chicago brass didn’t look for a replacement for Rose this offseason, and in fact let two point guards that had done a solid job backing him up walk in CJ Watson and John Lucas. The front office seems content to run with the core of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah and to let head coach Tom Thibodeau work his magic.

The Bulls are still a playoff team, but their current odds of 12/1 to win the NBA Championship and 6/1 to win the Eastern Conference may be a bit ambitious with Rose’s status up in the air. This could be a good team to take a flier on if the odds come down after a slow start.

Now could be the time for the Indiana Pacers

Taking a wait-and-see approach on the Chicago Bulls might be the best course of action. But when it comes to the Indiana Pacers, the time to act may be now with great value available on their odds to win the NBA Championship (33/1) and Eastern Conference (14/1).

With teams like the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls stealing the headlines out East, the Indiana Pacers quietly put together an outstanding 42-24 straight up regular season (having less success against the NBA basketball odds at 32-34). In the playoffs, Indiana topped Orlando in five games and took two games against the Miami Heat before eventually falling in six games.

The Pacers may lack the name-brand star power that some other teams around the league have, but this is arguably the second best team in the Eastern Conference coming into the 2012-13 season. Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, David West, Paul George, and George Hill make up an outstanding starting five, and the bench is strong as well.

Is this team good enough to beat the Heat? Time will tell. But if Chicago falters without Rose in the lineup, the Pacers should be able to pick up the pieces and come out on top in the Central Division.

Rounding out the Central Division

The Milwaukee Bucks (125/1 to win the Championship, 60/1 to win the East) are an intriguing team. With a ton of size in the front court and a pair of offensively talented guards in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings in the backcourt, Milwaukee has the tools to compete with anyone on any given night. But more often than not, the chemistry isn’t there, especially between Jennings and Ellis who both want to do too much. If the team looks great out of the gate or down the stretch, there may be some value here, but it would be a surprise.

The Cleveland Cavaliers (200/1 to win the Championship, 100/1 to win the East) and the Detroit Pistons (250/1 to win the Championship, 125/1 to win the East) both figure to finish well outside of the playoff picture again in 2012-13. Keep an eye on Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving though, as he may be good enough to spark a turnaround sooner rather than later for the Cavs.

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Re: Central Division Preview

NBA Central Division Preview
By Steve Merril

The Central Division’s biggest star is a question mark for the start of the season, providing the Pacers a chance to build some momentum before Derrick Rose returns to the Bulls lineup.

Chicago Bulls (2011-12: 50-16 SU, 38-27-1 ATS)

Odds to win division: -190
Season win total: 47.5

Why bet the Bulls: Chicago will enter the season as a forgotten commodity. With Derrick Rose’s ACL injury sidelining him until at least February, the Bulls have low expectations this season. But head coach Tom Thibodeau is terrific and the Bulls have won without Rose in the past. They will rely on their strong defense to win games this season.

Why not bet the Bulls: Bench. Chicago’s second unit is a work in progress. The Bulls had a cohesive bench over the last couple of years in which five guys would play together for 15 minutes per game. This year’s version is a mishmash unit and it’s likely the Bulls will only play an eight or nine-man rotation.

Season win total pick: Over 47.5

Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-12: 21-45 SU, 31-35-0 ATS)

Odds to win division: +5,000
Season win total: 32.5

Why bet the Cavaliers: Cleveland has one of the future stars of the NBA on their team in Kyrie Irving. The kid (he’s only 21 years old) is exciting and a bona fide superstar in the making. He can carry this team to some surprising wins on his own and as long as he’s on the court, the Cavaliers have a shot to win.

Why not bet the Cavaliers: Youth. The Cavaliers are a young and inexperienced team that will need time to develop. Their core talent is either in their second-year guys or rookies, and all of them are 25 years old or younger. Cleveland’s defense was bad last season and with all of its youth, don’t expect it to be much better.

Season win total pick: Under 32.5

Detroit Pistons (2011-12: 25-41 SU, 32-33-1 ATS)

Odds to win division: +5,000
Season win total: 32.5

Why bet the Pistons: Detroit played much better basketball than its 25-41 record indicates. Remember, the Pistons started the season at 5-20 which means they went 20-21 the rest of the way. It took time for them to gel and with a full training camp, we expect more consistency from the start.

Why not bet the Pistons: Defense. Head coach Lawrence Frank will get the Pistons better on that end of the floor and Andre Drummond will certainly help. But young and talented offensive players don’t like to guard and it will take Frank some time to get the Pistons to defend game in and game out.

Season win total pick: Over 32.5

Indiana Pacers (2011-12: 42-24 SU, 32-34-0 ATS)

Odds to win division: +130
Season win total: 51.5

Why bet the Pacers: Indiana is a young team on the rise. The Pacers won 42 games last season and they should improve off that success. Indiana has a wealth of talent on its roster and it goes beyond just the starting five. The Pacers flew under the radar last season and the same thing may happen this season simply because they don’t have big-name players.

Why not bet the Pacers: Matchups. Indiana has one defensive weakness and that is the fact it can’t defend athletic forwards. The Pacers are too slow-footed down low to contend with quick big men and against particular teams, Indiana is simply overmatched.

Season win total pick: Under 51.5

Milwaukee Bucks (2011-12: 31-35 SU, 29-37-0 ATS)

Odds to win division: +2,800
Season win total: 36.5

Why bet the Bucks: This is Milwaukee’s make-or-break season. The Bucks have finished just out of the playoffs the last two years and it’s time for them to finish in the Top 8. Their offense took off when they acquired Monta Ellis and they should be even better this season.

Why not bet the Bucks: Pressure. Milwaukee has to win this year or else major changes will be on the horizon. Head coach Scott Skiles is in the final year of his contract and Brandon Jennings will be entering that territory next season. Their defense slipped big time and if they want to be contenders, they must fix that weakness as well.

Season win total pick: Over 36.5

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Re: Central Division Preview

Central Division Preview


2011-12 SU record: 48-29 SU (62.3%), 5th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 37-40 ATS (48.1%), 21st in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 4-to-5
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 8-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 20-to-1


The Pacers went 7-2 during the regular season and won a playoff series with George Hill in the starting five. He averaged 13.9 PPG and 5.3 APG in those regular season starts . . . Paul George is a defensive stopper who is making strides on the offensive end. If he can find the touches, his scoring average will rise . . . D.J. Augustin has a skill set similar to Hill's. Maybe he'll push him for minutes later in the year, but more likely he'll shoot corner threes off the bench . . . Gerald Green is another athlete for their second unit . . . Lance Stephenson has a chance for a bigger role, but he's been atrocious to this point of his career.


Danny Granger's touches dropped last season, but his shot selection improved as last year went on. He'll continue to be a borderline All-Star . . . David West's knee should be fully recovered from his torn ACL in late 2010-11. He was their best player in the postseason and should be a star this season with his ability to knock down shots . . . Tyler Hansbrough looks like he's settling in as a career second unit player. His lack of athleticism really limits his upside . . . Jeff Pendergraph may or may not hold on to a roster spot in a 12th-man role


They're paying Roy Hibbert like a franchise player, and he has the ability to control both ends of the court. The question is whether they'll now play him 30-plus minutes, or continue to use him as more of a part-time player . . . Ian Mahinmi should step in as a decent backup center . . . Rookie Mile Plumlee was a part-time player at Duke and is highly unlikely to contribute in his first season.


2011-12 SU record: 52-20 SU (72.2%), 2nd in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 42-30 ATS (58.3%), 2nd in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: Even
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 7-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 18-to-1


The best guess on Derrick Rose is a February return. But an ACL injury usually isn't 100 percent until the second full year back . . . With Rose out, Kirk Hinrich figures to play heavy minutes early. He's a defensive specialist who will pass and watch on offense . . . Nate Robinson could push Hinrich for minutes. He's the offensive half of that platoon, but Thibodeau almost always leans defense . . . Richard Hamilton will carry a bigger offensive load while Rose is recovering. He's a shadow of his former self . . . Marco Belinelli is a nice addition. He's solid defensively, and he brings the long-range shooting Chicago lacks. Don't be surprised if he pushes Hamilton . . . Rookie Marquis Teague will mostly sit and watch this year.


After avoiding wrist surgery, Luol Deng should be Chicago's top scorer while Rose is out. He's the only one on this team who even has a chance to generate his own offense . . . Carlos Boozer continues to be a major disappointment. In the past it's been his atrocious defense, but now he's taken a step back offensively as well. He may score more with Rose out, but he'll continue to sit late in close games . . . Taj Gibson should be in for a bigger role. With Omer Asik gone, he's one of only two defensively capable bigs on this roster . . . Vladimir Radmanovic will try to replace some of the three-point shooting they lost when Kyle Korver left . . . Jimmy Butler has a puncher's chance at a rotation spot after a good summer.


Joakim Noah was still working his way back from that badly sprained ankle this summer. His durability is questionable, but the Bulls will have to lean on Noah for more minutes now that Omer Asik is gone . . . Nazr Mohammed steps into Asik's role as Noah's backup. But while Asik was an active defender, Mohammed is more of just a big body with six fouls to give.


2011-12 SU record: 31-35 SU (47.0%), 19th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 29-36-1 ATS (44.6%), T-24th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 15-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 40-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1


Brandon Jennings benefitted from the arrival of Monta Ellis last year. He has the offense and system to thrive, and now needs to prove he can be efficient enough to be a star . . . Monta Ellis played second fiddle to Jennings last year, and really struggled to shoot the ball. The Bucks now play the kind of tempo he likes, but he'll have to adjust to playing off the ball more often . . . Beno Udrih won't see a ton of action off the bench considering Jennings and Ellis play so many minutes. If a starter gets hurt, he could step in and hit a lot of threes . . . Second-rounder Doron Lamb has some upside as a future sixth man, but figures to ride the bench this year.


Ersan Ilyasova should finally get some respect from Skiles after starring down the stretch last year . . . Mike Dunleavy re-emerged as a legitimate three-point threat, though he doesn't do much else . . . Drew Gooden's role should shrink with Ilyasova stepping up and Sam Dalembert coming in . . . Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is improving as a rebounder and can play both forward spots off the bench . . . Rookie John Henson is a defensive stud and does enough as a screener to get decent minutes early . . . Tobias Harris was a Summer League star, but he's too much of a 'tweener to thrive in the NBA . . . Ekpe Udoh provides defense and rebounding off the bench . . . Larry Sanders has potential, but this frontcourt is too crowded for him to make an impact.


Sam Dalembert fell in and out of favor in Houston, but he's exactly what the Bucks need as a defensive presence in the paint. Milwaukee has numerous players who can man the five in spots (Ekpe Udoh, Drew Gooden), but Dalembert is by far their best defensive option and should see big minutes . . . Joel Pryzbilla signed on in August to provide back-end depth on the pine.


2011-12 SU record: 21-45 SU (31.8%), T-27th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 30-34-2 ATS (46.9%), 23rd in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1


Kyrie Irving is the real deal, a heady playmaker and near-elite shooter. He should emerge as the NBA's next great point guard this season . . . Rookie Dion Waiters has a chance to step right into the starting lineup. He can get to the rim and generally makes good choices with the ball. The only thing holding him back is defense after playing college ball in Syracuse's lazy zone . . . C.J. Miles will reportedly start at either the two or three spot, but he really needs to find the range on his shot again for him to stick in the starting lineup . . . Gunning combo guard Daniel Gibson is looking like he'll be their sixth man . . . The Cavs are still trying to figure out their second unit. Jeremy Pargo figures to be Irving's backup, but Donald Sloan is a better defender and could eventually pass him for this role, which doesn't mean many minutes unless Irving gets injured again.


Tristan Thompson is trying to add a perimeter shot to his repertoire. Don't count on him becoming David West, but he should improve offensively to go along with his rebounding and shot-blocking . . . Alonzo Gee returns as the starting small forward, excelling on the defensive end, but without a polished enough offensive game to earn 35 minutes per night . . . Omri Casspi was in and out of the rotation late in the year as he battled knee issues. It's getting close to make-or-break time for him . . . Jon Leuer is a solid stretch four who has a real chance at a rotation spot . . . Samardo Samuels reportedly dropped some weight in his effort to find some minutes . . . Luke Walton is an unofficial member of the coaching staff . . . Undrafted rookie Kevin Jones could make some noise with his work on the offensive boards . . . Luke Harangody is more of a D-League talent.


Anderson Varejao's wrist should be 100 percent, and Sideshow Anderson should be the same relentless, double-double threat he's always been . . . Rookie Tyler Zeller is a 7-footer with some nice offensive skills -- he can knock down a jump shot in the half court, and run the floor. He'll struggle to defend in space, but made a living drawing charges at UNC, and should be able to play 20+ minutes as a rookie.


2011-12 SU record: 25-41 SU (37.9%), 22nd in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 33-33 ATS (50.0%), T-16th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1


Rodney Stuckey was hampered by nagging injuries a year ago. If he's healthy, he's the best offensive weapon they have . . . Brandon Knight is more of a combo guard running the point. He can shoot, but doesn't bring much else to the table . . . With Ben Gordon gone, Will Bynum has a chance to regain a significant role . . . The Pistons' two second-round picks have a chance to carve out big roles. Kim English has a skill set similar to Gordon's, capable of heating up and scoring in bunches . . . Khris Middleton is more of a spot-up, catch-and-shoot threat only . . . Former No. 6 overall pick Jonny Flynn agreed to a non-guaranteed contract in October, as he is no guarantee to even make this sorry roster.


Tayshaun Prince is still hanging on as the Pistons' best all-around player . . . Jason Maxiell should be able to reclaim his starting spot early. He rebounds and takes up space . . . Jonas Jerebko showed flashes but looked rusty in his first year back from an Achilles injury . . . 2011 2nd-rounder Kyle Singler has a good chance to step into the rotation after a solid year in Spain . . . Corey Maggette was acquired in a Ben Gordon salary dump. He'll see limited minutes . . . Austin Daye regressed big-time last year. Unless he gets off to a hot start, he'll be on the outside looking in at the rotation . . . Terrence Williams is seeking a new lease on life, but could be too much of a head case to realize he's wasting his talent . . . The Pistons are counting down the days left on Charlie Villanueva's contract (two years).


Greg Monroe is a solid fit in Frank's system. He's not a great athlete, but he can score and move the ball on offense, as well as rebound . . . Andre Drummond could one day be a perfect fit alongside Monroe. But for now, he'll watch and learn as a raw, boom-or-bust prospect . . . Viacheslav Kravtsov is an athletic big who will bring energy, but little offense in limited minutes.

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