2022-23 Central Division Preview

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Notable off-season moves

Key Offseason Additions – Joe Ingles

Key Offseason Subtractions – None

In: Grayson Allen, George Hill, Rodney Hood, Semi Ojeleye

The Bucks finished the season as Central division champs and the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. They dispatched the Chicago Bulls in 5 games in round 1, but Khris Middleton was hurt early in the series and was unable to return for the rest of the season. Milwaukee lost to the Celtics in 7 games in round 2, but had a chance to win the series in Game 6. Had Middleton been able to avoid injury, this team would have been favorites to win the title. They almost beat the Celtics without him, would have been strong favorites over Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, and presented a nightmare matchup for the Golden State Warriors. Instead, the injury bug took a bite out of Milwaukee’s title defense.

Little has changed in “the good land” and why should it? Giannis is in his prime, Middleton has yet to decline noticeably, and Jrue Holiday is aging gracefully. Those 3 create a championship level core and the front office continues to complement them with the right support players. Joe Ingles would have been another great piece for this team, but unfortunately tore his ACL last month is out for the year. Ideally they would have another shooter, but this team will be a title favorite season and into the playoffs. Their regular season success will depend on their ability to develop or acquire more talent for their 9th, 10th, and 11th, but I expect the Bucks to be a top 3 seed in the East again.

My projections have them just above their current Regular Season Win (RSW) total, which hasn’t moved yet as illustrated above by the flat line. That’s not enough margin to justify a bet on the over. Instead, bet Milwaukee to win the East at 3.5 to 1 and bet them to win the title at 8 to 1. They have an easy start to the year, so I don’t expect us to be able to bet these are a better number until late in the season, just before the playoffs, if we see a better number at all.

BETS – To win the East 3.5 to 1 or better. To win the championship at 8 to 1 or better.

Key Offseason Additions – Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, Isaiah Mobley

Key Offseason Subtractions – Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen

The Cavaliers were the surprise team early last season. Cleveland was a top 3 team in the East until February when injuries, especially a cluster injury to point guard, began to pile up and wins became harder to earn. Sexton, Rubio, and other guards missed a lot of games, but Darius Garland turned that opportunity into an all star season. Evan Mobley showed flashes of greatness on a nightly basis and was a close 2nd for rookie of the year. His partnership with Jarrett Allen was the base of a great defense and should be for years to come. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to earn the Cavs any playoff games. They finished 8th in the Eastern Conference and lost to the Nets & Hawks in their 2 play in games. The season was a success as they almost doubled their win total, but it’s more about how you finish than you start.

In one of the biggest trades in the offseason, Cleveland acquired Donovan Mitchell. The former Utah guard’s scoring and creation are welcome additions for the Cavaliers. There will be some time for Mitchell & Garland to figure out how to share the ball, but the 2 should play nicely off one another. Donovan Mitchell’s defense is a problem, but another luxury of the Mobley/Allen combo is that either can cover up a love of those problems at the rim. It will take some time to figure out whether Caris LeVert or Isaac Okoro will be the 5th starter or a boost off the bench, but that’s the only real question mark for what looks to be a great a regular season team. They still lack the star power to compete for a title, but this roster fits together well, has depth, & young players driven to win nightly and compete for a home playoff series.

Cleveland’s RSW total has increased more than any other team. It opened at 43.5, jumped to 46.5 after the Mitchell trade, and moved up another win to 47.5 where it sits currently. My projection of 48 agrees with the market’s move and I’m not betting the over, but I wouldn’t hold an over bet against you. They have a tough start to the season. Combine that with the Bucks easy start and I can’t justify betting them to win the division at this time. Wait until Thanksgiving and see how things look before you bet any Cavaliers futures.

BETS – None 🙁

Key Offseason Additions – Andre Drummond. Goran Dragic

Key Offseason Subtractions – Troy Brown Jr.

Similar to the last team, the Chicago Bulls came sprinting out of the gate last season and fell behind late. The Bulls were a top 2 team in the East into March and did make the playoffs but won just a single game against the Milwaukee Bucks and were dominated in the 4 games they lost. The season was still a success as the team reached the postseason for the first time in 5 years. Zach LaVine continues to improve making his second consecutive All Star appearance. DeMar DeRozan turned back time playing his best season in years and hitting multiple game winners for the Bulls. Lonzo Ball & Alex Caruso were arguably the best defensive backcourt when they were both healthy enough to play. It was a step in the right direction despite the bad ending.

The health of the aforementioned Ball looms large for Chicago. The guard tore up his knee in January and despite expectations of a return in a 6-8 weeks, he missed the rest of the season and needed arthroscopic surgery just last month. There is no timetable for his return. Clearly the Bulls would love to have Ball, but I think this team can succeed despite his absence in the regular season. Offensively, you can expect DeRozan to take a step back, but LaVine should improve, Ayo Dosunmu is in line for the sophomore leap, and maybe Nikola Vucevic will finally arrive from Orlando. Defensively, there are holes, but Caruso is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and Andre Drummond will be a key rim protector & rebounder for 15-20 minutes a game. The pieces are there to get back to the playoffs, but like last year, I don’t expect it to be a long postseason run.

My projections LOVE this RSW total over, but the market has hammered the under. It opened 44.5 and dropped to 41.5 after news of Lonzo Ball’s surgery. Ball is a big piece for this team, a top defender and arguably the only point guard on the roster, but he played just 35 games last season and could do that again if he can return after the All Star break. I’m going against the grain and taking their RSW total over 41.5.

Bets – Over 41.5 Regular Season Wins

Key Offseason Additions – Bojan Bogdanovic, Jalen Duren, Jaden Ivey

Key Offseason Subtractions – Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk

The Pistons had the 3rd worst record in the league last season, but there were still some notes of optimism. Cade Cunnigham, the first pack in the previous draft, had a great rookie campaign and showed everyone that he can be a great player in this league and is the leader of this team. Saddiq Bey took a big step forward in his second year improving all of his averages while being a good defender. For a team that never had a serious chance to make the postseason, developing young talent and collecting ping pong balls for the draft lottery is the best you can do.

Those extra balls gave them the 5th pick in the draft which they used to take Jaden Ivey. He’s a promising young guard who should fit nicely with Cunningham. Jerami Grant no longer fit the timeline of this team and competed with Cade for usage, so they sent him to Portland for a some draft picks. Detroit participated in the Utah fire sale and got Bojan Bogdanvoic, a much needed shooter & veteran. They will also have a full season with Marvin Bagley III. The former Sacramento King finished the season with some strong games reminding us of why he was a top 2 draft pick. Everything is stacking up for this to be a strong core for the future, but also a fun and competitive team this season.

My projections like this team quite a bit. I have them 3 wins greater than the market and am optimistic they could be even better than that. They have the built in improvement of their youth continuing to grow and made acquisitions to further things even more. At 32 wins, I still have them outside of even the play in game tournament, but there is more upside beyond that number than downside below it in my numbers. Let’s go over and keep an eye on odds to make the play in tournament during the season.

Bets – Over 29 Regular Season Wins

Key Offseason Additions – Bennedict Mathurin, Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis

Key Offseason Subtractions – Malcolm Brogdan, Ricky Rubio, TJ Warren, Lance Stephenson

It was a brutal season for a Pacers team that was never higher than 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Two of their better players, Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdan combined to miss 86 games. The front office responded to the poor play by starting to tear things down and start a rebuild. Domantas Sabonis was traded to Sacramento and Caris LeVert was moved to Cleveland. The Sabonis trade did bring back Tyrese Haliburton, one of the few bright spots for the Pacers. Chris Duarte was another positive note for the team as the rookie showed he can score, shoot well, and defend at an NBA level. Besides the play of those young guards, the rest of the year was a mess.

Indiana unloaded another start in the offseason, Malcolm Brogdan for a few bench players and a draft pick. There continues to be rumors and signal that Myles Turner and Buddy Hield are the next veterans to be traded and we should expect that sooner rather than later. Pending that move, this is a bad roster once you get past Haliburton & Duarte. Even if they can keep Turner & Hield, players like Jalen Smith, TJ McConnell, Oshare Brissett, and Isaiah Jackson will be featured prominently. That is not good if the goal is to win games and there is plenty of incentive to do the opposite this season. Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, and even a few other players are big prizes to be won by teams at the top of next year’s draft. I expect the Pacers to continue to trade anything of value and focus on getting a top 2-3 pick in the draft.

My projections come in just under the posted RSW total. Frankly, I think my numbers are underestimating how much incentive there is to tank this season. There are at least 2 premier prospects in tnis draft and depth behind that. This team started the rebuild last year, continued it in the offseason, and has ever incentive to continue that this year. I’m not betting the under because it is pretty hard to win less than 24 games in the NBA, especially with 2 promising guards, but this team could surely do it.

Bets – None 🙁

Thanks for reading! You can reach us on Twitter at @AceNBAPreviews with any thoughts, questions, or general comments on this or anything NBA related. Be sure to follow us there and check back here for more NBA content throughout the season. Best of luck to us!

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Categories: NBA