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Bucks and Pacers Co-Favorites to Win Central Division

SBD Staff Writer

by SBD Staff Writer in NBA Basketball

Updated May 14, 2020 · 2:36 PM PDT

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is closing in on his first NBA MVP award. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr).
  • The Bucks and Pacers enter the 2018-19 season with identical odds to win the Central Division
  • Will Victor Oladipo regress after last year’s breakout campaign?
  • Can Mike Budenholzer unlock the potential of Milwaukee’s talented roster?

The Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers enter the 2018-19 NBA season as co-favourites to capture the Central Division crown with identical odds of +125. Here’s how  sportsbooks see the divisional race shaking out:

2018-19 Central Division Champion Odds

Team 2017-18 Record Odds to Win the Central Division
Indiana Pacers 48-34 +125
Milwaukee Bucks 44-38 +125
Detroit Pistons 39-43 +600
Chicago Bulls 27-55 +2500
Cleveland Cavaliers 50-32 +2500

Cleveland was the dominant force in the Eastern Conference, but the departure of some guy named LeBron James means that many more wins are up for grabs for teams like the Pacers and Bucks.

The Pacers shocked the NBA by remaining competitive last season despite jettisoning Paul George to the Thunder. At the forefront of that uphill climb was the emergence of Victor Oladipo. The first-time All-Star and winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award last season, Oladipo will need to re-create, if not improve on, last season’s performance.

The Pacers are running back much of the same team, with one notable addition. Tyreke Evans is on his way to Indiana after arguably his best season as a pro.

The Pacers are running back much of the same team, with one notable addition. Tyreke Evans is on his way to Indiana after arguably his best season as a pro. It feels like yesterday when Evans averaged 20-5-5 as a rookie, but now the established veteran is just looking for a place to call home.

Evans was left off Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 players list this year, and that could be the fuel he needs to help carry this team to a division crown…and a deep playoff run.

Standing in Indiana’s way is Milwaukee. The Bucks have yet to realize their potential with one of the most intriguing rosters in all of basketball, but a new addition to the team may finally carry them to the top.

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One of the league’s most respected coaches is set to take over the reigns of a team dripping with talent. Led by the peerless Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have more than enough firepower to beat anyone in the league, and now they have a coach who knows how to use it.

A full season of Eric Bledsoe should also help Milwaukee as they try to take a step forward, and the addition-by-subtraction effect of Jabari Parker could be very real.

Past Central Division Champions

Year Team Record
2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers 50-32
2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers 51-31
2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers 57-25
2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers 53-29
2013-14 Indiana Pacers 56-26

Historically, it’s taken at least 50 wins to capture the division over the past five years, but bettors need to keep in mind that includes four dominant Cavs teams and a Pacers team that made it to the Conference Finals.

This year, with the Celtics, Sixers, and Raptors all expected to hit 50 wins, there may not be enough left over for the Bucks and Pacers.

Who Will Win the Central Division in 2018-19?

Milwaukee, especially with Budenholzer at the helm, has the best chance to win the division. The remaining three teams don’t stand a chance, and the Pacers are due for some regression after Oladipo’s breakout season last year.

Take a shot on the Bucks.

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