The 2021 NBA Finals saw two teams in unfamiliar territory, as the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns engaged in a six-game championship series that resulted in the Bucks winning their first title since 1970. With the 2021-22 NBA season set to begin next month, NBA futures allow bettors to stake their claim on divisional winners based on current odds.
According to oddsmakers at Bovada, the reigning champions are the odds-on-favorites (-1000) thanks to former league MVP and NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. So let’s assess all five NBA Central Division teams and their futures betting odds heading into the start of the 2021-22 NBA season.
Milwaukee Bucks (-1000)
Giannis Antetokounmpo shined bright in the most significant moments of the NBA Finals, using his size, strength, and grittiness to score 42 points in Game 3. In a pivotal Game 5, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in scoring and rebounds, keeping momentum with Milwaukee for the remainder of the series.
This momentum should transfer into the 2021-22 season, although there were a few roster moves, including the loss of P.J. Tucker, that could wind up being a significant loss on both ends of the court. Last season, the Bucks went 11-1 within the division, which could be tough to reach without Tucker’s defensive prowess and clutch three-point ability. Grayson Allen, Rodney Hood, amd Semi Ojeleye are solid depth pieces that Milwaukee opted to sign this offseason, which could make the difference in staying ahead of an improved group of teams in the NBA Central division.
Chicago Bulls (+850)
The Chicago Bulls were a young team with a veteran coach in the 2020-21 NBA season, showing up against superior teams but also finding themselves on the wrong side of many bad losses. Towards the end of the season, the Bulls front office decided to make a couple of significant transactions, trading for All-Star C Nikola Vucevic and talented PG Lonzo Ball.
Recently, perennial All-Star SF Demar DeRozan announced he signed a three-year, $84 million deal with Chicago, leaving San Antonio and forming an underrated nucleus of talent in the Windy City heading into this season. Zach LaVine will finally have a full training camp and preseason to form chemistry with these talented players, as only Patrick Williams returns to the starting lineup.
Despite finishing last season with a .431 win percentage, the Bulls went .500 in their last 10 games and have a quality coaching staff with a much-improved roster. Chicago could definitely contend with Milwaukee for the Central Division title in 2022 if Donovan can get the new offensive pieces to assimilate into his system.
Indiana Pacers (+1100)
The Pacers were one of the most injury-bitten teams in 2021, as Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren both dealt with serious injuries and slow recoveries. The big men also couldn’t stay healthy down the stretch, which resulted in the Pacers missing the postseason after a strong start to begin the year.
Domantas Sabonis is the best player for Indiana and his health will be important for competing in the Central Division in 2022. PG T.J. McConnell was re-signed after a strong showing but not many other moves were made in terms of their personnel this offseason. The Pacers mirrored the Chicago Bulls, going 7-5 in the division last season and finishing the year with a .500 record in their last 10 games. The Pacers are a talented group when healthy, which will be the biggest factor to succeed in dethroning Milwaukee in 2022. Their futures betting odds (+1100) as Central Division winners is certainly appealing.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+5000)
A lot of the Chicago Bulls team from last season now find themselves a few hours east in Cleveland. Lauri Markkanen and Denzel Valentine were both signed by the Cavaliers in the last two months, while Jarrett Allen was re-signed to keep an athletic presence in the paint alongside Kevin Love.
The backcourt in Cleveland carries the most upside, as Darius Garland and Collin Sexton each averaged over 17 points per game last season, with Sexton going for a team-high 24.3 points per game. Neither guard has more than three years in the league but they have all been spent in Cleveland, so their chemistry will be interesting to watch in 2022.
The Cavs struggled against the Central Division in 2021, going 4-12 and skidding to a 1-9 finish at the end of a season that saw a coaching change and numerous injuries. Although the odds (+5000) create a lucrative payout, Cleveland doesn’t possess the coaching or personnel to match some of the other teams in the Central Divison.
Detroit Pistons (+8000)
Rounding out the bottom of the Central Division in 2021 were the Detroit Pistons. Even with former championship-winning head coach Dwane Casey, the team finished with a .278 record, ranked 29th only in front of the Houston Rockets. Factor in an atrocious 1-11 record in the division and it seems this team has quite a bit of adversity to overcome in 2022.
The Pistons did manage to sign PF Kelly Olynyk and rookie C Luka Garza, adding talent next to Isaiah Stewart in the frontcourt. The team’s best player, Jerami Grant, averaged 22.3 points in 2021 and returns with a new senior advisor of player development, former Cleveland Cavaliers and University of Michigan head coach, John Beilein.
At +8000 odds to win the NBA Central Division in 2022, it’s more than likely that another rebuilding year will take place in the Motor City, particularly with the reconstructed rosters in Milwaukee and Chicago.
The return of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Jrue Holiday puts Milwaukee in the driver’s seat to win the Central Division once again in 2022 due to their combination of talent and chemistry. Teams such as the Bulls and Pacers will be competitive within the division but Chicago doesn’t have the chemistry and Indiana lacks the talent, which will result in the Bucks winning the Central Division for the fourth consecutive season.
Source: Basketball Insider