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NBA team profiles for 2015/16 season: Central Division

| 23.10.2015
CORAL ENHANCED ACCAS

Daniel Coyle, American Sports Correspondent | October 22, 2015

2015/16 Central Division NBA team profiles

Led by MVP favourite, LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to repeat as Central Division champs, and challenge for their first NBA title.

Chicago Bulls are desperate for a return to the Finals, but will start yet another season with Derrick Rose on the sidelines.

A rapidly improving Milwaukee Bucks could be the surprise story, while Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons are longshots in the division and to make the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 5/2
  • Central Division futures betting odds: 2/9
  • 2014/15 record: 53-29

Cavaliers Get Started

The return of LeBron James made the Cavaliers instant favourites last season, and so it is again this year, with Cleveland opening their campaign favoured to win their elusive first NBA Championship.

Following a stellar second half last campaign, followed by a Herculean effort in the Cavs’ failed championship run, James is once again the favourite to emerge as NBA MVP, with strong 2/1 odds.

However, Cleveland will be without guard Kyrie Irving on opening night, as he recovers from the knee injury suffered in last year’s playoffs, and has no timetable for a return.

Forward Kevin Love looks to be fully recovered from his season-ending shoulder injury but, with Imam Schumpert out until at least January, the Cavaliers must lean on their bench in the early going. That could impact them at the sportsbook in early-season matchups, like last season when they opened 9-16 ATS.

Chicago Bulls

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 12/1
  • Central Division futures betting odds: 7/2
  • 2014/15 record: 50-32

Bulls Media Day Basketball

The Bulls bounced back from a late-season swoon while former MVP Derrick Rose was sidelined, to record a solid playoff performance, bouncing Milwaukee in six games, and putting a scare into Cleveland during the second round, before falling in six games.

Once again, the Bulls will look to Rose to lead them, but after he suffered a fractured orbital bone during the team’s first pre-season practice, Chicago must face the possibility of being without the three-time all-star for significant time for a fourth straight season. Despite his uncertain status, Rose owns intriguing 33/1 odds in NBA MVP betting.

The Bulls still sport a talented lineup including Jimmy Butler, who will now be looked to for leadership, and all-stars Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. But the window of opportunity could be closing for this veteran squad that views anything short of a championship as failure.

Milwaukee Bucks

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 80/1
  • Central Division futures betting odds: 20/1
  • 2014/15 record: 41-41

Bucks Basketball

After ending the 2013/14 campaign with a dismal 15-67 record, the Bucks showed dramatic improvement last season, cracking the .500 mark for the first time since 2010. But consistency remained a problem, finishing the regular season on a 12-20-2 ATS run, and going a full four weeks without consecutive wins in February and March following an 11-2 run that briefly put them in contention for the Central Division crown.

Milwaukee have built a solid young core that includes former rookie-of-the-year Michael Carter-Williams, forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and 2014 No. 2 overall draft pick Jabari Parker, who returns to action after missing the second half of his rookie season due to injury.

This should be a fun team to watch, and expectations for further improvement are realistic. But it is equally realistic to expect some of the fits and starts that the team had to endure last season.

Indiana Pacers

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 50/1
  • Central Division futures betting odds: 33/1
  • 2014/15 record: 38-44

Pacers Cavaliers Basketball

The Pacers felt the absence of small forward Paul George last season, taking a major step back after winning an Eastern Conference-leading 56 games in 2014. George’s season-ending injury, combined with the departure of Lance Stephenson, left big holes in the Indiana lineup that suddenly found itself competing in the toughest division in the conference.

With rookie Myles Turner and free-agent shooter Monta Ellis added to the mix, alongside a healthy George and point guard George Hill, the Pacers should once again flirt with a .500 record.

However, the club must overcome the streakiness of last season, which saw them lose at least six straight on four occasions, and finish the campaign on an 8-12-1 ATS run, if they are to make a return to postseason action.

Detroit Pistons

  • NBA Championship futures betting odds: 200/1
  • Central Division futures betting odds: 100/1
  • 2014/15 record: 32-50

Nets Pistons Basketball

The Pistons are coming off another lost season, as the former perennial powerhouse tallied a losing record for the seventh straight year, extending their playoff drought to six. But long-suffering fans in the Motor City can be optimistic about the steps that bench boss Stan van Gundy is taking to return the club to its former glory.

Center Andre Drummond will be the straw that stirs the Pistons drink. The 22 year-old averaged 13.8 points per game in his third NBA season, and is expected to breakthrough this season.

Alongside third-year shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and point guard Reggie Jackson, who led the club to a strong 9-7 finish last season, 10-6 ATS, Drummond leads a developing young core that should show improvement, but likely remains outside the playoff picture.

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Author

Daniel Coyle