The Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls each have 30 wins, and all three teams find themselves fighting for a divisional crown with 30-plus games remaining in the season. The Bucks are the betting favorite to win the Central Division at -135 odds, followed by the Bulls (+220) and Cavs (+370) on the NBA futures board at DraftKings.
The Bulls currently sit in first place in the Central Division and hold a one-game lead over the Cavs, and a 1.5-game lead over the Bucks.
The Bucks won the Central Division three seasons in a row and are seeking a fourth-straight title, which is why the Bucks were huge favorites for a four-peat at -900 odds in the preseason. The up-and-coming Bulls were the closest competitor to deny the Bucks another division title at +950 odds.
|NBA Central Division Odds|
With 30 or so games remaining, the Bucks saw their odds shrink to -135 while the Bulls improved to +220 after a stellar first half of the season. The surging Cavs had the biggest jump from +15000 preseason odds to +370 today.
The defending-champion Bucks aren’t too concerned with winning the division title. Sure, it would be nice to win four in a row, but the only banner that the Bucks are concerned with is adding a second championship banner to their rafters. A Central Division crown means much more to the Cavs or Bulls than it does to the Bucks, who have dreams about winning back-to-back championships in their heads.
The Bucks stumbled out of the gate with a 6-8 record to start the season while they sobered up from a championship hangover. They posted eight-game and six-game winning streaks since the first month of the season to get back into contention.
It’s been a blustery January in Milwaukee. The Bucks went 5-7 over their last 12 games, including a tough loss against the Cavs last night. The recent run by the Bucks is a bit troublesome, but you expect Mike Budenholzer to correct the ship over their final 30 games as they gear up for their title defense.
Chicago Bulls +220
The Bulls haven’t won the Central since posting back-to-back wins in 2011-12, but they made some key offseason moves to bolster the roster. At best, the Bulls were a team on the upswing heading into this season, but they easily surpassed expectations after a hot first half in which they competed with the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls took advantage of the Bucks’ slow start, and hope they didn’t peak too early. They survived a COVID-19 outbreak and had three games postponed, which they’ll have to make up in the second half. That’s why they’ve played three fewer games than the Bucks.
Zach LaVine recently returned from a sprained knee, and the NBA’s top one-two punch with DeMar DeRozan (26.4 ppg) and LaVine (24.9 ppg) is back at full strength. However, the Bulls lost Lonzo Ball for up to two months while he recovers from knee surgery, and Alex Caruso is also out 6-8 weeks after a cheap foul by Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen. We’ll see if Coby White and rookie Ayo Dosunmo can hold the line until Ball and Caruso return. If those injuries don’t impact the Bulls, then grabbing them at +220 odds to win the Central Division seems like an amazing value.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 20, 2022
Here come the Cavs! The young Cavs won three games in a row, and won eight of their last 10 games to move into the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s a tight squeeze in the middle of the pack with four teams separated by just two games. Heck, only 2.5 games separate the top six teams in the conference. The Cavs have been so bad the past few seasons that they could be worthy of a flier at +370 odds to snatch the Central Division crown away from the Bucks and the Bulls.
The Cavs won four-straight division titles between 2015-19, but they haven’t snagged a Central crown since LeBron James departed for the LA Lakers after the 2019 season. It’s taken them three years to finally pick up the pieces from their second split. This year’s run has been remarkable considering all the injuries that the Cavs had to absorb, particularly in their backcourt.
The Cavs could be busy prior to the trade deadline if they want to add a key veteran guard to put them over the top and provide them with the depth they need if they expect to do any damage in the postseason.
The Cavs are led by Darius Garland, though rookie Evan Mobley made a huge impact in his first season. The USC big man has the inside track to winning Rookie of the Year. Mobley averages 15 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while drawing early comparisons to Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett. Those are some lofty comparisons, but Mobley has more than held his own against some of the big dogs in the East, including Joel Embiid and Antetokounmpo.
DUNK of the Night: Jan. 26th
— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) January 27, 2022