Figuring out how teams in the East can stop the Milwaukee Bucks will be my debut series for my tenure at Brew Hoop, and this one will be in three parts. I will be looking around the East, starting with the rest of the Central Division, and seeing who has a real chance to stop the Bucks, and why. For the rest of the teams, I will be creating best case (sometimes beyond best case) scenarios to see if they even have a realistic chance of stopping them. When it comes to the Central Division, however, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Let’s take a look.
Weren’t they the worst team in the East? Yes, but I believe they trimmed the fat from last year’s roster and added a potential superstar. They also can’t get worse, can they? Here’s what Detroit can do to stop the Bucks.
Jerami Grant needs to play like an All-Star again, and Cade Cunningham needs to be the real deal. The trio of second-year pros in Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey need to continue to show that they were good picks, with Bey showing he can be one of the best “3 & D” guys in the NBA. Kelly Olynyk needs to show he was not a confusing signing. Veterans Cory Joseph, Josh Jackson, Hamidou Diallo and Trey Lyles also need to provide key minutes off the bench. But with two stars and a good amount of quality role players, that is Detroit’s best chance to stop the Bucks. It will be unlikely, and I don’t think this is impossible as well.
My Odds: 4,000/1
I think, but I might be wrong, that Cleveland is a sleeper playoff team, even without all of this stuff happening for them. They actually do have some quality young players, and if Kevin Love can resemble his former self at all, this team could sneak in to the real postseason, not just the play-in. Remember when the Knicks did that last year?
Anyways, the Cavaliers firstly need to sort out their frontcourt rotation. Having Kevin Love, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen up front is going to cause a lot of mixing and matching. But if they can sort it out and find ways for them to all be productive, this will be a very good frontcourt. Collin Sexton also needs to average 20+ points again, but pass more. Darius Garland needs to take a massive step forward as a floor general. Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman need to hit shots and play defense at a high level. And Ricky Rubio needs to provide value as the third guard, and hopefully help the young guards grow.
This really isn’t impossible, and as I said, if Kevin Love shows up this year, this team might be a team that you can’t just walk all over.
My Odds: 2,000/1
The Pacers are always an interesting team, and frankly I find it hard to ever truly count them out. But, they don’t match with the Bucks either, although here is how they potentially could.
Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner finally fit well together, thanks to the ingenuity of new coach Rick Carlisle. Caris LeVert makes the Pacers’ fans forget about Victor Oladipo quickly. Malcolm Brogdon continues to defy the odds, and also doesn’t miss time this season. TJ Warren returns quickly and plays like bubble TJ Warren. Jeremy Lamb and Justin Holiday have great seasons off the bench, and rookie Isaiah Jackson makes an All-Rookie team. Role players like TJ McConnell, Torrey Craig and Edmond Sumner all have solid seasons. Sabonis legitimately runs for the MVP, and Rick Carlisle for Coach of the Year.
This doesn’t sound as unlikely as some of the other ones before the Pacers, but there still are a few stretches here. What likely will happen is the Pacers still are the Pacers, but maybe a slightly better version of those Pacers. For those who follow the NBA, that should make sense without an explanation.
My Odds: 200/1
I’m very bearish on the Bulls, and now as I write this I find it odd that stock market terms are also Chicago sports teams. Anyways, I’m done nerding out, I promise, and there are a few reasons why I’m bearish on the Bulls. One, I don’t trust Lonzo Ball. Two, they don’t have defense. And three, they don’t have depth, especially for Nikola Vucevic. But, I’m here to show you a scenario where why none of that matters.
Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan become a very good big three, and at least two of them become All-Stars (not a stretch, since they all have been). Patrick Williams becomes very good, very fast, and is the defensive presence they need to stop Giannis. Lonzo Ball becomes LaMelo Ball. Coby White makes a big jump, and possibly into 6th-man award territory. Alex Caruso and Derrick Jones add more defense, and are net-positives on the court. Tyler Cook, Alize Johnson or Tony Bradley become a quality backup for Vucevic so he doesn’t need to play 40 minutes a night without them constantly playing small ball.
Aside from my first statement, and maybe the second one (aside from the Giannis stopper part), most of this is unlikely to happen. But, any team with three possible All-Stars needs to be taken seriously, at least as a playoff contender.
My Odds: 50/1
As you can see based on my odds, which by no means are aligned with that of any gambling site or anywhere in Las Vegas, it is a long shot for any of these teams to overtake the Bucks. However, I would like to add that anything is possible in the NBA, as I’m assuming very few thought the Phoenix Suns would have made the Finals, or that the Hawks would make the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls have the best chance in my opinion, so maybe they will make it a challenge for a while? Who knows, but I think it’s safe to say the real threats loom elsewhere in the Eastern Conference.
So there you have it. Please comment below with your thoughts on how the Central Division might stack up, and follow more of our articles here on Brew Hoop as we continue to prep for the upcoming season as Milwaukee shoots for a repeat.