Hi Milwaukee Bucks’ fans! Today we are continuing with the series on who can beat the Bucks’ in the playoffs, but the division has been ours for so long (at least for Bucks’ fans who don’t remember the 80’s) that I don’t even remember who last won it and what year it was without looking it up. Let’s do a poll, no cheating, which team last won the division and what year was it?
Who Last Won the Division (and what year) Before the Bucks?
This poll is closed
Detroit Didn’t Win It
Scroll to the bottom of this piece for the answer. Without further ado, here is a look at who I think is most likely to dethrone the Bucks in the division.
2021-22 Standings: 25-57
2021-22 Odds: 200 to 1
According to stats for players who qualify, Indiana returns their leader in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and assists, as well as turnover rate, 3-points made and missed, BLK%, DPRM, 3PA+r and every other obscure stat you can think of, and this player is not Tyrese Haliburton. That’s right, according to ESPN’s stats page, Oshae Brissett is the only player who qualified with games played with 67, and that I think very well sums up the season for the Pacers that saw them trade Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon away within half a year. But at least they got their guy back.
TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb and Justin Holiday are gone too, and they were all mentioned by me as being “keys” for them to rebound and move their Pacer ways forward. I said the “Pacers will be the Pacers, but maybe a slightly better version of those Pacers”. Push that a year ago, and that would be accurate, but they finally decided to rebuild. With six key players gone, this team is now relying on a youth movement to have any hope at competing with the G-League.
They will trade Myles Turner, they would be stupid not to, and maybe Buddy Hield will find his way out too. TJ McConnell and Daniel Theis are moderate supporting cast players, and after that it is about figuring out who is a long-term solution as they look to secure either Scoot Henderson or Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 Draft. Tyrese Haliburton is the current future of this franchise, but he’s likely going to be their Khris Middleton or Jrue Holiday if they have any hope of lucking their way into the next Giannis. Benedict Mathurin is another player to watch after his meteoric rise, and after that you really are looking at diamonds in the rough. This team won’t challenge the Bucks this season.
2022-23 Odds: 10,000 to 1
2021-22 Standings: 23-59
2021-22Odds: 4,000 to 1
I think I pretty much nailed it on the head with this prediction last season, and I stated they might have found a potential superstar in Cade Cunningham (we’ll see but good start), Saddiq Bey might become one of the better three and D guys in the league (yes) and the random guys off the bench will be random guys off the bench. Now, this was probably the easiest team in the division to predict, but still, look at what some other teams in this division did last season. I could have been just as off with the Pistons as them, but instead I will give myself a good grade.
This season, Detroit is adding a few nice rookies in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, as well as more random veterans in Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Kemba Walker. Throw in the newly acquired Marvin Bagley III and do they actually having something building in Motown? They also recently acquired Bojan Bogdanovic from Utah for some reason, he is still not good enough to push them into the postseason, but I bumped them up 3 points in my odds. Even with the additions, the best player on the team from the past two seasons, Jerami Grant, has gone to Portland, so this team belongs to the guards now. Whether it be Cunningham, Ivey or even a resurgent Kemba, Detroit is going to be run by guards. Against the Bucks, that won’t do, but getting over 30 wins? It’s not the most far-fetched idea I’ve had.
2022-23 Odds: 997 to 1
2021-22 Standings: 46-36
2021-22 Odds: 50 to 1
Like I suggested for the Bulls to have a chance last season, the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic became a very good big three. DeRozan averaged 27.9 per game and LaVine was at 24.4, making them one of the higher scoring duos in the league. The last pair of teammates to both average over 25 was Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry in Durant’s final year there (I thought it would be a longer when I first started looking up how long it has been).
The problem the Bulls had was size, and I would still say that they do. If they lose Vucevic or newly acquired backup Andre Drummond, a team like the Bucks would be able to destroy them in the paint. Lonzo Ball is also battling injuries, and while I will always say he is overrated (and I doubt I would have if it wasn’t for Lamar Ball overhyping him), I would still take him over old man Goran Dragic, Ayo Dosunmu or even Coby White. Ehh, the more I think about it, the more I’m like the Bulls don’t need Lonzo to be successful.
The Bulls are a good basketball team. That’s not a joke, that’s serious, and for anybody who thinks otherwise they just are too biased about something or don’t understand basketball. With that said, the Bulls (still) have a lot of flaws and aren’t going to be NBA Champions in 2023 without major upgrades and drastic changes. But, I would say the Bulls are capable of winning against the Bucks in the playoffs, but it’s not much more likely than last season.
2022-23 Odds: 25 to 1
2021-22 Standings: 44-38
2021-22 Odds: 2,000 to 1
If these were actual odds from Vegas and the Bucks actually played a healthy Cleveland team in the postseason last year, this would have been a hell of a bet to take and cash in on. Cleveland did everything and more that I said they needed to do to have a chance, and they look even better this year. I did say that Cleveland was a “sleeper playoff team”, starting with sorting out the front court. Darius Garland took a massive step forward, along with Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman. I based a lot of how good Cleveland would be based on Kevin Love, but now I truly question if he is even their fifth best player.
Cleveland also had a massive get this off-season, with Donovan Mitchell coming in for a point guard they don’t need, a member of an overcrowded front court a rookie and a few draft picks. Mitchell is really good, and it’s a shame he’s moved into the division.
Who Has the Best Chance to Dethrone the Bucks?
This poll is closed
We Will Be Champions Until 3023 (not a typo)
Indiana is actually really good, you obviously need to get on the Jalen Smith and Oshae Brissett bandwagon
This might be the best back court in the East if you think the combination of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell are better than Atlanta’s duo of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young, and the trio up front with Love, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley make this team appear to have no weaknesses. I even like the wings they have with Osman, Okoro and Caris LeVert as the options alongside Mitchell on the perimeter. This team has a legitimate chance of knocking out the Bucks in the Central. Can they fall off? Sure. Are the Bucks a better team? I can’t say for certainty that five of the ten best players between these teams are Bucks. I’ll look quick at the nine-man rotations.
Bucks: Giannis, Middleton, Holiday, Brook, Portis, Pat, Allen, Matthews, Ingles
Cavs: Mitchell, Garland, Mobley, Allen, Love, LeVert, Okoro, Osman, Rubio
I would say that after Giannis, only two of the next six are Bucks and then it comes down to who you think is the better players. Love is probably worse than Brook, and even if you put Bobby ahead of him I would say Love and LeVert are better than Pat. I’m also high on Okoro and Osman. I’m not giving Cleveland the edge here, but really watch out for this team, they may continue to surprise. This might be the best non-Lebron team they’ve had since Brad Daugherty and Mark Price in the early 90’s.
2022-23 Odds: 3 to 1
There you have it. After laughing off the Central this time last year, it really seems like the only one we can for sure laugh at is Indiana, and probably Detroit. We used to pencil in 14 out of 16 games from this division as wins, and now I would be ecstatic with that number and expect closer to 11-13 on the high end. Cleveland and Chicago both are capable of putting up a fight, and Detroit is going to have moments, but they probably won’t do damage. What do you think? Can the Bucks continue to hold off the divisional foes for one more year? Vote and comment below!
Central Division trivia answer: The correct answer is Cleveland 2017-2018, back when they had LeBron James. I would have guessed Indiana, I forgot LeBron was there for some reason.