2013 NBA Preview: Central Division

In this post we will continue with our NBA Preview by taking a look at the Central Division of the Eastern Conference. 

1. Chicago Bulls

What we like:

Derrick Rose is finally back! It took more than a season, but the 2011 MVP is once again setting up the floor for Chicago. Last year, the Bulls were, much to the delight of Tom Thibodeau, tough. They finished second in the division behind the Pacers and took down the Nets on the road in Game 7 of their first round playoff series, despite being extremely banged up. The Bulls lost in the second round to the Heat, but the influence of Thibodeau on the mentality of this team was clear: it’s not about who’s playing, it’s about how they play. Despite that mentality, they actually do have an extremely talented roster. Rose, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah are the three best players on the team, but the Bulls also have the athletic Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, the sometimes-good Carlos Boozer, and newly-acquired shooter Mike Dunleavy.

What we don’t:

Injuries are what doomed the team last year, and they could very well happen again. The Bulls will need all their personnel healthy to have any chance at dethroning Lebron and the Heat from the top of the East. Rose’s knee looks good now, but it will be a joint of concern all season long. Noah was slowed by plantar fasciitis at the end of last season, and there is already news that he may miss the Bull’s opener.

Our Call:

If they can stay healthy, this team could be championship caliber. The 2012-13 Bulls ended the Heat’s winning streak. Maybe the 2013-14 Bulls can end their conference title streak. This athletic squad has the ability to win a title if all their pieces are functioning at the end of the season.

Yup, he's back.

Yup, he’s back.

2. Indiana Pacers

What we like:

Paul George, Paul George, Paul George. Following the third-year Pacer’s breakout season in which he was named Most Improved Player and elected to both Third-Team All NBA and Second-Team All Defense, expectations for George are high. The George-led 2012-13 Pacers gave the Heat serious problems, and they did so without a bench. Joining the team are Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, and, in a way, Danny Granger, the longtime Pacer who missed most of last year due to injury. Add those players into the mix with George, Roy Hibbert, and David West, and the Pacers look pretty darn good.

What we don’t:

The readdition of Granger might be great for this club, as he is probably still a talented scorer (18.7 PPG in 2011-12). The concern, however, is that Granger will ruin the chemistry and makeup of the team that nearly made it to the Finals last year.

Our call:

The Pacers have the potential to be even better than they were last year, which is saying something. If coach Frank Vogel is able to create the same sort of team mentality as he did last year, the Pacers will go far.

Danny Granger is back too.

Danny Granger is back too.

3. Detroit Pistons

What we like:

The Pistons made some high risk/high reward moves over the off-season in an attempt to break out of the mediocrity that has surrounded them for several seasons. They traded for Brandon Jennings, signed Josh Smith (and resigned Chauncey!!!!), and drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. These pieces could mesh very well with the fearsome frontcourt of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. The Pistons will be diverse offensively–they’ve got shooters (Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Singler, and Mr. Big Shot), post players (Drummond, Monroe, and Josh Harrellson (Jorts!)), and do-it-all players (Jennings and Smith).

What we don’t:

It is an ironic question to ask considering the name of this team, but how will the pieces fit together? Can Smith and Jennings find comfortable spots for themselves on this team? Will Drummond blossom even further and become a central player for Detroit?

Our call:

This team is a difficult one to forecast because its success is dependent on the development of its many young players and the adjustment of new acquisitions into the Detroit lineup. If they can get it together somewhat, they will earn a spot in the playoffs.

Josh Smith should give Detroit a boost.

Josh Smith should give Detroit a boost.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

What we like:

We love Kyrie. The dude is an absolute baller when healthy and has to be considered an elite guard at this point. He will have more talent around him this year than he did his first two years in the league. The Cavs added injury prone center Andrew Bynum in the off-season, who did not play last year but is incredible when he makes it onto the court (there’s no certainty that he will much this season). They also drafted Anthony Bennett with the first pick in the NBA Draft and the forward has a multiplicity of skills. He’s looked great in the pre-season. Jarrett Jack was a nice off-season addition also. And the Cavs do have some solid players coming back from last year like Dion Waiters, Tristan Thomas, Tyler Zeller, and Anderson Varejao. They made a coaching change in the off-season, replacing Byron Scott with Mike Brown, and Brown will likely improve what was one of the worst defenses in the NBA last year.

What we don’t:

Like…everybody on Cleveland is injury prone. Kyrie, Bynum,  and Varejao all have had injury problems. Zeller enters the season injured too. And, even if the Cavs can stay healthy, they still could have some problems defensively. Above all, the Cavaliers are still young where they’re good, and it feels like they’ve got an excess of role players.

Our call:

While they won’t suddenly be serious contenders, the Cavs should see visible improvement. The Cavaliers likely will settle somewhere in the mid-to-high 30s for wins, barring any devastating injuries (like one to Irving).

When your team has Kyrie Irving, that is a good thing.

Kyrie! ❤

5. Milwaukee Bucks

What we like:

The Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis experiment is mercifully over. The two talented but inefficient guards have moved on from Brew Town, which could both bode well for Milwaukee’s future and make the Bucks less frustrating to watch. They also hired Larry Drew, whose teams in Atlanta the past three years were delightfully consistent. He seems a good fit for the Bucks as they head toward a possible rebuild.

What we don’t:

Their roster. Honestly though, the Bucks are not talented. Irsan Ilyasova is a nice piece with some potential, but he might be their best player. When you look at the Bucks you see a glut of role players (O.J. Mayo, Luke Ridnour, Caron Butler, Brandon Knight) and projects (John Henson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Larry Sanders).

Our call:

We really do like the Bucks. Great color scheme. Nice logo. Awesome arena. They also signed Zaza Pachulia, Hubie Brown’s favorite player ever! But, unless Drew works miracles, it could be tank city in Milwaukee this year.

It's a cool logo.

It’s a cool logo.

The Central Division boasts not one, but two legitimate NBA title contenders–the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers. It also includes a pair of teams on the rise in Detroit and Cleveland. The Bucks will probably tank, but overall this should be a good year for Rust Belt basketball.

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