2012-13 NBA Season Preview: Central Division
Here's the Central Division, previewed by Evan Budrovich.
If you want a division with pure basketball and hard-hustling teams, you will be rewarded tremendously with the Central. The Pacers, Bulls and Cavs will all be competitive teams this season, plus the bottom feeders in Milwaukee and Detroit will still be exciting teams to watch.
The intra-conference play will allow even the strongest teams to lose to the weakest ones. The parity in the conference may not show in record, but the games in the division will be grind-it-out contests.
The Pacers are balanced and a great inspirational story. The Bulls have the star power and will come on strong in the second half of the season. Plus, the Detroit Pistons have large potential and can compete for a playoff spot very soon.
Watch the Central, it will be worth your while.
1st- Indiana Pacers (Predicted Record of 56-26)
While the Indiana Pacers have one of the most complete teams in the Eastern Conference, their biggest issue is that they lack an A-list superstar.
Danny Granger would be the best choice to fill that role, and he will once again put up 20-point performances and excellent all-around efforts on a nightly basis. David West and Roy Hibbert will control the paint while providing Indiana some much needed scoring with their touch and finesse around the bucket.
In an interesting offseason move, the Pacers traded Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones to Dallas. It seemed risky at the time, but Pacers fans will love the player they got back in Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi provides the toughness and strength that Tyler Hansbrough struggles with, perfectly filling the role of backup center for this ball club.
I also love the backcourt with George Hill and Paul George. These explosive athletes will allow the Pacers to run with any team in the league, while also giving them the size to challenge teams like the Heat that sport large, yet quick guards.
Overall, the Pacers are a strong bunch that have the depth, scoring ability and defensive presence with Frank Vogel to win the East. I believe the Pacers will finish as the second best team in the conference and will ride the play of Danny Granger to the most wins since the days of Reggie Miller and Ron Artest.
2nd- Chicago Bulls (Predicted Record of 48-34)
Bulls fans were ecstatic the moment Derrick Rose promised to return earlier than expected this season. The Bulls will win or lose solely based on the performance of their All-Star point guard. Rose is electric and when healthy, is the best scoring point guard in the game.
The Bulls also do better when he scores, despite conventional wisdom speaking otherwise, and the numbers support this. Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton return to the starting lineup.
This core group of players had the best record in the East last year and will once again be in the hunt for a home court advantage in the first round. Expect Deng to shoulder the secondary scoring load in Chicago as he looks to improve upon a very inconsistent effort in London this summer.
The silent key for the Bulls however, will be the play of their bench. Marco Bellineli, Nate Robinson, fan favorite Kirk Hinrich and, yes, Vladimir Radmanovic are the big free agent acquisitions that will bolster this team.
Hinrich and Robinson add shooting and offensive intangibles that John Lucas III could not, while Radmanovic supplies this team with a three-point sharpshooter to play alongside Gibson and Boozer in the post.
For the first time since the days of LeBron James, the Cleveland fans have a reason to smile about their basketball team. It all starts with defending rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving. Irving is an electric point guard that will allow Cleveland to play great complementary basketball.
The Cavs also return young stars Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee, who combined for 30 points per game last season. Anderson Varejeo and Dion Waiters fill out what could be an above-average starting five in the East.
Watch out for Cleveland’s bench this year, as it is vastly improved and now has some star power to supply relief to the starting five. Omri Casspi, Daniel Gibson and Jeremy Pargo will play key backcourt roles as distributors and shot-makers off the bench.
The Cavs also have acquired through the draft some of the best up-and-coming big men in the game in John Leuer and Tyler Zeller. The Cavs frontcourt will be a strength next season because its size and depth.
Plus, who wouldn’t want Luke Walton as your 12th man? The less Walton plays, the better the Cavs will be moving forward with the likes of Gee and C.J. Miles taking up a bulk of the minutes at SF.
4th- Detroit Pistons (Predicted Record of 34-48)
The Detroit Pistons were easily the division’s biggest disappointment last season, finishing 25-41 due to their lack of execution despite their supposed bevy of skill. This season, the Pistons will look to impose physicality and toughness on their opponents. Whether they have the personnel is another question.
Lawrence Frank has two starting point guards on the court to play with in Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey. Knight is the better scorer but also can drive to the rack with astounding power and force.
The better passer on this team is Stuckey, who was the starting point guard in 2010. Hei is large (6’5” 205), and looks to use his size and quickness to overpower smaller guards.
Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe are physical specimens that will need to step up defensively if the Pistons want to improve. Monroe is the scorer while Maxiell mashes down low from the power forward spot.
The bench might provide some help in the physicality department with Charlie Villanueva and first round pick Andre Drummond leading the way. The Pistons also have a scoring machine, but defensive diva in Corey Maggette.
The most inspirational player however, and probably most vital to the Pistons’ success, is Jonas Jerebko. Jerebko’s increased playing time will simply help the Pistons win more basketball games.
The Bucks are an intriguing team because of their offensive firepower and will definitely be the team to watch in the division. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are two of the best scoring guards in the league and will most likely combine for over 40 points a game.
Ersyan Ilyasova, a huge re-signing that went under the radar this offseason, will build upon his 13-point per game average last season. The Bucks also decided to go big this offseason by signing Samuel Dalembert and Joel Pryzbilla. They also drafted John Henson from UNC and Tobias Harris from Tennessee to add size.
The Bucks have even more depth with hustle man Drew Gooden, sharp shooter Mike Dunleavy and sensational athlete Ekpe Udoh rounding out the bench.
Let us not forget that the Bucks also selected Doron Lamb, who will provide immediate defense and tenacity to one of the worst defenses in the league last season. Defense is the key for the Bucks and if Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and Dalembert can solidify the starting five defense, who knows where this team could end up?
The Bucks offense will not lead the East in scoring this season, but they have the weapons to jack up shots at a prolific rate. The jury is still out as to whether this team can gel, which will make the early portion of the season very tense but exciting in Milwaukee.
Coach on Hot Seat: Frank Vogel, Detroit
MVP: Kyrie Irving
Biggest Bust: Monta Ellis
Most Improved Player: Brandon Jennings
Best Offensive Role Player: Corey Maggette
Best Defensive Role Player: Taj Gibson
Rookie To Watch: Andre Drummond