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NBA 2013 Summer Moves: Central Division

Law Murray |
July 31, 2013 | 11:16 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Paul George's Pacers added depth in Luis Scola as they attempt to remain the best team in an improved division. (Flickr/IsoSports)
Paul George's Pacers added depth in Luis Scola as they attempt to remain the best team in an improved division. (Flickr/IsoSports)
This article looks at the new NBA landscape for the 2013-2014 season for the Central Division. With the draft and the first wave of free agency in the past, it is time to take a preliminary look at how the rosters are shaking out and whether or not the moves that teams made will have a significant difference in how those teams performed from last season.

Each team will be separated by their nominal starting five (PG = point guard, SG = shooting guard, SF = small forward, PF = power forward, C = center), with most important players followed by the more replaceable parts (i.e, franchise player of the Big 3, followed by the other two starters). Also included are the rotation (6th man through 8th man), followed by the rest of the bench (up to the 13th man). New additions and re-signings are marked by an asterisk*, rookies by a (1). Players who are uncertain to be ready for the season opener are kept out of the starting lineup and rotation and marked with a (+). Because of the heavy coaching and management turnover, those figures are listed as well.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Indiana Pacers (2012-2013: 49-32, 1st in Central, 3rd in Eastern, Conference Finals Loss to Miami)

Starters: SF Paul George, C Roy Hibbert, PF David West*, PG George Hill, SG Lance Stephenson

Rotation: SF Danny Granger, PF Luis Scola*, PG C.J. Watson*

Bench: C Ian Mahinmi, SG Orlando Johnson, PF Chris Copeland*, SF Solomon Hill (1), PG Donald Sloan*

Head Coach: Frank Vogel

General Manager: Kevin Pritchard

The Pacers have gone one step further every season since 2010, and if that pattern is to continue, they will be representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. It was a foregone conclusion that West would re-sign. Granger could take Stephenson's spot in the starting lineup, but the Pacers were the top-ranked defense in the league while George became an All-Star at small forward. There is also no guarantee that Granger will return to form at 30 years old and coming off of knee surgery.  Scola replaces Tyler Hansbrough while Copeland and Hill serve as Granger insurance. Copeland adds much needed shooting, but he's a liability defensively, which will matter if he has to play 30+ minutes. Watson is an upgrade over D.J. Augustin, though he's not a difference-maker.  The addition of Scola gives the Pacers a reserve big man who can shoot; though Scola is 33 with declining rebounding ability and zero athleticism, he can't be ignored by opposing defenses come playoff time.  The Pacers have more depth and talent off the bench, but allocating minutes while keeping their defense at an elite level will be interesting.

Chicago Bulls (2012-2013: 45-37, 2nd in Central, 5th in Eastern, Semifinals Loss to Miami)

Starters: PG Derrick Rose, C Joakim Noah, SF Luol Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, SG Jimmy Butler

Rotation: SF Mike Dunleavy*, PF Taj Gibson, PG Kirk Hinrich

Bench: C Nazr Mohammed, SG Tony Snell (1), PF Erik Murphy (1), PG Marquis Teague

Head Coach: Tom Thibodeau

General Manager: Gar Forman

Given the health and age of their big men, the Bulls could stand to add another before the season starts. Rose should be ready to return after missing the entire season, allowing the Bulls to part with Nate Robinson and letting Kirk Hinrich come off the bench. The emergence of Butler and drafting of Snell allowed the Bulls to release Richard Hamilton, and the signing of Dunleavy is an upgrade on Marco Belinelli.  

Milwaukee Bucks (2012-2013: 38-44, 3rd in Central, 8th in Eastern, First Round Loss to Miami)

Starters: C Larry Sanders, SG O.J. Mayo*, PF Ersan Ilyasova, PG Brandon Knight*, SF Carlos Delfino*

Rotation: PG Luke Ridnour*, PF John Henson, SG Gary Neal*

Bench: C Zaza Pachulia*, SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (1), PF Ekpe Udoh, SF Khris Middleton*, PG Ish Smith

Head Coach: Larry Drew*

General Manager: John Hammond

The Bucks have a new backcourt, swapping volume scorers Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis for Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo. The Bucks signed Hawks restricted free agent Jeff Teague with hopes of reuniting Teague with new coach Drew, but the Hawks matched the offer. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and it was only a matter of time until Jennings left the Bucks. Drew has a project in developing Knight, one of the worst PGs in the NBA last season (4.0 assists, 2.7 turnovers per game). If Knight can improve like Jeff Teague did, the Bucks would be thrilled. Delfino replaces Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, which upgrades the Bucks' shooting significantly. The Bucks lost out on J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy in free agency, and had to settle for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour. Antetokounmpo and Middleton should compete for minutes at SF. Drew was able to net one former Hawk in Pachulia, who replaces Dalembert as a backup center. The Bucks need Mayo to score, but he has never been as good as Ellis at getting to the free throw line. 

 

Detroit Pistons (2012-2013: 29-53, 4th in Central, 11th in Eastern)

Starters: SF Josh Smith*, PG Brandon Jennings*, PF Greg Monroe, C Andre Drummond, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1)

Rotation: SG Rodney Stuckey, PF Jonas Jerebko, SF Kyle Singler

Bench: C Charlie Villanueva, PG Chauncey Billups*, PF Tony Mitchell (1), PG Will Bynum*, SF Luigi Datome (1)

Head Coach: Maurice Cheeks*

General Manager: Joe Dumars

The Pistons had a huge summer rebuild, and I doubt that Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings turn out like Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon from 2009, although anything is possible. I understand that Smith is most likely going to start at SF and Monroe at PF to make room for Drummond in the starting five, sending Singler to the bench. Stuckey is a dreadful shooter (29% from three, 42% from the field through six seasons) and a poor fit next to Jennings, but there is a chance that he starts if Caldwell-Pope isn't ready. The Pistons are headed for some complicated lineups offensively (beware: Josh Smith is 58 3-point attempts away from becoming the worst 3-point shooter with at least 1,000 attempts since Charles Barkley), but there is a clear upgrade in talent here. Smith, like Jennings, is one of the more polarizing players in the league, but he nominally replaces Jason Maxiell on the roster and spent six years playing next to a skilled big man in Al Horford. He immediately upgrades the Pistons' defense while giving them a dynamic, though inconsistent, forward. Smith scored 1,327 points last season; no Piston has scored that many points in six years. Smith's arrival allows Drummond to start at C, though the Pistons' lack of depth at C could have them bringing Drummond off the bench while Singler starts. Cheeks comes from OKC, where they start an oversized frontcourt, so spacing be damned. I thought Cheeks was hired to aid in Knight's development as a point guard, but he's worked with Allen Iverson and Russell Westbrook, so maybe Jennings will learn how to get to the free throw line more and be productively aggressive instead of taking bad shots. Jennings has talent and averaged 17.5 points per game this past season, but he is a 39% shooter through four years and has never averaged more than 6.5 assists a game. He's a clear upgrade in talent over Knight and Jose Calderon, but he could use the guidance from Cheeks and Billups. Billups was looking forward to his return to point guard, and he'll be used to space the floor and keep the IQ at an acceptable level on the floor. It remains to be seen if he has anything left after struggling with the complications of a late-career Achilles tear. Billups and Datome basically replace Kim English and Khris Middleton/Corey Maggette. It's hard to imagine how Detroit will close games out with poor free throw shooters Smith (52%), Monroe (69%), and Drummond (37%) on the floor at the same time, but the Pistons have built a playoff team. There is just too much talent at every position.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2012-2013: 24-58, 5th in Central, 13th in Eastern)

Starters: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, PF Tristan Thompson, C Andrew Bynum*, SF Alonzo Gee

Rotation: PG Jarrett Jack*, PF Anthony Bennett (1), SF Earl Clark*

Bench: C Anderson Varejao, SG C.J. Miles, C Luke Zeller, SF Sergei Karasev (1)

Head Coach: Mike Brown*

General Manager: Chris Grant

Cleveland brought back the most successful head coach in franchise history in Mike Brown, used the first overall pick on a skilled forward in Bennett, used another first-round pick on a skilled forward (Karasev), and spent free agent funds on a new center (Bynum), a combo guard (Jack), and a lengthy forward (Clark). It's time for the Cavaliers to return to the postseason. Irving is an All-Star, and he will play next to Jack often. Jack replaces Shaun Livingston, Clark and Miles replaces Wayne Ellington, Bennett replaces Luke Walton, Bynum and Varejao replace Marreese Speights, and Karasev replaces Omri Casspi. Brown has his work cut out for him improving this team's defense, especially if/when Bynum (missed last season) and Varejao (only 81 games played last three seasons combined) break down again. Irving is an All-Star scorer and shooter, but he needs to stay healthy and take the next step as a distributor and defender. The Cavs don't want to start Gee next year, as he was one of the worst starting SFs in the league; Clark offers an intriguing option defensively while Bennett (another poor defender) will start out as a backup PF before being considered at SF and/or as a starter. Waiters is another player who needs to improve offensively (41% from the field, 31% from 3 as a rookie) and defensively. Despite the inevitable growing pains, something would have had to gone very wrong for this team to lose 50+ games next season.

Reach Staff Writer Law Murray via email or follow him on Twitter.



 

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