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Previewing the NBA: The Central Division - Pinwheel Empire

Previewing the NBA: The Central Division

submitted 4 years ago by in Game Preview

Roy Hibbert

Image Courtesy of the Associated Press

Indiana Pacers (56-36, lost in the eastern conference finals to Miami):

Headline: The “Next Team Up” Goes Into a Nosedive as Injuries and Internal Struggles Decimate a Once-Promising Group

Summary: It was all going so well for the Pacers, they were playing as well as any team in the NBA and appeared to truly be a stern test for Miami.  Then something happened late in the year and it all went horribly wrong.  Although the Pacers made the Eastern Conference finals for the third year in a row, they never truly looked to have a shot at beating Miami.  Add to that George’s injury in a US Basketball exhibition game and you have a recipe for disaster as a once promising team looks to see how far it will fall.

Overall Trend: Down, the Pacers have gone from one of the top two or three teams in the east all the way to possibly out of the playoffs.

Salary: $74.13M (over cap)

2015 Draft Picks: Own both their own picks and do not have the rights to any other team’s.

Biggest Addition: Rodney Stuckey

Losses: Lance Stephenson, Evan Turner

Best Case: First round.  This team lacks offensive punch even with George, without him the best the can hope for is a quick playoff trip.

Worst Case: Just miss the playoffs.  If you’re not going to make the playoffs, you might as well really really suck.  Odds are the Pacers could be the 9th best team in the east, which is not a good place to be.

Most Likely Case: Miss playoffs.  The bottom of the east playoff race is a mess but the Pacers are just not that good anymore.


Joakim Noah

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Chicago Bulls (48-34, lost in the first round to Washington):

Headline:  Can the Bulls Stay Healthy Enough to Contend for a NBA Title?

Summary: Well Rose came back, for a few weeks, then he got hurt again and sadly the odds are that he will never be the same player he once was.  If he can remain healthy this is a Bulls team that is good enough to contend for a title but without him, they are good but not great.  Let’s hope Rose remains healthy and we get to see what this team can do.

Overall Trend: Up, its hard to believe that they’ll lose in the first round again so they are trending up, if not by a whole lot.

Salary: $66.46M (over salary cap).

2015 Draft Picks: Owed Sacramento’s 2015 First Round Pick (Protected for Selections 1-10).  The Bulls also have the right to swap their first round pick with Cleveland’s (Protected for Selections 1-14).  Chicago will also receive the more favorable of Portland and Orlando’s 2015 Second Rick Picks with the other pick going to Denver.

Biggest Addition: Pau Gasol

Losses: Carlos Boozer (to some this may not actually be a loss), DJ Augustin

Best Case: NBA Champions, if it all comes together for them, they are certainly title contenders.

Worst Case: First round, Chicago sometimes is Rose plus four other guys on offense, and that sort of thing could lead to an early exit.

Most Likely Case: Eastern Conference Finals  The Bulls are still a step behind Cleveland and so it would seem likely their season will end here.


The New Big Three

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Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49, missed playoffs):

Headline: LeBron Came Home and He Brought Some Love and Hope for a First Title

Summary: Yes LeBron you can come home again.  LeBron moved back to the Cavs after four years away and joins a group of talented players.  Yet, as if that weren’t enough he brought Kevin Love along for the ride.  This team is a title contender, if not the outright favorites but questions remain about how long it might take this bunch to truly grow as a team and if the oft injured Love and Irving can remain healthy.

Overall Trend: Up, its the best summer the Cavs have ever had, vaulting from out of the playoffs to title contenders

Salary: $72.4M (over cap)

2015 Draft Picks: Owed Memphis’s 2015 First Round Pick (Protected for Selections 1-5 and 15-30), and Chicago has the right to swap first round picks (Cleveland’s Pick protected for selections 1-14).  The Cavs are also owed Sacramento’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 31-55), Philadelphia’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 31-50 and 56-60) and Boston’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 31-55).  Owe their 2015 Second Round Pick to Utah.

Biggest Addition: LeBron James

Losses: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes

Best Case: NBA Champions.  This bunch certainly has enough talent to win it all.

Worst Case: Second Round.  The Cavs are too good to lose in the first round but a second round exit is possible, if highly unlikely.

Most Likely Case: NBA Finals.  The Spurs are still the slight favorites to repeat but the Cavs will likely get their chance at avenging their only previous NBA Finals appearance.


Andre Drummond

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Detroit Pistons (29-53, missed playoffs):

Headline: Detroit Looks to Finally Make a Playoff Push After Years Stuck in Neutral

Summary: Detroit was seemingly everyone’s favorite as a surprise playoff team last year.  In the end, however, they won exactly as many games as they had the year prior.  Stan Van Gundy is now in charge of this young, talented bunch but it remains unclear if this group is truly more than the sum of its parts. We shall see.

Overall Trend: Up, they’ll probably win a few more games than last year at least and they have cap space.

Salary: $52.27M (under cap by $10M)

2015 Draft Picks: Own both their own picks and do not have the rights to any other team’s.

Biggest Addition: DJ Augustin

Losses: Rodney Stuckey, Chauncey Billups

Best Case: First round.  They are a solid step behind the eastern conference elite but they are certainly good enough to get to the playoffs.

Worst Case: Just miss the playoffs.  This team is not bad but neither are they that good.  They could certainly just miss out.

Most Likely Case: Miss the playoffs.  Detroit is certainly playoff-worthy but I’d rate them a step behind the other contenders in the race for the last few spots.


Jabari Parker

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Milwaukee Bucks (15-67, lost in the first round to Miami):

Headline: After Posting the League’s Worst Record, the Bucks Look to Stay Bad as they Continue to Rebuild

Summary: The Bucks were terrible last year and that’s a good thing.  They managed to out tank the Sixers, which is no small thing, and although they did not land the #1 pick, #2 pick Jabari Parker is not a bad consolation prize.  Its going to be a long losing season but in the end its for the best.

Overall Trend: Up, look the Bucks are terrible but somehow its hard to believe they’ll fail to win more than fifteen games this year.

Salary: $54.85M ($8.2M under cap)

2015 Draft Picks: Own both their own picks and do not have the rights to any other team’s.

Biggest Addition: Jabari Parker

Losses: Carlos Delfino, Ramon Sessions

Best Case: Top three pick, the Bucks have some talent so they won’t be among the favorites to land a top three pick but top five is possible.

Worst Case: Mid lottery pick, the bottom of the east is so scrambled the Bucks could find themselves with an inferior record but still getting a pick in the high single digits.

Most Likely Case: Top Five Pick.  The Bucks are bad and so can be expected to land a pick in the top five next June.

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skywaker9 (David) is a Portland native and passionate Blazers fan. He currently works as a University fiscal analyst for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. He also has a PhD in Public Affairs and Policy at Portland State University. David is a former political activist who chose to focus on sports because they made him happy. He primarily writes previews for PWE and one of his primary goals is to inform Blazer fans everywhere about those players on other teams they may not have heard of but should (such as Nikola Vucevic).