With the season around the corner, here’s a quick look at the Central Division.
The Cavaliers may have been caught off guard by Kyrie’s trade request but were able to get good value by trading him for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a future first round pick, adding depth for now and the future.
With Crowder, who is a better than average defender, and Thomas, the Cavs get a couple players that bring grit and intensity. Thomas is expected to miss the first bit of the season, but when he is ready will add a very bothersome (for the opponent) aspect to the Cavs offense.
Aside from the Irving scenario, the Cavs knew they needed to improve their roster during the summer and did so by picking up Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Jeff Green. Finally, they made one of the last splashes off the offseason by signing Dwyane Wade, who will reunite with LeBron, to give the Cavs that extra, championship character.
JR, Shump, Lil Kev, RJ, Korver, Frye and TT, round out the returning roster. This team is built on veteran IQ, teamwork and depth; the types of things that survive the long haul.
The new-look Cavs will take some getting used to, but when they mesh, could be better than ever.
The Bucks are slowly becoming one of the scariest teams in the league. If they had not been struck by injuries to Jabri Parker and Khris Middleton last season, they could have seen a much different outcome.
Parker and Antetokounmpo formed one of the nastiest duos in the league for the first half of last season while Middleton was sidelined. Just as Middleton returned to the lineup though, Parker went down. Yet, the team didn’t miss a beat. Therefore, it will be very interesting to see all three play together this season.
Plus, Antetokounmpo should be on track for another extraordinary season, especially after Kobe Bryant challenged him to win MVP.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon gives the Bucks an excellent option at PG with his size and IQ. After getting his feet wet last season, Thon Maker should be set to make more of an impact this season, and could soon start to look like Giannis 2.0. The Bucks’ cache of big men also includes Greg Monroe, John Henson and Mirza Teletovic, who offer a broad range of skills. Finally, Tony Snell and Matthew Dellavedova fly under the radar but can really help change games with their tough play.
Look out for the Bucks!
The Pacers were dealt a blow when Paul George made it known he was not totally interested in sticking around. They bit the bullet and swapped him for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Oladipo and Sabonis will join last season’s core of Lance Stephenson, Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, while new additions Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph add veteran experience and depth.
Turner is one of the league’s most intriguing young big men, and with vets Young and Jefferson by his side, gives the Pacers a solid front court. The addition of Darren Collison and Cory Joseph gives them a couple reliable point guards to feed Oladipo and Stephenson, who both have an untamed potential to change games.
The Pacers’ success this season will likely rely on coaching and the ability of all the new faces to gel and form an identity. Either way they could steal a few games.
The Pistons have underperformed for a couple of seasons and even after a bit of roster reform throughout that time, find themselves once again in that middle ground.
They grabbed a really solid player in Avery Bradley, who should fit well with Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith to form a pretty solid back court. Jackson dealt with injuries last season and never seemed to reach 100%, however if he can stay healthy this season, the Pistons are a different team. Meanwhile, Ish Smith proved that he can pick up the slack, with some big games last year, making for some competition at the PG spot.
With Andre Drummond holding down the middle, there is room for Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer to play around in that mid to extended range. Boban Marjanovic should not go overlooked, as he has shown that he can dominate the paint and with Marcus Morris out of the picture, expect more minutes for the big man.
Stanley Johnson, the promising youngster was buried in the rotation but with the recent changes might find himself a new opportunity. Finally, the rook Luke Kennard will give the Pistons some extra depth and shooting on the wing.
The playoffs should be a realistic goal for this squad.
With Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler out of the picture, the rebuild is in full effect. New core features include offseason acquisitions; Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday and Kris Dunn who join Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser, Denzel Valentine and Robin Lopez. Lauri Markkanen, the rookie from Finland, adds another stretch big to the Bulls fast lineup.
The Bulls are full of young talent; Dunn, LaVine, Valentine, Nwaba and Holiday at the guard spots have all shown flashes in their short careers, while the same goes for Felicio, Portis and Markkanen, therefore, getting together at this stage offers a chance to build something special in Chicago over the next couple years.
They will need to develop an identity and find a system that works, something they struggled with last season. Do not expect much from the Bulls this season.