NBA Season Preview: Central Division

NBA Central DivisionNBA Season Preview:

Central Division


Welcome to the NBA Season Previews, where the crew does the three-man weave today on the Central Division. Enjoy as Earl, Joao and David kick off the NBA Season.

Impact RookieJabari Parker

Earl: Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks. Jabari wanted to be a Buck and he got his wish. Playing alongside a player I rated highly before the season started in Giannis Antetokounmpo (and thanks Greek Freak for making me look good on that one) I think Jabari is going to get plenty of chances to get buckets.Those two will lead the youth resurgence that is the Milwaukee Bucks.

Joao:  Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks. The moment Andrew Wiggins was traded to the Timberwolves Parker became the rookie to watch in this division. For a number of reasons I believe Parker is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, including the fact that he is going to play a lot of minutes for this lowly Milwaukee squad. Let the comparisons to Derrick Rose begin and let’s see if Jabari’s foot injuries aren’t a problem.

David: Let me make it 3 for 3 for Jabari Parker, he pretty much has to be the guy, right? I can’t think of a Duke Rookie I have been more worried about seeing year one in the NBA that I actually gave a shit about.

Impact Free Agent (not named LeBron)Pau Gasol

Earl: Jodie Meeks of the Detroit Pistons. Although I think the Pistons greatly overpaid Meeks, when he signed a 3 year $19 million dollar deal this offseason (I didn’t think he’d get an offer north of $5 mill per year), he fills a need this team needs badly: shooting. With Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith as your frontcourt, you need someone who can stretch a defense and hit an outside shot. That guy will be Meeks.

Joao: Pau Gasol, who joined the Bulls coming from the Lakers, where he won back to back championships. Pau is 34 but his pick ‘n roll game is still deadly and he handled himself very well during the world championships in Spain this summer (he was a member of All-tournament team even though Spain disappointed overall). Even with Boozer out of the picture, the Bulls have a powerful interior game with Pau, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Noah and Pau should be the starters (C and PF, respectively) but it is clear that Gasol no longer has the burden of carrying the team on a nightly basis, like he did last season with the Lakers. That is going to be good for both him and the Bulls, who look to be championship contenders if Derrick Rose can return to MVP-like form.

David: Pau Gasol. This is going to be interesting. Its going to be great fun to see what happens in Chicago this year. Derrick Rose is back, McBucketts is going to earn a good bit of time- and there is going to be a lot of rebounds to be gathered, as neither one of them is a great shooter at the NBA Level- yet. I do look at the Pau and Noah combo and wonder how they are going to fit on the defensive end, and if Noah is just going to be forgotten once Pau learns the Chicago offense.

MVP of the Division (not named LeBron)Cleveland Cavaliers

Earl: Derrick Rose. Count me as one of the many people out here who wants the Chicago Bull to return to full health and back to his MVP caliber level. The NBA is a better place with a talent like D. Rose in it.

Joao: Not being able to pick the King, with Paul George injured, a lot of question marks surrounding Derrick Rose and with Lance Stephenson no longer a part of this division, this decision boils down to Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. I will pick Kevin Love because he will still post up big numbers on the offensive side of things, buoyed by the fact that the Cavaliers will win a hefty number of games this season. The double-double machine will even benefit from no longer being the main focus of opposing defenses. Now, if he can only improve his defensive play…

David: I’m looking at Kyrie Irving. Since I think Joakim Noah is going to vanish on offense, and I think its going to be next year before Kevin Love is doing Kevin Love things.This is a Chicago vs Cleveland thing, and I would almost say unless Paul George returns 100%, You could combine the other 3 teams and not have a contender in this division.


Least valuable Player.(not named LeBron)Josh Smith

Earl: Josh Smith. Might be unfair to list the Detroit Piston here but he’s overpaid and one dimensional. He’s a poor fit for the Pistons roster, but thanks to his presence and his unmoveable contract the Pistons will have to deal away Greg Monroe, in order to slide Smith at power forward where he’ll be a little more valuable.

Joao: I am looking at this in terms of “overrated” players. There are a lot of candidates: Derrick Rose might have a poor season (if he plays the entire season at all), Mirotic might not adapt to the NBA, Andre Drummond still can’t shoot free throws to save his life, Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith are puzzling, but I will save this dubious honor for someone else. I am looking at Roy Hibbert, the man who sometimes looks like a superstar center but often does his best impression of Manute Bol. The Pacers will fall from contender status and Hibbert will probably have a poor season just when Indiana needs him to step it up on a consistent basis.

David: I still want to know why the Hornets didn’t go after Ben Gordon. Still pisses me off. If I was GM of the Hornets my first call would be to Detroit to trade Lance for Ben Gordon, and my second call would be double-checking the first call. In what world is Josh Smith worth retarding Ben Gordon’s development? Josh Smith is almost the punching bag of Zach Lowe at this point, so I wont pile on.

All-Division Team

Earl Joao  David
 PG Derrick Rose
Kyrie Irving
 Kyrie Irving
 SG  Kyrie Irving  OJ Mayo  Jodie Meeks
 SF  LeBron James  LeBron James  LeBron James
 PF  Kevin Love  Kevin Love Kevin Love
 C  Joakim Noah  Joakim Noah Joakim Noah

Predicted Standings

Earl Joao  David
Cleveland Cavaliers
 Chicago Bulls
 Bulls  Bulls
 Detroit Pistons
 Pacers  Pistons
 Indiana Pacers
 Pistons  Pacers
 Milwaukee Bucks
 Bucks  Bucks


Do the Pacers need to rebuild or is there still a valid core there?Indiana Pacers

Earl: The Pacers went for it all last season. It just didn’t work. Now that Paul George is out for the season, the Pacers need to focus on a rebuild. Lance Stephenson left for Charlotte. David West is talking strongly about retirement, Roy Hibbert disappeared during the playoffs, and George Hill is not a good point guard. The Pacers need to rebuild but they’re likely stuck with what they have. Why? Hibbert and Hill have little to no trade value, and West might offer up some value in a deal near the trade deadline but they don’t have a chip that they can cash in to overhaul the team. The Pacers will just have to struggle some until George is back to where he was before the injury.

Joao: It is a tricky question because it all hinges on whether Paul George is able to come back at 100% or not. If he does (and that’s a big “if”) then the core is still good enough; if he isn’t able to capture his previous form then everything falls apart.

Either way, I think this is a season in which the Pacers can just go out there without a rebuilding process, get some ping pong balls, draft a star in 2015 and prepare for Paul George’s return. Don’t start a rebuilding process… for now.
David: I think it depends on Roy Hibbert.
If Roy Hibbert can come back and play like he deserves that contract, then there is a good chance you can build around George and Hibbert. If Hibbert is done, so is this franchise.  Who on this team is worth getting? David West is going to be a valuable trade chip for a contender- but can anyone else on this roster start for a contender?

How many teams would give the Bulls a top 10 protected pick for their coach?Tom Thibodeau

Earl: Great coach. Gets the best out of his team, but his personality doesn’t seem fit for a lot of places. I don’t think there would be a franchise out there that would give up a pick for him. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t sign him outright, but looking at the NBA landscape I don’t see one team out there that could bring Thibs in and get immediate results like what he has done in Chicago. The Bulls situation is just perfect for him.

Joao: I am not a fan of trades for coaches, but it does seem like it’s a new trend. Even though Thibodeau is a great coach I don’t believe any coach in the game is worth a top 10 protected draft pick, simply because there are always excellent available coaches out there. Some of the good coaching “free agents” that a team can try to entice include Jerry Sloan, P. J. Carlesimo or Jeff Van Gundy. Some college coaches would also deserve a shot.

David: Golden State? Portland? I could even see Houston doing that deal. There are few exceptional coaches in the NBA, and I think Thibodeau is worth a round in the playoffs. if I’m Houston, the upgrade from McHale to Thibodeau is worth a mid-20s pick.


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