The New Look 2017 NBA: Central Division (Part 5 of 6)

Chicago Bulls

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Starting Five: C: Robin Lopez PF: Taj Gibson SF: Jimmy Butler SG: Dwyane Wade PG: Rajon Rondo

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; out; 8 seed

Its not quite clear yet if Wade is going to Chicago to retire at home or to try to keep winning, because if he wanted to win, Chicago isn’t exactly the best option. Wade gets to play in front of family and friends while making a lot more than the Heat were willing to pay him. Since the Chicago winters are about 60 degrees colder than in Miami, he might be joining Lebron on that midseason sabbatical.

Team chemistry is going to be a huge obstacle for the 2017 Bulls. Who knows how Fred Hoiberg plans to deal with Rondo and Butler going back and forth in practice, the locker room, and games. Street gangs in Chicago will be watching games together in suites at the United Center before this group of players begins to even resemble a cohesive team. This may be the push the front
office will need to put Jimmy Butler on the trade block, where they will definitely get offers from either Minnesota or Boston.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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Starting Five: C: Tristan Thompson PF: Kevin Love SF: Lebron James SG: Iman Shumpert PG: Kyrie Irving

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 3 seed; 1 seed

The only question if the Cavs are going to be the number 1 seed in the East, is how much does Lebron want it. After six straight finals, the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, and finally bringing home the hardware for his hometown, he may have a sense of accomplishment that battles with his competitive drive. It’s easy to come back and try to succeed after failed attempts, but after Lebron has reached his goal, it is going to be much harder to have the same determination. After the free agency move the Warriors made, to go get KD to try to beat him, Lebron may want to prove that it doesn’t matter who is put against him, Lebron will persevere.

The most interesting storyline to watch, is what will the Cavs do with Kevin Love? Kyrie is showing that he is definitely going to be a star in this league, so that really leaves three possibilities for Love. Is he going to continue to be a corner distraction, or will they find another way to integrate him into the offense? The best option would probably be a trade if they can find a trade partner. Will the Lakers go after Love in an attempt to lure Westbrook in 2018? The Cavs could use some young talent, considering Kyrie will probably be the youngest one on their 12 man roster.

Detroit Pistons

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Starting Five: C: Andre Drummond PF: Tobias Harris SF: Marcus Morris SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope PG: Reggie Jackson

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; Out

Having your best player be an exclusively low post player was the first ingredient in the recipe to be holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in June…15 years ago. Times have changed and Andre Drummond being the franchise player for Detroit pretty much guarantees the Pistons won’t be a force in the East anytime soon. Stan Van does have a very similar to the Magic team he took to the Finals with Dwight Howard in 2009, they play a 4 out 1 in type of offense. The difference between these two teams is that the East is a lot stronger today than it was in 2009, and these Pistons are more likely to miss the playoffs than make the Finals.

Unfortunately, the biggest worry for the Pistons is that Reggie Jackson thinks he’s the best player on the team, when he’s probably number three. Having your sixth man think he’s the best player on the team is usually a positive, because it will bring you extra points off the bench for 20 minutes per game. However, when your starting point guard thinks that, it turns into the pickup game at LA Fitness where the 35-year-old Uncle Rico tries to relive the glory days, and the only time anyone ever touches the ball is off a rebound. Detroit was one of only four teams with less than 20 assists per game last year. That has a lot to do with each player trying to get his, due to the fear of not getting the ball again if he passes.

Indiana Pacers

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Starting Five: C: Al Jefferson PF: Thaddeus Young SF: Paul George SG: Monta Ellis PG: Jeff Teague

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 8 seed; 3 seed

In 2011, “The Decision” made everyone absolutely sure that the ‘superteam’ the Miami Heat created with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh were shoe ins to win the NBA title. The Dallas Mavericks came in and ruined the party with Dirk being the only All-Star on the team. There are a lot of similarities between the 2011 Mavs and the 2017 Pacers.

Both teams picked up a center from Charlotte (Tyson Chandler & Al Jefferson) that came straight out of high school and had an injury issue coming to the team. Both teams have high scoring shooting guards (Jason Terry & Monta Ellis) that can take over a game at any time and have the stones to take the last shot. Both teams have a defensive-minded guard (DeShawn Stevenson & Rodney Stuckey) that has a dangerous enough 3 ball to keep opposing defenses from doubling off of them. Both teams have superstars (Dirk & Paul George) that analysts wonder if they will ever have a chance at a championship (PG13 was because of injury).

Does this mean I am picking the Pacers to sweep the Cavs in the second round (as the Mavs did to the title defending Lakers in 2011) and go on to beat the Warriors in the Finals? Not exactly, because Nate McMillan is nowhere near the level of coach that Rick Carlisle is. However, I won’t be shocked if the Pacers go to the Eastern Conference Finals, NBA Finals or even win it all. With 100:1 odds to win the NBA Finals, they may just be best value pick out there. The Pacers had the best offseason in the East by adding Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and Jeff Teague to a team that has the 3rd best two-way player in the league in Paul George (only Lebron & Kawhi can compete with him). Myles Turner is also going to be one year better, and with his rookie season under his belt he will be a great big coming off the bench in his second season. Watch out for the 2017 Pacers.

Milwaukee Bucks

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Starting Five: C: Greg Monroe PF: Jabari Parker SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo SG: Tony Snell PG: Matthew Dellavedova

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; 7 seed

The Bucks have a great future to look towards with their two young rising stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Giannis is one of those once in a generation type talent, a 6’11” freak of an athlete that can play any position on the floor. His game is complimented perfectly by Parker, who is one step above Tim Duncan in excitement and athleticism. Parker is a very fundamental player, who has a sweet J and can post up on the block. Both need to improve their shooting from three (25%), and need to be at 80% from the charity stripe.

I also like what the Bucks did in the offseason, strengthening their bench at almost every position with Miles Plumlee, Mirza Teltovic, Steve Novak, Jason Terry. The Delly contract might be borderline insane (4 years, $38 million), but it might also be the new era of the NBA where Mike Conley has the largest contract in the league. Players were overpaid left and right this offseason, and Delly, Mr. All Heart & Hustle himself, jumped at the chance to make nearly $10 million a year. Dave Chappelle never knew how famous the POTUS was until Monica Lewinsky became a household name for doing….a thing. Well, I don’t think I ever truly knew how good Lebron was, until an Aussie that used to pass him the ball and dive at opponents ankles is making $10 million dollars a year. This contract screams JJ Barea on the T’Wolves from 2011-2014, but I’ll keep my mouth shut and watch.

This should be a decent season for the Bucks, I see about a 10-game-jump in wins, somewhere in the 42-45 range and a playoff
berth. Hopefully, they can find a trade partner to dump at least one of their big men, since they are very deep there, and could definitely use some help in the backcourt. In the playoffs, I see probably what happened to them two years ago to Chicago. Pushing a superior team more than they thought they would, butultimately falling short. The Bucks, similar to their neighbors in Minnesota, have a couple more years until they actually make some noise in the playoffs, but they will be an exciting team to watch.

About the Author
Doctor Matt is 1/2 of the Sports Over Served Podcast and skilled in the art of creative writing (according to his 3rd-grade English teacher). He also says he knows a thing or two about basketball, which qualifies him as our NBA Expert? Don't agree with Matt? Feel free to leave a comment!

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