Thursday , Oct , 23 , 2008 Christopher Sells

HoopsVibe Season Preview: Central Division


HoopsVibe Season Preview: Central DivisionWith the NBA season getting ready to start up, we thought we should take a brief glimpse at the league, division by division, just so you guys have an idea of what to expect this year. However, we will not stand by any of these predictions come season’s end. Unless we’ve actually managed to get them right.

For quite a while now, the Central Division has been about the Pistons, LeBron James and everybody else. That probably won’t change much this season, but there are a few interesting subplots that deserve at least a little of your attention.

The Pistons are easily the best overall team here. Despite GM Joe Dumars’ threats to dismantle the team after last year’s failed championship run, most of the players here have been together for many years and have probably seen it all. New coach Michael Curry has been handed the keys to a car that runs mostly on autopilot. His job is simply to guide it into a parking spot once it reaches its destination. And if he is unable to do that, look for this team to be disassembled. The players likely know this, so expect for them to have a little extra pep in their step since failure will result in address change for a few of them.

James’ rumored address change isn’t until 2010. Until then, it looks like he’s stuck with an organization that doesn’t look like it knows what it needs to do to win games or that hasn’t been able to find a way to do those things. Mo Williams is a nice pickup and Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a decent but aging seven-footer. Past that, the pieces are not championship caliber and the playing style probably doesn’t play to LeBron’s strengths. Over the summer, we saw him all over he court. He flourished in transition and benefited from being able to play without the ball in his hands so much. The Cavs are clearly no Olympic team, but they should learn from them before James decided to leave for a larger market.

Chicago is yet another team with a new coach and new faces but many questions. Can Vinny del Negro coach? Will the Bulls be able to find any sort of consistency from their forwards? Will the Bulls be able to find any consistency from their guards? Will they realize that having so many flexible players might actually be a bad thing? Can they find a way to take a talented team that had high expectations not long ago back to the playoffs? This season should provide answers. (Maybe, doubtfully, probably, no, possibly. And Rose for ROY. My opinion.)

Indiana made headlines this summer by making trades with Toronto and Portland. Lost in the discussion of the value of the pieces that they traded away was the fact that the Pacers have put together a team with a very nice mix of young and old that could surprise some people. I worry that a Jim O’Brien-coached team could fall in love with the three, but if the team utilizes some of the skill and brawn it has in the right ways, they could sneak into the postseason. And Danny Granger is one of the best players in the league that you aren’t paying attention to.

A team that you aren’t paying attention to is Milwaukee. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t, but I am saying that this is a team that I have a hard time seeing what they’re going to do. There are definitely some quality players here with some good athleticism and the ability to put the ball in the hole. That would mean, though, that they’d have to depart from a lot of the things that Scott Skiles has historically wanted from his teams. I have no comment on the circulating rumor that Skiles favors lighter-skinned point guards over darker-skinned ones. And no, I’m not making that up, I’ve heard some people mention that.

PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH:
1. Detroit
2. Cleveland
3. Indiana
4. Chicago
5. Milwaukee

What do you predict? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

[image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/abardwell/]