09-10 Central Division Preview
While LeBron and the Cavs look to maintain their status as the Central’s elite, the Bulls, Pistons and Pacers have some questions to answer. And the Sucks are along for the ride. Bucks, I mean.
Here at HoopsVibe, we love the fact that our readers are educated and knowledgeable about basketball, even so much that they challenge many of the things said by our writers. With the NBA season starting this week and Chris Sells making predictions on the order of finish for each division, we don’t expect that to change now. Leave your own predictions in the comments section and you might just earn the right to win a prize at the end of the season. That prize will be a pat on the back. From yourself.
Last season was about as disappointing as it gets for the Pistons. For a team that expected to at least be an Eastern Conference Finals participant every year, exiting in the first round was unacceptable. So they fired Michael Curry, showed Allen Iverson the door and brought in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to try to return to prominence. That won’t happen this year, but the team should be somewhat improved. The problem will be when Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess are replaced by a ragtag group of bigs, including Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace.
There is no truth to the rumor that the Bucks decided to forfeit all of their games in the upcoming season, though it might seem that way. The team traded or didn’t re-sign its three best players from last year. The team’s two current best players, Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, can’t seem to stay healthy. Coach Scott Skiles will have the team’s lone bright spot, Brandon Jennings, on a leash the whole season. Things are definitely not looking up in Milwaukee.
The Bulls have completely placed the fate of their season on the shoulders of young players. Some of those shoulders, like those of Derrick Rose, are capable and up to the task of producing a winner. Some of those other shoulders, like those belonging to Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas, are unreliable at best. If Luol Deng is healthy and ready to produce, things may not be that bad. Kirk Hinrich, John Salmons and Brad Miller are back and should provide steady play at their positions. Jannero Pargo is back from his season abroad. Lindsey Hunter is somehow still in the league, despite being 54 years old. Expect average from the Bulls.
I’d expect that, after cruising through the regular season last year, the Cavs will care much less about their record and will focus on building towards the playoffs. The way their year ended was unexpected, with Orlando sending them home before they could reach the Finals. They should again be the class of this division but their position in the conference is much less certain. Boston is healthy, Orlando is loaded and the jury is still out on whether Shaq will be enough help for LeBron James. My suggestion: Hope that James plays like the best in the league, but don’t expect it. Some other guys have to step up if Cleveland is going to have any hope of doing anything memorable this season.
Danny Granger is a spectacular player. Things get a little more confusing after that. TJ Ford and Earl Watson should be steady at the point. Jeff Foster and the apparently improved Roy Hibbert should do work up front. The rest of the roster is filled with question marks: Can Mike Dunleavy, Jr. stay healthy? Is Brandon Rush ready to be a starter? Will Tyler Hansbrough be the second coming of Christian Laettner? Is Troy Murphy seriously going to lead this team in three-point shooting again?
Projected Order of Finish
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Detroit Pistons
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Milwaukee Bucks