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Gibberman: NBA season preview Central Divison

Cleveland Cavaliers
Regular Season 61-21…Lost in 2nd round to the Boston Celtics

I think it is pretty safe to say the Cavaliers won’t be listed at the top of my NBA Season Preview next year. With LeBron James leaving for Miami, Cleveland encountered the biggest free agency loss since Shaq went from Orlando to Los Angeles.

First year Head Coach Bryon Scott doesn’t have a franchise player to build around. The best two scorers on the team are Mo Williams and Antwan Jamison – that doesn’t cut it over the course of 82 games. With a superstar like James they were good enough to play off him, Williams and Jamison can’t be the focal point on offense of a playoff team.

Williams and Jamison will be great for your fantasy teams, but it’s not going to translate to a lot of wins. I look for the Cleveland Cavaliers to win in the low to mid 20s.

Milwaukee Bucks
Regular Season 46-36…Lost in 1st round to the Atlanta Hawks

The Bucks were the surprise team in the NBA last year led by Head Coach Scott Skiles. This year the Bucks can’t sneak up on anyone and will be expected to compete for the Central Division title with the Chicago Bulls.

Two keys for Milwaukee to take the next step forward to 50 wins are the health of Andrew Bogut and the development of Brandon Jennings. Bogut suffered a gruesome right elbow injury against the Phoenix Suns which caused him to miss 13 games including seven playoff games. Skiles needs Bogut to play at the same level; he was a double-double every night and a presence on the defensive end blocking 2.5 shots per game.

Jennings needs to build off a solid rookie year. The key for Jennings is to be more consistent. He shot under 40 percent from the field in five months of the NBA season. One thing you would like to see Jennings to continue to do is keep his turnovers low. BJ averaged only 2.4 turnovers per game which isn’t bad for the amount he had the ball in his hands.

The two big off-season additions were Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden. Not a huge Maggette fan, but his ability to get to the free throw is a good source of points. Gooden is an underrated player who rebounds, plays solid defense, and has a little above average offensive game.

If Michael Redd could somehow stay healthy for an entire NBA season, Milwaukee would be really stacked. However, you can’t rely on Redd pulling it off. He has played 44 games the last two seasons combined.

Chicago Bulls
Regular Season 41-41…Lost in 1st round to Cleveland

The Bulls are a perfectly constructed basketball team. They don’t have the most talent in the NBA, but they have pieces that fit together like a puzzle.

I like to compare NBA teams to puzzles. In a puzzle the different individual pieces combine to form a picture. If you have too many of the same pieces the puzzle can’t be put together. On a NBA team if you have players who skills don’t compliment each other it makes the team have weaknesses in certain areas. In a puzzle you don’t get to see the picture in its final product, in the NBA it means less wins.

The Bulls have a well rounded roster and head coach Tom Thibodeau will be able to put together a variety of line ups which have different strengths.

PG Derrick Rose and free agent addition PF Carlos Boozer are the clear cut first two options on offense. Deng will be the third offensive option and Deng/Brewer will guard the best wing man depending on who is the better match up. When Thibodeau needs a shooter to spread the court he can bring in Kyle Korver off the bench. Taj Gibson is the first big man off the bench and he can play next to Boozer or Noah. Speaking of Noah he will be great next to Boozer crashing the offensive boards when Carlos shoots his 15-footer and will block shots on the defensive end. If Chicago needs an offensive spark off the bench they can go to SF James Johnson or PG CJ Watson. The Bulls have everything you look for in a basketball team, the only question is can they put it all together?

I was going to finish the Bulls preview with the previous paragraph, but when talking to my friend about Chicago’s roster he brought up a great point – you have to be concerned with injuries. Noah only played 64 games last year, Boozer (already out 8 weeks with a broken hand) and Deng always get hurt, and Rose had the ankle problem at the beginning of last year plus had a long summer playing in the World Championships.

Indiana Pacers
Regular Season 32-50

The Pacers made one of the best trades of the offseason by getting PG Darren Collison from the Hornets and only giving up Troy Murphy who ended up on the Nets in a 4 team trade. When Chris Paul was out with an injury last season Collison was a stud averaging 21 PPG and 8.3 APG during February and 16.9 PPG and 9 APG in March.

Trading Murphy left Indiana short at the PF position, Josh McRoberts a Dukie and Tyler Hansborough a Tar Heel are left to man the position unless Head Coach Jim O’Brien decides to go small and puts Danny Granger at the 4. With the Pacers having no chance at being in contention this year losing Murphy for Collison, the trade was well worth it because Collison will be a part of the Pacers core for years.

Detroit Pistons
Regular Season 27-55

I feel like one of the least discussed parts of the Pistons failure was the demise of Joe Dumars as their General Manager. I wonder if Dumars hired his former backcourt mate Isiah Thomas in a consultant role and hasn’t told anyone?

The Pistons legend gave bad contracts to Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Jason Maxiel. Detroit’s roster is stocked with 1, 2, and 3’s with only five guys who can truly play the 4 or 5.

Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are complimentary players on good teams and they are now the best two players on the Pistons roster. Luckily for Detroit the Cleveland Cavaliers are in their division so they won’t be all the way at the bottom of the division.