2012 NBA PREVIEW CENTRAL DIVISION:
TEAMS (in expected order of finish):
- Chicago Bulls
- Indiana Pacers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Detroit Pistons
FREE AGENT SIGNINGS/TRADES/RE-SIGNINGS:
- Brian Scalabrine-Chicago
- Richard Hamilton-Chicago
- Jimmy Butler-Chicago
- David West-Indiana
- Louis Amundson-Indiana
- Omri Casspi-Cleveland
- Anthony Parker-Cleveland
- Kyrie Irving-Cleveland
- Tayshaun Prince-Detroit
- Rodney Stuckey-Detroit
- Brandon Knight-Detroit
- Mike Dunleavy Jr.—Milwaukee
- Stephen Jackson—Milwaukee
- Beno Udrih-Milwaukee
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute-Milwaukee
Last season the Chicago Bulls snuck up on everyone and won 21 more games than they had the season before. This season they’re not sneaking up on anyone, but they’ve experienced heartache, Boozer is healthy and the division is too weak to really compete—except Indiana. No one wants Indiana in the first round of the playoffs—especially not the Bulls.
[Read A True Fan’s Perspective on the Bulls]
The Chicago Bulls are in a unique position. They have a 23 year-old MVP PG, and very little time to capitalize on him. Derrick Rose became the youngest MVP in history last season, and then lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in only 5 games. True Boozer, disappeared, the Heat went off, Rose ended up hobbled down the stretch with ankle issues, but his shooting pct. dropped off towards the end as he shouldered too much of a load. Rip Hamilton’s signing changes all that, and now the Bulls will trot out Rise and Rip in the back-court, with Noah, Deng and Boozer in the front-court. Plus, they’ve got Korver, Gibson, SCALS and Pargo to back them up. It’s a good rotation and a solid starting team. Enough to take this division and more this season. Probably not enough for the Heat though. No one will have enough for them.
Larry Bird’s Pacers squad had a great off-season bolstered primarily by the signing of West. He’ll add a shooter to the front-court with Parks and Recreation guest star, Roy Hibbert. West and Hibbert go well with Indiana’s gunslinger, Danny Granger. Add a selfess point guard in Darren Collison and a more mature Paul George, and this team could be a 6 even a 5 seed. They’ll make the playoffs, and heaven help whomever they face because it will be a tough series. I could see them beating an aging Celtics team on the road in the first round. Don’t count them out.
Scott Skiles’ Bucks team had every single player out due to an injury last year. Well, that’s what it seemed like after relapsing to familiar lottery territory during 2011 after a surprising 2010 campaign that spawned the “Fear the Deer,” chant and a playoff birth—not to mention the emergence of Brandon Jennnings as their starting point guard (Ben Udrich is a solid back-up and they have Shaun Livingston-RIP—back from the dead as their third PG!). This season the Bucks added malcontent Stephen Jackson and perpetually golden-locked and pale-skinned Mike Dunleavy Jr: the say-hey kid that stroked jumpers at Duke and now handles the rock pretty well for a Milwaukee import. They’ll be frisky, but I don’t see them going any higher than a 1st round knockout, and if injuries to Bogut and Jackson occur, they’ll be in contention for the #1 pick.
Kyrie Irving will back up Ramon Sessions to start the season, but pretty soon, this team won’t be led by aging vet Antwan Jamison and floppy-haired Sideshow Bob look-alike Anderson “pronounce the j” Varejao. Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will start to see more time, and this Cavaliers team will continue to stock up on draft picks in an attempt to undo what was Decided for them. Omri Casspi will help with his length and shooting ability, but this team isn’t very good. Soon though, they’ll be good—so have no fear Cavaliers fans.
Joe Dumars continues to perplex me, but maybe Pistons fans know more. Why did he re-sign Prince when he could have gotten a #1 draft pick w/ a sign and trade? Also, Stuckey is a mistake. I like how strong he is, and it allows him to get to the hole, but he’s not a terrific passer (although he protects the ball), and his jump shot leaves a lot of to be desired. Plus, he seems to have an over-inflated sense of himself after rejecting a $40+ million contract for 5 years. That’s really Dumars’ problem, and last summer ushered in Ben Gordon’s awful contract and Charlie Villanueva’s awful contract. Jason Maxiell might even start over Villaneuva with Wilcox headed to the Celtics. They’re gonna lose and lose some more, but until they get rid of Villanueva or Gordon or both, I don’t see much sun over the horizon. On the plus side, Greg Monroe ain’t too shabby a center in the league these days.