2011-2012 Standings (Shortened Season)
Chicago Bulls 50-16 (Playoffs)
Indiana Pacers 42-24 (Playoffs)
Milwaukee Bucks 31-35
Detroit Pistons 25-41
Cleveland Cavaliers 21-45
The Central Division has some exciting young teams in it, but the division should still be owned by the Bulls & Pacers, but which of the two will come out on top?
Chicago Bulls: The absence of former MVP Derrick Rose is obviously the story heading into this upcoming season. They also loss solid role players in Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, CJ Watson, & Ronnie Brewer. This is still a very capable team thanks to the leadership from guys like Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, & Carlos Boozer. They also have Taj Gibson who Chicago fans are expecting big things from with his increase in minutes now that Asik is gone. Also one thing that will really help this team is bringing back the veteran Captain Kirk Hinrich to run the offense while Rose is out. Hinrich was drafted by the Bulls in 2003 & is very familiar with some of the players on the roster. This team has great heart on the defensive end thanks to head coach Tom Thibodeau & that will keep them competing in every ballgame. The vets Deng, Hamilton, Boozer, Noah, & Hinrich are gonna have to carry this team offensively & hope that their elite defense can close out ballgames.
Indiana Pacers: This team has a bunch of hard hat & lunch pail kind of guys who are not intimidated by anyone. They loss the explosive point guard in Darren Collison, but replaced him with DJ Augustin who brings instant offense off the bench. They also brought over the ultra athletic Gerald Green who finally showed why he was a former first round pick with the Nets last year. Their starting 5 consists of George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, & Roy Hibbert. That is an extremely big starting 5 & they create mismatches all over the court. The additions of Augustin & Green to go with Tyler Hansborough leaves the Pacers with a formidable bench. This team has championship or bust on their mind & after leading the eventual champs 2-1 in the semifinals can you blame them? They have a nice blend of offense & defense & any team that decides to take them lightly will be in for a rude awakening.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks seemed to change their culture last year when they traded the former number 1 pick Andrew Bogut & Stephen Jackson for the explosive scorer Monta Ellis. A lot of people questioned the move & said that having two high volume offensive players in Monta & Brandon Jennings playing together in the same back court would be a problem. This was a team that was built on hard nosed defense, but was that philosophy really working? It was a bold move by their GM, but also one that could payoff this season. Ellis takes a lot of pressure off of Jennings who felt like he had to do all the scoring for this team before the trade, & both are capable of giving you 20+ points a night. This team also had a very pleasant surprise last year with Ersan Ilyasova who really proved he can be a starting 4 in this league. He averaged 13 ppg & close to 9 rebounds while shooting a staggering 45% from behind the arc. With Mbah a Moute out to begin the season it looks like coach Scott Skiles will let the 20 year old Tobias Harris start at the 3 spot, & that will allow Mike Dunleavy to bring his scoring off the bench. Coach Skiles does have quite a few big bodies like Samuel Dalembert, John Henson, Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders, & Joel Przybilla he can throw at other teams, but which one will step up & man the center position? This team may have too many question marks at the 3 & 5 spot to make a run at a playoff spot, but there is no doubt the back court duo of Monta Ellis & Brandon Jennings will be fun to watch.
Detroit Pistons: DEEEEE-TROITTTTTT BASKETTT-BALLLLL hasn't been quite the same the past few years, but they are certainly heading in the right direction. Greg Monroe & Brandon Knight have the city of Detroit excited again for Pistons basketball. This off season they shipped out veteran Ben Gordon for another vet in Corey Maggette. Gordon never lived up to the contract GM Joe Dumars gave him, & he felt it was time to go in another direction. This Pistons team also brought in 5 rookies, Andre Drummond, Kim English, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton, & Vyacheslav Kravtsov & have one of the youngest teams in basketball. The leaders of this team Tayshaun Prince & Rodney Stuckey are gonna have to help all these youngsters out & show them the ropes. Coach Lawrence Frank has been praising guys like Knight, Monroe, & Stuckey for all the work they have put in this off season. Jonas Jerebko is another guy who has proven he can be a quality player in this league & he looks to round out the starting 5 with Knight, Stuckey, Prince, & Monroe. They also seem to have a reliable bench with guys like Maggette, Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva, & the young man-child Drummond coming off of it. They probably won't be in playoff contention this season, but if Lawrence Frank gets this young team clicking early you never know. Should be a fun season with the young talent either way for Detroit fans.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Going into last year people were wondering if the Cavs made the right choice by taking Kyrie Irving with the number 1 pick, boy was that put to rest in a hurry. Irving who won rookie of the year by a landslide put up some amazing numbers as a rookie. He averaged 18.5 ppg & just over 5 assists & has the whole city of Cleveland just dying for this season to start. The Cavs did lose their second leading scorer Antwan Jamison who signed with the LA Lakers, but Cavs fans are hoping that the 4th pick in the draft Dion Waiters can make up for a lot of that. Cavs also have a young promising power forward in Tristan Thompson who is looking to improve on his rookie season where he averaged 8 ppg & 6.5 rebounds, but one of the biggest things for the Cavs is getting Anderson Varejao back who can create some big time problems in the pick & roll game with Kyrie. At the 3 spot I expect Alonzo Gee to have a career year & help Kyrie & company fill the points loss by Jamison leaving. The Cavs also acquired Tyler Zeller on draft night who is expected to backup Varejao & Thompson, & they also signed CJ Miles who can bring much needed scoring off the bench. Other key bench players are Omri Casspi who has been working hard on his game this off season, Boobie Gibson, & Samardo Samuels. It may be another rough season record wise, but that arena will be rocking every night thanks to the show Kyrie is expected to put on, & one more off season & this team should be competing for a playoff spot.
Indiana Pacers (Playoffs): This is definitely a team to keep your eye on in the Eastern Conference. They are hungry, physical, & well coached.
Chicago Bulls (Playoffs): Don't think just because Rose is out that this team will falter. They have been down this road before without Rose & played extremely well. Their defense will be at the top of the league & Hinrich is a very capable point guard.
Detroit Pistons: The way Lawrence Frank has been hyping up his guys off season you would think they were championship contenders. I do expect Stuckey to have a very strong season, & the Knight/Monroe combo will win them quite a few ballgames.
Milwaukee Bucks: Jennings & Ellis will definitely put on an offensive show, but this team just has too many question marks at the 3 & 5 spot. Now maybe Tobias Harris plays extremely well, & Samuel Dalembert locks down that 5 spot, but I wouldn't bank on it.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Even with Kyrie possibly going to his first all star game this season you just cant expect him to do it all on his own. Having Varejao back healthy will definitely help him & I do believe Waiters & Thompson can have solid seasons, but I just do not expect that to have enough scoring power. Give this team another off season to get better & gel & watch out for them next year.