With two of the six divisions covered, I’ll now move the attention to the Eastern Conference’s Central Division. Always a favorite of mine from the old 90’s Chicago Bulls days, the landscape changed significantly over this past off-season. After some well-publicised jersey burning and ranting from a particular Owner, this division has been turned on it’s head and it figures to be difficult to select a definitive finishing order.
Cleveland has been a lock to finish first for the past few years but with the exit of LeBron James, it seems the Cavaliers will complete the “hero to zero” metamorphosis in season 2010/11. With every other team making some subtle to not-so-subtle changes over the off-season, I see the Central Division finishing like this.
- Chicago Bulls
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Indiana Pacers
- Detroit Pistons
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Let’s start with the Cavs, as the quicken quicker we get past them the better. (Couldn’t resist!) They have essentially traded a one man wrecking machine for a bag of stale fish. The Antawn Jamison/Mo’ Williams era has begun in Cleveland and the locals are not happy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cleveland hierarchy reveal a starting lineup including Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty and Craig Ehlo for a Hardwood Classic night some time this season.
The Detroit Pistons and more notably Joe Dumars have gone from genius to F student in the space of two years. When the stockpile of Pistons players was healthy and firing, Joe looked like the President of Basketball Operations that could do no wrong. All of a sudden, they are saddled with Tracy McGrady and the downright dirty contracts of Charlie Villanuova, Ben Gor-done, cRippled Hamilton and Tayshaun Pauper. Surely it won’t take all the way until February for Hamilton and Prince to request their respective trades.
The Milwaukee Bucks in contrast are on the verge of their best performance since 2001 when they lost the Eastern Conference Finals in 7 games. They haven’t progressed past the first round since and if I’m John Hammond, I’m getting my hands on another key rebounder and riding Squad 6 all the way to a nice Playoff run. With Andrew Bogut reportedly on the mend and the additions of Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts things are definitely looking up for the Bucks.
Indiana made a couple of moves this off-season with the key additions of James Posey and Darren Collison. Both of these players guarantee nothing for the coming season but they do leave Pacers fans with anticipation of seeing some exciting play. Collison will be trying to prove that last season’s great performance with the Hornets was no fluke while the biggest question mark on Posey is whether or not he can productively handle playing for a non-Playoff team. I honestly think they’ll miss the Playoffs. Sorry Pacer fans.
Now to my predicted Central Division champion Chicago Bulls, whose off-season had more ups and downs than a Henry Rollins off-road tattoo. The Bulls lost Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Hakim Warrick and coach Vinny Del Negro but I believe they got significantly better. With the new faces in the Windy City including Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and new Head Coach Tom Thibodeau this squad looks like making some noise. If enough of the Boston Celtics’ recent mojo rubs off on this group from Thibodeau, then you can expect to see a very defensively tenacious, team oriented and division leading Chicago Bulls this season.
Three down, three to go. Stay tuned for the Western Conference’s Southwest Division next.