The Central is what I consider the most boring division in the league. The separation of the top two teams in the league from the rest will be large. This division has the best player in the universe, a guy who will carry his below-average team to great heights, but not high enough to overtake the complacent, stagnant "Bad Boys" who never take a step forward, never really take a step back.
Take a look at last year's standings below, check out all of my previews here.
In-depth analysis after the jump.
1. Detroit Pistons (54-28)
The Pistons bore me, much like the Spurs, the only difference is that they come into the season at full strength, and they have a young second team which should improve. A lot of people seem to think this team is more equipped to overcome a major injury than most, and I agree, to a degree.
I love their young bigs, Jason Maxielle and Amir Johnson, the guy pictured on the left, Rodney Stuckey, I'm not sold on. If Billups goes down, this team is in some trouble. Stuckey can put up points, but at what cost? He's a pure volume shooter who shoots a terrible percentage and has no three-point shot whatsoever (18% from beyond).
I think Stuckey is completely over-hyped. The good news for the Pistons is that I'm picking on one of their bench players, and a guy who probably shouldn't see more than 15 minutes/game. They're solid, I think they drop a couple of games because their new coach will lean on the young guys a little more than Flip did, which should wind up helping the team in the long run.
Team blog worth checking out: Need 4 Sheed
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-36)
LeBron James took the Celtics to 7 games last year, he took the Cavs to the finals the year before. He accomplished all of this with one of the worst coaches in the league, a pitiful front office and a derth of talent around him. Put simply, if LeBron James is not on this team, the Cavs are probably worse than the Knicks. He's that good.
In the past I've knocked LeBron for mailing in games, and seeming disinterested at times. I won't do that anymore. This guy can win any game, any night, pretty much all by himself. He knows that. He also knows he can't do it 82 nights in a row. He's going to carry this team to the playoffs. He's going to try to carry them to a championship. I don't know if he'll get there this season, but I do know I won't bet against him, ever.
Mo Williams is better than what they had, but he's no difference maker. What LeBron needs is a guy like Lamar Odom or Andre Iguodala as his number 2. Mo Williams isn't that type of player so while he does make them better, he isn't a game-changer for the Cavs. I think they're 2 games worse this season, basically because the East is a little better. Not much else has changed.
Team blog worth checking out: LeBron's Blog (he's the only player that matters, and the only blogger that matters)
3. Indiana Pacers (33-49)
Jim O'Brien's teams win more games than they should. This year's version will be no different. They lost Jermaine O'Neal, who barely played last year, added TJ Ford, but the strength of the East means they're still lottery bound.
I'm really not in love with the TJ Ford acquisition. He's better than Jamaal Tinsley, but he doesn't fit O'Brien's gunning offense. Granger, Dunleavy and Murphy will be raining threes all year long, but it won't amount to much.
Then again, I picked them to win 19 games last season, so who knows. Maybe O'Brien can work his magic one more time.
Team blog worth checking out: Arin It Out
4. Chicago Bulls (30-52)
Let's start with Ben Gordon and Drew Gooden, two guys playing for contracts (from some other team). In baseball, that's great for a team, in basketball, not so much. Especially not when one of the guys already shoots too much. Unfortunately, these are two minor problems for this hodgepodge of a team.
Luol Deng remains their best player, as unremarkable as he is. He's also now overpaid. Tyrus Thomas appears to be out of the doghouse, which means with Del Negro in charge the inmates will apparently be running the asylum.
Bulls fans, though, seem really pumped up for the season. I guess when you draft an over-rated point who can't shoot to save his life with the number one pick that's how you react. They were probably pumped when they drafted Jay Williams too. I don't know if they'll wind up regretting not drafting Beasley, but I certainly will. Could you imagine a team with Ty Thomas and Michael Beasley on it? The comedic value would've been through the roof.
Seriously, though. The Bulls are going to suck for some time. If Rose can learn to shoot a jumper he'll be good, but that's a huge if. For now, he's a quick point with good size who can defend. A good piece for a good team, but hardly the franchise savior Bulls fans are making him out to be.
Team blog worth checking out: Tremendous Upside Potential
5. Milwaukee Bucks (21-61)
The Yi experiment lasted exactly 66 games (Thank God BK couldn't find a way to trade for him on draft night last summer). Now, the Bucks are built around Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, I guess. They drafted another wing in Joe Alexander, but I think his contributions will be limited. They traded away Mo Williams, handed over the point to Ramon Sessions and really, this team is going nowhere fast.
Redd is decent, he'd be a nice third option on a good team. He's clearly their first option, though, which is most of the problem. I like Bogut, always have, but he isn't used properly. The Bucks main problems occur in the front office, and their lack of direction shows on the court. They have a ton of money tied up in guys like Ridnour ($6.5M) and Gadzurik ($6.2M) and won't see any notable cap relief for the next three years. If you're a Bucks fan, well, now might be a good time to find a new team to root for.
Team blog worth checking out: The Bratwurst
Up next, the Southeast Division.