So it has fallen to me to write the preview for the Central Division. Let's be honest, no one really cares about 99% of the teams in the division. If/when LeBron goes to NJ/Brooklyn, will anyone actually watch games that involve any Central teams?
(Also, I am writing this preview while watching our plucky Raps close out the pre season in Edmonton. Matt Devlin just pointed out that the maintenance crew had to put masking tape down on the court to show the NBA Key and 3 Point Line. What the hell? Double lines? What is this, high school? Fucking Ghetto. Back to the preview.)
1. Detroit: Once again the old men from "Deee-Troit" will probably win the division. They will take care of business and pound the teams they are suppose to. They will play some close games against the best in the league, and they might even win a few. Most of the ESPN commentators will spend the year convincing us that the switch from Flip Saunders was the shake up that these guys needed. But guess what? They will lose in the 2nd round of the playoffs. They will mostly likely lose 4-2 to one of (Cle, Tor, Orl, Bos, Phi. I mean is there any prediction that is easier to make? Why people keep calling Detroit a contender is beyond me. Regular Season Overachievers that lack the heart to close it out in the playoffs? Sure, but title threats they are not. In fact, they should probably talk to the Shock to get a few tips on how to get out of the 2nd round.
2. Cleveland: Ah, Danny Ferry, you get a gold star for trying to convince LeBron to stay in a city that counts Drew Carey as one of its beloved sons. I don't know how I feel about the Mo Williams trade. On paper, it makes sense. LeBron needs a second scorer to take the pressure off him, and Mike Brown is just incompetent enough of an offensive tactician, to let Mo and LeBron take turns running iso plays while everyone stands around and watches. At the same time same Cleveland is a total grave-yard where marginal 2nd/3rd options to go to and die. I suppose Mo and LeBron will score enough to allow Cleveland to be very competitive. However, their upside is limited because Ben Wallace and Big Z will continue to fossilize before our eyes on defense. One cavat, I will take back all of this negativity if LeBron has developed a reliable mid range jumper than he can hit 50% of the time. If he has done that, all bets are off, I could be the second option in Cleveland, and LeBron is still gonna win the title.
3. Indiana: My sleeper Eastern Conference Playoff Pick. With the addition of TJ Ford, I think the Pacers have enough pieces to be competitive. An interesting point, TJ has never missed the playoffs in his NBA career. Anyway, Jim O'Brien likes to push the tempo and have his teams run with abandon on offense, which plays perfectly into TJ's strengths. TJ, Dunlevy Jr, Granger, Murphy/Foster/Rasho, Rush Brother 3, will probably jack up enough shots to average 100+ points a game. Indy is going to be super fun to watch, lose a ton of games 110-109, and they will sneak into the 8th seed. Indy is the new PHX/Denver/G-State East (well Mid-West, but Eastern Conference at least). This all goes out the window if TJ starts rollin' with Jamaal Tinsley, and TJ discovers his inner thug.
4. Chicago: Derrick Rose welcome to the LOTTERY! Seriously, I think Chicago is probably going to play better than they did last year. Deng got paid this summer, so I am predicting a big bounce back year for him. If Kirk Hienrich shoots as bad as last season, someone needs to put his picture on a milk carton. Ben Gordon is gonna be...well I don't know what he is going to be, I mean, I have never lost $50 million dollars before, so I don't know how you comeback from that. I find the Bulls to be a fascinating team. On talent alone, this team should be one of the best up and coming teams in the league, yet, they seem to be a pack of unmotivated underachievers, perhaps Tyrus Thomas really is that much of a cancer. Anyway, I wouldn't be shocked if the Bulls ended starting the season on a MAJOR losing streak since their coach is the incomparable Vinny Del Negro (who they hired because they were too cheap to buy Mike D'Antoni). My secret wish for the Bulls? That they do go into the tank for the first 20 games of the season, so Paxson makes a PANIC trade with the Raptors to get JO because his team desperately needs an inside presence, and he overpays by moving Deng and Noah to us.
5. Milwaukee: What can I say about this team? Probably nothing. They moved Chairman Yi for Richard Jefferson and promptly drafted his white clone in Joe Alexander. Ironcially, TJ Ford is EXACTLY the PG that this team needs right now, but he got traded for Charlie V a few seasons ago. Bogut, Charlie V, Redd, Jefferson, Ridinour seems decent enough, but we all know that it won't be, and the Bucks are destined for yet another lottery finish. However, and I can't believe I am about to say this, but the Bucks have a ton of players that I would love to see in a Raptors uniform (c'mon Colangelo, there are many many East GMs waiting to be fleeced!)
On a completely random NBA note. SOMEONE NEEDS TO SIGN DARIUS MILES. If Miles plays in 10 games this year, the Blazers lose $10 million in cap space. Someone better sign him, I don't even care if he plays a total of 10 minutes for the season. The Blazers must be stopped!!!!!