(2016-17) Delay of Game Previews • “The Central”

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Will anyone unseat LeBron & the Cavs?

Sizing up the Central Division…

Milwaukee Bucks

2016-2017 Milwaukee Bucks Media Day

2015-2016 Season Result: 33-49 • 12th, Eastern Conference (5th, Central Division) • Missed Postseason

Current Head Coach: Jason Kidd

Draft Picks

  • #10 Overall: Thon Maker
  • #36 Overall: Malcom Brogdon

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Matthew Dellavedova
  • Jason Terry
  • Mirza Teletovic
  • Tony Snell

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Jerryd Bayless
  • Greivis Vasquez
  • Jared Cunningham
  • Johnny O’Bryant
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Michael Carter-Williams

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Milwaukee Bucks…are slowly transitioning into ‘PG Giannis mode – MIL’s key offseason moves were initiated to create a pathway for Giannis to assume more responsibility as a playmaker & leader in this new, athlete-wingspan-driven era of Bucks basketball.

Antetokounmpo improved offensively a year ago (career-high 16.9 points/game) but is still working on his 3-point shot & getting to the line. Without Khris Middleton (will miss the majority of 2016-17 w/ a hamstring injury), Giannis & Jabari Parker will shoulder the scoring load (or, at least set the tone) – can the duo avg. 20 points each?

Parker’s second year of recovery from his ACL injury in 2014 (’16-’17 reps his cleanest bill of health as a pro) is an interesting storyline to keep an eye on – Coach Kidd will use Parker in more of a shot creator/attacking role in 2017.

Milwaukee has a lot of young athletes (plenty of frontcourt options) but will need to convert treys at a higher clip to challenge for a playoff berth – they’re a sleeper pick if Middleton returns at some point late in the year.

Undisputed X-Factor: Tony Snell • Acquired during preseason, Tony Snell has a fresh start in Milwaukee.

Penciled in as Jason Kidd’s starting two (at least for the time being), Snell is instantly MIL’s top three-point threat and could reap crazy rewards if he stays ready from downtown.

In a contract year, maybe we’ll finally see Snell’s most motivated self.

Season Prediction: 5th, Central Division • Will Miss Playoffs


Chicago Bulls

ct-first-practice-rajon-rondo-bulls-spt-0928-2-001

2015-2016 Season Result: 42-40 • 9th, Eastern Conference (4th, Central Division) • Missed Postseason

Current Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #14 Overall: Denzel Valentine
  • #48 Overall: Paul Zipser

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Rajon Rondo
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Robin Lopez
  • Jerian Grant
  • Isaiah Canaan

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Derrick Rose
  • Joakim Noah
  • Pau Gasol
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Aaron Brooks

The Big Picture

The Chicago Bulls…have entered the Twilight Zone.

Dwyane Wade is a Bull. Rajon Rondo is Bull • Derrick Rose (NYK) & Joakim Noah (NYK) are not.

All the while, Chicago has (symbolically) given Jimmy Butler distinction as ‘undisputed franchise player.’ So what do we have here? You guessed it! – a team lacking an identity.

Now that’s not to say Chicago won’t find its direction but it seems like philosophies & transactions didn’t match up too well this offseason.

Fred Hoiberg wants to get out and run, shoot a ton of threes, move the rock, play ‘positionless basketball.’ A (likely) starting five of RondoWade-Butler-GibsonR. Lopez is more defensive-minded, reliant upon scoring inside the arc.

Not only does it put pressure on Hoiberg to be creative w/ his starters (ex. must create avenues for the ‘3 Alphas’ to complement each other • 23 PnR w/ Wade & Butler?), coaching his bench is like taking on an extra gig.

Managing Chicago’s second unit is a difficult task since they’re extremely young & offensive-minded (Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis & Doug McDermott all like to score). How well Hoiberg meshes the vets w/ the youngins will make or break Chicago’s season, don’t look any further.

The Bulls have the depth (on paper) to win a lot of games by default. On most nights, Chicago’s starters should be able to defend well enough to keep it close, unit #2 has the (alleged) offensive firepower to sustain or build leads (one of the ‘Alphas’ will be out there at all times) & Wade, or even Jimmy, can certainly finish off victories.

In theory, the Bulls have the lineup contrast (older, defensive starters • younger, offensive-minded prospects) to compete in the Central, return to the playoffs, and go far.

But that’s putting a huge burden on a second-year head coach. That said, a ‘Most Improved’ campaign outta Fred Hoiberg could flip everything upside-down in the East.

Undisputed X-Factor: Michael Carter-Williams • The Bulls were really high on MCW and pulled the trigger as soon as MIL made him readily available – how else do you explain adding another non-shooter to Fred Hoiberg’s lineup!?

MCW will be counted on to distribute & defend – when Butler sits, MCW could spend some time on star perimeter players.

Season Prediction: 4th, Central Division • Will Lose in Quarterfinals


Detroit Pistons

detroit-pistons-media-day-september-26-2016-69d6a5ff8af31ec9

2015-2016 Season Result: 44-38 • 8th, Eastern Conference (3rd, Central Division) • Lost to CLE in Quarterfinals

Current Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy

Draft Picks

  • #18 Overall: Henry Ellenson
  • #49 Overall: Michael Gbinije

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Jon Leuer
  • Ish Smith
  • Boban Marjanovic

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Anthony Tolliver

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Detroit Pistons…could contend, for a few reasons:

Starting Five: JacksonKCPMarcus MorrisHarrisDrummond is a formidable five in the East. Actually, DET might have a top 5-7 starting five in the entire NBA – it’s all about balance.

Jackson’s a shot creator, attacker • KCP’s a perimeter defender, shooter-scorer • Morris & Harris are hybrid, attacking forwards • Drummond owns the glass (avg. 14.8 boards in ’15-’16), developing into a go-to post player • SVG has all bases covered 

Depth: Stan Van’s plan was to secure more shooting and overall depth in the offseason, as both were glaring issues during a quick 1st-round loss to CLE a few months ago.

New additions Jon Leuer (stretch big, doubled 3PA in ’15’-16 • vastly improved faceup game), Boban Marjanovic (gargantuan presence w/ a soft touch) & Ish Smith (speedy playmaker, tough) will all factor into Van Gundy’s rotation.

Natural Growth: Internal growth is DET’s fastest road from ‘good to great’ – Year 2 of Stanley Johnson & Drummond as ‘franchise player’ is worth watching.

SVG’s group needs to continue to gel defensively, while making a point to keep the rock hopping in tight games (DET has a problem of too many scoring options at times).

The Pistons aren’t a trendy sleeper pick but it’s no cause for concern – SVG loves playing the UnderDOG role – DET could make a hard push come April.

Undisputed X-Factor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope • KCP is one of the league’s fastest rising wings.

A two-way shooting guard, Caldwell-Pope has weekly earned a reputation as a defensive stopper – now can he raise his 3-point percentage to an elite level?*

*currently around 31% – raising it to 35-37% puts KCP close to All-Star status w/ everything else he brings to the table

Season Prediction: 3rd, Central Division • Will Lose in Quarterfinals


Indiana Pacers

pi-nba-pacers-media-day-paul-george-092616-vadapt-767-high-91

2015-2016 Season Result: 45-37 • 7th, Eastern Conference (2nd, Central Division) • Lost to TOR in Quarterfinals

Current Head Coach: Nate McMillan

Draft Picks

  • #50 Overall: Georges Niang

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Coach Nate McMillan
  • Jeff Teague
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Al Jefferson
  • Jeremy Evans

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • George Hill
  • Ian Mahinmi
  • Jordan Hill
  • Solomon Hill

Projected Starting Lineup

The Big Picture

The Indiana Pacers…agressively acquired new talent in the offseason.

Other than GS, Indiana ruled the summer w/ some underrated pickups who seem to fit right into new coach Nate McMillan’s system. Thaddeus Young, for example, will start at power forward but will play some 3, some 4 & some 5 (when IND goes super small!) with a focus on stopping high-volume scorers, slashing & running in transition.

Adding Young & Jeff Teague signals a shift to a quicker flow – Paul George is surrounded by his best (offensive) supporting cast ever, on paper. On any given night, the Pacers have the personnel to adapt to a different identity – if they wanna run, they have the athletes for it. If they wanna slow it down, Big Al Jefferson is an option in the paint.

And don’t forget about McMillan’s bench, featuring CJ Miles & either Myles Turner/Jefferson (starting center TBD) – IND should have a top-5 second unit in terms of scoring.

Indy is better than a year ago, that’s clear. But when it’s all said and done, the goal is to defeat Cleveland.

An MVP caliber season outta Paul George makes things a bit more interesting but the Pacers seem a year away from (legitimately) dethroning the champs.

Undisputed X-Factor: Myles Turner • Myles Turner is ready to star, needs to start – hand in glove fit next to athletes like George, Teague, Young & (‘you almost forgot to mention me’) Monta Ellis.

As a rook, Turner put up 10 & 6 in just under 23 minutes/night. In 2017, making a push for the All-Star game is his best-case scenario.

Season Prediction: 2nd, Central Division • Will Lose in Quarterfinals


Cleveland Cavaliers

cleveland-cavaliers-media-day

2015-2016 Season Result: 57-25 • 1st, Eastern Conference (1st, Central Division) • WON NBA CHAMPIONSHIP

Current Head Coach: Tyronn Lue

Projected Starting Lineup

Draft Picks

  • #54 Overall: Kay Felder (via Atlanta)

Notable Offseason Additions

  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr
  • Chris “Birdman” Anderson

Notable Offseason Subtractions

  • Timofey Mozgov
  • Matthew Dellavedova
  • Mo Williams

The Big Picture

The Cleveland Cavaliers…defied odds to win their first ever Larry O’Brien trophy in 2016 – the numerical sequence 3-1 will never have a deeper meaning!

But on the eve of 2016-17, it means absolutely nothing. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and co. know not to rest on their laurels, for a greater mission is in store: defending the belt. There is no “easy game” for the Cavs in 2017.

But let’s be real, the Eastern Conference doesn’t (yet) have a clear #1 contender – maybe Cleveland actually will have an easy road back to the Finals (if healthy). Coach Tyronn Lue’s regular season goal should be limiting minutes for the starters while maintaining efficiency & wins.

Staying around 55-57 wins, for instance, is more important than gunning for 60 & beyond – CLE doesn’t need the top seed to repeat, it’s all about health and cohesiveness.

Though most people believe Cleveland will last deep into June, not many are picking them to defend the crown w/ KD‘s arrival in the Bay. But like last year, it’s right where they want (and need) to be.

LeBron’s legacy is always on the line – at the end of the season, Cleveland will be in position to call themselves ‘Champions’ again.

Undisputed X-Factor: Tristan Thompson • Tristan Thompson is the NBA’s reigning (defending) undisputed X-Factor 

His 15-point, 16-rebound performance in Game 6 of the Finals is a perfect example of what he’s able to bring on the highest of levels. In 2017, don’t expect Thompson’s role to change one bit.

Season Prediction: Stay Tuned…

…the Central Division could feature FIVE playoff teams

#delay

Darryl F. & Jabari J.

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