Central Division Preview
The last Eastern Conference preview is here. This division is packed with my pick for MVP and the representative of the conference for the NBA Finals. Be sure to check out my previous articles http://www.ratpacksports.com/nba.
Chicago Bulls: This is a team that came within a Rajon Rondo injury away from eliminating the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago traded away Jimmy Butler for young pieces that are a long way away and will make them the worst team in the league. The only thing going for Chicago is Lauri Markkanen who came over as part of the Butler trade. The other pieces in that trade were Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine. Dunn had a horrendous rookie season; Lavine despite being super talented is coming off a torn ACL and will be a risk in fantasy drafts. Expect Nicola Mirotic to benefit the most from Lavine running the offense, Dwayne Wade wondering when he will be bought out, Fred Hoiberg making vacation plans in November and exactly 910 fans in attendance for home games. Good for a record of 14-68 the worst record in the league and a shot at the first overall pick in the draft.
Indiana Pacers: After trolling Boston and Cleveland by not trading Paul George to either team. General Manager Kevin Prichard gave George away to the Thunder and now is stuck with Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo and spare parts. With a defensive coach in Nate McMillian and an offensive that doesn’t have enough talent to spread the floor besides Bojan Bogdanovic. Expect the Pacers to be in the bottom half of the league on offense, a tough year coaching for McMillian, a wasted season of how talented Turner is and a lot of playing time for rookie TJ Leaf was good enough for a record of 25-57 with no direction for the future.
Detroit Pistons: When Detroit acquired Avery Bradley from Boston they hit a home run. Only having to give up Marcus Morris for a player that deserves the long-term money that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope didn’t mean this team is closer to being an actual playoff team. Andre Drummond who has great trade value hasn’t improved his free throw shooting and would be wise to move him for a more versatile player. Reggie Jackson has worn out his welcome and it’s time to see if he is worth the money they shoveled out for him. Luke Kennard will provide a lift to their dismal outside shooting, Jackson will not be on the team after the season, Tobias Harris continues to be a sleeper in fantasy and Drummond will lead the league in rebounding. Detroit will fall just shy of Charlotte for the last playoff spot in the East with a record of 37-45.
Milwaukee Bucks: Despite losing General Manager John Hammonds to Orlando, Milwaukie still had a nice offseason. Signing Tony Snell to a paltry 46-million-dollar contract for his skill set at shooting guard was a bargain. The health of Jabari Parker coming back from two straight years of tearing the same ACL will determine if Milwaukee will make real noise in the conference. Ghannis Antetokounmpo will be the MVP of the league, Kidd has groomed Antetokounmpo into a force that can do everything on the floor and is ready to unleash his talents on everyone in his path. Expect a small improvement in his three-point shooting, provide elite defense, and become and one of the best passers at his position. This will lead Milwaukee to a record of 44-38 losing in the first round of the playoffs as the sixth seed, be one year away from being the second-best team in the East, and your 2017-2018 MVP.
Cleveland Cavaliers: For a team that has been to three straight finals the Cavaliers look like a team that is desperate to do anything to beat the Warriors. When Kyrie Irving demanded a trade, this threw a monkey wrench on those plans. After haggling with Boston for over a week, a trade was completed weakening Cleveland making Boston better in the process. Cleveland received Isiah Thomas on an expiring contract with a hip injury, Jae Crowder on an excellent contract who had a bad year defensively and the all-important Brooklyn pick that whatever Cleveland decides to do will determine if LeBron leaves or stays. The Cavs will coast to a division title with a record of 53-29. Kevin Love will step up in a key role and will help barely get by Boston in seven games in the East finals cause LeBron’s will power to get to the finals. The Warriors will decimate the Cavs in the Finals after five games, forcing LeBron to the Lakers next season.