2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Central Division

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2013-14 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST
Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors | Division Preview 1 and 2
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Bobcats | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview
Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview
Top 10 by Position: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Top 10 Lists: Sixth Men | Sophomores | X-Factors | Intensity | Under 25 | Comeback | GMs | Europeans | Overrated | Contenders | Wild Predictions
Fantasy Basketball | NBA Fandom Games | League Preview | Ultimate Season Predictions
Media Day: Lakers | Clippers | Kings | Knicks | Bucks | Suns | Pacers

derrick rose thibs 2013 14 NBA Season Preview: Central Division

MVP

Tria: Derrick Rose. Rose propels the Chicago Bulls to 60+ wins and provides the Bulls with more than just a “tough team” identity. He’s truly an elite player and makes the difference against the Miami Heat (if the Bulls advance to the Eastern Conference Finals). Rose excels at creating offense, finding the right player in the right situation and is a defensive stalwart. Even missing last season, Rose is still the NBA’s best point guard, and seems quite motivated to shut up the people who called him “soft” for not returning last season.

Rye: Derrick Rose. Besides the usual LeBron James talk, Kobe Bryant’s own comeback and possibly how Dwight Howard will do with Houston Rockets, the expectations for the return of Derrick Rose is one of the most talked about subjects in the NBA. If Rose returns near to the MVP form he had in the 2011-2012 season, he will clearly be the MVP of the division. All this said, keep an eye out for Roy Hibbert.

Dan Rakes: Derrick Rose. He missed all of last season recovering from an ACL tear in his left knee. He was medically cleared to return in the NBA Playoffs, but refused because he felt his knee wasn’t fully recovered. His decision not to play drew criticism from Bulls fans and the media. Heading into training camp, Rose has declared himself 100 percent recovered from his injury. Look for Rose to play with intensity and re-establish himself as a league-wide MVP candidate. By the end of the upcoming season, Rose will be among the NBA leaders in points and assists. A healthy D-Rose puts the Bulls back into championship contention.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO FALL OFF

Tria: Josh Smith. Smith is an interior player stuck playing the 3 for the Detroit Pistons. This signing makes less sense as the season continues its creep upon us. Expect the one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate to start going through the motions in December. It’s going to be a LONG season in Detroit.

Rye: Chauncey Billups. This summer the Detroit Pistons, in a trade, acquired Brandon Jennings from the Milwaukee Bucks. Jennings is young and wants to be a star in the NBA. As a point guard he plays the same position as Billups, and unlike Chris Paul, whom Billups shared the backcourt with in L.A., Jennings won’t allow for that much versatility. Loss to Billups’ playing time.

Rakes: Ersan Ilyasova had a breakout season in 2011-12 averaging 13.0 points and 8.8 rebounds. He was rewarded with a five-year $40 millon contract extension from the Bucks. Last season, his production remained constant and he didn’t show any signs of improvement. Second-year power forward, John Henson, played well late last season and will compete with Ilyasova for playing time. Henson has the potential to be a force at the 4 position. If Henson plays well early in the season, Ilyasova could see his playing time decrease, in which case, expect a signification drop in his production.

BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER

Tria: Larry Sanders. Toiling in obscurity with the Milwaukee Bucks, Sanders has played respectable basketball culminating in his recent four-year extension, rumored to total $44 million. Having to handle more of the scoring load should work, as the Bucks may sniff the 40-win mark and edge Cleveland for third place in the division. The biggest problem Sanders may have is inconsistent rotations, and lacking a point guard who can get him the ball in proper scoring situations, but he’ll be a beast on the inside, and, defensively, is poised to frustrate the league’s better big men.

Rye: Roy Hibbert. One of the big questions in the NBA is where are the big men? Centers used to be the key piece for a team to win championships. I believe Roy Hibbert will have his breakout year and will be the best center in the NBA behind Dwight Howard. During last year’s playoffs he averaged 17.0 points and 9.9 rebounds, which was a big increase compared to his regular season numbers of 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds. If Hibbert continues such improvement he will become one of the biggest stars in the NBA.

Rakes: The Detroit Pistons have to be excited by the development of Andre Drummond. He finished last season strong and was dominant on both ends of the floor in the Orlando Summer League. Drummond’s minutes will go up this season, which will increase his production from a year ago. Drummond will average a double-double and will be a candidate for Most Improved Player.

BEST TEAM

Tria: Indiana Pacers. Rose may be the MVP, but the Pacers believed they could beat Miami in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and have only improved personnel-wise from last season. If Danny Granger is truly back, the Pacers’ road to the Eastern Finals is easier, but they must navigate a tricky draw against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semis. Look for the improved Pacers bench to be the difference in the Bulls-Pacers match-ups as Scola anchors the best second-string unit in the NBA.

Rye: The Chicago Bulls will come out on top in the division in a war against the Indiana Pacers. Both teams will be much better this season mainly because both teams remain intact from last season. The Bulls only finished 5 games behind the Pacers and that was without Rose. With a healthy Rose, the Bulls should be able to topple the Pacers.

Rakes: The Pacers had a disappointing end to last season. They lost in the playoffs to the Miami Heat in a hard fought seven game series in the Eastern Conference Finals. Expectations are high in Indianapolis as the Pacers enter the 2013-14 season legitimate NBA title contenders. Paul George has emerged as the Pacers best player and looks to have another All-Star season coming. The Pacers made several key moves in the offseason by re-signing David West and adding C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland in free agency. Also, they acquired versatile big man Louis Scola from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for a 1st round draft pick. Former NBA All-Star, Danny Granger, returns after missing most of last season with a knee injury. The Pacers will overwhelm teams with their defensive pressure, offensive efficiency and depth. The Bulls will challenge the Pacers for the division title, but the Pacers are the best team in the division and will the Central.

WORST TEAM

Tria: Detroit Pistons. The formula for winning in the NBA is to have players play specific roles on the floor and not to have too many players who do the same thing on the floor at once. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith all do the same things (with varying degrees of efficacy). Unless the Pistons expect Smith to turn into a mid-range threat and shut down the league’s best 3’s nightly, this move makes no sense. Even if that was the Pistons’ expectation, it doesn’t make sense still. Smith has never been that player. Brandon Jennings is a solid PG, but that backcourt is a mess. The Pistons go from being a team that could sneak their way to 35 wins to a team that may get 20. These aren’t the Bad Boys, they’re just B-A-D.

Rye: Milwaukee Bucks. Compared to other teams in the division, the Milwaukee Bucks have not done much this offseason to improve and are in the process of rebuilding. The Bucks lost Brandon Jennings in a trade, Monta Ellis going to the Dallas Mavericks and J.J. Reddick going to the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency. With all the other teams in the division having the ability to be playoff teams, the Bucks will be in last place.

Rakes: Milwaukee Bucks. Although the Bucks made the playoffs last season, they will take a step back in 2013-14. They look to replace three of their best players. J.J. Redick and Monta Ellis departed via free agency and the team traded Brandon Jennings to the Detroit Pistons. To replace them, they signed O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal and acquired Brandon Knight in the Jennings trade. The roster turnover will cause the Bucks to have chemistry issues. With the lack of outside shooting and a dynamic scorer, the Bucks will struggle on offense. They will fall behind in the standings early and will not be able to recover. The Bucks will not be easy to beat, but in an improved Central Division they will finish in last place.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Tria: It’s fait-accompli that the Bulls and Pacers race to the first and second slots in the Central, but the Cavaliers make third place tricky. The health of Andrew Bynum, Kyrie Irving, and to a lesser extent, Anthony Bennett decide their fate. If healthy, this team is capable of 45 wins and being victimized by the 2 or 3 seed in the first round. Crucially, the Cavs need a strong season if they plan on enticing LeBron James to perform as the Prodigal Son next season. The Cavs have potential to be interesting or pathetically crippled. There is no alternative.

Rye: The Central division will be a very exciting division to watch this year. Of course there is the war for the top spot between the Bulls and Pacers. Also the Pistons and Cavaliers should be two exciting teams to watch because of the moves they made in the offseason. The Pistons now have Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, which should make them a much better team. Meanwhile the Cavaliers added Andrew Bynum, which is a risky bet, but could have a big payoff. Both teams will be fighting for playoff spots and it is very possible the Central Division will have four teams in the playoffs this year.

Rakes: The Central Division will be the most competitive in the NBA this season. Up to four playoff teams will come from the division. The Pacers and Bulls will be amongst the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs and Pistons will compete for playoff berths. The Division is loaded with talent. Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Derrick Rose, Loul Deng, Kyrie Irving and Josh Smith will represent the division in the 2014 NBA All-Star game. The individual match-ups between point guards Brandon Jennings, Brandon Knight, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving will be intense. It is very possible that one of the Central Division teams will be playing in June for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

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 2013 14 NBA Season Preview: Central Division

Dan Tria

Dan Tria is a native of New York but more importantly is Celtics zealot stubbornly articulating that Bill Russell is the greatest of all-time. He graduated from Boston University in 2005, writes political columns for ANDMagazine.com, and is still waiting for Larry Bird to walk through that door.
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