Five teams will battle for the Central Division title this season but the question is, who is the favorite right now? With Derrick Rose's injury, things look to be wide open, and it's anyone's guess as to who will come out on top. Here we break down each team for a hint.
Chicago would normally be the favorite, but we saw how different a team they are with Derrick Rose when the 2011 MVP missed a chunk of the season. Over the offseason, they lost key bench players Asik, Brewer, Watson, and Korver. They did find some bodies to replace them, but it will be interesting to see how they all fit in. This team is going to look very different next season. If Luol Deng's wrist is okay, they should still be able to survive until Rose returns.
The Cavaliers will look much different next year with the departure of Antawn Jamison for L.A. They are young, but Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller should get some quality playing time as rookies. C.J. Miles was a sneaky-good signing this summer, and with a healthy Kyrie Irving, they should be competitive. To say they will contend for the division though would be a stretch.
The Pistons should be much improved this season despite losing Ben Gordon. Their first-round pick, Andre Drummond, should have an immediate impact inside. They will likely move Greg Monroe to power forward, and it will be interesting to see how many minutes Kyle Singler and Corey Maggette get. They have a nice mix of young guys and veterans, but piecing them together might prove to be a bigger challenge than it sounds.
Who will win the Central Division in 2012-2013?
Unlike most of the other teams in the division, Indiana actually kept their core group together. They will return their same starting five from last season, but will have a few new contributors off the bench. Gerald Green, D.J. Augustin, and Ian Mahinmi should all provide the Pacers with very good play off the pine. They lost a great perimeter defender in Dahntay Jones, and backup point guard Darren Collison in the trade for Mahinmi, but they shouldn't miss them much.
The Bucks look solid on paper this year. The loss of Carlos Delfino hurts a little, but they are much deeper this year with the addition of Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla and rookies John Henson and Doron Lamb. Retaining Ersan Ilyasova was huge for the future of this team. Don't be surprised if the backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis lives up to the hype this season after they have had some time to play together. The Bucks should be considered legitimate contenders for the division crown.
Prediction: After reviewing each team, it's safe to assume this will be a three horse race. It's still too early for Detroit and Cleveland, but they are headed in the right direction. And while the Bucks could surprise, I still think this race will come down to Chicago and Indiana. If the Pacers can stay healthy, they should be able to win it. If the Bulls get Rose back sooner than expected, and their new acquisitions gel early, they could win it again.