Dominance in the Central Division has proved hard to hold onto in recent years, with different teams taking the reins every few years. It was the Pacers, the Pistons, then the Cavaliers, but with the recent offseason signings, is this division finally the Bulls'? Let's take a look at how each of these five teams look heading into the 2010-2011 season and try to figure out how they will end up.
Key Additions: Carlos Boozer PF, Kyle Korver F, Ronnie Brewer G
Key Departures: Kirk Hinrich G
After finishing the season with a pedestrian 41-41 record, the Bulls set their sights on LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, ultimately losing out on all three. However, Carlos Boozer (19.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG) isn't exactly the worst fall-back signing a team has ever made.
A solid addition to the frontcourt, Boozer should be a perfect compliment to Joakim Noah, who had made a big statement last year and has shown the potential to be a dominant center. With Rose budding (no pun intended) into one of the premiere point guards in the game, everything seems to be coming together for this young Chicago team.
Yet, will it be enough to challenge Boston or Miami in the playoffs? The Bulls are going to have stay healthy (that means you Boozer and Rose) if they want to put pressure on the other powerhouses in the East, and will need solid contributions from role players like Korver, Gibson, and Bogans. Look for this team to finish top in the division, but fall just short of a Finals run (for this year at least).
Key Additions: Corey Maggette F, Drew Gooden F
Key Departures: Luke Ridnour G
The Bucks seemed to surprise league last year, leading to the ever popular "Fear the Deer" catchphrase. Nobody expected rookie Brandon Jennings to put up the numbers he did (15.5 PPG, 5.7 APG) as he became an essential part of the club following the loss of Michael Redd to injury.
This year, the main question will be, "How quickly can Andrew Bogut return to for?" Before breaking his right hand late in the season, Bogout posted career highs in points (15.9), blocks (2.5), and rebounds (10.3).
If the Bucks are to continue their relative success, they are going to need Bogut and Jennings to pick up right where they left off. They will also need Maggette and Gooden to flow well in Skiles "synergy" methods. Even then, they may only be looking at a seventh or eighth seed.
Key Additions: Darren Collison PG, James Posey F
Key Departures: Troy Murphy PF
The Pacers have all the ingredients to be a dark horse this year in the division. Finishing 32-50 last season, the front office was quick to make high-impact trades to fill holes in the lineup. Sure, the loss of Troy Murphy will hurt, but with the emergence of center Roy Hibbert and the addition of stand-out Darren Collison to the lineup, this team could raise a few eyebrows. Not to mention Danny Granger, who looks better and better each year.
Don't be shocked if the Pacers wind up stealing a middle to low playoff berth come spring.
Key Additions: Tracy McGrady SG, Greg Monroe C
Key Departures: Kwame Brown C
With such a disappointing season (27-55), one would think the Pistons would try to make a splash or two in the off months. To make things clear, signing an aged and injury riddled veteran in Tracy McGrady is not considered making a splash. It might even be considered desperation as the front office tries to recreate the magic this franchise once had only a few years ago.
Granted, injuries took a toll last year, but how much better has this team actually gotten? If everybody can stay healthy perhaps they will improve from last season, but don't expect the veteran core of Prince,Wallace, and Hamilton to suddenly lead this team into the postseason. This year needs to be the first step towards rebuilding, which starts with developing Monroe, first-round pick out of Georgetown, and giving more time to Jonas Jerebko if or when he comes back from injury.
Key Additions: Ramon Sessions PG, Bitterness
Key Departures: LeBron James SF, Hope, Meaning, Desire
LeBron brought just about everything with him when he decided to take his talents to South Beach. In one hour-long ESPN special, the Cavaliers went from title contender to bottom dweller. On the upside, there is a lot of young talent in Cleveland to rebuild around (J.J. Hickson, Mo Williams, Ramon Sessions).
On the down side, this team would be lucky to win 20 games. And even that seems generous.