NBA Central Division Preview: Are the Detroit Pistons Still for Real?

Adam MillerCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2008

Chicago Bulls

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Kirk Hinrich/Derrick Rose
SG Ben Gordon/Larry Hughes/Thabo Sefolosha
SF Luol Deng/Andres Nocioni
PF Tyrus Thomas/Joakim Noah/Demetris Nichols
C Drew Gooden/Aaron Gray

If there’s any team that least deserved the No. 1 pick, it was the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have a team capable of winning a round in the playoffs, but some bizarre circumstances led to their failure to make the playoffs.

The season started with rumors of Kobe Bryant coming to Chicago in exchange for much of the Bulls’ frontline. Luol Deng admitted that the rumors eventually became a distraction, and they never seemed to move on from that episode.

Then the iron fist of Scott Skiles became irrelevant as he lost control of the team, leading to his firing on Christmas.  The Bulls went the rest of the season with an unproven and incompetent Jim Boylan.

Ben Wallace also caused problems with his attitude, which GM John Paxson decided not to tolerate anymore.  Paxson traded Wallace midseason for Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden.

Chicago will go into this year with a potential superstar in Derrick Rose, who will probably back up Kirk Hinrich, and a first-year coach in Vinny Del Negro, who at the very least has become a media darling with his articulate speaking ability.

Yet the Bulls realize that anything short of making the playoffs will be considered a failure for Del Negro and Paxson.


Cleveland Cavaliers

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Mo Williams/Daniel Gibson/Eric Snow
SG Wally Szczerbiak/Delonte West
SF LeBron James/Aleksandar Pavlovic
PF Anderson Varejao/Darnell Jackson
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Ben Wallace/Lorenzen Wright

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the fight of their life to give LeBron James the supporting cast necessary to win a championship, while having the cap space to give the maximum contract without paying the luxury tax in 2010.

The biggest acquisition they made was acquiring Mo Williams from the Milwaukee Bucks, who is a considerable upgrade from Eric Snow and Daniel Gibson. The Cavs will probably finish in the top half of the Eastern Conference once again, but they are still a step behind Detroit, Boston, and perhaps Orlando.

Although Mo Williams will be a great boost to the offense, Cleveland is most likely one big-time scorer away from having the weapons necessary to compete with the Celtics. The biggest weak spot for Cleveland is its front court.

Aside from Zydrunas Ilgauskas—who is high-risk for an injury anyway—there are no big men capable of scoring. First-round draft pick Darnell Jackson might be that guy later on in his career—but if the Cavs expect to return to the NBA Championship, they need someone who can score now.


Detroit Pistons

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Chauncey Billups/Aaron Afflalo/Will Bynum
SG Richard Hamilton/Rodney Stuckey
SF Tayshaun Prince/Walter Herrmann
PF Amir Johnson/Antonio McDeyess/Jason Maxiell
C Rasheed Wallace/Kwame Brown

The Pistons are the one team you can never count out, even though they seem to get worse every year. Much of the core is still together, but age is starting to get to them.

Detroit is no longer the best team in the Eastern Conference, but they are good enough that they will probably get the second seed again unless there is a major collapse. One of the keys to doing well this season is finding someone who can take some defensive pressure off of Tayshaun Prince.

Jason Maxiell is turning into a good defender, although he will never have the speed to keep up with the top perimeter player as Prince does.

One notable weakness for Detroit is the center position.  So far, Rasheed Wallace has taken the responsibility as the starting center, although he isn’t anywhere close to being a typical 5. The Pistons are fortunate that the East doesn’t have many quality centers, so this strategy works for the most part.

However, it is still a weak area that needs to be improved if they want to get back to the NBA Finals.


Indiana Pacers

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Jamaal Tinsley/T.J. Ford/Jarrett Jack
SG Marquis Daniels/Eddie Jones/Brandon Rush
SF Danny Granger/Mike Dunleavy
PF Troy Murphy/Austin Croshere
C Rasho Nesterovic/Roy Hibbert

Not too much looks promising for the Indiana Pacers. They don’t have any reliable go-to players and are bound to be back in the lottery.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, this isn’t exactly the best time to be a bad team, as the well of great talent in college basketball appears to have run out. The only way this season works out for the Pacers is if they get the No. 1 pick and Ricky Rubio decides to enter the draft.

But this team needs any position besides a point guard. Jamaal Tinsley and T.J. Ford are good enough, although Rubio would be better than either of them in the prime of his career.

Indiana is the only team that didn’t improve over the offseason, and will likely pay for it with a last-place finish in the Central Division.


Milwaukee Bucks

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Luke Ridnour/Damon Jones/Tyronn Lue
SG Michael Redd/Charlie Bell
SF Richard Jefferson/Adrian Griffin
PF Charlie Villanueva/Joe Alexander/Malik Allen
C Andrew Bogut/Dan Gadzuric

Nobody would blame Michael Redd if he called his teammates, “hey you” during the first days of practice. After all, he was in China winning a gold medal when Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond brought in five new players over the summer.

The players the Bucks acquired this offseason are Richard Jefferson, Joe Alexander, Malik Allen, Damon Jones, and Tyronn Lue. Redd will also have a new coach in Scott Skiles.

Most of these changes are for the better. Jefferson, the biggest name acquired this offseason, will be on a team that wants to win now. This is not a championship-caliber team by any sense of the word, but it will at least be good enough to make a run for the playoffs.

Redd now has another solid scoring option, so he won’t have to shoulder as much of a load as he has had in previous seasons. Even if Milwaukee doesn’t make the playoffs, they will have a successful season if they at least come close, given the dismal year in 2008.