The Cleveland Cavaliers are lucky enough to play in the weak Eastern Conference and are part of the even weaker Central Division. Last year only two teams from the Central Division made the playoffs, the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers.
Now the Cavs are still in the beginning of their rebuilding stages, but fans are hoping with the talent we have on the roster, there is no reason we can’t compete for an eight seed in the playoffs. A playoff spot is available for Cleveland and is definitely a possibility, but it won’t be because the Cavs are good enough, but because the Eastern Conference is just going to be that weak. Besides the Indiana Pacers, the Cavs, Bulls, Pistons, and Bucks all have holes in the roster. The way the team’s rosters look now, the four bottom teams in the Central Division will not stick out from each other. Here are the power rankings:
The Cavs are sporting a young roster with two first round picks from last year, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and two first round picks from this year, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. No Antawn Jamison, no Anthony Parker. Our most veteran player is Luke Walton with nine years under his belt, but I don’t know how much experience you can say he has. The Cavs front office made a lot of noise in free agency with being involved in the Dwight Howard trade, but didn’t really do anything. The Cavs have approximately $16 million in cap space, and refused to invest in any key free agents. Friday it was announced that Cleveland and C.J. Miles agreed to terms. Other than that, claiming Jon Luer off waivers and dealing D.J. Kennedy for Jeremy Pargo have been the off-season moves. I’m okay with the lack of activity in the offseason because any acquisition wouldn’t have taken us over the top. This season will be crucial to the development of the team. We have the core of our team in place; head coach Byron Scott will be grooming them as a team. He must prevent the young players from getting into bad habits. I don’t think the number of wins will reflect how successful this season will be, but I predict the Cavs to compete for an eight seed late in the NBA, but come up short and re-enter the lottery one last time.
The Chicago Bulls come into this year with an almost identical roster as last year except for one big change; they will be without their All-Star point guard, Derrick Rose. After Game 1 of their opening round playoff series against Philadelphia, the Bulls were only able to win one more game after Rose went down. Without Rose for most the season, the Bulls will win a decent amount, but depending on when Rose returns, I expect Chicago to win a good amount of games and finish with a six or seven seed in the playoffs.
Last year the Pacers turned some heads in the playoffs when they went up on the Miami Heat 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. They would then lose three straight and their season ended. The size they have at each position proved to be a big benefit on the court. They were able to resign their All-Star center Roy Hibbert, and brought in D.J. Augustine from Charlotte to backup George Hill. These aren’t moves that will take your team over the top. Even with Larry Bird out as team president, this team will still receive home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but still aren’t good enough to be Eastern Conference champs.
The Detroit Pistons are on the same road as the Cavs, the rebuilding road, but Detroit’s ride seems to be a little rockier. They also drafted the highly questionable Andre Drummond in the first round. Their problems are that they have too much money invested in players who aren’t any good anymore. Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe showed promise last year, but they are the lone bright spots on this roster. Financially they aren’t in good shape They did make the right move by trading Gordon and shedding an extra year of a guaranteed contract.
They were never a major player in free agency, but they were able to resign their guy, Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova can do a lot of things offensively and will play good off Monta Ellis. They received an extra bonus when they saw their lottery pick, John Henson, play in summer league. Henson turned some heads this summer and they hope he can make an immediate impact for this team. Other than Ellis, Ilyasova, Henson, and Brandon Jennings, the Bucks do not have enough players on their roster to compete. I predict Milwaukee to finish about the same as the Cavs, just missing the playoffs.