We’ve spent a ton of time speculating about how the Cavs will fare this season. This is our goal here at Right Down Euclid, after all. However, you can only talk about the 15 players the Cavs currently have on contracts for so long before you go completely insane. Therefore, let’s take a look, division by division, at the NBA as a whole. Naturally, we have to start with the Central Division.
The Central Division is going to be weird this season.
Like, really weird. Four teams in the division are total wild cards, and really have high ceilings and low floors, simultaneously. The Fifth, Indiana, is going to be one of the top 5 teams in the league, and that in and of itself is also weird. I would not be shocked if any of the 5 teams made the playoffs; I would also not be shocked if the worst case scenario occurred to any of the 5 teams. The division could be absolutely stacked, or the worst in the league. Both are probably equally likely.
First there’s Chicago. The Bulls look to be elite again this season, with Derrick Rose returning, a fresh new shooter in Mike Dunleavy, stingy Tom Thibodeau defense, and Jimmy Butler possibly taking a leap to elite play at small forward. They should be really good! However, there’s a ton that this team has to show before I’ll believe it. Most importantly, Derrick Rose, who’s entire game is basically predicated on athleticism, needs to show he can return to form from an ACL tear and 18-month lay-off. If he can hit even 90% of his former athletic ability, I think the Bulls will be fine. If not, however, or if he plays injury roulette like he did the entire lockout season, the Bulls will really struggle.
Also among the Bulls concerns: Tom Thibodeau rotation management, particularly involving Rose and Luol Deng. This is expounded by the lack of bench depth on the Bulls this season. Chicago does sport Taj Gibson and Dunleavy, which is good. But their 8th man is…….Kirk Hinrich. Their 9th man is Nazr Mohammed. Number 10 is Tony Snell. That’s frightening, especially at the point and at center, where Rose and Hinrich are terribly injury prone, and Marquis Teague hasn’t shown ANYTHING to make you believe he’s worth something in this league. This forces Thibs to stretch his starters longer. Which causes guys to get hurt. Which forces Thibs to play the remaining guys even more. The Bulls are a terrible vicious cycle of roster thinness, and that’s why I find it equally likely that the Bulls finish 1st, 6th, or anywhere in between in the East.
Then there’s that weird Detroit team. Detroit, if you’ll remember, Joe Dumars’d it up this offseason, using oodles of cap space in a loaded free agent class to…….trade for Brandon Jennings and sign Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups. They’ve created one of the most bizarre offensive teams in the league, a team that likely will be predicated on long twos and post game, kind of the opposite of where NBA offenses are currently trending. They’re also coached by Mo Cheeks, not a known offensive guru. They might not have any spacing on offense, and their best small forward is one of the following: Jonas Jerebko, Kyle Singler, Luigi Datome, Tony Mitchell. Better hope one of Mitchell or Datome is legit. Which we don’t know. Also, this team still employs Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey to play basketball, because apparently 2009 wasn’t THAT long ago.
But at the same time, this team could be outstanding on defense. Josh Smith and Andre Drummond? ALL OF THE RIM PROTECTION. Add in Chauncey tutoring Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? We might have something. If Caldwell-Pope is as good of a scorer as he looked like at Georgia, Datome’s shooting transfers to the NBA game, and Greg Monroe and Jennings get better on defense, this team could easily make the playoffs. Which wouldn’t make any sense because YOU PAIRED JOSH SMITH AND BRANDON JENNINGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW THIS COULD WORK.
Indiana is the most vanilla team in the division, and there’s still some intrigue here with one Danny Granger. His knees are supposedly on schedule, and his inclusion to this team could be interesting. Do you start him next to Paul George, knowing he’s going to take a ton of shots away from Paul George? Do you still play Lance Stephenson at the two next to George and bring Granger off the bench? Do you trade him? This is going to be interesting. Add in Chris Copeland and Luis Scola, who will certainly bolster a mostly useless bench and offense from last season, and David West resigning, and this team will be outstanding, fun, and interesting. Which is weird. Because it’s the Pacers.
Naturally, we can’t go without talking about all of Cleveland’s weird to add to the mix. You know the dance by now: A ton of offensive weapons who don’t play D. A primarily defensive coach known for his offensive stagnation. The weirdest first round pick in recent memory. ALL OF THE POWER FORWARDS. Two elite, but comically injury prone centers, zero small forwards who are sure things, the most enigmatic shooting guard in the league, and an offense that should have an elite pick-and-pop game. I’ve been mulling this team over for the better part of months and still don’t fully understand it.
Then, there’s the Bucks. Oh, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Milwaukee. A team has never been so confusing, yet so easily summarized:
Anyone know what the Bucks are doing? No? Okay.
— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) July 3, 2013
LOOK AT THIS ROSTER. LOOK AT IT. It’s just…….what???? Your point guards are Luke Ridnour, Brandon Knight, and Gary Neal. O.J. Mayo is your number one scoring option. His backups? Nate Wolters and Carlos Delfino. The frontcourt is stacked, including a potentially destructive LARRY SANDERS!/John Henson combo that looks amazing. Let’s also point out that Nick Van Exel is an assistant coach here. This team doesn’t make any sense. What happens here on offense? How terrible is Mayo + Neal going to be for development of Brandon Knight? Is there a more fun but average collection of bigs in the NBA? Can Giannis Antetokounmpo be involved? Please? Are they actually building anything?
Seriously, try to follow all 5 Central Division Teams this season. If Milwaukee and Indiana are slugging it out on a random Tuesday night, WATCH THIS GAME. I can assure you something bizarre will happen, because when you throw that many bizarre things together at once, it creates something amazing. Just like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd, ECW, or Comic Con, the Central Division will be an amazing combination of bizarre pieces that will lead to some amazing basketball, or at least some straight bat country weirdness on random weeknights. I can’t wait.