This offseason was one where the Cleveland Cavaliers knew they had to address their shooting needs. Cleveland had a successful regular season last year, winning 51 games and getting back to the playoffs, but their perimeter shooting inconsistencies led to their demise in the playoffs.
Cleveland had to aid its spacing, and bring in more playable depth. They did so by bringing back Caris LeVert, and signed the likes of Max Strus (sign-and-trade), Georges Niang and Ty Jerome.
Cleveland looks to be improved, and should be on the cusp of contention it seems. The Cavaliers will have to prove it next year, though, and at first glance, they probably are not quite at the level of teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland’s division foe, and the Boston Celtics.
Each season is different, of course, and for the Cavs, their playoff experience should make a difference, and so should another offseason for young players.
Circling back to the point about that divisional foe for Cleveland, however, let’s take a quick look at the Central Division for this upcoming season, and how teams could potentially factor into the playoff picture. There are some teams with varying directions in the Cavaliers’ division, with a couple of contenders it seems, at first glance.
How many teams from the Cavs’ Central Division will make the 2024 Playoffs?
Beginning with the aforementioned Bucks, even with rumors about the Giannis Antetokounmpo contract extension, or maybe eventually leaving down the road, this team is still a contender. They lost to the then-No. 8 seed Miami Heat in the first round, partly because of Antetokounmpo being far from 100 percent, and Miami shooting the lights out.
Regardless, the Bucks’ defense with Giannis, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez is still formidable, and their shooting across the board around Giannis still makes them really tough to beat. One should pencil Milwaukee into a top three seed in the East.
From there, the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers are two clubs that had solid drafts, and Indiana brought in the likes of Bruce Brown. They may have overpaid for Brown, but he is the type of glue guy who can they build with moving forward, to mesh with Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Jarace Walker and others.
Both of those teams have exciting young talent, and Detroit should benefit from Cade Cunningham hopefully being healthy this season, unlike last season. Both of these teams have a ways to go before being true factors in the East, though, at least coming next season it seems. Of the two, Indiana might be a surprise squad with their uptempo play, a budding star in Haliburton and a number of young perimeter players who can make plays, such as Andrew Nembhard.
For now, I have both on the outside looking in, with Indiana as a Play-In squad. I wouldn’t consider them a playoff team just yet.
Lastly, the Chicago Bulls are a team who could be in that Play-In mix, too. Chicago lost in the Play-In this past season, however, they were much better defensively in the seasons’ closing stretch, and they still have a number of impact defenders on the perimeter and on the wing. Jevon Carter was an underrated offseason signing by Chicago, too, and should help their rotation on both ends of the floor.
All of that said, the Bulls have often been a club mentioned in trade rumors, and eventually, it seems it might be advisable for them to shift to a full-rebuild at some point. That could result in players such as Alex Caruso being available, at least in theory, and realistically, while they have their share of talent, Chicago still needs more shooting and offensively, might not have enough to be that viable in the postseason.
It’s also not ideal for the Bulls to not have Lonzo Ball again next year, based on his comments in an episode of “From the Point by Trae Young,” with his injury concerns.
For now, I’ll have Chicago out, given the trade possibilities.
The Verdict: Two playoff teams from the Central Division
For the verdict for now, that’s two teams from the Central making the playoffs, with Indy as a darkhorse, but not quite there yet.