Diving right into this topic, the Central division in the Eastern Conference has become increasingly tough. All the teams in the Division had big summers and have transformed that division into arguable the toughest in the East, top to bottom.
Starting from the bottom up, Detroit dropped Lawrence Frank for Mo Cheeks and signed both the productive, yet underwhelming, defensive specialist Josh Smith and 36-year-old Chauncey Billups, among other pieces to the mysterious puzzle that is Detroit. Andre Drummond made quite the impression in his rookie season, so this year should see him having a crucial role with the Pistons. Having a pair of players like Greg Monroe the impressive Drummond, the Pistons have a very young, very dangerous frontcourt.
The Pistons also have an overstock of point guards. New signees Billups, Peyton Siva, and Will Bynum will join a Detroit side that already boasts two young, score-first point guards in Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey. Adding Josh Smith gives them a threat at the small-forward position, but apart from Jennings, I don’t see a dominant scorer on this team. However, the Billups addition should bring a leader on the court which could do wonders for the Pistons.
The Milwaukee Bucks lost Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings,their top two scorers, but have added some key players to take their place. O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight will attempt to replace this missing scoring for the Bucks. Having added pure point Gary Neal, the Milwaukee backcourt should be formidable. The frontcourt is an area that needs improvement. Larry Sanders, who just signed a $44 million extension, is the biggest threat down low for the Bucks, whose other centers, Joel Przybilla and Zaza Pachula, have seen better days. It will be interesting to see if the Milwaukee Bucks can make another playoff run with their new(ish) roster.
The Chicago Bulls may have had the best summer of anyone with the least signings. Derrick Rose will be back to the lead a Chicago side looking to challenge the Heat and the Pacers among the top of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls added three-point specialist and double-digit scorer Mike Dunleavy to a team that already had success in the previous season. There is not much to say about the Chicago Bulls that wasn’t seen in the last year’s playoffs other than watch out.
The Indiana Pacers, who took the champs to seven in last year’s playoffs, are back with more firepower. The league’s leading rebounding team from a year ago added Luis Scola to their roster, giving them more depth down low as well as another tough-nosed player that the Chicago Bulls love so much. The Pacer’s also signed C.J. Watson, who has made his money as a great back up in the league, and Chris Copeland, who was a very consistent threat off the bench last year with the New York Knicks. Danny Granger will also be back in full form, making the thought of Indiana a scary one. With Larry Bird being named president of basketball operations, the Indiana Pacers could be a powerhouse for years to come.
Where does this leave the Cleveland Cavaliers? Player-for-player, I think the Cavs fall right in the middle; below Chicago and Indiana and above Milwaukee and Detroit. An optimistic view could even see the Cavs challenging the Bulls for second in the division, with the high-profile point guard battle in Kyrie Irving vs. Derrick Rose. A pessimistic one has them falling among the ranks of the average teams in the East and finishing 4th or 5th in the division.