Road To A Championship: NBA Central Division Predictions

Just as we did with the NBA Atlantic Division, we will dive deep into the ins and outs of the NBA Central Division. Known as a growing division in the NBA, the Central Division contains such teams as the 2016 NBA champion, Cleveland Cavaliers. Joining the Cavaliers in this competitive division, are the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, and Detroit Pistons.

Cleveland Cavaliers

It’s safe to say that any team with LeBron James is the favorite to finish at the top of their division. Whether or not Cleveland will still be Kyrie Irving’s home starting next season does not change the Cavaliers chances of dominating this division. Over LeBron’s fourteen year career, he has finished at the top of his division nine times, and out of those nine teams, four of them have led to him winning the top seed in his conference.  This makes it clear that with or without Kyrie Irving, LeBron should not struggle to take a hold of this division, yet again. Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks are on the rise, but we will get to them in a second. At this point in time, LeBron James is the best player on the planet and should be able to carry this Cavaliers team, to at least a division title. However, as of now, the Cavaliers will be entering the 2017-18 NBA season with the following lineup:

PG- Kyrie Irving

SG- J.R. Smith

SF- LeBron James

PF- Kevin Love

C- Tristan Thompson

Despite the LeBron James impact, this team does go deeper than James. Kevin Love is an all-star caliber forward who can stretch the floor while also pertaining the ability to bang in the post. Although Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are eating up humungous contracts, they are still competent role players. Both know what their role is and when to either step up or back off. With the addition of Derrick Rose as a sixth man, Cleveland will go even deeper into their depth chart, which should help their superstars with fatigue.

Regular Season Record: 54-28

Image result for cleveland cavaliers team

Milwaukee Bucks

Fear the deer. The Milwaukee Bucks are in it for the long run. With young stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, the Bucks future is in good hands. Giannis has already proven himself as a premier talent in this league, and Jabari (when not injured) is a solid twenty point per game scorer. After a season that consisted of the Bucks earning the Eastern Conference sixth seed and eventually being knocked off by the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee is back and better than ever. We will hopefully finally see a full Kris Middleton season, as he has proven himself as one of the leagues best sharpshooters and is a solid perimeter defender. These three stars along with solid rotation players in Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, and Greg Monroe, are the perfect ingredients for a future title contender. The Bucks will be entering the 2017-18 season with the following lineup:

PG- Malcolm Brogdon

SG- Kris Middleton

SF- Giannis Antetokounmpo

PF- Jabari Parker

C- Greg Monroe

This lineup combined with some solid bench contribution could be in the running for as high as a third seed in the eastern conference. This is definitely a stretch, especially because Jabari Parker has had some serious injury issues. If Milwaukee can stay on the court and continue to grow at the rate they have been, the Bucks have a chance at ending the season with anywhere between 45-50 wins. However, once again, this all relies on the health of their star players.

Regular Season Record: 46-36

Image result for milwaukee bucks team

Indiana Pacers

With the recent dumping of superstar forward, Paul George, the Indiana Pacers are officially in rebuilding mode. Looking to build around, young center, Miles Turner, the Pacers might look to tank in order to acquire a top draft pick. There is a very low chance of them taking a playoff spot as they barely made the playoffs last year with Paul George, so it’s hard to see a scenario of them earning any more wins than a year ago. Indiana does have a young core to build around, as they will be entering the 2017-18 season with one of the youngest lineups in the league:

PG- Darren Collinson

SG- Victor Oladipo

SF- Bojan Bogdanovic

PF- Thaddeus Young

C- Miles Turner

None of their starters are over the age of 29, which looks great on the surface. However, Indiana has had problems with keeping star players around due to the small market and lack of franchise success. It happened with Paul George and it will happen again. It is hard to attract players to your franchise if you’re a small team with no clear direction. Although Victor Oladipo and Miles Turner have potential to be future all stars, they are not enough to carry this Pacers organization themselves. Eventually, Indiana is going to have to acquire a real superstar who wants to play there. For now, though, Indiana is content losing and gathering as much draft picks as possible.

Regular Season Record: 35-47

Image result for 2018 indiana pacers team

Chicago Bulls

Plagued with one of the most dysfunctional front offices in the league, the Chicago Bulls are looking for answers. On one hand, the Bulls recently parted ways with all star forward, Jimmy Butler for a draft pick and some young prospects. But on the other hand, Chicago is still in possession of Dwayne Wade and his $24 million dollar contract. It seems as if the Bulls want to start the rebuilding process, but are still obtaining one of the biggest contracts in the league. Chicago is a franchise with no direction and is basically hoping that they luck into a top overall pick. With this said, Chicago will be sporting this lineup heading into their disastrous 2017-18 season.

PG- Kris Dunn

SG- Dwayne Wade

SF- Zach Lavine

PF- Bobby Portis

C- Robin Lopez

Let’s run through this lineup. Kris Dunn in his first season proved himself as nothing short of a bust. Dunn averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 assists on 37.7 percent from the field. Dwayne Wade is a future Hall Of Famer, but has definitely slowed down, and is basically a shell of his former self now. Zach Lavine is a consistent scorer who has star potential in this league. This is one of the very few great moves made by the Bulls front office in a long time. Bobby Portis’ ceiling is basically a really good role player. Over the past two seasons, Portis averaged 7 points per game with a PER of 14.4. Robin Lopez is a fourth option at best for any team. He is there to grab rebounds, not be the focal point of an offense. This is a city that wants to win and an organization that has no idea what they are doing. We pray for Bulls fans.

Regular Season Record: 26-56

Image result for 2018 chicago bulls team

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons franchise had looked like it was heading in the right direction, but then completely collapsed. It was just one year ago when the Pistons were a promising eighth seed challenging the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. So how did the Pistons go from a 44 win team to a 37 win team? They didn’t lose any major assets and there were no major front office changes. Well, their chemistry completely fell off. After starting out the season without star guard, Reggie Jackson, Detroit was .500 and looked to be heading in the right direction. However, as soon as Jackson healed, the team completely fell off and looked like they had never played basketball together in their life. Rumors began to swirl about Jackson and Drummond and whether or not they could coexist together on a team. This is not a first-time situation for Jackson as these same rumors occurred during his time in Oklahoma, which eventually led to his departure. It has become clear there is something wrong with Jackson and playing with other stars, so until that problem solved, Detroit has no chance in growing this young team. With all of that said, here is the Detroit Pistons lineup to start the 2017-18 NBA season.

PG- Reggie Jackson

SG- Avery Bradley

SF- Stanley Johnson

PF- Tobias Harris

C- Andre Drummond

Despite everything I just said, this is still a playoff team. The addition of Avery Bradley provides some perimeter shooting they were in desperate need of. Stanley Johnson is a young defensive prospect who is beginning to grow into his own player, While Tobias Harris is a strong supporting player who can feed off of Reggie Jackson. The only issue is Drummond and Jackson who need to work out whatever drama they are going through. If that happens, this is easily a playoff team.

Regular Season Record: 44-38

Image result for 2018 detroit pistons team


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