The Cleveland Cavaliers have won this division three years in a row. Will we see them capture a fourth straight Central title in 17-18?
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
16-17 Record: 51-31
Major Additions: Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon
Major Losses: Dahntay Jones, likely Kyrie Irving
The Cavs biggest question mark this offseason is by far the status of PG Kyrie Irving. Irving recently requested a trade from the team, citing New York, San Antonio, Miami, and Minnesota as his preferred destinations. Despite these being the teams Irving would LIKE to play for, the Phoenix Suns currently have the most attractive assets to offer Cleveland for Irving. The presumed trade would be Eric Bledsoe, rookie Josh Jackson, and a 2018 1st round pick in exchange for Irving, though the Suns are reportedly not willing to include Jackson in any trade (per CBS Sports). In my opinion, Koby Altman and the Cavs front office must find a way to make this trade happen. Not only would declining to trade Irving make for a sour locker room but likely Phoenix trade asset, Eric Bledsoe, is very close with LeBron James. Bringing Bledsoe to Cleveland gives them better defense at the point guard position while increasing their chances of retaining James in free agency next summer. If this deal is made, along with the other playmaking pieces the Cavs signed this summer, I see them atop the Central Division again.
17-18 Record Prediction: 49-33
2. Milwaukee Bucks
16-17 Record: 42-40
Major Additions: D.J. Wilson
Major Losses: Jason Terry, Terrence Jones
The Bucks come into this season with a similar roster compared to last year. The team drafted Michigan project, D.J. Wilson, in the first round of the 2017 draft, adding to their plethora of length already in the lineup. Milwaukee will likely not re-sign veteran guard Jason Terry and will also lose PF Terrence Jones to China. As for their core, we all know what Giannis Antetokounmpo brings to the table with length, defensive versatility, playmaking ability, and an innate slashing attribute, all at around 6’11”. PF Jabari Parker is coming off his best season as a pro despite suffering a season ending injury. Expect him to put up 20+ppg on high percentages this year. Two other young talents for the team, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon, should both have increased roles next year as Milwaukee improves. As for the frontcourt, reports are swirling that big men, Greg Monroe, as well as John Henson, are available via trade (per Bleacher Report). We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the summer shakes out for the Deer, but they should finish next year higher in the East, grabbing a home-court playoff spot.
17-18 Record Prediction: 48-34
3. Detroit Pistons
16-17 Record: 37-45
Major Additions: Avery Bradley, Luis Montero, Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver, Luke Kennard
Major Losses: Marcus Morris, Darrun Hilliard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes, Beno Udrih
The Pistons made several franchise-changing moves this off-season. They acquired guard Avery Bradley from the Boston Celtics in exchange for F Marcus Morris. This move led to the departure of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Motor City, as it looks as if Detroit has found its shooting guard for the future. The team also added Duke G/F Luke Kennard with their 1st round pick in the 2017 draft. It’s possible we see Kennard play at the 3 with Bradley at the 2. Last season, the team voiced its uncertainty of the future of its two biggest pieces, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, though with the team yet to move either at this point in the summer, it’s likely the two are in Detroit to start the 17-18 season. Despite the loss of frontcourt depth in the offseason, I don’t think the Pistons will fall completely off the table this year. I predict they challenge for an 8 seed in the East barring injury.
17-18 Record Prediction: 39-43
4. Chicago Bulls
16-17 Record: 41-41
Major Additions: Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday, David Nwaba, Antonio Blakeney
Major Losses: Jimmy Butler, Michael Carter-Williams, Rajon Rondo
The Bulls made one of the biggest trades of the offseason earlier this summer when they moved All-Star guard Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The team also added to their young backcourt with the additions of Justin Holiday, David Nwaba, and Antonio Blakeney. This summer was really about out with the old and in with the new on the Chicago roster. The most intriguing new Bull is rookie Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen has achieved Dirk Nowitzki comparisons dating back to last college ball season when he was with Arizona. His silky-smooth long range jumper and post-potential along with his length on defense were enough for Chicago to select him number 7 overall in the draft. As their rebuild begins it will be interesting to see if one of the high-expectation prospects turns out as a star or whether we see a surprising young player shine. Despite retaining Dwyane Wade, the Jimmy Butler deal made the playoffs well out of reach for Chi-Town.
17-18 Record Prediction: 29-53
5. Indiana Pacers
16-17 Record: 42-40
Major Additions: Victor Oladipo, Cory Joseph, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic
Major Losses: Paul George, Rakeem Christmas, Rodney Stuckey
Indiana’s worst nightmare came true earlier this summer when their star, Paul George, gave them notice he would not be re-signing with the team next offseason. The Pacers made the right move getting him out of Indianapolis before the start of the season, but was it the best they could do? In return for George, Indiana received Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis from the OKC Thunder. Though these two players are fairly young with considerable upside, it’s hard to believe the team couldn’t have squeezed a player like Jamal Murray out of Denver or a fairly high lotto pick from this year’s draft. A young core of Oladipo, Turner, and Leaf could turn out getting them a playoff appearance in 5 years or so, but if I were leading that front office, I would’ve been looking for a younger guard than Oladipo with much higher potential. What Oladipo is now and what he’ll likely be for years to come is a much, much lesser version of a Dwyane Wade type guard. I believe Myles Turner could turn into an Eastern All-Star in even as soon as two years, but as of now the Pacers are probably just praying Marvin Bagley lll is able to re-classify to be available in the draft next year, rather than having their eyes on the 2018 playoffs.
17-18 Record Prediction: 24-58