Thursday, June 16, 2011

NBA Season Review Part II: The Central Division

Hey everyone,

This is Part 2 of a six part series, looking at NBA season gone by. It’s been a tremendously fun season with the Mavericks emerging as the champions. As the league heads to a probable lockout, no is as good as any to review the great season gone by. So read, enjoy and as always comment away.

The Central division, the division comprising the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks hasn’t been a really competitive division in a long time. However, they remain a division where even the weaker teams often are scrappy enough to win a few games here and there. This season, the Central Division was home to the leader of the Eastern Conference the Chicago Bulls. The only other team to make the playoffs, were the Indiana Pacers, who were 25 games behind. That should tell you all you need to know about the division’s strength.

Chicago Bulls

Regular Season Record: 62-20 (1st in the Central Division, 1st in the Eastern Conference)


1st Round – Beat Indiana Pacers 4 - 1

2nd Round – Beat the Atlanta Hawks 4 – 2

Conference Finals – Lost to the Miami Heat 1 - 4

Major Personnel Moves:

Traded James Johnson for a second round draft pick from the Raptors

The Bulls management went all out in the free-agent bonanza of 2010 trying to bring Wade home to Chicago, or sell LeBron on playing with Derrick Rose. But Rose stayed away from it all and didn’t bother inviting anybody to join him. They, in the end, landed up with Carlos Boozer. With the signing of Carlos Boozer, the Bulls fans were definitely positive going into this season. A young core of Rose, Noah and Deng was believed to be a good base for Boozer to come in and make them a top 4 team in the East. But even the most ardent Bulls fan cannot honestly tell you that they expected the Bulls to be this good. Rose had a magnificent year (winning the league MVP) and the Bulls finished with the best record in the NBA.

A starting line up of Rose, Bogans, Deng, Boozer and Noah may not have sounded imposing pre-season but they developed into a fighting unit. In the injury absences of Noah and Boozer the likes of Taj Gibson, Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik really stepped up and there, for me lay the Bulls strength. Depth. A bench with Watson, Brewer, Gibson, Asik, Korver and Thomas worked their tails off all season to deliver this record.

The one disappointment of the season was Boozer, who to me, never really fit in. Leaky defensively as always, his offense never really picked up in the playoffs and that was for me the reason the Heat were able to overpower them. Where do the Bulls go from here? They either need to find a way to fit Boozer in their scheme of things or look for a trade, either for a starting level power forward, or a clutch of offensive role players with Gibson sliding up to the 4. Also, to end this section I have to say, Rose is a stud.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Regular Season Record: 19-63 (5th in the Central Division, 15th in the Eastern Conference)

Playoffs: -

Major Personnel Moves:

Traded Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and the Clippers’ first round pick

Not very often, do you get the opportunity to deem a team’s season a success when they’ve performed so badly. 2nd worst record in the NBA, trading for a bad contract (Baron Davis). You would think this was as bad as could get. Yet, in the aftermath of “the Decision”, this was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Cavaliers. Rather than hanging around the 30 win mark, neither reaching the playoffs or getting high picks in a weak draft, the Cavs chose to trade away their best player (after LeBron) Williams and Moon for (primarily) the Clippers’ draft pick.

They landed the 4th pick of the NBA draft, along with the pick they received from the Clippers turning into the number 1 pick (Clippers’ curse anyone?). The Clippers traded away the pick citing a weak draft, but they’re probably livid with themselves for trading away what eventually became the number one pick. The Cavaliers’ current roster, to me, is filled with only players who could be role players for various teams. So a complete overhaul is an absolute must. With some smart drafting and developing their roster much like the Thunder, hopefully the Cavs will re-emerge from the LeBron fiasco, better equipped and develop into a powerful roster 4-5 years down the line.

Detroit Pistons

Regular Season Record: 30-52 (4th in the Central Divison, 11th in the Eastern Conference)


1st Round: Lost to the Miami Heat 1-4

Major Personnel Moves: NONE

Detroit just had one God awful season. No other way put. Throughout the season, the Pistons’ inexperience at the point just shone through and really cost them multiple wins throughout. It was a tremendous struggle not just for the players but the fans and viewers as well, as an honestly decently talented roster comprising, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villenueva and the two past-their-prime pro’s Tracy McGrady and Ben Wallace should have been much better than they were.

To top their on the court issues came the off-the-court spat between Hamilton and the coach John Kuester, leading to him being benched. To make matters worse, many in the team rose in a “mutiny” leading to half the team (most of the contributors) being benched for a couple of games (as if they could afford it).

Kuester’s now been sacked. The only way I see this Pistons team going anywhere is if they’re each playing for a different team. Sorry but Detroit will have to rebuild totally, replacing their injury prone vets, with enthusiastic rookies and their sulking stars with hard working role players.

ilwaukee Bucks

Regular Season Record: 35-47 (3th in the Atlantic Division,9th in the Eastern Conference)

Playoffs: NIL

Major Personnel Moves: -

I must admit to being mildly disappointed. I didn’t really expect them to be a 50+ win team. But definitely I did expect them to make the playoffs at least. Brandon Jennings didn’t really take off from his great start to his rookie season last year. Averaging around 16 points and 5 assists normally might sound pretty good but at a FG% of 39% & 3PT% 32% are area’s he just must improve. Also 5 3-pt attempts a game is way too much.

Another factor for the Bucks’ season (as usual) was injuries. Michael Redd missed most of the season (again). Encouragingly Andrew Bogut got through 65 games this season. However, Jennings’ injury around the all star break hurt the team big time.

With some solid drafting, maybe a trade involving Redd and some much-needed injury-free continuity, Milwaukee seem to be a team capable of making a string of playoff appearances over the next few years.

Indiana Pacers

Regular Season Record: 37-45 (2nd in the Central division, 8th in the Eastern Conference)


1st Round: Lost to the Chicago Bulls t 1-4

Major Personnel Moves:

Traded Troy Murphy for Darren Collison& James Posey (Through a 4-team trade involving New Jersey, Houston and New Orleans)

Indiana is one of those teams you root for when you watch. They had a VERY ordinary season under Jim O’Brien and he paid with his job. Frank Vogel then stepped in as “interim” coach and did a great job of getting the team to playoff-level basketball.Still you always get the feeling that Danny Granger isn’t a guy you want to build a team around.

The trade for Darren Collison for me was a great move (even though it came with James Posey’s utterly loony contract). Collison gives Indian a great point guard who will gel well with Roy Hibbert and Granger looking ahead a few years. The other big positive for the Pacers, was Hibbert’s breakthrough year. He finally has begun to look every bit the bright prospect he was always looked like he could be and hopefully will carry on in the same vein. Tyler Hansborough is an NCAA legend, holding multiple records at that level. He had a injury-affected poor rookie season but bounced back well to impress quite a few with his active play.

The Pacers look a talented bunch and in my opinion (if they stay healthy) will be a playoff fixture every year. However, I still feel they’re one big talent away from really threatening the likes of Boston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta. Hopefully, either they find one or one of their players turns up their production several notches. Keep an eye on this team. They might not be as good a developing team as the Thunder, but they’re definitely worth your attention.

Well that’s a wrap of the Central Division, will write again in a while, covering the remaining 4 divisions of the NBA. Here's my Atlantic Division review. Thanks for reading, comment away.

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