NBA Predictions: Central Division

The long wait for the 2019-2020 NBA season is almost over as the season will tip off Tuesday evening on TNT. With old faces in new places and highly touted rookies ready to make their NBA debut, there is a lot of excitement going into this season. This could be one of the most competitive seasons the NBA has seen in a long time thanks to the moves teams made in free agency. Unfortunately, the same thing can not be said about the Central division in the Eastern Conference. While teams did make moves, it did not do much to change the overall scope of competitiveness in the division. The Milwaukee Bucks are the clear favorites to win the division and will be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. As for the rest of the division, the Indiana Pacers are waiting for their top star Victor Oladipo to return from an injury that forced him to miss the tail end of last season and the postseason. The Detroit Pistons made some solid additions in Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Joe Johnson but those additions will not help them contend in the East. To round out the field, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls are both locked into rebuilds and won’t be contending any time soon. So, spoiler alert, I have the Milwaukee Bucks winning the Central division sorry for robbing you of any suspense. Here’s how I have the Central division playing out!

Milwaukee Bucks: 61-21

I don’t think it should come as a shock to anyone that the Milwaukee Bucks are the clear favorites to win the Central division. Following a season where the Bucks finished 60-22 in the regular season losing to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks bounced back and had a terrific offseason. Even after losing Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic to free agency, the Bucks were able to re-sign Khris Middleton and acquired Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, and Robin Lopez to make up for their losses. The additions of Matthews and Korver make them a much better shooting team than they already were last season while Lopez adds to the Bucks defensive presence down low. The Bucks are so good I haven’t even mentioned that they already have Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, George Hill, and Ersan Ilyasova. This team is so loaded I fully expect them to be a major player in the Eastern Conference and a contender to make it to the NBA Finals.

Detroit Pistons: 47-35

Since the Detroit Pistons acquired Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers, they have played well below what was expected from them. He and Andre Drummond were supposed to stake their claim as one of the best frontcourts in the NBA and while they are very good, it has not led to team success. A big reason for this is their lackluster backcourt which was a point of emphasis for the Pistons in the offseason. As previously mentioned, the Pistons made some nice additions to their backcourt in Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Joe Johnson during free agency. Now with slightly more depth with their new additions, this could be the Pistons’ year where they show how good they could be. The play of their backcourt will determine how good the Pistons can truly be in the Eastern Conference. If their backcourt has a good enough season, I can see them challenging for a top five seed in the East. If not, they will be fighting for a lower seed in the playoffs and in danger of missing the playoffs completely.

Indiana Pacers: 43-39

If Victor Oladipo were healthy, I would easily have the Pacers finishing second place in the Central division. However, since he may not be back any time soon, I have the Pacers finishing third in the division. Before Victor Oladipo went down with a season ending injuiry, the Pacers boasted the third best record in the East at 25-11. Following his injury, the team finished 23-23 dropping to the fifth seed and were swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. The Pacers did well this offseason to cover for Oladipo’s absence making some nice additions namely their acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon from the Milwaukee Bucks. Brogdon gives the Pacers a threat on both sides of the ball especially on defense that was the team’s strong suit last season. The one area that worries me for the Pacers is consistent scoring down the stretch. If the Pacers are able to find consistent scoring whether it be from Brogdon, Myles Turner, Domatas Sabonis, Doug McDermott or new addition Jeremy Lamb, the Pacers could perform above expectations.

Chicago Bulls: 30-52

The Chicago Bulls have a very bright future as they have accumulated some great talent as they continue their rebuilding process. Over the past few seasons, the Bulls have accumulated some solid young talent that could lead the team back to prominence over the course of the next few years. The Bulls have done well acquiring young stars via midseason and draft trades. The Bulls have acquired the following players via trade: Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, Otto Porter Jr. (via midseason trade), and Lauri Markkanen, (via draft night trade). They have also done well in the draft picking young stars Wendell Carter and their most recent draft pick Coby White. They still have a ways to go but they will show signs that they will be a possible contender in the Eastern Conference this season. As for now, they will be in the lottery for the next few years.

Cleveland Cavaliers: 18-64

It seems that the Cavaliers have returned to the dark days of the 2010-2014 years where they are trying to recover from losing their star franchise player LeBron James. What makes this time worse is they also lost All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love has struggled to remain healthy with four years remaining on a contract that will pay him $120 million until the 2022-2023 season. The Cavs have some solid young talent in Jordan Clarkason, Larry Nance Jr., Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman but these players have not proven themselves as leaders. When plugged in as role players behind LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, they are very effective. However, when they are the best players on the team, it will be difficult for Cleveland to accumulate wins in the near future.

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