2011-12 Preview: Central Division

There’s an unwritten rule that every team in this division must adhere to: only one team can do well at a time. The Chicago Bulls were far and away the best team in the Central last year, 25 games better than the Pacers, who finished second. The Pacers, Bucks, Pistons and Cavaliers combined for a .369 winning percentage, finishing 207 games under .500. Since the LeBron James era in Cleveland fizzled, there’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Derrick Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history.

The other four teams in the division don’t have the pieces to win now, but they all have a lot of young players to build around. The Pacers have Paul George, a player who reminds many of an undeveloped Scottie Pippen. The Bucks have Brandon Jennings, who not too long ago scored 55 points in a single game. The Pistons have Austin Daye, a future double-double machine. And the Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in the draft to complement their existing batch of motley talent.

There were some movers and shakers in the division during the condensed off-season. Rip Hamilton, one of the centerpieces to the Pistons’ 2004 championship run, took his talents from Detroit to the Windy City, joining the defending division champs. Former New Orleans All-Star David West signed with Indiana, immediately making them a more dangerous team; albeit losing Josh McRoberts to the Los Angeles Lakers. The always colorful journeyman Stephen Jackson finds his latest home in Milwaukee, where he’ll be the number one option on offense.

With the addition of West, the Pacers may be due to make some noise, not only in the division but in the Eastern Conference. But, until Darren Collison blossoms into a better decision maker and Danny Granger becomes a solidified All-Star, this division will still be the Bulls for the taking.

So, finally, let’s explore the predictions for the upcoming season.

5. Detroit Pistons

Last Season: 30-52, 4th Central

This Season: Things could not have gotten any worse for the Pistons last year. Their core of veteran players refused to listen to their head coach John Kuester, culminating in February when they boycotted a morning shoot-around to voice their displeasure. As punishment, Kuester benched every player who missed the shoot-around in their game against the Philadelphia 76ers that night.

Replacing Kuester as the head coach of the Pistons this season is Lawrence Frank. Teams coached by Frank have a knack for overachieving, just take a look at the New Jersey Net teams that made it all the way to the NBA Finals several times. Since overpaying for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, Pistons’ management has had their hands tied to improve the team via the open market.

With Rip Hamilton’s departure, the rebuilding process officially begins in Detroit. Their most important player, restricted free agent Rodney Stuckey, agreed to terms with the team to extend his contract. Still, the team has no clear identity. They don’t defend well and the Palace at Auburn Hills is turning into a playground. There will be “DETROIT BASKETBALL” this year, it just won’t be played very well.

Next Page: King-less Cleveland, Upstart Bucks

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