Sunday, November 2, 2008

2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Central

1. Detriot Pistons: It'll be closer this year, but I think Detriot will still edge out Cleveland for the division crown. They have one of the best starting lineups in the league, though they have struggled to find a consistent #5 starter. McDyess is starting to show signs of age, so I think they will start either Jason Maxiell or Amir Johnson. Both have interesting defensive potential. None of those players or Kwame will get enough minutes to be productive, however. This squad has excellent depth and they can go 2-deep at every position. I like how they are starting to rely on their young player more, but that could be trouble in terms of fantasy basketball. Outside of their 4 main players, its hard to recommend picking up anyone else on this team since they won't get enough playing time. Stuckey is being pimped as the 6th starter, though I'm not sure he'll get consistent minutes behind Billups and Hamilton. Herrmann is usually overlooked on the bench, but he's a big man who can shoot the lights out. I'd like to see him get more minutes this year. I expect great defense and teamwork from this team. They are second tier title contenders.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Any team with Lebron James can be considered a contender. He's a one-man wreaking crew and has a good shot at winning MVP this year. The addition of Mo Williams will definitely help this team out. Mainly I like his ability to create his own shots and score. He has a nice outside shot and should be a good complement to Lebron. The SG spot is up for grabs; I think Delonte West, Wally World, Sasha Pavlovic and Boobie Gibson will take turns having big nights. All of them can shoot the ball wall and stretch out the defense. But I don't think any of them will get consistent minutes. PF is a big question mark for me. Ben Wallace is clearly over the hill and is a step slower than in previous years. They are better off playing Varejao and Hickson more minutes. But none of those guys will provide any semblance of an offensive game. Ilgauskas is steady and solid at the C spot. This roster doesn't look particularly intimidating, but they will be competitive in the East. This team plays good defense, and has enough shooters to compete on any given night. But chances are they will be stuck in the #4 playoff spot again.

3. Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose looks better than advertised. While I don't like their logjam at the SG position, this Chicago team should improve on last year's record. Hinrich gives them a veteran combo guard who can take over the PG role when Rose is on the bench. Gordon is instant offense off of the bench. I'm not really sure where Sefolosha or Hughes fit into all of this. I prefer Sefolosha because of his defense, and his overall play. He's not a chunker and ballhog like Hughes. Deng is rock solid at the SF position. Let's see if he will be able to take the next step to all-star level. Tyrus Thomas is primed for a breakout season. He'll put up huge rebound and block numbers. But needs to hit that jumpshot consistently and stay focused throughout the game. That leaves Nocioni and Noah buried on the bench, however. As it looks like Chicago will start Gooden at the C position. They need to do some trades to get rid of some of their talent. Less is more. They need a legit inside presence to compete.

4. Indiana Pacers: Their roster got a major overhaul during the summer. It'll take some time for everyone to get acquainted to one another, but I think they can be a borderline playoff team. Ford and Jack at the PG spot is a definite upgrade from an injured Tinsley and Diener from last year. Hopefully Ford can stay healthy. Dunleavy and Granger are solid at the SG and SF spots, though Dunleavy is currently injured. I wonder if Brandon Rush will be able to get consistent minutes on this team. Murphy should return to double-double form if he gets enough minutes at PF. He won't have to play out of position at C anymore. He'll also shoot a decent number of 3's throughout the season. The C spot is a big mess. The Pacers have Foster, Nesterovic and Hibbert; none of whom are quality centers. Their roster may not look particular impressive on paper, but they play hard, and find ways to win. Don't sleep on this young Indiana team, they could sneak into the playoffs. Granger is a star in the making.

5. Milwaukee Bucks: On paper, this team has some nice talent, but I'm not sure how everything is going to mesh together. Michael Redd is their main star, and he should score in bunches once again. He finally has a consistent second banana in Richard Jefferson, who adds some toughness to this team. Villanueva at PF is as inconsistent as they come. He can alternate between 20 and 5 point games all year long. But does not play a lick of defense. Those 3 players will throw up a ton of shots, so I'm not sure where that will leave Bogut. He needs the ball in his hands to be successful. And it looks like he won't get many touches or shots this year. Can he compensate for them by crashing the boards and improving on his block numbers from last year? The PG spot is a question mark. I like Sessions's potential, but it looks like he'll have trouble getting off of the bench with Ridnour as the starter. Both are more than capable of running this offense, and can put up huge assist numbers. But a time split would hurt both of their value. Will Joe Alexander get any playing time? None of their bench players really stands out at all.

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