The Central Division winner has been what seems like a foregone conclusion lately. The Cleveland Cavaliers led by star LeBron James have been one of the best teams in basketball the last few seasons.
There are teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons on the rise and teams dealing stars on the decline. Stars like Jimmy Butler and Paul George are moving out, which means the division race could be Cleveland’s once again.
Here are my record predictions for each of the five teams in the Central Division.
2016-2017 record: 41-41
2017-2018 prediction: 26-56
It’s a tough fall to lose Jimmy Butler, and the biggest part of that trade is the high draft pick the Bulls get in next year’s draft.
As far as winning now goes, the Bulls are relying on Zach Lavine to carry most of the offensive load.
Taj Gibson and Rajon Rondo are also gone from last year’s team meaning that a lot of offensive weapons have left. Dwyane Wade is currently looking for a buyout which would mean that some of the best offensive weapons could be gone.
The Bulls are going in the rebuilding direction and this season will be a tough one in Chicago.
2016-2017 record: 51-31
2017-2018 prediction: 48-34
The Cavaliers have been the team representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals each of the last three years. Obviously any team with LeBron James is hard to beat. This upcoming season, the Cavaliers are the favorite to win the Central Division.
With lots of teams getting more competitive, the Cavaliers stayed about the same this summer. Losing Kyrie Irving is a big deal due to his ability to create and finish around the rim. However, LeBron is still the best player in basketball and he can carry a team if he needs to.
LeBron and the Cavaliers will still be a top three seed in the Eastern Conference, but there will be a lot more competitive games this season, especially now that Isaiah Thomas is a defensive mismatch.
The Cavaliers are still the team to beat in the East, but I think they took a small step back this offseason.
2016-2017 record: 37-45
2017-2018 prediction: 36-46
Avery Bradley was a huge offseason move for the Detroit Pistons. He has the ability to score offensively and also rebound and defend at a high level for a guard.
Unfortunately the Pistons lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris. Morris and Pope provided scoring that was much needed throughout the year and Baynes and Drummond dominated the boards.
One addition that helps mightily on a somewhat poor shooting team is the drafting of Luke Kennard. Kennard can flat out shoot it and the Pistons will need it to free up Andre Drummond inside.
The Pistons stay about even after the offseason. They lose some offense but add some defense which will help them win the lower scoring games.
2016-2017 record: 42-40
2017-2018 prediction: 33-49
Losing an All-Star in Paul George is a big deal but this Pacers team can still play. Lance Stephenson, Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo are a very good set of players who can be very good for this team.
Myles Turner is going to take a big jump this year and turn into a star and Victor Oladipo will benefit from not having as much pressure around him. The Indiana Pacers may have backtracked but they are still a good enough team to make a playoff push, it just might come up short.
Losing Paul George in the offseason means that your wins will decrease but I think the Indiana Pacers will still be very competitive this season.
2016-2017 record: 42-40
2017-2018 prediction: 47-35
The Milwaukee Bucks return the same core as they did last season, and this season everyone is more experienced.
They add D.J. Wilson out of Michigan and keep virtually the same team. Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo are looking to build off the great seasons they had last year.
The Bucks have built themselves into a team on the rise through the draft. They have a lot of versatile guys who can guard multiple positions.
Come playoff time they will be a hard out and I think that when they play Cleveland they will give them all they can handle.
Featured Image Courtesy of ngscsports.com.
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