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NBA training camps are in full swing and the Central Division teams are preparing for one of the most highly contested competitions in the league.
Last year’s Central Division winners, the Milwaukee Bucks, still project to be the strongest in their batch. However, massive improvements from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons will make the division much more interesting. Don’t count out the Chicago Bulls either, who are sure to rise as their health improves.
With their rosters near completion, let’s take a look at the teams competing for the Central Division crown!
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Don’t be mistaken, the Central Division will be highly contested. However, at the peak of their strength, there still isn’t a team that can match the quality of the Bucks over 82 games. If they can manage their health, the Bucks should be on their way to another division crown.
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Coach: Mike Budenholzer
2021-22 Record: 51-31 (1st in Central, 3rd in East)
2021-22 Result: Lost in NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (3-4 vs. BOS)
Key Additions: (F) Joe Ingles, (G) MaJon Beauchamp
Key Losses: (F) Jordan Nwora
Khris x Jrue x Giannis ?#NBAMediaDay pic.twitter.com/MmJvjfP53Y
— NBA (@NBA) September 25, 2022
Mike Budenholzer’s Milwaukee Bucks looked like one of the favorites to win the NBA Championship last year. However, some unfortunate play and injuries led to them being knocked out before the Conference Finals.
The Bucks chose to re-tool rather than rebuild this offseason. They re-signed seven players from last year’s run, showing the faith they have in their players and program. It’s clear that the Bucks still see themselves as a contender.
While they are another year older, the Bucks still play through star man Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the likes of Khris Middleton and the supporting cast can remain healthy, there’s no reason to think the Bucks can’t repeat as winners of the Central Division.
Coach: J.B. Bickerstaff
2021-22 Record: 44-38 (3rd in Central, 8th in East)
2021-22 Result: Lost in Eastern Conference Play-In
Key Additions: (G) Donovan Mitchell, (G) Ricky Rubio, (C) Robin Lopez
Key Losses: (G) Collin Sexton, (F) Lauri Markkanen, (G) Rajon Rondo
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) September 22, 2022
The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised many last season, making their way to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference through the efforts of first-time All-Star Darius Garland and rookie sensation Evan Mobley. With sudden success, the Cleveland front office decided it was time to add a true NBA star to the team.
Cavaliers general manager Mike Gansey traded three promising young players and three first-round draft picks to bring in All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. By bringing in the former Utah Jazz star, the Cavaliers have bolstered their promising ranks with a true first option with excellent playoff experience.
Don’t sleep on the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. They retain their giant frontcourt and now have one of the league’s best scoring backcourts in their employ. They lack the experience to suggest they can challenge for the top, but they certainly have all the talent to push for the division crown.
Coach: Billy Donovan
2021-22 Record: 46-36 (2nd in Central, 6th in East)
2021-22 Result: Lost in NBA Eastern Conference First Round (1-4 vs. MIL)
Key Additions: (C) Andre Drummond, (G) Dalen Terry, (G) Goran Dragic
Key Losses: (C) Tristan Thompson, (G) Matt Thomas
DeMar on the East: “I love the competitive island that the East is on. That’s what brings the best out of you, when you have the best around you. Put me in a room with the best it’s gonna bring the best out in me.” pic.twitter.com/Vx1RjLxgp0
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) September 26, 2022
The Chicago Bulls bounced back from mediocrity last season after putting out one of the NBA’s more threatening offensive units. Had they not capitulated near the end of the season, going 7-15 in their last 22 games, they likely would’ve been more competitive come playoff time.
While the Bulls didn’t have the most exciting offseason, the prospect of good health and a year of experience gives them a much more positive outlook than the sportsbooks suggest. Should the likes of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso return to the backcourt, their defensive issues are suddenly less prevalent.
The potential of this Chicago Bulls roster is probably being underrated due to their poor playoff performance. With a clean bill of health and newly added veteran experience, Chicago could certainly give the Bucks something to worry about in the Central Division.
Coach: Dwane Casey
2021-22 Record: 23-59 (4th in Central, 14th in East)
2021-22 Result: Failed to qualify for NBA Playoffs
Key Additions: (F) Bojan Bogdanovic, (G) Alec Burks, (G) Jaden Ivey
Key Losses: (F) Jerami Grant, (C) Kelly Olynyk, (G) Frank Jackson
.@CadeCunningham_ ➡️ @MB3FIVE pic.twitter.com/oypjW5l5wf
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) September 25, 2022
The Detroit Pistons are tired of competing for lottery picks. After an eventful draft and offseason, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has assembled one of Detroit’s most talented teams in years. It’ll be up to veteran head coach Dwane Casey to put it all together.
The outlook of the Pistons is incredibly promising due to their combination of youth and team balance. Add to that the stellar play of young star Cade Cunningham, the Pistons certainly aren’t lacking for talent.
When it comes to Detroit’s success, the key factor will be how consistent they can be. Talent is one thing, but their lack of overall experience is apparent. Don’t expect them to steal the division crown, but with the right guidance they could make their first run for the playoffs in a long while.
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Coach: Rick Carlisle
2021-22 Record: 25-57 (4th in Central, 13th in East)
2021-22 Result: Failed to qualify for NBA Playoffs
Key Additions: (G-F) Benedict Mathurin, (G) Andrew Nembhard, (C) Daniel Theis
Key Losses: (G) Malcolm Brogdon, (F) T.J. Warren, (G) Lance Stephenson
get ready Pacers fans, @BennMathurin is all in. pic.twitter.com/KmFkOeiMOc
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) September 26, 2022
Without question, the Indiana Pacers are in a rebuilding phase. While they retained Myles Turner to open the season, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before he is moved on for future assets. Despite that, the Pacers have a clear direction, starting with Tyrese Haliburton and their young Canadian stars.
For Indiana, building around Tyrese Haliburton as the core of their future roster is priority number one. Joining him are a promising Canadian rookie duo Benedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, who are expected to be day one contributors. As they transition toward a more modern NBA offence, there are sure to be some growing pains.
For head coach Rick Carlisle, the Pacers’ defence is the biggest issue. They’re not excellent slowing down their opponents on the perimeter, but Turner remains a force when protecting the rim. Don’t expect the Pacers to finish outside of the lottery, they’re not a team that’ll be competing for a playoff spot.
Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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