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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBA Season Preview: Central Division

What a difference an NBA off-season can make. We all know about how #6 jumped ship and left e-Mo Williams crying at the alter (this song probably sums up how e-Mo feels). That move alone shifted the whole balance of the standings (to quote Kanye, no one man should have all that power). But that wasn't the only significant change in the Central. The Chicago Bulls successfully managed to acquire every relevant Utah Jazz member not named "Deron". Indiana finally landed the point guard they've been needing since, well, ever. Detroit was silly enough to give ol' man river a deal and a shot at playing time (while competing with 8 other guard/forwards. Motivation? Not so much).

But who is the cream on the Central Division crop? Here's my view, weakest to strongest (with Vegas odds of each team's title chances). Remember, gambling is illegal so no blaming us if you get "the man" on your back.

5. Detroit Pistons 100 to 1

The Pistons used to be somebodies. They used to be contenders. Then they did something that made everyone scratch their heads; traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson (and we all see how that worked out for them). Now they are experimenting with another 30+ vet with something to prove but also with a history of injuries. If Tracy McGrady can make it through the season and put up a respectable 15+ ppg than the move doesn't look that bad, but T-Mac has to not only stay healthy, he also has to compete with Austin Daye, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshawn Prince for playing time. Maybe Joe Dumars has lost that magic that got the Pistons to the back to back playoffs appearances. Maybe they should bring back Rasheed Wallace and start another arena brawl. That might be the most exciting thing for Pistons this season.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers 100 to 1

All Mo Williams jokes aside, Cleveland too a very bit hit this summer. The franchise went to perennial title contenders to lottery team virtually overnight. And who's slotted to replace #6 as the starting small forward? The great Jamario Moon and his career 7 ppg ladies and gentlemen! Cavs fans can look forward to one thing this season: cheap tickets and the J.J. Hickson project. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this isn't quite what Antawn Jamison and Byron Scott signed up for.

3. Indiana Pacers 100 to 1

Raise your hand if you knew the Pacers were only 9 games under .500 last season... Yes, they lost 50 games, but considering their point guards were Earl Watson and the Get Along Gang, that ain't as bad as it looks. Bring in Darren Collison (who put up 18.8/9/3.5 filling in for Chris Paul as a rookie last season) and put him together with Danny Granger and that should be good for a few more W's. Losing Troy Murphy may hurt a tad, but if Roy Hibbert can learn how to rebound as a 7-footer should they should be ok. Watch  out for rookie Paul George (and someone please get Lance Stephenson anger management classes or relationship counseling).

2. Milwaukee Bucks 40 to 1

Quietly, the Bucks had a solid off season by picking up Corey Maggette (who gets more calls than anyone this side of Kobe) swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts from NJ and the human suitcase who goes by Drew Gooden (playing for his seventh team in FOUR YEARS! He should try to play for every team in the world; why settle for just the NBA?) But the Bucks biggest addition may be the return of Andrew Bogut, who was an all-star before that nasty arm injury late last season. If PG Brandon Jennings can improve his shot selection and avoid the sophomore slump the Bucks should contend for a middle playoff seed. But a lack of depth in the paint will keep them from serious contention.

1. Chicago Bulls 18 to 1

Don't look now but the Chicago J... I mean Bulls are back amongst the NBA's elite, led by all-star point Derrick Rose. Even though the Bulls missed on adding #6 in free agency, they were aggressive and added Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and sharp shooter Kyle Korver from the Jazz's playoff teams to go with Rose, Joakim Noah's pony tail and Luol Deng (who seems to have been on the trading block since birth). The Bulls reluctance to include Noah in a trade for Carmelo Anthony may prove to be a very smart move as they need to size to contend with Boston & Miami for the Eastern crown. I like the Bulls chances, and like Rose and Slim Chin say (that Asian guy that's in all the recent comedies) "Fast Don't Lie" (I have no idea what that means exactly, but it's still funny).


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