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View Full Version : No weak link: Central is new division powerhouse



Will Galen
07-12-2005, 04:41 PM
http://www.sportsline.com/nba/story/8638862

Grand Central

July 11, 2005, By Tony Mejia, CBS SportsLine.com Staff Writer

As a result of last week's free-agency looting, the NBA has a new king in terms of division strength. Once the moratorium on league business ends July 22, the Central will become an absolute beast.

Larry Hughes instantly makes Cleveland a better team. (Getty Images)
Sure, the Southwest houses league champion San Antonio, 50-game winners Dallas and Houston and playoff participant Memphis, but all four fattened their win totals by going a combined 14-2 against New Orleans, which will remain locked in rebuilding mode next season.

Can you spot the weak link in the Central?

The easy answer would be the Bucks, who went 30-52 last season, but they've rapidly upgraded their roster. Within a two-week period, Milwaukee drafted Andrew Bogut, potentially a Top 10 center in the league from Day 1, agreed to re-sign coveted shooting guard Michael Redd and came to terms with Bobby Simmons, the top small forward available on the market.

GM Larry Harris got lucky that the Bucks snatched up the No. 1 pick, but fortune has had nothing to do with his other strong moves. He and his staff identified the players who would help the franchise win immediately and wasted no time setting things in motion. There have been reports the five-year, $47 million dollar deal that Simmons accepted was originally offered to Portland's Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the top power forward available.

"This originally started out as talks in case Michael left, but as we talked more and more, it started to make sense for Bobby even if Michael stayed," Simmons' agent, Mark Bartelstein, told the Associated Press. "So, we just kept talking, and they had enough cap room. It worked out well for both."

How well remains to be seen, but the move likely pushes Desmond Mason back to a sixth-man role, strengthening Milwaukee's bench. If T.J. Ford can come back healthy and form a solid point guard tandem with the promising Maurice Williams, the Bucks promise to not only be good, but good for a long time. The nucleus of the team is young and emerging and should grow collectively under new coach Terry Stotts. They have penetraters, strong mid-range shooters on the wings and a capable young 7-footer. On paper, they sound pretty good, and certainly not worthy of a last-place finish.

How about Cleveland? The Cavs finished fourth in the division last season, collapsing down the stretch and missing the playoffs after losing a tiebreaker with New Jersey.

Try again.

Under new coach Mike Brown, they'll be better defensively, especially after the addition of reigning steals king Larry Hughes.

Hughes will also make them better on offense, giving the Cavs another ball-handler who can create his own shot. LeBron James is only going to be a stronger force in year No. 3, especially with teams unable to key solely on him. If they can hang on to Zydrunas Ilgauskas as well, Cleveland has a "Big Three" on par with any in the league.

There are nice role players around them as well, rebounders Drew Gooden and Anderson Varejao, solid perimeter defender Eric Snow (a capable defender himself) and a potential breakout wing in Sasha Pavlovic. On paper, they sound pretty good, and they certainly are expected to make the playoffs.

Indiana, which finished third last year despite throwing together one makeshift lineup after another, gets Ron Artest back, will have Jermaine O'Neal playing with two healthy shoulders and Jamaal Tinsley running on two healthy feet. Considering how disciplined the Pacers are under Rick Carlisle, they have to be considered a championship contender if all their pieces are back in place. Reggie Miller will be missed, but Stephen Jackson and top pick Danny Granger should find ways to make up for his production. If healthy, they should easily top the 50-victory mark considering they managed to piece together 44 last year.

Chicago comes off its breakout season, and after bringing back Scott Skiles and likely re-signing Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, they should have their young base back in place. Don't forget, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni and Luol Deng were all rookies last year, while Kirk Hinrich played All-Star-caliber ball during the latter part of his second season. Bulls fans have every reason in the world to be excited.

Even if they lose Larry Brown as coach, Detroit is obviously not the weak link, returning the bulk of a squad that was a poor fourth quarter away from repeating as league champion.

Only the fact these teams will have to beat up on one another will keep all five teams from making next year's playoffs, but at this point, it's hard to identify who will wind up staying home.

Consider that even though Milwaukee was clearly the worst team in the division last year, they still finished 8-8 against Central competition. The Pacers actually had the best mark against their divisional brethren, finishing 9-7. These teams are used to competing hard against one another, and the stakes have just gotten higher.

Zesty
07-12-2005, 04:44 PM
This is going to be a very tough division for awhile. Us and Detroit are clearly a cut above the other teams, but they're not going to be slouches.

Suaveness
07-12-2005, 04:47 PM
I can't wait to see how this plays out

foretaz
07-12-2005, 04:55 PM
detroit will be the surprise team in the division....

they wont finish in the top 2....

the house of cards has officially began its crumble...

larry browns situation will have a domino effect....

they have a ticking time bomb....his name is rasheed wallace....and his north carolina buddy will be gone....the more adversity and the less success they have, the more turmoil he will create....and not unlike the strife and dilemmas he created at portland, there will be some tough situations in detroit....though not likely, i wouldnt be surprised to see him traded around the trade deadline...with dice there and darko needing to play....if dumars is smart he just might consider it....a tumultuous first half of the season will make it easier...

Doug in CO
07-12-2005, 05:06 PM
Will - lots of posts, how about commentary once in a while - anyone can copy/paste - you have good insights, please share them with your copy/paste work more often

As for this article, it will be awfully hard for a Central team to have the best record in the East for a long time. Cleveland is better - but they do not scare me. I think Milwaukee with a healthy TJ Ford could give us fits. The Bucks always beat us.

PHC Fan
07-12-2005, 05:14 PM
And, the Pacers will be the powerhouse of the powerhouse division.

Diamond Dave
07-12-2005, 05:29 PM
If Rasheed is a ticking time bomb, then does that make Artest a potential Super Nova?

Kstat
07-12-2005, 05:35 PM
If Rasheed is a ticking time bomb, then does that make Artest a potential Super Nova?

It's my greatest fear that someday Ron will implode like a neutron star and envelop all of us into oblivion.

Suaveness
07-12-2005, 05:43 PM
It's my greatest fear that someday Ron will implode like a neutron star and envelop all of us into oblivion.

If that's the case, can we ship him out to the Pluto Basketball League? I mean, might as well get rid of them rather than us...

Will Galen
07-12-2005, 05:54 PM
Will - lots of posts, how about commentary once in a while - anyone can copy/paste - you have good insights, please share them with your copy/paste work more often.

Well . . . . . . thank you!

I don't know how to respond.

There's not much going on right now so I've been surfing the net to find interesting articles that I think the forum would be interested in. Sometimes I comment and other times I don't. Often I comment after I read other opinions.

The truth is I didn't think people pay/ed much attention to my insights one way or the other. People don't often argue a point with me. Or maybe it's the other way around, I state my opinion and then shut up. (grin)

I've always confessed I'm not a x and o type fan, so I mainly leave that to others. Since I'm not an expert I form my opinions by paying attention to the known experts, (coaches, etc.) and looking at stats. I of course listen to opinions on here too, although I don't give them as much weight as coaches. So sometimes I post just to get more knowledgeable opinions.

Really I'm shocked that anyone wants more from me. Truly!

Now you've did it, you've made me self conscious! (smile) :blush:

Will Galen
07-12-2005, 05:56 PM
detroit will be the surprise team in the division....

they wont finish in the top 2....

the house of cards has officially began its crumble...

larry browns situation will have a domino effect....

they have a ticking time bomb....his name is rasheed wallace....and his north carolina buddy will be gone....the more adversity and the less success they have, the more turmoil he will create....and not unlike the strife and dilemmas he created at portland, there will be some tough situations in detroit....though not likely, i wouldnt be surprised to see him traded around the trade deadline...with dice there and darko needing to play....if dumars is smart he just might consider it....a tumultuous first half of the season will make it easier...

Probably more wishful thinking, than what will happen.

foretaz
07-12-2005, 05:57 PM
Well . . . . . . thank you!

I don't know how to respond.

There's not much going on right now so I've been surfing the net to find interesting articles that I think the forum would be interested in. Sometimes I comment and other times I don't. Often I comment after I read other opinions.

The truth is I didn't think people pay/ed much attention to my insights one way or the other. People don't often argue a point with me. Or maybe it's the other way around, I state my opinion and then shut up. (grin)

I've always confessed I'm not a x and o type fan, so I mainly leave that to others. Since I'm not an expert I form my opinions by paying attention to the known experts, (coaches, etc.) and looking at stats. I of course listen to opinions on here too, although I don't give them as much weight as coaches. So sometimes I post just to get more knowledgeable opinions.

Really I'm shocked that anyone wants more from me. Truly!

Now you've did it, you've made me self conscious! (smile) :blush:

i like ur contributions will....

everytime i see ur avatar i cant help but smile ;)

shags
07-12-2005, 05:59 PM
If Rasheed is a ticking time bomb, then does that make Artest a potential Super Nova?

:laugh:

And Kstat, :laugh: at the reply.

SoupIsGood
07-12-2005, 06:01 PM
Well . . . . . . thank you!

I don't know how to respond.

There's not much going on right now so I've been surfing the net to find interesting articles that I think the forum would be interested in. Sometimes I comment and other times I don't. Often I comment after I read other opinions.

The truth is I didn't think people pay/ed much attention to my insights one way or the other. People don't often argue a point with me. Or maybe it's the other way around, I state my opinion and then shut up. (grin)

I've always confessed I'm not a x and o type fan, so I mainly leave that to others. Since I'm not an expert I form my opinions by paying attention to the known experts, (coaches, etc.) and looking at stats. I of course listen to opinions on here too, although I don't give them as much weight as coaches. So sometimes I post just to get more knowledgeable opinions.

Really I'm shocked that anyone wants more from me. Truly!

Now you've did it, you've made me self conscious! (smile) :blush:

I'm with Doug on this one. :)

Knucklehead Warrior
07-12-2005, 06:41 PM
Yeah, the central will be even tougher than last year. Sorry Will.

Ultimate Frisbee
07-12-2005, 07:59 PM
Do you think this is the best division in the NBA now?

Hicks
07-13-2005, 12:58 AM
Cleaned this up.