2018/19 NBA Team Analysis – Eastern Conference’s Central Division

By Michael Wynn
Published on October 07, 2018
NBA Team Analysis

I’m back again, just as I promised I’d be!

I already released my preview of the Atlantic Division, so now it’s time to shift gears.

I’m going to stay in the Eastern Conference for now, as this blog is all about the Central Division.

It’s been all about LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers ever since he rejoined the team in 2014, but things are about to change.

Frankly, the Cavs could be amongst the worst teams in all of the NBA, because that’s what tends to happen when you lose a player of LeBron’s caliber.

So what does that all mean in terms of what to expect in 2018/2019?

Is it time for the Greek Freak to take over and bring a divisional crown to the city of Milwaukee for the first time since 2001? Or will it be the Pacers or Pistons who can get hot and win close to 50 games?

Personally, I wouldn’t count out the Chicago Bulls just yet, as they have made some serious strides this offseason to get back to being a contender.

All this means is that the Eastern Conference’s Central Division is completely up for grabs as we open the year, and I can’t wait to see who seizes control!

Follow along below and get my thoughts on how each team’s year will go as I compare the talent that departed with what was brought in.

Chicago Bulls

  • 2017/2018 Record: 27-55 (13th in the East)
  • Key Additions: Wendell Carter Jr. (via draft), Chandler Hutchison (via draft), Jabari Parker (free agent)
  • Key Losses: Jerian Grant (traded to Orlando),Sean Kilpatrick (waived), David Nwaba (signed with Cleveland)

The Chicago Bulls had what looks to be a successful offseason on paper, although how it pans out on the court will be the ultimate sign of whether or not this team is heading in the right direction.

Matching a $78 million offer sheet for Zach Lavine tells me this team wants to be a factor in the somewhat “up in the air” Eastern Conference right now, and boy, did they draft accordingly.

Wendell Carter Jr. can plug in right away as a starting frontcourt player, and swingman Chandler Hutchison’s potential is through the roof.

With into a more athletic version of Dirk Nowitzki, watch out for the Bulls as a serious team on the rise.

Season Outlook

Despite winning an embarrassing 27 games last season, look for Chicago to be a hungry young team who challenges for a playoff spot.

I didn’t even mention Kris Dunn or the addition of Jabari Parker, but this team has oodles of talent.

They’ll just need to put it all together as the season progresses.

Fred Hoiberg will be in his fourth year coaching this team, and I can promise you one thing. If Chicago struggles to win 30 games again, it will most certainly be his last.

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • 2017/2018 Record: 50-32 (4th seed in the East;lost to GSW in the NBA Finals 4-0)
  • Key Additions: Collin Sexton (via draft), Sam Dekker (trade)
  • Key Losses: LeBron James (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers), Jeff Green (signed with Washington)

The tide changes in Cleveland as the LeBron James era is now officially over.

Kevin Love assumes the role as the new team leader, and I can tell you that fans in Cleveland are amped up about their rookie point guard, Collin Sexton.

It’s not all smiles, though, as there should be growing pains for Ty Lue, and I expect owner Dan Gilbert to voice some frustration at some point.

How long the likes of J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson continue playing in “The Land” remains to be seen, but I envision we’ll see more roster turnover for the Cavs as the season goes by.

Speaking of Tristan Thompson, is this guy serious?

One minute, he is in the news for apparently cheating on Khloe Kardashian, and the next minute, he’s in front of ESPN cameras telling them that .

I couldn’t take this dude seriously before, and making comments as absurd as that doesn’t give you any more credibility, Mr. Thompson!

Season Outlook

The last time LeBron left Cleveland, it wasn’t pretty. The team went from first to worst- quite literally.

This group shouldn’t experience the torrential drop-off they did back in 2010/2011 when they won only 19 games, but expect to see the Cavaliers as one of the bottom three teams rounding the East when the regular season ends.

Detroit Pistons

  • 2017/2018 Record: 39-43 (9th in the East)
  • Key Additions: Zaza Pachulia (free agent), Glenn Robinson III (free agent)
  • Key Losses: Anthony Tolliver (signed with Minnesota)

As you can see, not a whole lot has changed with the roster in Detroit. What has changed is the man leading the charge, as former Toronto head coach Dwane Casey now gets a shot with the Pistons.

He’s excited about having Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in his frontcourt, and point guard Reggie Jackson’s ankle should be healthy soon.

If Detroit can see youngsters like Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard take the next step, then Casey should be able to guide this team to the postseason.

Once they get there, I imagine they’ll have their hands full, though, as Detroit is still without a serious threat on the perimeter.

I know Blake has been working on his outside jumper, but he can do a lot more damage inside the paint where he can utilize his quickness around the basket.

Season Outlook

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference with a lot of moving parts wasn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Now with Stan Van Gundy out of the picture, this franchise can concentrate on building for the future.

They could be a fringe playoff team, but they’re still a bonafide wing player away from being a legitimate contender.

Indiana Pacers

  • 2017/2018 Record: 48-34 (5th in the East; lost 4-3 in the first round to Cleveland)
  • Key Additions: Tyreke Evans (free agent), Aaron Holiday (via draft), Doug McDermott (free agent)
  • Key Losses: Lance Stephenson (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers), Glenn Robinson III (signed with Detroit)

The Indiana Pacers were one of the great stories in the NBA last year, as they came about as close to knocking off King James as a team could without getting over the hump.

Victor Oladipo exploded, averaging more than 23 points a game to go with 5+ rebounds and 4+ assists, and Bojan Bogdanovic turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

The question is, can Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis continue developing their offensive games?

If so, this team could shock a lot of people around the NBA this upcoming year. Bringing in Tyreke Evans after playing fantastically in Memphis should only help glue this young core together, giving fans in Indy plenty to be excited about.

Season Outlook

Losing the Playoff series to Cleveland in the heartbreaking fashion they did is only going to serve this team well as they start the year with a fresh slate.

The Pacers know they can contend with anyone in the East, which is why they’ll be a decent choice to earn a top-4 seed, likely capturing the Central Division in the process.

Unless, of course, the Milwaukee Bucks have something to say about that. And, ladies and gentlemen, something tells me they will.

Milwaukee Bucks

  • 2017/2018 Record: 44-38 (7th in the East; lost 4-3 in the first round to Boston)
  • Key Additions: Donte DiVincenzo (via draft), Ersan Ilyasova (free agent), Brook Lopez (free agent)
  • Key Losses: Jabari Parker (signed with Chicago)

The Jason Kidd era ended midway through the season, and now Mike Budenholzer gets a shot with an uber-talented roster.

First things first, .

He’s squarely in the center of the debate as being a top 3 or 4 player in this entire league when you consider what he brings to the table on both ends of the floor. The following quote from the video linked above says it all.

“He’s really worth the price of admission all by himself.”

Khris Middleton started all 82 regular-season games and ended the year averaging 20.1 PPG, and don’t forget that Eric Bledsoe was acquired as well.

If this team can get some consistent play from their rotation of big men, the Bucks could make some serious noise in the East.

Season Outlook

Milwaukee will be focused on winning the Central Division, as they came within 6 games of doing so against a LeBron James-led Cavs squad last season.

The talent is there, and the leadership and high-level coaching are in place.

Look for big things to come out of Milwaukee, and don’t be surprised if they make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals.

Final Words

I can’t wait to see how this division unfolds, because the way I see it, anyone can win it.

Well, anyone other than Cleveland, because I don’t buy Tristan Thompson’s nonsensical talk for a split second.

What I am buying is all the stock in Giannis Antetokounmpo that I can get, because it’s actually mind-boggling how limitless this kid’s potential is.

That’s right – the Greek Freak is just 23 years young!

He should be able to lead his team to the Playoffs, and I fully expect the Bucks and Pacers to be battling it out for the Central Division all the way until the end.

But sleeping on Detroit and/or Chicago in early October could be a big mistake, as both of these teams are hungry and have plenty to prove.

The better question is if any of these squads will able to hang with the big boys in the Atlantic Division, as most think it’s the Celtics, Raptors, and 76ers who are the upper class of the East.

Don’t look now, but Milwaukee might have something serious to say about that by season’s end.

Check back here in a couple days for a preview to the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division; that way, you stay up to date and don’t miss a thing!

2018/19 NBA Team Analysis – Eastern Conference’s Central Division
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2018/19 NBA Team Analysis – Eastern Conference’s Central Division
It’s time to break down the Eastern Conference’s Central Division. No LeBron James means any team can win this. Here’s how I think it will go!
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