Two months after the finish of the NBA’s restart season in Orlando, another NBA season is right around the corner, and rightfully so. It will truly be the most wonderful time of the year in so many ways for basketball fans, as the 2020-21 NBA season will commence on December 22. All 30 teams, including the ones that participated in the aforementioned NBA restart, look to make a big impression during the 72 game season, leading up to the Finals in June. Following on from the Atlantic Division preview, we continue onward as we take a look at the Central Division.
The Detroit Pistons had a rough last season, despite the stellar playing of Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, who wants to take on a Jimmy Butler type approach heading into the season. It also didn’t help that the Pistons would see the all-star center, Andre Drummond, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the season, and Luke Kennard going to the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason.
Detroit responded by adding another three-point specialist in Wayne Ellington to their bench and would draft Killian Hayes from France, plus receiving Isaiah Stewart and Saadiq Bey after Portland and Washington drafted for them respectively. In addition, Detroit also added Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor to their core. Many won’t expect much for the Pistons outside of the performances of Griffin, Rose, and maybe Ellington, but this season will be another challenging one.
Speaking of Drummond and the Cleveland Cavaliers, they also had a rough season, which resulted in looking towards the offseason. In doing so, they would acquire JaVale McGee from the Los Angeles Lakers, along with Thon Maker and Damyean Dotson during the free agency period.
The Cavs would draft Isaac Okoro from Auburn. Cleveland won’t do much other than place their bid for the number one pick in next year’s draft lottery, but where they go with their roster remains to be seen. The same can be said with the future of Kevin Love. Love has remained in Cleveland, long after the end of their big three eras.
Can Kevin Love continue to elevate his game for the Cavs from last season? All will have to be foreseen.
The Indiana Pacers managed to hold off the Miami Heat for the fourth and final spot for homecourt advantage before the start of the playoffs, only to be swept by the eventual Eastern Conference Champions. Since that time, the Pacers were inquiring about trading Myles Turner and Doug McDermott to the Boston Celtics for Gordon Hayward, only for the deal itself to fall through.
The Pacers used their only draft pick to select Cassius Stanley from Duke University. Indiana looks like they will make the playoffs again, but this could be their last hurrah, as Victor Oladipo will become a free agent next July. They still have Domanatas Sabonis to guide them alongside Oladipo to be a possible threat to the Milwaukee Bucks in the division.
While on the subject of possible, if not future threats, the Chicago Bulls have been low on the radar, much like the rest of the teams in the Central Division not named Indiana or Milwaukee. Unlike a few of those teams, Chicago has players that are not only young but are also looking to scratch the surface, which is reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
With a core consisting of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Wendell Carter Jr., the Bulls might be the surprise team of the season leading up to the playoffs. Chicago wasn’t active during the free agency period, but they did draft Patrick Williams from Florida State and Marko Simonovic from Montenegro. The Bulls are a sleeper of a team but don’t sleep on them too much.
They have some raw potential to play spoilers in their division and could find themselves being back on top in the future.
The Milwaukee Bucks were heavily favored to win the Eastern Conference, if not the entire NBA Championship, only to be routed in five games against the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. During the free agency period, the Bucks saw Eric Bledsoe and George Hill go to the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder respectively, in exchange for acquiring Jrue Holiday.
In the draft, Milwaukee would select RJ Hampton, who they would send to the Denver Nuggets, and Jordan Nwora from Louisville. The Bucks will certainly be one of the top teams in the East if not the top team come playoff time but the real question is whether or not Giannis Antetokounmpo will stay or leave Milwaukee.
There have been rumors surrounding where Giannis could land before the start of next year’s free agency period, with Miami and the L.A. Lakers being the most prevalent names that are brought up. Milwaukee should go all the way this season if they wish to keep Giannis around, otherwise, it could turn into a Greek tragedy.
It’s no secret that Milwaukee will certainly keep a stronghold over the Central Division, with Indiana being a close second. Chicago will improve slightly, but just enough to prove bothersome to be seen as a threat with their raw athleticism and their young stars starting to take hold of what they could become.
Detroit and Cleveland both have all-stars on their teams that are deemed valuable to their roster, but if the wins don’t accumulate, those stars could be thinking of other strategies.
The teams that will reach the postseason: Milwaukee, Indiana, Chicago
The teams that will be in the draft lottery: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland
Players to watch in the division: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Doug McDermott, Zach LaVine, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Wayne Ellington, Collin Sexton, Larry Nance Jr. and Andre Drummond
Rookies to watch: Patrick Williams, Killian Hayes, Isaac Okoro
Rising stars to watch: Coby White, Colin Sexton
Central Division Standings Prediction: