The 2022-2023 NBA Season is right around the corner. While there were many eye-opening blockbuster acquisitions during the Free Agency Market period over the summer, seeing their action on their new teams remains to be seen. In the Central Division, the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t able to repeat as champions, but with their core talent being fully healthy and a rising yet promising Cleveland Cavaliers team, the Central Division won’t be filled with easy competition.
Last season saw a revelation for Cleveland with not only having all-stars in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen but also making the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James led them. Although the Cavs’ playoff run ended swiftly, that didn’t stop them from making big waves. Cleveland acquired Donovan Mitchell in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz in exchange for Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, and a handful of draft picks. Given their momentum as of late, Cleveland seems more than poised to make another playoff run, but in the grand scheme of the Eastern Conference, they’ll be fortunate enough to even avoid the play-in.
Predictions: Garland and Allen will continue to improve their game and prove that they aren’t one-and-done all-stars. Mitchell will put up big numbers for the Cavs, but as far as the Central Division is concerned, they will give Milwaukee a run for their money, but that’s only scratching the surface of what this team can do.
Starting Lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen
The Indiana Pacers began their rebuild two seasons ago when they decided to send Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings. Since that time, Indiana has been developing their young players and building through the draft. The Pacers finished with 25 wins and 57 losses last season and would draft Bennedict Mathurin from Arizona. While Indiana will still rebuild, one piece, in particular, Myles Turner, may not be around for long. Turner, who averaged 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season, could be seen as a trade chip for the Pacers, perhaps looking for a team stocked with draft picks or a team that could maneuver a promising player elsewhere.
Predictions: Indiana’s rebuilding process will continue, but Mathurin is someone to build around as the Pacers will need a primary scorer to jump-start their offense. Indiana will also be in the draft lottery, but will more than likely miss out on getting Victor Wembanyama. Myles Turner could also find himself departing from the Pacers during the midseason trade deadline and playing for a title contender.
Starting Lineup: Tyrese Halliburton, Buddy Hield, Benedict Mathurin, Jalen Smith, and Myles Turner
The Bulls dealt with injuries throughout the season, most notably when Lonzo Ball went out with a small meniscus tear in his left knee. Despite dealing with injuries all season, Chicago reached the playoffs, albeit having to play against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. The Bulls were dispatched by Milwaukee, but that gave them time to heal up. Looking to address the issue of point guard depth, Chicago acquired Goran Dragic during the free agency period. No one knows when Ball will return to the Bulls roster, but as long as they have DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic, Chicago will still find themselves as a contender
Predictions: Chicago can be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but given the intensity and stacked teams in that conference, the Bulls could find themselves as either a play-in team or as a sixth seed. DeRozan, LaVine, and Vucevic will most likely be all-star nods for Chicago. Lonzo Ball should return to the Bulls roster either by the middle or towards the end of the season, somewhere between January and/or March.
Starting Lineup: Coby White, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic
Detroit began the Cade Cunningham era to the tune of 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. Despite Cunningham’s rookie numbers, the Pistons finished the season with 23 wins and 59 losses. There is still room for improvement for Detroit and in the NBA Draft, the Pistons selected Jaden Ivey from Perdue, Jalen Duren from Memphis, and Gabriele Procida from Italy. In the free agency period, the Pistons acquired Bojan Bogdanovic from the Utah Jazz to add some scoring in the frontcourt. Detroit continues to build through the draft, but the window for them to compete is slowly opening, but it will take time to reach that opening.
Predictions: Cade Cunningham will build upon the production of his rookie season, specifically in the points and assists department. Cunningham can also see himself becoming an all-star, though he will squeak by somehow. The Pistons will be back in the draft lottery, but they won’t get Victor Wembanyama. Instead, they will be two draft picks away from fully contending in the East.
Starting Lineups: Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saadiq Bey, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Isaiah Stewart
Last season saw Milwaukee reach the playoffs, but injuries to key players derailed their chances of a repeat as champions. The Bucks really didn’t do much during the free agency period other than keep their core talent. Milwaukee should be able to contend in the Eastern Conference, mainly with Boston for the top of the East. The main focus for the Bucks aside from looking to get some payback against the Celtics is keeping their core healthy. Should Milwaukee remain healthy all season, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Predictions: Milwaukee will be serious contenders in the Eastern Conference and will have must-see basketball games against the Celtics. Giannis Antetokounmpo will surely be the regular season MVP, with Khris Middleton looking to win the scoring title. Along with Giannis and Middleton, Jrue Holiday will be an all-star once again, plus averaging 10 plus assists per game.
Starting Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis Jr.
Milwaukee will be atop of the Central Division, but Cleveland will be a threat whenever the Cavs face the Bucks. Chicago has a good chance of sitting near the top of the division much like Cleveland, but they will most likely play spoiler down the road. At best the Bulls are a wildcard team, depending on who they play against. Detroit and Indiana are going to be at the bottom of the division, but Detroit’s rebuild and acquisitions place them further than Indiana. The Central Division should be as entertaining and hard-nosed as ever.
NBA Central Division Predictions