Offseason Grades: Central
By: Joel Brigham Last Updated: 8/11/09 10:00 PM ET | 2485 times read
Adjust font size:In the Central Division Cleveland is king, but after that just about anything can happen. Chicago looked suspiciously like a real NBA team in last year's playoff series against the Celtics, but the division rival Detroit Pistons signed away Chicago's top scorer from the last four seasons. Indiana finally rid themselves of Jamaal Tinsley, and the Bucks brought in a whole bunch of new blood. None of this, however, gives much indication as to how things will shape up in this division by the end of the season.
Some made drastic moves, other stood relatively still, but for the most part the moves these teams are going to make have been made. That means it times to grade these five franchises based on how they fared in the draft, free agency, and trades. We'll start with the youngest of these teams, the Chicago Bulls:
Added/Retained: James Johnson, Taj Gibson, Lindsey Hunter, Jannero Pargo
Lost: Ben Gordon, Tim Thomas, Anthony Roberson, Linton Johnson, DeMarcus Nelson
Review: There was no way the Chicago Bulls could (or should) have paid Ben Gordon what the Detroit Pistons paid him, and in that regard letting him walk was a relatively wise decision. However when one considers how many trades the Bulls could've consummated the last few years with Gordon as the centerpiece, getting nothing out of an asset that valuable is extremely frustrating.
The draft was about as average for the Bulls as it could possibly be, and considering Chicago's biggest need was depth down low, specifically an offensive post presence and another rebounder, it seems silly to have passed on DeJuan Blair not once, but twice. Despite that, Johnson has some impressive raw tools and could potentially play a significant role in the rotation.
The smartest thing the Bulls did all summer was leave the rest of the roster alone. There's enough in place there to improve upon last season while also preparing for 2010's free agent class. Other than the draft, there wasn't a whole lot else the Bulls could have really done to acquire new talent. Carlos Boozer, for example, never really seemed to be part of the conversation, though that might change when he becomes a free agent next summer.
Added/Retained: Shaquille O'Neal, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Anderson Varejao, Christian Eyenga, Daniel Green
Lost: Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, Tarence Kinsey, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Lorenzen Wright
Review: You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who can't admit that the trade for Shaquille O'Neal was a significant upgrade, at least on paper. All it cost them was a seldom-used Sasha Pavlovic and an over-the-hill Ben Wallace, and what they got in return was an All-Star center that's going to make this season extremely fun for free-agent-to-be LeBron James. Anything Cleveland has done this summer, they've done to make James happy. If the Cavs win a championship in the meantime, so be it.
There's no guarantee how influential Shaq will be on the court, but the lower-profile pickups for Cleveland will undoubtedly be important pieces to the Cavs' game plan. Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker are fantastic options on the wings and they didn't have to give up anything but money to get them. If O'Neal does in fact come through, the Cavaliers will have added three pieces to a championship-caliber roster that looks even better than last year's, if that's possible.
Added/Retained: Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace, Chris Wilcox, Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers, Jonas Jerebko
Lost: Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Amir Johnson, Arron Afflalo, Walter Sharpe, Allen Iverson (still a free agent), Walter Herrmann
Review: Bringing back Ben Wallace is a quaint gesture, but let's face it—that move is merely a footnote in the Detroit Pistons' busy offseason. The real noise came early on in the free agency period when GM Joe Dumars spent an inordinate amount of money on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva—nice players in their own right, but maybe not worth an average of $18 million a season from now through 2014 considering neither one is particularly adept on the defensive end of the floor. Detroit certainly made their splash and got the guys they wanted, but it's not a given that the guys they wanted are going to send the team back to prominence.
Whatever question marks may surround Dumars' decisions in free agency, it certainly looks like he had a good draft, with Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers both showing strong Summer League performances in Las Vegas last month. Even Jonas Jerebko had his flashes of brilliance. Combine that with the addition of role players like Chris Wilcox and the Pistons didn't have too bad an offseason. Retaining Antonio McDyess would've been nice, and trading for Carlos Boozer would've been better, but overall the Pistons got a couple of nice things done this summer.
Added/Retained: Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, Solomon Jones, Josh McRoberts, Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price
Lost: Jarrett Jack, Rasho Nesterovic, Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels, Stephen Graham
Review: The Indiana Pacers came into the offseason a fringe playoff team at best, and for the most part that's where they come out of it, too. Replacing Jarrett Jack and Jamaal Tinsley with Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones is essentially a wash, albeit an expensive one. Tinsley's buyout alone cost the team $10.7 million, and that's not including the money they paid him last season just to stay home. Jones may have been overpaid, but Watson came relatively inexpensively, and both those guys were necessary to bulk up the Pacers backcourt. Losing Jack and Marquis Daniels, as well as nagging injuries to Mike Dunleavy, Jr., make those guys absolutely necessary. Both are serviceable, but neither one is going to make a huge impact.
Tyler Hansbrough, on the other hand, could prove to be the surprise of the draft. While some are still skeptical about his ability to play at the NBA level—hence the criticism for Indiana having taken him in 2009's lottery—his play at the Orlando Summer League put him among the top performers of any rookie all summer. He plays hard, plays fundamentally sound, and knows the game. His grade as a rookie is still far from complete, and until he proves he can be a pro it's very hard to label him a sure thing. Perhaps a more worthwhile gamble than some expected, but still quite far from Rookie of the Year.
Added/Retained: Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, Kurt Thomas, Hakim Warrick, Sonny Weems, Walter Sharpe, Ersan Ilyasova
Lost: Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, Malik Allen, Keith Bogans
Review: Here San Antonio, take Richard Jefferson. We don't want him, and we really don't even need anything significant in return. Thanks, and enjoy your trip to the Western Conference Finals, courtesy of us, the Milwaukee Bucks
Facetious? Sure, but it's very hard to believe that Kurt Thomas, Bruce Bowen, and Fabricio Oberto were the best the Bucks could do for a player of Jefferson's caliber. That one was almost as bad as Kwame Brown-for-Pau Gasol.
Signing Hakim Warrick was a smooth move, though, and Brandon Jennings could very well be the best point guard prospect in this draft class (at least if Rubio stays overseas). Fellow rookie Jodie Meeks can score the ball in bunches, and Amir Johnson was got in trade for almost nothing. It wasn't all grim for the Bucks this offseason, but the Jefferson jettison just trumps anything else the Bucks managed to get done after the fact.
i love hoopsworld. but i dont see how the bucks managed to get a C-. There offseason so far as been awful! if they lose sessions they grade should be an complete F. its a D right now imo
cleveland got leon powe and if he recovers from injury successfully then they should be an A+