Team Needs: Central Division
The Central Division is the most consistent division in the Eastern Conference. A team from the Central Division has won the Eastern Conference regular season title in five of the past seven seasons. This year Cleveland led the NBA with 66 wins. Detroit and Chicago also played in the postseason. Next year should not be any different. The Cavaliers will be a top team in the east as long as LeBron is still in town and the Chicago Bulls are one of the most exciting and up-and-coming team in the NBA. Here is a look at each team in the Central and their plans for next year.
2008-2009 Record (41-41, 7th in Eastern Conference)
Returning Payroll - $56.7 mil
Guaranteed Contracts: C Brad Miller ($12.3 mil), SF Luol Deng ($10.4 mil), G Kirk Hinrich ($9.8 mil), F Tim Thomas ($6.5 mil), SG/SF John Salmons ($5.5 mil), PG Derrick Rose ($5.2 mil), SF/PF Tyrus Thomas ($4.7 mil), PF/C Joakim Noah ($2.4 mil)
Restricted Free Agents: None
Player Options or Early Termination Options: C Jerome James ($6.6 mil)
Expiring Contracts: G Ben Gordon ($6.4 mil)
Team needs: offensive post presence, combo guard
Draft Picks: 16th pick (1st round), 26th pick (1st round)
The Chicago Bulls put everyone on notice this year when they played the defending champion Boston Celtics to an epic 7-game series in the 1st round of the playoffs, which had some people saying it was the greatest 7-game series ever played. After losing the 7th game in Boston, the Bulls had made it clear to everyone that they are the team of the future in the Eastern Conference, if not, the whole NBA.
The most impressive part about the Bulls playoff performance was that they got contributions from all over. Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose had a monster series. Ben Gordon carried the Bulls for parts of the series. John Salmons was scoring in bunches. Both Big men (Brad Miller and Joakim Noah) were effective. Coach Vinny Del Negro used a 7-man rotation in the playoffs and was getting contributions from nearly all seven players.
The Bulls season changed when they made a trade with the Sacramento Kings on February 19th sending power forward Drew Gooden and swing forward Andres Nocioni for center Brad Miller and wing player John Salmons. Shortly after, the Bulls began to gel as a team and it was apparent that the trade was successful. The playoff series vs. the Celtics was the best ball that they had played all year. With most of the core guys being young in their careers, it is unlikely that many changes will be made in the offseason.
The one problem the Bulls have is that Ben Gordon is an unrestricted free agent. He was a scoring machine for the Bulls the whole season and most recognizably vs. the Celtics in the playoffs, averaging 24.3 points, highlighted by his 42 points in game 2 of the series where he made a number of clutch shots. He has most likely made himself the top prized two-guard on the open market this summer, considering he is only 26. And we know that he will not be cheap because he has already turned down two sizeable contract extension offers from the Bulls.
As good as Gordon was for the Bulls down the stretch of the season, the Bulls will most likely let him walk and move on. Small forward Luol Deng who is already signed to a long-term contract did not play during the playoffs and will demand minutes when he returns at the beginning of next season. Guard Kirk Hinrich is the team’s best perimeter defender and is also signed through the 2012 season for big money. John Salmons is a proven scoring option (18.1 ppg in series vs Celtics) that can play both wing positions. Throw in the two first-round picks that the Bulls have this year, and it makes sense to let Gordon sign elsewhere considering the money that he will be demanding. Besides, it is clear that this is now Derrick Rose’s team and everything will be built around him, something that Gordon may not want to stick around and be a part of.
If one of the first round picks is used for Gordon insurance, the other pick should be used to try and get a offensive post presence. Chicago’s big men are productive, but none of them have any scoring ability in the post. Brad Miller is a good outside shooter and plays really tough inside but he is not a scoring option in the post. Joakim Noah can only score from drop off’s or offensive rebounds. And Tyrus Thomas has been trying to prove his whole short career that he is a small forward rather than a power forward. Grabbing someone who could possibly develop into a scoring option out of the post would make sense. The Bulls would be ecstatic if Pittsburgh’s Dejuan Blair fell to them at 16. Ohio State’s BJ Mullens or even North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough are possibilities.
If the Bulls do make any big moves in the summer, it could be by trading Tyrus
Thomas. He was great in game 1 vs. the Celtics, scoring 16 points, blocking
4 shots, and making big hoops in overtime. But, for the rest of the series he
was inconsistent and disappointing, which is much like his whole career. This
was the 3rd season for Thomas since coming out of LSU as the 4th pick overall
and he has not developed like most Bulls fans had hoped for. With Luol Deng
being ready for the start of next season, Thomas could be moved to clear up
some minutes for Deng, Noah, and any big men that they draft in the first round.
2008-2009 Record (66-16, 1st in Eastern Conference)
Returning Payroll - $50.0 mil
Guaranteed Contracts: SF LeBron James ($15.8 mil), C Ben Wallace ($14 mil), G Mo Williams ($8.9 mil), SG/SF Sasha Pavlovic ($4.9 mil), G Delonte West ($4.3 mil), G Daniel Gibson ($4.1 mil)
Restricted Free Agents: None
Player Options or Early Termination Options: C Zydrunas Ilgauskas ($11.5 mil), PF/C Anderson Varejao ($6.2 mil)
Expiring Contracts: SG Wally Szczerbiak ($13.3 mil)
Team needs: low-post presence, 2nd scorer
Draft Picks: 30th pick (1st round), 46th pick (2nd round)
This season gave Cavs fans mixed feelings. Cleveland coasted through the regular season with an NBA best 66 wins and LeBron James won his first MVP trophy. They continued to steamroll the competition winning its first 8 playoff games, all by double digits. Then they ran into the Orlando Magic and soon after, the season was over. After the Orlando series, everyone in Cleveland was saying the same familiar phrase: LeBron has no help.
King James numbers all season were amazing (28ppg, 7 apg, 7rpg). And despite the disappointing result vs. the Magic, his numbers were even better (38ppg, 8apg, 8rpg). So, after Dwight Howard and co. ended the Cavs great season, nobody was blaming LeBron. In fact, he was getting even more praise. His teammates, a lot of which were exposed during the series, did not get off the hook so easy.
Of all general managers, none have a harder task than Cleveland’s Danny Ferry. He has to keep the Cavaliers competitive and at the top of the standings, but he can’t overspend and go after a player that will hurt the team’s chances of retaining LeBron in 2010 when he becomes a free agent.
Despite the sour taste in their mouths right now, they did win 66 games this
season. Ferry is not going to blow this team up completely; in fact he probably
won’t do much to it at all. With Ilgauskus already saying that he is picking
up his option and Varejao saying that he is opting out, that leaves Ferry with
only one tough decision this summer: resigning Varejao. Wally Szczerbiak’s
huge contract ($13.3 mil) finally comes off the books this summer, giving Ferry
some money to offer. But, he still may not be willing to offer the same as other
teams because he knows he has to throw everything he’s got at LeBron next
year. Varejao is coming off career highs in points (8.4) and field goal percentage
(.616), but he is still not a low post scorer. He is high-energy guy who defends
very well. The Cavs got exposed vs. Orlando because they didn’t have enough
scorers to play with LeBron. Varejao was part of that problem, so if the 26
year old from Brazil asks for too much money, expect Ferry to say good-bye.
Utah’s Carlos Boozer has said he may or may not opt out of his contract. He is the exact type of low-post presence that the Cavaliers are looking for. He played for Cleveland from 2002 to 2004 and played very well. Despite an ugly departure from Cleveland in 2004, rumors are starting to fly about him coming back to play with LeBron. For that to happen, Ferry would have to run the risk of signing Boozer to a big contract, and hope that next year he would still have enough to offer LeBron when Big Z and Ben Wallace contracts come off the books. But, signing Boozer would make the Cavs the immediate favorites to win the 2010 title, which is the only thing other than money to help keep LeBron in town.
Drafting at 30, the Cavs probably won’t be able to find someone who can help immediately. Expect Ferry to try and find a mid-level veteran via free agency who can score a little bit in the post. Last year they drafted at 19, selecting power forward JJ Hickson and he proved to be too young at this point in his career to help, although he still could be a good player. Danny Ferry needs to find someone to help LeBron now and he knows that. Drafting another young player to develop will not help keep LeBron in town, so that won’t be their agenda this year.
If available, an experienced, long post player such as Taj Gibson who could offer some immediate help defensively, makes sense.
2008-2009 Record (39-43, 8th in Eastern Conference)
Returning Payroll - $35.1 mil
Guaranteed Contracts: SG Rip Hamilton ($11.6 mil), SF Tayshaun Prince ($10.3 mil), PF Jason Maxiell ($5.0 mil), PF Amir Johnson ($3.7 mil), PG Rodney Stuckey ($1.8 mil), SG Arron Afflalo ($1.1 mil)
Restricted Free Agents: SF Walter Herrmann ($2.0 mil)
Player Options or Early Termination Options: C Kwame Brown ($4.0 mil)
Expiring Contracts: SG Allen Iverson ($20.8 mil), PF/C Rasheed Wallace ($13.7 mil), Antonio McDyess ($950,419)
Team needs: long-athletic big men, back-up wing player
Draft Picks: 15th pick (1st round), 35th pick (2nd round), 39th pick (2nd round), 44th pick (2nd round)
Coming off six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals, the Detroit Pistons fell short this year, and they fell hard. Their long-time leader and point guard Chauncey Billups was traded during the season for Allen Iverson. Shortly after, it was clear how much that Billups meant to this franchise as they barely held on to make the playoffs and eventually got swept badly by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1st round. Billups on the other hand kept his streak in tact taking Denver to the conference finals in the West.
The one good part about the trade that general manager Joe Dumars made, and the main reason why he made the trade was for Allen Iverson’s large expiring contract ($20.8 mil). Iverson’s contract combined with Rasheed Wallace’s $13.7 million coming off the books makes the Pistons the biggest player in this year’s free agent market. More than likely, the Pistons will not become overly aggressive this summer because they would like to make a run at one of the big stars coming out of the 2010 free agent class.
The Pistons are as good as any team in the NBA around the perimeter. Rip Hamilton is locked up until 2013. Tayshaun Prince is under contract until 2011. The point guard situation is looking good because Rodney Stuckey is still under his rookie contract until 2012, and back-up point guard Will Bynum is signed to a small contract for next year. Bynum was a pleasant surprise last year, providing the Pistons with some scoring off the bench. In April, in a win vs. the Charlotte Bobcats, he exploded for a 26-point fourth quarter, which is a franchise record. The perimeter will be their strength next year, but other questions have to be answered.
Iverson was very unhappy in Detroit and is almost certainly not returning. Rasheed Wallace is in a different situation. He was always a good fit for the Pistons and could resign to play alongside his teammates that he won a ring with. Antonio McDyess could retire, but was also a good fit in Detroit as well. Even if the Pistons resign both Wallace and McDyess, they would still have loads of money to play with this summer. If Detroit decides to go after top tier free agents this year, Carlos Boozer or the Knicks David Lee could be a nice fit with Detroit.
Although Joe Dumars drafts very well (minus Darko), expect Detroit to take care of their big men issues via free agency and look for a young athletic wing player with the 15th pick. Wake Forest’s James Johnson is a big athletic and strong wing player who would fit a need of backing up Tayshaun Prince at the three spot, and provide some youth on the wing that Detroit needs. Should they decide to try and fill their big-men void via the draft, expect Dumars to draft either Ohio State’s BJ Mullens or Pittsburgh’s Dejuan Blair if he slips to 15.
2008-2009 Record (36-46, 9th in Eastern Conference)
Returning Payroll - $50.2 mil
Guaranteed Contracts: PF/C Troy Murphy ($11.0 mil), SF Danny Granger ($9.9 mil), SF Mike Dunleavy ($9.8 mil), PG T.J. Ford ($8.8 mil), PG Jamaal Tinsley ($7.2 mil), C Jeff Foster ($6.1 mil), SF Brandon Rush ($1.9 mil), C Roy Hibbert (1.6 mil)
Restricted Free Agents: PG Jarrett Jack ($2.9 mil)
Player Options or Early Termination Options: G Travis Diener ($1.7 mil)
Team Options: G Marquis Daniels ($7.4 mil)
Expiring Contracts: C Rasho Nesterovic ($8.4 mil), PF/C Maceo Baston ($1.9 mil)
Team needs: shooting guard, athletic forwards
Draft Picks: 13th pick (1st round), 52nd pick (2nd round)
The Indiana Pacers missed the playoffs by three games this season. It wasn’t the type of result that they were looking for in Indiana, but they did find themselves a superstar in Danny Granger. After averaging 25.8 points a game this year, it is certain that the Pacers have their franchise player who they can build around. Granger had some monster games, but couldn’t get the Pacers to the playoffs, which was the third straight year that Indiana failed to do so.
After Granger there are many questions. They have two legitimate point guards (TJ Ford and Jarrett Jack), but for a good part of the season one of them is forced to play out of position at the two-spot. When coach Jim O’Brien didn’t go with a smaller lineup, he would go with a very big lineup, putting either Granger or Brandon Rush at the two-spot. Marquis Daniels, the closest player they had to a two-guard, only played in 54 games due to injuries. The team has an option on Daniels at $7.4 million. If they decide not to pick that up, then they can look to the draft. Pacers have the 13th pick where many shooting guards will be available. Drafting one of them could solve this problem that they had last year. Duke’s Gerald Henderson or Arizona’s Chase Budinger should be available when the Pacers are on the clock.
Jim O’Brien’s coaching style is very offensive minded. As a result, the Pacers were 5th in scoring last year as a team and got up the 2nd most shots in the league, only behind the Knicks. Because of this, the Pacers could decide to live with playing both Ford and Jack in the backcourt and try to address other needs with their 13th pick. Center Troy Murphy had good numbers last year (14.3ppg, 11.8 rpg) but played outside the perimeter (he shot 4.9 three-pointers per game). Center Roy Hibbert, last year’s 1st round pick was improving as the season went along, but still much of a work-in-progress. Their other big-man Jeff Foster is more of a hustle guy, with a lack of offensive skill. Pittsburgh’s Dejuan Blair could give them a post presence that they lack. Given O’Brien’s style, they may not desperately need a post presence, but Blair should be effective wherever he plays because of his physicality. Louisville’s Earl Clark may be a good fit for the Pacers as well. He will be able to play both forward positions in the NBA and that type of player would be valuable for O’Brien’s system.
Next year’s roster for the Pacers will look very similar. Rarely used big-man Rasho Nesterovic’s large contract of $8.4 million comes off the books, opening up a possibility of signing another veteran for help now that Granger is locked up long-term. But, look for the Pacers to get into the playoffs with Granger being atop the leaders in scoring and some of the younger players contributing on a regular basis.
2008-2009 Record (34-48, 12th in Eastern Conference)
Returning Payroll - $63.4 mil
Guaranteed Contracts: SG Michael Redd ($17.0 mil), SF Richard Jefferson ($14.2 mil), C Andrew Bogut ($12.0 mil), C Dan Gadzuric ($6.7 mil), PG Luke Ridnour ($6.5 mil), G Charlie Bell ($3.6 mil), SF Joe Alexander ($2.6 mil)
Restricted Free Agents: PF Charlie Villanueva ($4.6 mil), PG Ramon Sessions ($853,820)
Player Options or Early Termination Options: C Francisco Elson ($1.7 mil), PF/C Malik Allen ($1.3 mil)
Expiring Contracts: G Damon Jones ($4.5 mil), SG Keith Bogans ($2.9 mil)
Team needs: point guard, depth at both forward positions
Draft Picks: 10th pick (1st round), 41st pick (2nd round)
A little more than halfway through the season, leading scorer Michael Redd tore his ACL & MCL in his left knee. Not too long after Redd’s injury, in February starting center Andrew Bogut (11.7ppg, 10.3 rpg) went out with a stress fracture in his lower back. The rest of the season was very difficult for first-year coach Scott Skiles as he was shuffling with lineups to compete.
Skiles will get Redd and Bogut back next year, but will more than likely lose two of his other better players. Forward Charlie Villanueva (16.2ppg, 6.7rpg) and point guard Ramon Sessions (12.4ppg, 5.7apg) are both restricted free agents. With the bulk of Milwaukee’s money locked up with Redd, Bogut, and forward Richard Jefferson, the Bucks won’t likley be able to match the offers that Sessions and Villanueva are going to receive.
Luke Ridnour split time with Sessions last year at point guard and will take over the starting role on a consistent basis if Session does leave. But, the Bucks have the 10th pick in the draft and are most certainly going after a point guard. Rumors have swirled about Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague going to the Bucks at ten, which would fill the void of losing Sessions. If not Teague, the draft is full of point guards. Syracuse’s Johnny Flynn or 19-year old Brandon Jennings would make sense for the 10th pick.
Filling in for Villanueva is going to have to come from within or a mid-level type signing. If Villanueva does decide to leave, then his contract combined with the expiring contract of Damon Jones ($4.5 mil) and Keith Bogans ($2.9 mil) should open up some money that they still may decide not to use because Redd and Richardson have player options for 2010, and they might want to start preparing for that free agent class.
Last year’s 1st round pick (8th overall) Joe Alexander will need to contribute next year. He had a disappointing rookie season, but should be able to pick up some of the slack if they lose Villanueva. As much of a disappointment that Alexander was, another rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (37th pick overall) was a pleasant surprise averaging over 25 minutes a game for the year, and had games of 21 points and 11 rebounds at Chicago and 19 points and 17 rebounds at Memphis. Mbah a Moute could become the permanent starter for the Bucks next season, after starting 51 as a rookie.
Next year Milwaukee will have to stay healthy and get production out of their younger players in order to be competitive and make the playoffs, which they are now three years removed from.
Nice thanks............do it for the Atlantic Division.
Who was the genius that decided to pay Danny G 6.7Mil so he can contribute 9 minutes of court time to the team? Too bad it's not like NFL where you can terminate a contract for not performing up to standard. The 6.7 Mil would come in handy right about now!
His name is Larry Harris...and he destroyed the Bucks in every way imaginable.
We did atlantic needs on our podcast last week - check the itunes icon in the top corner of the site. We are doing Central tomorrow... Sneak preview - Jeff Teague to Milwaukee is a BAAAAAAD idea.
show some love for tyrus thomas, i think out of any big man in chicago he definitely has the most potential and showed at times last season he's legit. if chicago lets him go, please get him raptors! lol
Chicago Bulls are one of the most exciting and up-and-coming team in the NBA. travesti
After playing poorly on his 1st day and in his 1st contest today, Ingles finally displayed some of his skills in the night session. He has good size for a wing player, and he definitely knows how to play, but he seems uncomfortable and out of his element in this setting. He has a very reliable outside shot, but he has been hesitant to shoot it, often times giving up a wide open attempt for a dribble jumper that is in traffic. He has one more day to show that he can play like he did in his last game, and that his name actually belongs in draft talks.
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After a bad first day, Dasic came back today and was able to put two good games together. He has great size and a very nicely developed body to go along with good athleticism. His main problem seems to be his lackadaisical approach to the game, which is the primary reason for his inconsistent play. His outside shot looks half decent, but it is extremely streaky and is not a dependable enough weapon for him at this point. He plays on the perimeter full time, but his game off the dribble has not come around yet where he can get by people on a regular basis. If he plays well on the last day, it could end up paying large dividends for him come draft time.
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