NBA Season Previews: Central Division

With the NBA Preseason already started and the season to come shortly, the NBA staff of My Mind on Sports is bringing you our season preview roundtables. In these roundtables we will answer key questions in each division concerning their respective teams. The second division up is the Central. This division consists of the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and the Detroit Pistons. Enjoy. 

1. How do you think Derrick Rose will play this season? 

Michael Sykes: I can’t really say exactly. I do expect him to be the best point guard in the Eastern Conference this season. I don’ t think he’ll win another MVP or anything, but I’m certain that he’ll be dominant. Such a long layoff should go a long way for Rose. It shouldn’t take him that long to get acclimated to the speed of the game once again.

Chuckie Maggio: I expect Rose to play well, with around 20 points per game and 6-8 assists per game. Will he be the Derrick Rose he was before the injury? Not yet, but he’ll play well enough for the Bulls to contend in the Eastern Conference.

Octavia Wyatt: Derrick Rose returns to the dominance that is D.Rose. With 18 months of rehab and recovery I don’t think we’ll see any setbacks. He’s shown he is still explosive in his first preseason game and I think he’s ready to back up his claim of being the best player in the NBA. I’m just excited to watch him.

Samar Gaines: I think Rose is going to struggle a little bit early. But once he gets some of the rust off I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll be back to his MVP caliber form. I do have concerns about his coach watching his minutes, but that’s a completely different issue; plus Jimmy Butler may have a bigger cause for concern.

Ryan Hebert: I think Derrick Rose will come back better than ever after a two year layoff in which he focused on his fundamentals and viewing the game analytically. Expect a starting All-Star game nod and second team All NBA selection for Rose.

Eddie McDonald:  I expect Derrick Rose to play like Derrick Rose. He has looked good in the preseason. Barring a setback, he will be just fine and lead the Bulls to big things.

Jay Braswell:  I believe Derrick Rose will be “Derrick Rose”, just not from the beginning. Of course he will have to ease his way back to dominant form. I say he leads the Chicago Bulls to a #4 seed in the East. Numbers wise I believe he can put up anywhere from 20-22 points per game hand out around 7-8 assists per game.

2. Is Kyrie Irving the best point guard in the division?

MS: As far as I know, right now he is. We don’t really know how Derrick Rose will be when he returns. Although I expect big things out of Rose this season, I won’t act as if it’s a certainty that he’ll be the same player that he was when he left. So I’ll leave you with this caveat: If Rose is 100% Rose, then no. But if not, Kyrie Irving is the best point guard in the division without a doubt.

CM: Yes. With the contenders being Rose and Brandon Jennings, Kyrie gets the top spot. We’re not sure what we’re going to see from Rose, and Irving is far more efficient with the basketball than Jennings while being more valuable to his team as well. Kyrie is going to be a top three point guard in the entire NBA this year.

OW:  Kyrie Irving is a young, explosive point guard with only up to go. I think he is the best point guard in the central division–for now. There is this guy coming back in Chicago who can very well be the best point guard and I’m sure everyone knows it.

SG: No, the best Point Guard in the Central Division is Brandon Jennings–or at least if you ask him. Realistically it’s still Derrick Rose. Once he gets used to the speed of the game he’ll be back to claim pole position. I still have concerns about Kyrie Irving especially on the defensive end–not saying Rose is an all NBA defender but he’s been better than Kyrie.

RH: I still think Rose is a bit ahead of Kyrie, in that he’s proven the ability to lead a team to elite title contention. Irving’s numbers are terrific, but he’s yet to show any effort defensively, has been a shakey leader in that his numbers have aided very little in the way of team improvement. For him to be the best guard in his division, I’d like to see his stellar numbers translate to some collective team success, and he has to improve on defense, where has has been a doormat.

EM: Kyrie Irving is not the best point guard in the division. That would be the first guy we discussed in Rose. Last season when Rose was out,  it was fair to say that Irving was best in the division. Irving is going to be a star, but he’s not the best point guard in the Central.

JB: If Derrick Rose is not 100% then, yes, Kyrie Irving is the best point guard in the Central Division. On the other hand if Rose is healthy like he claims to be then I’d say Rose. Don’t neglect Brandon Jennings though, he in with a new team with new pieces.

3. Will Paul George live up to the 5 year, $90+ million contract he signed?

MS: I don’t think so. I’m very high on Paul George on the defensive end of the ball. I think that he’s probably the best defender in the league on the wing. However, he has a lot of improvement to do on the offensive side of the ball. His percentages need to increase dramatically and he needs to be a better creator. He’s improved, but he isn’t on a max level yet.

CM: Yes, if he takes them to the NBA Finals at least once in these five years. With the talent this team has, George has to step up as the leader. His numbers are going to be there; he’s good for 17 points and seven rebounds every night. But what matters now is taking the Pacers to the promised land. If he wins a title, he’s worth the $90 million

OW: Yes, yes, and oh yeah, yes. Paul George will be worth every penny of the 90+million he is set to receive. George is only 23 years old with the skill to carry this franchise. He’s great on both ends of the court. Plus, there aren’t many players that can guard Lebron James but Paul George can. I expect him to be great this year.

SG:  This season? No, over the course of the next five seasons, yes. Paul George is already one of the best defenders in the NBA and while he’s improved a great deal on the offensive end he’s still far from an every night go-to guy. Instead George is a guy who is better without the ball where he is exceptional.

RH: I love Paul George and just think that, offensively, he’s just scratching the surface of who he could be. He’s already a top notch defender, leading the league in defensive win shares, so I think it’s safe to say that with slight offensive improvement in efficiency, he could play above his contract worth.

EM:  Paul George will live up to his major contract. He improves each year and is a key factor up the Pacers success. He has plenty of good pieces surrounding him as well.

JB: Paul, Paul, Paul, I believe he will live up to the hype of his new contract. He is an emerging superstar in this league and he’s playing on a title contending Pacers ballclub. They almost sniffed the NBA Finals last year, but ran into the eventually NBA Champs the Miami Heat. This is a guy I compared to Kobe Bryant at the age of 22-23.  So yes I do see Paul George going above and beyond contract expectations.

4. Are the Detroit Pistons a playoff team?

MS: I certainly think so. I’ve watched the Pistons this preseason and I have nothing but positive things to say. I was sketch about their roster makeup initially, but I’m buying in to Joe Dumars’ vision of a great passing team with size. They’re going to be really good at screening, passing and defense–three fundamentals I love the most.

CM: Yes. Every guy in the starting five has or will be an All-Star. The reserves are deep, with Stuckey, Singler, and Villanueva coming off the bench and national champion Peyton Siva as a third-stringer. They won’t be a high seed, but they’ll make it in as a six, seven or eight.

OW: The Detroit Pistons can definitely sneak into the playoffs this season. By bringing in Brandon Jennings, veteran Chauncey Billups, Josh Smith with Maurice Cheeks at the reins, it could definitely happen. I’m looking forward to how the whole team meshes, but with key reserves as well, things could look good in Detroit.

SG: If they are going to start Rodney Stuckey I’m going to say no. I know it shouldn’t be that simple but I just don’t see how this team gets any floor spacing with a team full of players who can’t shoot. I love the potential of Andre Drummond, I’m a fan of Josh Smith, and I think Greg Monroe will be a really good player in this league for a long time but I also think you need to be able to shoot to win in the NBA today.

RH: I have no read on the Pistons, who are a spacing mess. I cannot in good faith predict a playoff berth for such an inefficient team. All of their hopes hinge on Drummond making the next step, which very well may happen.

EM: I think the Pistons are a playoff team this season. The additions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith will be good for Detroit. Jennings also gets the chance to learn from another addition in Chauncey Billups.

JB:  I do believe that the Detroit Pistons will be a playoff team this year. With the additions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith Detroit is now relevant again. Lets look at the East after Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago, its basically all fair game.

5. Is Larry Sanders the best interior defender in the league?

MS: Yes, yes and yes. Dwight Howard is probably a close second, but Larry Sanders has overtaken him as the best rim protector in the league. Now, that could change this season, but Sanders changed so many shots last year and was a great shot blocker. He’s amazing in that role.

CM: Yes he is. He is forced to protect the basket more than anybody and holds shooters to a 33% clip from mid-range. The Bucks defense would not be what it is without him in the interior; he’s the anchor.

OW:  Larry Sanders is just 24 years old and already has been called the best interior defender in the NBA, and I agree. When he’s near the basket, offensive players don’t seem to be able score. He was second in blocked shots only behind OKC’s Serge Ibaka but had the highest block percentage. Numbers don’t lie.

SG: As much as I love Sanders, I’m going to have to go with Marc Gasol. I also think a healthy Howard is a better interior defender than Sanders. This isn’t a slight on Sanders–he’s an awesome defender. For the question to be asked so early in his career is very impressive.

RH: Sanders is tremendous, as has been Well-documented by the fabulous visualization charts of Kirk Goldsberry, but I find myself impartial to Roy Hibbert or Marc Gasol, whose mobility and acumen are a bit ahead of the young Sanders. That said, Sanders is wonderful at his skill I and can continue to become more stout and disciplined at altering shots as he matures.

EM: If Larry Sanders isn’t the best interior defender, he is awfully close. NBA shooters shoot 49.7% on shots within five feet, but when Sanders is playing defense on said shooters, that percentage drops to 38%.

JB: Larry Sanders is a great interior guy but is he the best? I don’t think so. He is long and with decent size though, the edge to me goes to Dwight Howard. I know Sanders averaged 2.8 blocks per game, I loved him at Virginia Commonwealth too–but right now I would take Howard over Sanders.

6. Who has a better chance of beating the Miami Heat: The Chicago Bulls or the Indiana Pacers?

MS: I’m going with the Indiana Pacers simply because they were my pick for the Finals. But the Bulls will more than likely be a better offensive team than the Pacers–even with the Heat not being able to handle the Pacers’ size. I would say that there’s a 50/50 chance I’m wrong, but I’ll go with the Pacers still.

CM: The Pacers. Indiana took Miami to seven and very well could have won the series had Roy Hibbert been in on LeBron’s game-winner in Game 1. The Bulls’ bench is not as skilled as the Pacers’ bench, and the Paul George-Roy Hibbert combination is far more formidable than Rose-Boozer or Rose-Noah.

OW: With a slight advantage I’m going to have to say the Pacers. They rattled the Heat during their playoff series and they’ve only improved. Getting Danny Granger back with a deeper bench helps. They could finally pull off the upset.

SG: I’m going to go with the Pacers for really no reason other than they have less questions. Both teams have the tools needed to defeat the Heat and I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if either team were to beat the Heat in the playoffs this year.

RH: I think with the bench scoring edition Granger, Indy really has a solid shot at dethroning the champs. Bird and Pritchard made some heady moves that I think have solidified Indy as the true foil to LeBron James’ Miami Heat team.

EM:  I think it’s the Pacers. They replaced Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Green with Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. This team took the Heat to a seventh game a season ago, so they know what it takes, not that the task is easy. They also will have a healthy Danny Granger. Either way, the Pacers or Bulls will be in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.

JB: Toughest question I have had to answer in awhile but I’m going to say Chicago. The Bulls to me have the better chance to beat the Heat. Why? Derrick Rose will be healthy come playoff time first of all. You have a premiere on ball defender in Jimmy Butler who can handle a strong Dwayne Wade.  I also think that Tom Thibodeau can devise a plan to slow James down especially with the defensive talent he has. I’m going Bulls in.

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