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Monday, October 6, 2008

A cursory glance at the NBA 2

The previews continue as the NBA training camp ticks by. Today, we look at the Central Division of the Eastern Conference.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls
The Bulls hit the jackpot in the draft, getting the number one overall pick in the summer extravaganza at Madison Square Garden.
Thing is, the Bulls wasted the pick like they did in 2000 and 2002, drafting a player in a position that they were already loaded in. The player in question was Derrick Rose, an uber-athletic guard out of the University of Memphis.
The Bulls were already loaded at point guard though, with Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon (even Ben Gordon played a little point). So they let Duhon walk, and drafted an upgrade at the position, while totally neglecting what they really needed in the draft: inside scoring.
That inside scoring would have been provided by power forward Michael Beasley, who's no slouch compared to Rose.
Point guards take time to mature and assimilate to the style of the NBA. With Rose on board, I see Chicago struggling this season while trying to accommodate the growing pains of their new floor general.

Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs remind everyone of the Bulls in the mid-eighties. They have the greatest player in the league at the moment in the form of LeBron James, who's as important as Michael Jordan was to his Bulls before they won their first championship.
King James is a nightly terror on the court, an absolute matchup nightmare for his defender every single game, because he can do everything. Okay, almost everything until he can hit most of his freethrows.
The guy is a walking triple-double waiting to happen on a daily basis, a player who can score, dish and defend. Lebron has the size, skill and athleticism to dominate just about anyone as well.
However, questions are asked as to why the Cavs have only appeared in the NBA Finals once with such a dominant player on board.
The answer: His supporting cast is terrible.
You see, Mr. James does not have the Pippens, Grants or Rodmans of the world at his side. He is but one man on a team of five, playing as if he was three of them.
The Cavs, to their credit, thought that Larry Hughes would be that dynamic sidekick to the King. Hughes is now collecting his cheques from the Bulls, so you know how that experiment went. Ben Wallace is now on the team to relieve ‘Bron of some of his defensive duties, but Big Ben has yet to prove himself as anything but a big overpaid bust.
So, unless Cleveland can find some reliable help for LeBron James, expect an early playoff exit for the NBA's perennial nearly-men.

Detroit Pistons
If the Cleveland Cavaliers lack a supporting cast to ever win the NBA championship, the Detroit Pistons lack a superstar who can take the team on his back and carry them into the Promised Land.
The Pistons have depth that any team in the league would kill for. With a nucleus of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace, along with a superb bench of Jason Maxiell, Antonio McDyess, Arron Afflalo and Rodney Stuckey, Detroit are well-built for a long and grueling season, with enough quality to rest the starters, and not suffer from a drop in performance when the said starters are not in the game.
It is in the playoffs that DEE-TROIT BASKET-BAALL suffers the most.
In recent seasons, the Pistons have always been sent home by teams that have a resident superstar in their lineup. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett (with the help of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen) have had their way with the Pistons enroute to the NBA Finals.
And unless President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars trades for a superstar soon, the Pistons are doomed to turning in great regular seasons and suffering frustrating playoff outings until their core members retire.

Indiana Pacers
Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird should be in basketball executive purgatory now.
The Celtics playing legend traded away his oft-injured center-forward Jermaine O'Neal for an equally injury-riddled point guard TJ Ford. Everybody, including my mom and her kettle, knows you don't trade a big for a small. But Larry Legend did just that.
The Pacers now have a hugely unbalanced squad entering the season, with misfits like Jamal Tinsley still sulking within its ranks, and a bulk of players who excel in shooting the ball from long range. Problem is, Indiana does not have any sort of post presence that would effectively space the floor to give their long range bombers room to operate.
That said, Larry's Legion, under the command of coach Jim O'Brien, could start playing "Seven Seconds or Less" basketball in Hoosier state, and make all of us look extremely stupid.

Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks claimed that they were devastated by injury in the 2006-07 season, only to turn in a 26-56 season the following season with a relatively healthy squad. The collapse of Milwaukee only served to prove one thing:
The team sucked.
Out went GM Larry Harris along with head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who were replaced by former Detroit Pistons assistant GM Joe Hammond his advocate for defence, coach Scott Skiles.
Milwaukee should get immediate improvement with Skiles, whose fiery temper should whip the Bucks into playing some semblance of defence.
The trade for athletic wingman Richard Jefferson should offer the team some slashing ability to complement star guard Michael Redd's shooting stroke, along with some muscle and speed on the perimeter.
Milwaukee should still finish in the lower echelon of the Eastern Conference, but the Bucks now have a solid platform to build on and try to squeeze their way into the playoffs.

By Vincent Lai

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