NBA Eastern Conference Predictions - Central Division
by Josh Nagel - 10/16/2009
Here are some NBA predictions for the 2009-10 season, with a team-by-team look at the Eastern Conference Central Division.
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last year's record: 66-16, 50-32 ATS
Odds: +265 (NBA championship), +120 (Eastern Conference)
Key transactions: Acquired center Shaquille O'Neal and forward Leon Powe.
Cleveland Cavaliers Predictions: Cleveland's lack of a consistent inside scoring threat was exposed in last year's playoffs, when the Orlando Magic proved that LeBron James wasn't capable of a winning a series by himself. Welcome Shaq, who is getting older and slower by the day, but showed glimpses of playing inspired basketball last year for the Phoenix Suns. If the Cavs can still get 20-25 quality minutes out of him, he will do wonders to open up the floor for both James and Mo Williams, who became an All-Star in his first year as LeBron's sidekick. Shaq's championship pedigree also comes into play, as Cleveland lacks veteran leadership. The Cavs have been criticized in year's past for not doing enough to help James and address their biggest weaknesses; the same can't be said of them this year.
Prediction: 58-25, first place.
Team: Chicago Bulls
Last year's record: 41-41, 42-39-1 ATS
Odds: +4500 (NBA), +2300 (conference)
Key transactions: Drafted forwards James Johnson and Taj Gibson.
Chicago Bulls Predictions: The Bulls undoubtedly will miss Ben Gordon, the clutch-shooting guard who bailed them out of too many games to count. Although Gordon left for a rich free-agent contract with the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls are still loaded in the back court with the likes of Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. Their biggest weakness was addressed with the late-season pickup of forward Brad Miller, who can score in the paint and with mid-range jumpers. Miller was the primary reason Chicago made a late surge to salvage its season and reach the playoffs. Miller probably has another good year or two left in him, and forward Joakim Noah has finally started showing signs of why Chicago made him a first-round draft pick. This year's drafting of Johnson and Gibson makes Chicago's front court more athletic and better defensively.
Prediction: 50-32, second place.
Team: Indiana Pacers
Last year's record: 36-46, 44-36-2 ATS
Philadelphia 76ers: +10000 (NBA), +7500 (conference)
Key transactions: Acquired guard Dahntay Jones; drafted forward Tyler Hansbrough.
Indiana Pacers Predictions: Despite annual turnover of its personnel, coach Jim O'Brien showed he is capable of turning around the franchise's recent fortunes. He has turned Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy into second-tier stars, and the logjam at point guard was resolved when Jarrett Jack departed in the offseason. The signing of Jones provides some needed defense and toughness, and the Pacers will get the same from draftee Hansbrough. The former North Carolina star could prove to be the steal of the draft, and should immediately help with his relentless hustle and underrated offensive skills. Center Roy Hibbert also is developing into a formidable post presence. If the Pacers can get a little better on the defensive end of the court, they should be poised for a playoff appearance.
Prediction: 48-34, third place.
Team: Detroit Pistons
Last year's record: 39-43, 34-48 ATS
Odds: +4500 (NBA), +1600 (conference)
Key transactions: Acquired guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva.
Detroit Pistons Predictions: This franchise made two lethal mistakes last year from which it could take a while to recover. The hiring of rookie coach Michael Curry to lead a veteran-filled club was the first mishap. Curry was in over his head and overwhelmed, and the players didn't respond to him. The second was trading veteran point guard Chauncey Billups for an aging and fading Allen Iverson. Billups was the heart and soul of Detroit's glory years earlier in the decade, and his former teammates looked lost without him. Guys like Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince counted on Billups to create for them, and their production was hurt by his absence. The Pistons are starting over with another first-time head coach in veteran NBA assistant John Kuester. Picking up Gordon and Villanueva gives Detroit some more weapons and depth. Rodney Stuckey must continue to grow into the role Billups once filled so efficiently.
Prediction: 41-41, fourth place.
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Last year's record: 34-48, 41-39-2
Odds: +125000 (NBA), +9500 (conference)
Key transactions: Acquired forward Hakim Warrick; drafted guard Brandon Jennings.
Milwaukee Bucks Predictions: The Bucks started off last season by exceeding predictions, but then saw their year derailed by a slew of devastating injuries. When its roster is healthy, Milwaukee has shown it has the talent to be a factor in the conference. Andrew Bogut is an underrated talent, and Michael Redd is in his prime as a top-flight shooting guard. The signing of Warrick adds athleticism and rebounding to the front line. If coach Scott Skiles can keep his core lineup on the court, the Bucks might turn the corner.
Prediction: 37-45, fifth place.
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