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Predicting Wins For NBA’s Central Division
Posted By Joel Brigham On August 12, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
There is a very strong chance that the Central Division will be the toughest division in basketball next year, thanks in large part to a ridiculous influx of talent. Derrick Rose, Danny Granger and Andrew Bynum will return from season-long injuries, Indiana seriously bolstered their bench, Detroit brought in top-tier free agents in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and Cleveland added the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft in Anthony Bennett. Even Milwaukee made a handful of sneaky good moves this offseason, meaning there really is no true slouch in this entire division.
While inter-divisional games will be as tough as they’ve been in years, the Bulls, Pacers, Bucks, Pistons and Cavaliers should have a fair amount of success against the rest of the league. This week, we’ll look at the NBA one division at a time and try to predict what each organization’s record will be by season’s end.
Here is how the Central Division could play out in the 2013-14 season:
2012-13 Record: 49-32
Projected 2013-14 Record: 58-24
For two straight seasons, the Pacers have finished with a winning percentage over .600. And considering they’re bringing back the same core as well as adding a real backup point guard (C.J. Watson), some legitimate veteran depth in the frontcourt (Luis Scola) and one of free agency’s biggest all-around bargains (Chris Copeland), there is zero reason to believe they won’t improve this season.
The schedule for Indiana is relatively favorable, which should help them in their quest to win the Central Division again this year. They start and end the season against the Orlando Magic, and while they have two five-game road trips, neither of them occurs in the last three months of the season. They have 20 back-to-backs, which isn’t ideal, but five of those hit in the in the season’s first 30 days, so at least the majority of them are spread out at a time when they’ll appreciate having fewer of those to worry about.
Whatever the schedule, Indiana is a good team that got better in the offseason and should continue to have big success in the upcoming season. Really only one team has a serious shot at knocking them from their pedestal…
2012-13 Record: 45-37
Projected 2013-14 Record: 56-26
In the two full seasons that Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau were able to work together, the Bulls won 62 and 50 games. Just adding Rose to last year’s team is good for 5-10 more wins, but a more mature Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague, plus the addition of Mike Dunleavy, Jr. give Chicago arguably the best lineup they’ve had since Thibodeau took over the team in 2010. In short, the Bulls are going to be back among the league’s elite next year as long as their key pieces remain healthy.
Like it does every year, Chicago’s 2013-2014 schedule features an extensive autumnal road trip because the circus kicks them out of the United Center for a couple of weeks in November. This year, that road trip is only six games long, which is much better than the seven or eight games it has often been in the past. They have 17 back-to-backs, which is nothing to either cheer or complain about, but they do have to play Miami and New York four times, which is more than division rival Indiana, whom they play only three times. As one of the league’s best defensive teams, though, they’ll see plenty of success on a nightly basis no matter whom they play.
2012-13 Record: 29-53
Projected 2013-14 Record: 45-37
The Pistons haven’t hit the 40-win mark since the 2007-08 season, which makes it hard to predict a huge jump in wins this upcoming season, but the additions of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are enough to inspire confidence in a significant turnaround for Detroit. They don’t project to have homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they do project to make the postseason, which is something they haven’t done in four years. That’s a big enough leap to at least gives fans a sense of optimism again.
The problem with Detroit is that they haven’t won a road game against a Western Conference team since March 14, 2012, and they have five road games against Western Conference teams in the first three weeks of the season. Despite a 4-26 record against the West last year, Detroit was just one game under .500 against the East, which means some improvement against the other conference should put them in a position to win another 12-17 games this season. It’s a big jump, but with all the new talent, it’s a realistic one.
2012-13 Record: 24-58
Projected 2013-14 Record: 41-41
Cleveland is one of a handful of burgeoning Eastern Conference teams with a real shot at catapulting themselves back into the playoff picture this year, but to win almost 20 more games this year than they did a season ago means a lot of things are going to have to go right, including keeping Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bynum healthy. A couple of young players, namely Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, will also have to make big individual strides, and contributions from Cleveland’s two-first round picks wouldn’t hurt either.
Helping Cleveland will be the fact that they have only one road trip that’s longer than four games—a five-game swing in January—and in their first 10 games of the season they only play three teams that finished over .500 last year (Chicago, Indiana, Brooklyn). That means they can get off to a hot start, and then deal with a schedule that doesn’t really get too grueling after that. With new head coach Mike Brown and a big influx of talent, hovering a few games above .500 doesn’t seem like too big a stretch, even when compared to last season’s dismal win total. If all goes right, Cleveland is a playoff team this year.
2012-13 Record: 38-44
Projected 2013-14 Record: 34-48
Talk to anybody in the Bucks front office, and they’ll gush about the work they’ve done this summer, particularly as it pertains to signing O.J. Mayo. But they also love Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia and Brandon Knight, and they really think they’ve got a shot at being a competitive Eastern Conference team at some point in the future.
The problem is that it’s not the future yet, and while there is a lot of intriguing young talent on the roster, there’s little reason to believe the Bucks won’t experience some growing pains this year. Getting to .500 will be a quest in and of itself, and their schedule really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with that either way. They’ve got some nice young pieces, but they’re still a ways out. As tough as the Central Division is, Milwaukee has their work cut out for them.
Is it really possible that the Central Division could have two teams that finish with over 55 wins next season when only one team in the entire Eastern Conference (the two-time defending champion Miami HEAT) were able to do so a year ago?
Of course it is. Both San Antonio and Memphis topped that mark in the Western Conference’s Southwest Division last year, and the Bulls and Pacers look primed for a decent jump this upcoming season.
The only question is, what the rest of the division will be able to accomplish? Whatever happens, it will be some stiff competition all year long, and NBA fans should be champing at the bit to see how it all pans out.
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