PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
COACH: MIKE BROWN
LAST YEAR: 66-16
BEST ADDITION: C SHAQUILLE ONEAL
BIGGEST LOSS: C BEN WALLACE
The Cleveland Cavs made a bold move and acquired Shaq to team with LeBron and hopefully push them over the top to an NBA Championship. The Cavs may be down to their last chance as LeBron is free to walk after this season, and if he doesn’t sniff a championship now, or on the horizon he could walk. The Cavs certainly have the ability to make a run, but they have a lot of competition at the top, and it won’t be easy, odds are they come up short again.
COACH: VINNY DEL NEGRO
LAST YEAR: 41-41
BEST ADDITION: F JAMES JOHNSON
BIGGEST LOSS: G BEN GORDON
The Bulls will really miss Ben Gordon, more than they realize, as he helped them take the Celtics to the wire in the playoffs. The Bulls still have enough talent to make the playoffs, but not much more to put them over the top and battle the heavyweights. I think they will look a lot like last year’s team, playing poorly in stretches, and looking like world beaters at other times, but in the end a .500 team.
COACH: JIM O’BRIEN
LAST YEAR: 36-46
BEST ADDITION: F TYLER HANSBROUGH
BIGGEST LOSS: G MARQUIS DANIELS
The Pacers did some good things at home, and knocked off a lot of big teams, but the youth on this team simply doesn’t translate to the road, and the high flying offense doesn’t either. Hansbrough will add toughness and help change the culture, as he never take a minute off. He will likely not rise to stardom, but a very fundamentally sound player with a strong work ethic, that should help. Pacers still a couple players away from being a factor.
COACH: JOHN KUESTER
LAST YEAR: 39-43
BEST ADD: G BEN GORDON
BIGGEST LOSS: C/F RASHEED WALLACE
The Pistons really slipped last year, and trading Chauncey Billups for a now departed Allan Iverson was not a good move. They are taking on the look of Uconn turned pro with Hamilton,Villanueva, and Gordon now in the fold, not a bad trio. They will miss Rasheed, but it was time to retool this team, and I expect them to improve, but not nearly enough to be more than a borderline playoff team.
COACH: SCOTT SKILES
LAST YEAR: 34-48
BEST ADDITION: G BRANDON JENNINGS
BIGGEST LOSS: F RICHARD JEFFERSON
Bucks fans have to be patient, salary dumps on Jefferson, and Villanueva were necessary. They have a couple very good players in Redd and Bogut, the problem is trying to keep them on the court. If both stay healthy the Bucks could challenge the .500 mark, but I don’t see them going beyond that. If either goes down for an extended period, they will be last again in the Central.