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Central Divison Preview

Three up-and-coming teams along with two established playoff locks. Is this the best division in the Eastern Conference?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Major rehauls for all but one team in the Central. Who’s playoff bound and who’s not?

Cleveland Cavaliers

2014-15: 53-29, No. 2 seed

Lost 4-2 in the NBA Finals to the Warriors

Coach: David Blatt

Key Arrivals: Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson (not too sure this one is key, but it’s something)

Key Departures: Shawn Marion

Expectations: With Kyrie Irving reportedly being sidelined for the beginning of the season and LeBron resting more often than usual, it’s likely that the Cavs’ regular season may have a few more losses than last year.

That said, it’s all about the playoffs for this squad and with a healthy lineup, they’re going to give anyone and everyone in the East trouble. Prior to the injury, Kyrie was averaging playoff totals of 19 points on 43.8% FG, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals. Add a healthy KLove into the mix along with their role players and they’ve got serious offensive firepower.

It’s hard to consider these guys the underdogs to any team in the league, so I’m predicting 48 wins, the second seed in the East and a return to the Finals.

Don't sleep on...

Kevin Love

With a renewed contract and an offseason with several returning faces (something he hasn’t been accustomed to), I’m anticipating that Kevin is going to play a pivotal role in the Cavs’ upcoming season.

While his offensive numbers may never return to the level they were at with the Wolves, I’m expecting a slight increase in minutes and scoring - 35 and 19.5, respectively.

P.S. This will always be my all-time favorite KLove moment. It’s probably everyone’s.

Chicago Bulls

2014-15: 50-32, No. 3 seed

Lost 4-2 in Conference Semi Finals to the Cavaliers

Coach: Fred Hoiberg

Key Arrivals: Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio

Key Departures: Nazr Mohammaed

Expectations: Derrick Rose struggled in his return to the court as Jimmy Butler emerged as another Bulls superstar last season. With another healthy offseason in the books though, the Bulls are slated to be a playoff guarantee again this year - the question being whether they’ll finally be able to defeat LeBron.

With a new coach at the helm, seasoned veterans such as Gibson, Gasol and Noah returning, and young players like Portis, Snell and McDermott, the sky is the limit for this team.

As always, the fate of the team likely lies on the health of Derrick Rose and his abilities going into the season. (For what it’s worth, I think Rose is going to have a bounce back year. Not for any particular reason, but just because I’m a huge Derrick Rose fan.)

I’m expecting the Bulls to win 54 games and grab the 1st seed in the East (Yes, I’m biased because of the recent move). LeBron still plays NBA basketball though, so unfortunately, I think the ECF is as far as this team can/will make it.

Don't sleep on...

Fred Hoiberg’s Offensive Sets

This team’s going to continue their strong defensive presence but unlike previous years, their offense is going to be much improved thanks to their head coach. Take a look at some of Fred’s offensive sets during his tenure at Iowa State and think of the value players like McDermott and Mitotic could have in this system.

Indiana Pacers

2014-15: 38-44, No. 9 seed

Missed Playoffs

Coach: Frank Vogel

Key Arrivals: Myles Turner, Joseph Young, Monta Ellis, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, Glenn Robinson III, Rakeem Christmas

Key Departures: David West, Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Damjan Rudez

Expectations: Despite the problems Roy Hibbert had with the Pacers, their defense obviously took a huge blow that the additions of Jordan Hill and Myles Turner will not immediately fill. Keeping that in mind, the Pacers have added some intriguing players and certainly seem to be capable of grabbing the 8 seed in the East if all goes well. Monta Ellis was the perfect addition to this roster and I think he’ll thrive with Indiana.

But, much like the Bulls’ situation with Derrick Rose, much depends on Paul George’s health and whether he’s able to return to superstar form next year. If so, Indiana is my sleeper to 1. Make the playoffs and 2. Upset an Eastern team in the first round.

All that said, I believe the Pacers will win just 36 games next year.

Don't sleep on...

Myles Turner

The Pacers lost their best three big men in the offseason, but Myles Turner certainly has the capability of making up for some of their offensive contributions in his Rookie year. He blew me away with some of his Summer League work and I think he’ll quickly turn some heads in the league and win one Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award.

Milwaukee Bucks

2014-15: 41-41, No. 6 seed

Lost 4-2 in First Round to the Bulls

Coach: Jason Kidd

Key Arrivals: Greg Monroe, Rashad Vaughn, Chris Copeland, Greivis Vasquez

Key Departures: Jared Dudley, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia

Expectations: They may be in the same state as the Packers, but I don’t hate them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m extremely enthused by this team’s potential and while I’m not sure Greg Monroe fits their current roster extremely well, with the return of Jabari Parker, this team is going to make some noise in the East.

Jason Kidd coached this team to a playoff berth last year, and I think the roster has improved - because of so, I’m predicting a record of 43-39 with another No. 6 seed appearance.

Don't sleep on...

Khris Middleton

My #1 priority for the Bucks this offseason was for them to re-sign Middleton. They did just that and I think it was a reasonable price tag based on the market (5 years, $70M). Did I mention he shot 41% from three last year and played stellar defense? Great choice, Bucks. Middleton may not reach the same levels as he did last year, but he’ll surely make the most of his opportunities.

Detroit Pistons

2014-15: 32-50, No. 12 seed

Missed Playoffs.

Coach: Stan Van Gundy

Key Arrivals: Stanley Johnson, Ersan Ilysova, Aron Baynes, Steve Blake, Marcus Morris, Danny Granger, Reggie Bullock

Key Departures: Greg Monroe, Caron Butler, Shawne Williams, Quincy Miller

Expectations: I’m not sold yet on Reggie Jackson’s ability to lead this team. Furthermore, I don’t believe Brandon Jennings is willing to begin games on the bench for too long if things start to go south in Detroit. Basically, I think they’re going to struggle as much as they did last year.

On a lighter note, I think Stanley Johnson is going to have a stellar year and compete for ROY (with KAT, of course).

I feel like I’m being a bit harsh here, and I likely am, but there’s far too many "what if’s?" for me with this roster…so, I’m predicting a 37-45 season for the Pistons.

Don't sleep on...

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

I’m hoping KCP builds off of his much-improved sophomore season and has a breakout year for Detroit. He had quite a few games last year that had me irrationally high on his potential and he thrives in SVG’s system. If there’s an improved emphasis on catch-and-shoot situations for KCP next year, keep an eye on him. He’s deadly from deep.