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Bulls, Bucks the best in weak Central
This quintet of ballclubs features one team on the rise, one team possessing big-time offense and small-time defense, along with three duds.
Derrick Rose is a sure-fire star-in-the-making — quick, strong, talented and motivated. A few tweaks in his perimeter jumpers, his defense and his decision-making in the paint and he should develop into a Kobe-LeBron type player. But he’s not there yet.
Tom Thibodeau’s defensive schemes necessarily revolve around Joakim Noah, a all-hustle-all-the-time guy. Noah can rebound with anybody and play exceptional team defense, all of which makes him one of the best young role players in the league.
Interior scoring will be the responsibility of Carlos Boozer, another sure-handed rebounder, but an atrocious defender. Unfortunately for the Bulls, he's out two months with a broken hand.
Luol Deng is an active baseline scorer. C.J. Watson can pressure the ball when his opponent has possession, but makes too many ill-advised decisions when the rock is in his hands. Kyle Korver is a one-trick pony who needs several screens to free up his jumpers. Taj Gibson is a valuable energy player. Keith Bogans is a 3-point shooter with defensive capabilities.
Given Boozer’s return to health, the Bulls will have sufficient offense to be troublesome, and to compete with Milwaukee for control of the division. But not even Thibodeau’s emphasis on defense will be enough to make then viable championship contenders.
By personal inclination and the demands of necessity, Byron Scott will up-tempo the Cavs' game plan.
Mo Williams will have no problem running and gunning with a license to shoot. He’ll undoubtedly be the main gunner. Too bad he’s really a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, and can’t guard his own lunch.
Antawn Jamison is next in line after Williams to inherit the rest of LeBron’s shots. A finesse player whose defense is only a rumor, Jamison doesn’t have the stuff to dominate.
Although Daniel Gibson can shoot the lights out, he plays defense in the dark.
Anderson Varejao’s game features good D, no O.
Anthony Parker is the best two-way player on the roster and, sans LBJ, he should be better integrated into the offense. Look for him to have a bust-out season.
Leon Powe is tough enough in the low post and represents Cleveland’s only interior scoring threat.
J.J. Hickson and Joey Graham are tough guys and terrific secondary players.
Jamario Moon can run, jump and play quick-handed defense, but is often out of control.
A 35-win season would be a huge accomplishment for the Cavs, a franchise that has much better memories than it has hopes for the future.
The thrill is gone. Tayshaun Prince has lost his edge. Richard Hamilton remains a potent point-maker but will become increasingly frustrated as he wastes the last years of his prime in a losing cause. How long before Rip starts playing for his own statistical aggrandizement?
Rodney Stuckey is still trying to master the point guard position. Will Bynum is a sprightly point who makes too many mistakes.
Ben Gordon can still score points by the dozen. Although he’s a proven clutch player, meaningful clutch situations will be rare.
Tracy McGrady is soft and virtually useless.
Ben Wallace is an old warhorse who gamely answers every starting bell but limps down the home stretch.
Charlie Villanueva is strictly a turn-and-face shooter — soft, but capable of ringing up 20 points on any given night.
Jonas Jerebko's torn Achilles' tendon is a big blow. The Pistons will miss his youthful skills and enthusiasm.
For Detroit, it’s Destination Dullsville.
On the plus side: Darren Collison is the talented, unselfish point guard the Pacers have lacked since the halcyon days of Mark Jackson.
Danny Granger can fill the basket. As can Mike Dunleavy. Roy Hibbert worked diligently over the summer to improve his footwork, his jump hook and his physique. On occasion, Brandon Rush can be a dynamic scorer.
On the minus side: Granger can’t handle or defend. Dunleavy is physically weak and is also one of the worst defenders in the league. Hibbert is not especially talented. Tyler Hansbrough is a jack of some trades and master of none. It’s unlikely that the Pacers will win enough games to stoke James Posey’s interest.
Jim O’Brien’s team is more athletic than last year’s bunch and will be slightly better. Then again, the Pacers couldn’t be much worse.
The key to their season is the health of Andrew Bogut. He’s smart, has adhesive hands, and has tricky moves in he pivot. However, his lateral movement is sluggish. Overall, Bogut is a solid second-tier big man.
Brandon Jennings is quick, but limited by his erratic jumpers, his inability to finish in a crowd, and his undeveloped defense. The young man is, at best, two years away from stardom.
John Salmons, Michael Redd and Corey Maggette have the same modus operandi — shoot first, never ask questions and play only token defense.
Ersan Ilyasova provides energy off the bench. Carlos Delfino is a slow-footed streak shooter. Drew Gooden is a solid third-tier big man.
This is a poorly balanced roster, top-heavy with gunners, and light on defenders. Given a career year by all concerned, they could conceivably catch the Bulls and roll over an inferior team to open the playoffs.
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