We may only be about 10 games into the 2016-17 NBA season, however, it is a sample size more than sufficient enough to reveal the true colors of these teams and the future that lies ahead of them. As we progress further into the six-month gauntlet that is the NBA regular season, here are the best- and worst-kept secrets for every franchise. Today: the Central Division.
Cleveland Cavaliers, 8-1
Best-kept secret: Kay Felder’s amazing preseason performance will ultimately groom a path for him to be the full-time backup point guard to Kyrie Irving. The little guy can flat-out ball, and the position where the Cavaliers’ depth has been lacking the most is now the complete opposite.
Worst-kept secret: Kevin Love is not shooting well. Despite averaging 20.6 points, his 33.3 percent three-point and 42 percent overall shooting figures are simply not good enough for a player of Love’s significance. The fact that 56.8 percent of his made two-point field goals and 100 percent of his three-point ones have been assisted means the Cavs are getting him open. He needs to fulfill his end of the bargain.
Chicago Bulls, 6-4
Best-kept secret: On paper, this might be the deepest team in the association. It is a blessing and a curse, as 1) you’re allowed to play only five players at once, and 2) Fred Hoiberg rotates players like he’s picking names out of a hat. Look at the roster, and you could legitimately argue that Bobby Portis, Jerian Grant, and Denzel Valentine are currently Nos. 11-13 in the pecking order. When you have that much talent to choose from, you have absolutely no excuses to not produce Ws.
Worst-kept secret: Rajon Rondo has not been good. In fact, he’s been a liability. With Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler , historically mediocre jump shooters, on the floor simultaneously, you figured one of the three would struggle to be efficient as defenses deprioritize guarding the perimeter. The other four Bulls starters all have double-digit positive net ratings, but Rondo is currently minus-15 through 10 games. He doesn’t need “to go,” but his role certainly needs to change.
Milwaukee Bucks, 5-4
Best-kept secret: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. No, I didn’t forget about Kyrie Irving – rather, I’m looking at the enormous impact the Greek Freak has as a dual threat. Giannis, as a facilitator, currently averages 21.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. OK, cool. On the other side of the ball, Antetokounmpo is grabbing 8.3 rebounds and snatching 2.1 blocks and 2.0 steals per game. In addition, he currently carries the second-best defensive rating on the team (98), a ludicrous 26.4 PER and a team-best plus-8.0 box score +/- average (13 of 15 players on the roster are currently negative). The next closest Bucks player in this department? Greg Monroe, at plus-4.8. The “potential superstar status” of Antetokounmpo we’ve talked about for two years isn’t just a discussion anymore – it’s here.
Worst-kept secret: Between Miles Plumlee’s $49.6 million deal, Matthew Dellavedova’s $39 million and John Henson’s $42 million, there may not be a franchise with a more clogged up cap room going to mediocre basketball players than the Milwaukee Bucks.
Detroit Pistons, 6-5
Best-kept secret: Tobias Harris might have been … worth the money? Shocking, I know … As soon as the ink hit paper on Harris’ four-year, $64 million deal with the Pistons – there was not a whole lot of optimism outside of Detroit that he would be able to take on the responsibility of being a key player on a successful team. Harris hasn’t been an all-star thus far, but he’s been damn good. He leads the Pistons in scoring (16.5 per game), is one of the more efficient players on the roster, and most important: Every 3-pointer he’s made this season has been assisted. In the past, Harris was notorious for being a bit of a ball-stopper and attempting difficult contested shots, but this season Harris is not only scoring efficiently but is making his teammates better as well.
Worst-kept secret: Andre Drummond’s free throw percentage is up almost 20 points from last season, but, it’s still 53.1 percent. When the best player on your team cannot be on the floor in crunch-time minutes because he gets intentionally fouled and essentially turns the ball over after missing two free throws, you have a problem. Until this is fixed, the Pistons aren’t winning a big game any time soon, and everyone knows it.
Indiana Pacers, 5-6
Best-kept secret: Myles Turner is going to be an all-star, if he’s not already. If Turner played in a major market, he would without a doubt be getting the same publicity a Kristaps Porzingis gets in New York – he’s simply that good. This second-year, 20-year-old kid’s game is light years ahead of his age – leading the starting unit in efficiency with an obscene 23.3 PER. He can create his own shot, he passes, he blocks shots, he rebounds, he defends – you name it, Turner does it well. There is a legitimate argument to be made that, under his current rookie contract, he is a more valuable asset than perennial superstar teammate Paul George.
Worst-kept secret: The bench is a disaster. Al Jefferson was brought in to hold down the fort while the Pacers’ starters catch a breather. Saying he’s been bad is a compliment, as he is dead last on the roster (of rotation players) in the +/- department – averaging a minus-4.5. The Pacers are going nowhere as long as their bench continues to blow leads.