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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Central division is murderer’s row

By Cody Brunner

Big Ben switched teams, the Bucks picked up Villanueva and LeBron was pronounced God in the offseason.

In all honesty, this is the best division in the NBA and will likely put four- possibly five-teams into the playoffs. Since I lack the brainpower right now to come up with a better intro (forgive me, Halloween parties last weekend are taking their toll), I’m just going to jump right into the breakdown.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)

We all know who LeBron James is and what he is capable of, so I don’t need to go into a long oration on how I worship him. I am expecting MVP-caliber numbers from King James, and this could be the year the Cavs finally get off the snide and break through to the Finals.

Cleveland did it all last year, mostly without the aid of Larry Hughes, but the shooting guard returns to the lineup for this season. Baby Huey put up 15.5 points per game in the 32 games he played last year and will surely lighten the load for Bron this season.

Down low, the Lithuanian nightmare Zydrunas Ilgauskas will pound out plenty of solid numbers after an above-par season last year (15.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Also, reports say that he is adding yet another flavor to his already delicious repertoire. The Akron Beacon-Journal reports that the 7-foot-3 monster has been working on baby hook shots with his right and left arms. Extremely enticing.

The reason they should win the division: LeBron James.

The reason they might not: Cleveland lacks a legitimate point guard. LeBron and Huey are two solid shooting guards, but neither one of them is fit to bring the ball down the court and run the offense.

2. Chicago Bulls (52-30)

Chicago went an even .500 (41-41) from the field last season to finish tied for third in the conference. The Bulls boasted one of the best defenses in the league last year and can only improve with the addition of Ben Wallace.

That reminds me?I don’t know about the rest of you, but isn’t Big Ben one of the most terrifying people in sports? Seriously, he’s in my top five finalists for the People I Would Never Want to Meet in a Dark Alley Award (others include Jerry Porter, Brian Urlacher, Triple-H and Stephen Jackson).

Kirk Hinrich has made huge improvements over the past few years and is now one of the premier point guards in the league. He will need to pick up more of the slack on offense though, because the Bulls, once again, forgot to address some much needed low-post scoring.

Reasons they could win the division: Big Ben brings a huge defensive boost down low, and new additions Tyrus Thomas and P.J. Brown will only help the Bulls’ all-around game.

Why they might not: While Big Ben is the best low-post defender in the history of mankind, he still lacks the moves to be a huge offensive threat. Low-post scoring will most likely be the Bulls’ downfall.

3. Detroit Pistons (51-31)

This would be an obvious sell-out pick for that No. 1 spot, but I think the loss of Big Ben will be a bigger factor than most think.

If you don’t know the key players for the Pistons, I encourage you to crawl out of that hole you’ve been in for the past five years. Sheed, Billups, Rip and Tayshaun will all put up similar numbers to last year’s, but unless Sheed picks up the low-post slack, Detroit could be hurting. My prediction is that the Pistons will struggle early but find their cohesion without the big man late in the season, firing on all cylinders in time for the playoffs (I’m sorry, I had to do it).

Why they could win the division: It’s the Pistons-need I say more?

Why they might not: Losing Ben’s dominating presence will hurt Detroit as more and more teams look to attack down low.

4. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)

My boys made the playoffs last year and have a legit chance to repeat that performance with the addition of power forward Charlie Villanueva, who may very well be the ugliest human on the planet. The smooth, big man from UConn has been a steady contributor for the Raptors and will absorb a larger role for the Bucks, especially early in the season. He will have to fill the void of Bucks center and U alumnus Andrew Bogut, who sprained his lower left leg in practice earlier this offseason but is ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation.

In the backcourt, the Bucks have a solid contributor in Michael Redd. The shooting guard averaged 25.4 points per game last season and will surely carry the team again. In other news, no one outside of Wisconsin-besides me- cares.

Why they could win the division: Who am I kidding? In this conference, there isn’t a chance in hell the Bucks will win.

Why they might not: Bogut is out and the Bucks don’t have a true point.

5. Indiana Pacers (39-43)

I love watching Pacers basketball. There is always that edginess in the air when they play. That feeling that Stephen Jackson or Jermaine O’Neal will throw a right hook. Seriously, the Pacers are a great team, but they need to find a way to stay out of jail. With Jackson’s offseason antics (fired a gun and got hit by a car outside of a nightclub) and Rick Carlisle’s lack of discipline, this should be a fun year.

Why they could win: The Pacers’ grit shouldn’t be underestimated. For as much trouble as they get into, they are an extremely competitive team.

Why they might not win: The U.S. legal system.

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