Welcome back to my NBA 2019-20 Season Preview series. Up today is the Central division. Whether you agree or disagree, make sure to give me a follow on Twitter (@onpointayden) to let me know, or just hurl abuse at me. I need friends. Enough of that…away we go!
2018-19 Season Finish: 5th in division, 14th in conference
Predicted 2019-20 Finish: 5th in division, 14th in conference
Ceiling: There is very little to look forward to here. Their best player, Kevin Love, will either be traded or get injured, again. I think the absolute highest they can finish in this conference is 12th but that is because the bottom of the East is utter shite.
Realistic Finish: As I mentioned, there isn’t much here. Realistically, even if one of their prospects pans out, this team is still only good for around 20 wins.
Star In The Making: Due to slim pickings, I have to use the term star very loosely, but I’ve always been a big fan of Larry Nance Jr. He never wows you, unless he is collecting bodies by dunking on somebody (RIP Brook Lopez), but he is very good at what he does, and he does it efficiently. His p/40 numbers last season were 14 points, 12 boards, 5 assists and over 2 steals a game. He is an underrated passer and if Love gets moved or injured, Nance should be given the opportunity to be a playmaker of sorts ala Blake Griffin in DET. What do the Cavs have to lose?
Under The Radar: It’s possible I am picking him in the hopes he works out seeing as I drafted him in my NBA Dynasty League, but Ante Zizic is a big man who is also very efficient. He is a great rebounder and solid shot-blocker, but also a good free throw shooter for a big man. He could be in line for some playing time this season too if the Cavs move on from Tristan Thompson, which they’d be smart to do.
Make Or Break: It’s still early days in his career but last season, Cedi Osman was given the starting SF position due to a lack of options and he failed to really impress anyone. His numbers were fine, but he’s proven to not be irreplaceable. Now, with fan favourite rookie Dylan Windler behind him, Cedi could be in danger of losing his starting job on a terrible, terrible team like the Cavs, which is a fate worse than death.
Anything Else?: I like the Cavs because they may be one of the only teams with a future as bleak as my Hornets.
2018-19 Season Finish: 4th in division, 13th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 4th in division, 11th in conference
Ceiling: I love this young squad and while I think they’re a year away, I wouldn’t be surprised to sneak into that 7th/8th spot
Realistic Finish: While 11th in the conference may seem a bit harsh, I do think that spots 6-11 will be quite close, with a huge drop off after that so I think Chicago finishes just below .500
Star In The Making: It feels weird to say but I’m spoiled for choice here but I will go with the guy who was a throw-in on the Jimmy Butler deal, Lauri Markkanen. I LOVE Markkanen. Like, he’s a fucking beast. But he needs to get a bit beefier, a bit more physical defensively, especially if they’re going to play him at C in clutch lineups like I’ve read in a couple different articles. But he averages 19 and 9 on good shooting %’s in just his second season. If he can stay on the floor, he is going to be a 20/10 guy who shoots 40% from 3…crazy.
Under The Radar: I wanted to pick Zach Lavine here but I think he is going to be on more and more people’s radars. So instead I will go with a guy acquired at the trade deadline last season. I know it’s a small sample size but in the 15 games Otto Porter Jr played for the Bulls last season, he averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting over 90% from the FT line and nearly 50% (!) from 3. With the exception of the 3%, I believe those numbers are sustainable and Porter could be in line for MIP this season.
Make Or Break: Now, I’ve never been a fan of Kris Dunn, but other people seem to be so I’ll try put my biased aside. The thing is, Dunn was the starter last season and didn’t really do much with it. He is good defensively and a decent passer and ball-handler, but as a scorer, he is incredibly weak and it seems with the drafting of Coby White and signing of Satoransky, that the Bulls front office may have finally lost faith in him.
Anything Else?: I mentioned it earlier but I really, really like what the Bulls have built here. I just hope for all Bulls fans that GarPax don’t fuck it up like they generally seem to do. As a Hornets fan, I speak from experience; if you have a shitty front office and things are going well, be very wary…
2018-19 Season Finish: 3rd in division, 8th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 3rd in division, 7th in conference
Ceiling: I think anywhere up to the 4th seed is within reach theoretically for the Pistons, but the top 3 is a whole other tier.
Realistic Finish: I think the Pistons finish over .500, maybe 42-43 wins.
Star In The Making: If you go by ESPN, Kennard is penciled in as the backup 2-guard, but if I believed everything I read on the net, then the Pistons should be title contenders cos they signed Joe Johnson (much love Joe). Kennard should be the starting 2 and has shown, when given the opportunity, that he is a fantastic shooter. The addition of Tony Snell will lessen the negative impact of Kennard’s D. If given those extra minutes, I’d like to see him attack the basket a bit more to get himself out of the “just a shooter” hole he seems to be stuck in. He is an excellent FT shooter who just doesn’t draw enough fouls.
Under The Radar: He may look like Manute Bol’s sick child, but Thon Maker’s per minute numbers were actually really good last season, averaging out to 16 and 9 over 40 minutes. With Dwayne Casey hinting that Thon could be in line for more minutes, we could finally see dude reach his potential, just in time for his 40th birthday…I kid, I kid.
Make Or Break: Just five short years ago, Reggie Jackson put up all-star caliber numbers and quite frankly, was snubbed at the ASG. Since then, he has seemingly never recovered, with his numbers down across the board. He bounced back a little last season, probably due to defenses focusing on Blake Griffin. But in a contract year, and with another, more impressive bouncer-back, or is it bounce-backer, in Derrick Rose right behind him, Reggie needs to keep his form now more than ever.
Anything Else?: This isn’t really basketball related but Blake Griffin was a part of the latest Comedy Central Roast, poking fun at Alec Baldwin. I’m sure you’ve all seen the clip of Blake basically calling the Jenner girls NBA ho’s, and it was funny. Blake was really funny. One of the best jokes came at his expense though when Alec Baldwin said to Blake “I wish we were as close as your eyes are.” Simple, yet effective and hilarious.
2018-19 Season Finish: 2nd in division, 5th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 2nd in division, 4th in conference
Ceiling: If Myles Turner figures out his offensive game and Brogdon continues to put up 50/40/90 but with increased minutes and Dipo comes back at full strength and then some, I could see Indy catch Boston or Philly…but that’s a lot of if’s.
Realistic Finish: Fourth in the East. About 50ish wins. I think they’re better than the teams below them but not as good as the teams above.
Star In The Making: As you can probably tell from my writings so far, I’m a big p/40 guy when it comes to looking at stats. Now, Domantas Sabonis’ p/40 numbers are through the roof. Dude averages a whopping 23 points and 15 boards per 40 minutes, while also shooting nearly 60% from the floor. Sure, he isn’t the defender Turner is, but if those two can figure out how out how to really click together, look out NBA
Under The Radar: It’s funny that the Suns pretty much gave him to the Pacers, because T.J. Warren quietly had an excellent 2018-19 campaign. His points were essentially the same as the season before but he added a 3-point shot to his arsenal and was actually pretty deadly with it, hitting it at a 43% clip while attempting 4 a game. With the Pacers having many, many more players for opposing defenses to focus on than the Suns ever did, look for Warren to keep putting up solid numbers quietly.
Make Or Break: I’ll start this one with a disclaimer as it’s a controversial pick; I love Myles Turner and don’t think he is at risk of losing his job in the NBA or anything like that. I also think he was robbed of DPOY last season. Now, Myles needs, like urgently, to figure out his offensive game. The Pacers have a big decision to make in regards to Domantas and Myles but if Myles could just hit his shot consistently, then it would make the Pacers decision much easier because theoretically, these two should be a perfect match for each other. Domantas bodies up down low while Myles spreads the floor then Myles makes up for Domantas’ deficiencies on the defensive end. But today’s NBA has shown that nobody is safe from being moved and if their hand is forced, I could see the Pacers moving on from Myles.
Anything Else?: The Pacers don’t have a true #2 scorer behind Dipo, but they have quietly amassed a bunch of guys that can light it up on any given night, with the likes of Warren, Brogdon and Lamb all averaging more than 15 points a game last season.
2018-19 Season Finish: 1st in division, 1st in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 1st in division, 1st in conference
Ceiling: I mean, it’s title or bust
Realistic Finish: Yeah, anything less than a title is a failed season
Star In The Making: This is another player I don’t feel confident in calling a ‘star’ but whatever, too late to change it now. Pat Connaughton is only 6’4, and he played 20 minutes a game last season. In that time and at that height, Patty C grabbed 1 offensive board (4 total boards) per game. You may think that’s not a big deal but in comparison, Giannis only grabbed 2 offensive boards per game in 33 minutes, while also being 7′. Add to that the fact that Patty is becoming more confident as a scorer (although his % for 3P and FT went down) and also led THE ENTIRE LEAGUE in % of perimeter shots defended last season, there is potential for Patty C to become a legit 3&D guy in this league.
Under The Radar: D.J. Wilson is an interesting player. He doesn’t score too much (11 points per 40 minutes) but is solid defensively, great on the boards and is a solid 3-point shooter. He could be a very valuable player in todays NBA and if Ilyasova struggles, maybe he loses his minutes to Wilson this season.
Make Or Break: It’s hard to believe Dragan Bender is only 21. It seems like we’ve been talking about how awful he is since forever. After failing to garner meaningful minutes in Phoenix, I believe this is really Bender’s last chance to show he belongs in the NBA. He has yet to wow anyone with anything. Time for him to step up or step aside.
Anything Else?: I think the Bucks had one of the better lowkey offseasons; adding the likes of Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews is huge. What’s also exciting is Korver aka one of the greatest shooters of all-time, has been working with Giannis on his jumpshot. If Giannis develops a consistent jumpshot, it’s over.
So that’s another one down. Be sure to keep an eye out for the next division, which will be a Western Conference one but I dunno which one yet.
Stay funky fresh homies. Peace!