The Milwaukee Bucks
Key Additions: Coach: Jason Kidd. Draft: Jabari Parker, Damien Inglis, Johnny O'Bryant. Free Agency: Jerryd Bayless, Kendall Marshall. Trade: Jared Dudley
Key Losses: Coach Larry Drew, Jeff Adrien (FA), Carlos Delfino (trade), Miroslav Raduljica (trade)
The Bucks weren't even trying to tank last year, but a series of injuries and unfortunate events lead to their team falling apart and only winning 15 games. Kidd and the Bucks aren't trying to make the playoffs, but they aren't tanking either, and this roster could be somewhat competitive or awful again. Brandon Knight will start at point guard, and while he had a breakout season last year, he still isn't much of a playmaker, being more of a scorer. His ideal role would be as a 6th man off the bench. Larry Sanders is going to start at center, hoping for a return to his excellent campaign in 2013 and forgetting his injuries and issues last season. The rest of the starting lineup hasn't been decided: Giannis Antetokounmpo might start at shooting guard or small forward, and Jabari might at either small forward or power forward. Depending on how it plays out, Jared Dudley might start at shooting guard, or Ersan Ilyasova might at power forward. Giannis impressed with skills and huge potential last year, being a 6'11 athlete with ball handling and shooting ability. Nonetheless, his actual stats last year weren't great, and it will probably be a year or two until we know where he might end up headed. Parker is one of the best wing scorers to enter the draft in a while, and is a favorite for rookie of the year since he will probably average 20+ points per game immediately. He can shoot, attack, post up, and pass, but he needs to work on his defense. Dudley was awful last year but his shot has been fire in the preseason, and he will hope that carries over to the regular season. Ilyasova is solid, but has regressed since a breakout season in 2012. Their starting lineup is not going to be awful, but won't be great either.
The Buck bench might not be terrible either, but it probably won't be good. Kendall Marshall and Nate Wolters are the backups at point, and while Wolters rated very well by advanced metrics last year, neither is going to blow anyone away. OJ Mayo is hoping to have a good year after a disastrous campaign last year where he gained a lot of weight and sulked most of the season, but just two years ago he was very good on the Mavericks. Khris Middleton came out of nowhere to be a contributor last year, hitting a lot of three point shots and playing solid defense. He is a pretty good backup, and might be a solid trade target for a contending team needing a wing (Clippers?). John Henson has looked like a good prospect for years, but hasn't been able to really put it all together yet. Still young, long, and very athletic with some nice skills, he is a prime breakout candidate. Zaza Pachulia will be the backup center, as he has been for various teams for the past decade. Kidd will be looking for some development out of his young guys and that's about all, but I don't know how good he is as a coach, much less as a team builder.
Projected Record: 24-58
Players to watch: Jabari Parker, Greek Freak, Larry Sanders, John Henson
This is the Milwaukee Bucks SB Nation blog.
The Indiana Pacers
Key Additions: Free Agency- Damjan Rudez, CJ Miles, Rodney Stuckey
The Pacers had one of the most disastrous offseasons in recent memory, losing young superstar Paul George to a season ending injury and watching other starting wing Lance Stephenson go to a conference foe. All this after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals yet again, falling to the Heat for the third year in a row. The George injury is brutal, as he was their best option on offense last year as well as being one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Hopefully he makes a full recovery and can get in a few games at the end of the season. In the meantime, George and Stephenson are going to be replaced by Stuckey and Miles. Both are solid rotation players, veterans who bring different things to the table, but they are huge steps down, especially on defense. The other three starters remain the same: George Hill at point guard, David West at power forward, and Roy Hibbert at center. They will be relied on to provide most of the offense this year, a tall task, though they are all good defenders.
The Pacers bench is not going to help matters. CJ Watson is a good backup point guard, but there isn't much else there. Chris Copeland is a one-dimensional player as a pure three point shooter, and 2013 1st rounder Solomon Hill has looked lost in preseason after some promise in Summer League and high praise from the coaching staff. Luis Scola fell off the production cliff last year, and his age is readily apparent. He is still a decent scorer, but provides little else. Ian Mahinmi and Lavoy Allen are both solid backups at center, but they won't provide any offense. This team has little youth and no offensive creators outside of Hill or Stuckey on very good days. Coach Frank Vogel will have a tough time getting this team to 30 wins in the improved Eastern Conference.
Projected Record: 29-53
Players to watch: Roy Hibbert, Rodney Stuckey, Solomon Hill
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The Detroit Pistons
Key Additions: Coach and President of Operations Stan Van Gundy. Draft: Spencer Dinwiddie. Free Agency: Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler, Cartier Martin, DJ Augustin, re-signed Greg Monroe on qualifying offer in restricted free agency. Trade: Joel Anthony (for Will Bynum)
Key Losses: GM Joe Dumars, Coach John Loyer, Rodney Stuckey (Pacers), Will Bynum (Celtics then waived)
Last year was a disaster for the Pistons, as they finished well shy of the playoffs despite promising young players and two big free agent acquisitions (Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings). The issue was that the pieces simply didn't fit, namely that there was no outside shooting on the roster. They also went through two coaches, neither of whom impressed. Theoretically, a lot of that should be fixed with the hiring of Stan Van Gundy as both coach and president of basketball operations. He immediately brought in shooters such as Meeks, Martin, and Augustin to help with spacing, and sent Josh Smith to the bench. Nonetheless, Smith and Jennings still have to play, and both are already complaining about role and minutes. Stan will likely look to trade them, since Augustin is already a better fit at point guard and Smith isn't really needed or wanted in Detroit.
The rest of the roster, however, is promising. Andre Drummond is one of the best young players in the game, capable of dominating the game on the defensive end and the glass. His offensive game is steadily improving, and he has the potential to be the best center in the game in just a few years. Greg Monroe is a very solid offensive big man and is still fairly young, but he hasn't improved much in several years and his defense is not good. The Pistons must decide after this season whether they want him in their future plans or not. Kentavious Caldwell Pope showed some flashes in his rookie season, and has potential to be a starting 3 and D guy on the wing. He needs to work on his shot, which is inconsistent, but is very athletic and can do lots of things on the court. Most of the rest of the wings are veteran shooters such as Meeks, Butler, Martin, and Kyle Singler. All of them are rotation players, but none are anything special. The final interesting piece on the roster is their 2nd rounder from this past year, Spencer Dinwiddie. He was terrific at Colorado before tearing his ACL, and can put the ball on the floor as well as shoot. If he makes a full recovery, he could be a steal, as he was a lottery level talent. He could make his case for a starting spot over the unimpressive Jennings/Augustin duo or Meeks as soon as this season, though this is unlikely. Stan Van Gundy is a terrific coach and has some pieces to work with, but there is still too much up in the air right now to suggest a playoff spot.
Projected Record: 39-43
Players to watch: Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie
Detroit Bad Boys is the Pistons SB Nation blog
The Chicago Bulls
Key Additions: Draft- Doug McDermott, Cameron Bairstow, Nikola Mirotic (brought from Europe). Free Agency: Pau Gasol, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks, Nazr Mohammed, E'Twuan Moore
Key Losses: DJ Augustin (Pistons), Carlos Boozer (Lakers)
The biggest addition this year will hopefully be a healthy Derrick Rose. The 2011 MVP saw his team struggle to score in his absence last year, especially in the playoffs against the younger Wizards. If he can return to even 85% of his former self, the Bulls will be potent indeed. Replacing the moldering Boozer with Gasol won't help much on defense, but Pau is a far more potent player on offense, especially as a passer. He and 2014 defensive player of the year Joakim Noah will be a very tough duo to stop, and should help set up many a shot by the guards and wings. Taj Gibson will be the third big, and he is one of the best interior defenders in the league. In other words, the Bulls have a beastly frontcourt. The cherry on top is Mirotic, who won the Euroleague 2014 MVP and has shown well so far in preseason. He can do a lot on offense, but will need to put in work to meet Thibs' standards on defense.
The Bulls best wing player is Jimmy Butler, a standout defensive player who had a horrific offensive year last season. With the return of Rose and addition of Gasol he should have better shots, and the Bulls are hoping he can turn his game to the next level. He must be confident, because he turned down a fairly large contract extension from the Bulls. The final piece of the starting lineup is Mike Dunleavy, a good shooter and underrated player in general. With all the injuries to Rose, the Bulls invested heavily in backup point guards, and Hinrich, Moore, and Brooks are all capable of filling in if Rose misses time. Tony Snell was underwhelming last year, and disappointed in preseason, but should be able to fill out a backup role well enough. One of the NCAA's all time leading scorers will come off the bench as well in Doug McDermott (Dougie McBuckets to you), and should at least be able to shoot the ball well in the pros. Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA, and you know that his teams will be excellent on defense and give top level effort every game. They are the main rivals with the Cavs for the Eastern Conference, and a date in the Conference Finals is already looming.
Projected Record: 60-22
Players to watch: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell
Blog a Bull has the Bulls perspective
Key Additions: Coach David Blatt. Draft: Andrew Wiggins (traded), Joe Harris, Dwight Powell. Free Agent: LeBron James, James Jones, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, Lou Amundson. Trades: Kevin Love, Brendan Haywood.
Well that was eventful. The Cavs landed the number one lottery pick, taking Andrew Wiggins, and starting a process that saw them going from borderline playoff contenders to Eastern Conference favorites. Wiggins was enough to propel them into the Kevin Love sweepstakes, which in turn made them a target for LeBron. While I am sure LeBron is happy going home, the main reason he chose Cleveland is because of the players he knew would be there. I am definitely of the opinion that the groundwork for the Love deal was made pretty soon after the draft, when the Cavs knew that James would sign there if they landed Love. All of this ended with the best player in the game returning to the city he spited four years previously, and a top 10 player coming along for the ride.
LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving alone would be a terrifying combination on offense. Add in an explosive combo guard in Dion Waiters, some good three point shooters, and solid energy big men, and you have a championship team. This team's main objective will be to gel on offense and keep from being a sieve defensively. Their only two really plus defenders in the rotation are James, Varejao, and Miller, and James doesn't put in the energy he used to on that end, while Varejao is one of the most injury plagued players in the league. He will need to be healthy for the Cavs to have any sort of interior defense. Nonetheless, the Cavaliers will probably have one of the top offenses in the NBA and on nights when they are on, they will probably appear unbeatable, much as the Big Three Heat did in their heyday. Coach Blatt comes from Israel with a top notch resume, and his signing has been praised by players, other coaches, and analysts. He will have three of the best offensive players in the NBA to work with, and the results might be glorious.
Projected Record: 61-21
Players to watch: Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson
Fear the Sword contains all the Cavaliers coverage you could want
My final preview is coming up. Thanks for reading and please comment!