Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 NBA Offseason Review: Central Division

The Cleveland Cavaliers owned the best record in the NBA at the end of the 2009 regular season, and they looked poised to deliver LeBron James his first championship. However, the team's weaknesses were exposed in a serious loss to Orlando. Namely, they couldn't stop Dwight Howard and they had a lot of trouble with the quickness of the forwards for the Magic. These were areas they needed to shore up in the offseason, and they appear to have made strides to do that.

The biggest move was the trade for Shaquille O'Neal from the Phoenix Suns. If he can stay healthy, he should be an offensive presence on the low block, as well as be able to slow down Dwight Howard somewhat. Howard was too fast and strong for the Cavs bigs last year, and they hope O'Neal can stop that. On the wings, they signed Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, two plus defenders who will help slow down guys like Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu, guys who killed them in the playoffs last year.

The Chicago Bulls were one of the most exciting teams in the NBA last season, the rookie year for Derrick Rose. He will be called on to do even more this year, as the Bulls chose not to resign Ben Gordon, their leading scorer from last season. The onus will fall on Rose to be even more of a leader, as they will run much of the offense through him. He will need to be the one to create and bail them out as the clock winds down, a responsibility that fell on Gordon last year.

The Detroit Pistons snuck into the playoffs last year, but they made some wholesale changes. Gone are long-standing performers Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, and in are guys like Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, completely changing the identity of the team. They should be able to put points on the board, but will they be able to stop people? Maybe not enough to make it back to the playoffs.

The Indiana Pacers struggled to a 36-46 record last season, and they are trying to build around Danny Granger. They made a lot of low key moves, signing Dahntay Jones and Luther Head, and drafting Tyler Hansbrough. They are building slowly with youth and trying to hit singles with low-risk acquisitions. They might not be a playoff team yet but they should be improved.

The Milwaukee Bucks had an interesting offseason, sending forward Richard Jefferson to the Spurs in a cost cutting move and not resigning guard Ramon Sessions. They also will be looking to their young players to perform, and will likely let guys like Joe Alexanders and Brandon Jennings play big minutes. They won't be contending this year, so they will simply see what they have in their young talent, and their offseason aim seemed to be freeing those guys up for minutes.

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