Baller Mind Frame will be doing a series of 2012-13 NBA Previews because, really, what sort of respectable blog focused on the A wouldn’t? Mike Lipinski and DV will share their thoughts on what to expect and what to watch in each respective division.
Predicted Order of Finish
Mike: 1. Chicago Bulls, 2. Indiana Pacers, 3. Detroit Pistons, 4. Milwaukee Bucks, 5. Cleveland Cavaliers
DV: 1. Chicago Bulls, 2. Indiana Pacers, 3. Cleveland Cavaliers, 4. Milwaukee Bucks, 5. Detroit Pistons
Mike: With a healthy Derrick Rose, this is Chicago`s division to lose. Reportedly, Rose`s recovery hasn’t suffered any setbacks and he appears to be on track. The Bulls will have to hold their own without Rose until at least January, allegedly, but we’ll keep an ear to the ground for a more certain timeframe.
Indiana is talented and surprised a lot of people last year, but the Pacers are like the girl who is an 8 out of 10, good looking, but there is something… maybe its her nose or she has a limp. In any case, Indiana is missing a superstar who can go basket-for-basket with Rose in crunch time and while Danny Granger and Paul George are very good, they aren`t superstar status.
The Pistons have the talent, but Greg Monroe is by himself for now. If Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, and company steps up then they can make some noise, but that’s a big if.
The Bucks showed a lot of guts making a “Andrew Bogut will never be healthy, let’s get what we can” trade to bring in the mercurial Monta Ellis. If Ellis and Brandon Jennings play well together they have a shot and a seventh or eighth seed.
In a few seasons we might be talking about the Cavaliers contending for the division crown. But as of now they are just too young and inexperienced.
DV: I still believe in defense and therefore believe in the Bulls’ Tom Thibedeau. I think there’s enough firepower with Deng and Boozer for the team to score, along with veteran leadership from Kirk Hinrich. I also believe that Derrick Rose will return sooner than later and lead the Bulls at the top of the division.
I really like the Pacers and head coach Frank Vogel. I think he does an excellent job of having the players buy into whatever he’s selling. There’s some nice young talent here with Paul George and George Hill to go along with Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger. If Rose surfaces later rather than sooner, then flip spots between the two teams.
I guess I really have a lot of faith in Kyrie Irving and why not? He’s well on his way to becoming an elite point guard in the L. He’s already displayed how special he can be with game-winners during his rookie season and I expect more proof to happen this coming season. Things have to break right for the Cavs to finish here, such as Tristan Thompson earning his 2011 draft position and rookies Dion Waters and Tyler Zeller performing close to their college pedigree.
The Bucks have a dynamic backcourt with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but the rest of the team doesn’t come close to matching that talent. Samuel Dalembert should provide a steady presence in the middle and, hopefully, rookie John Henson can pick up some tricks. I don’t think they’ll be necessarily bad, but they won’t be very good either.
I like certain players on the Pistons, Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe, in particular. However, as a team I don’t like them as much because they seem to be missing a mystique, an edge that previously successful Pistons squads had. It’s probably unfair to hold any team to the Bad Boys or the Chauncey Billups/Richard Hamilton-led teams, but we’re talking about The D, where a blue collar, hard-nosed personality comes naturally.
Team on the Rise
Mike: Detroit Pistons
This is a young Pistons team with a lot of promise. Greg Monroe is already a stud and Brandon Knight is expected to take his game to the next level and have a breakout year. Drafting Andre Drummond raised some eyebrows, but there is no question that Drummond has the physical tools to be a force in this league. Throw in Rodney Stuckey, Slava Kravstov, Kris Middleton, and Detroit has a pretty young talented team on paper.
DV: Cleveland Cavaliers
I can see the core of players forming now and it obviously starts with Kyrie Irving. If Dion Waiters can keep in shape, he’ll be an excellent backcourt mate. Tristan Thompson, who I was scratching my head about when the Cavs drafted him, is talented, but will need to put the work in to validate being the fourth overall pick during the 2011 NBA Draft, which I believe he will. And I’m a huge Tyler Zeller fan and think he can do some nice things with the Cavs.
Team on the Decline
Mike: Milwaukee Bucks
I feel a lot of people forgot about the midseason panic trade that Milwaukee made that shipped Andrew Bogut to Golden State for Ekpe Udoh and Monta Ellis. Ellis and Brandon Jennings are the same – ball hogs, scores in bunches, and not playmaker types. Pairing them in your backcourt is a move I just don’t see being a good move. Last year they started strong, but stumbled and fell from a playoff spot. This team is talented, but it’s asking a lot for players to breakout this year, and I don’t see Ellis and Jennings playing well together.
DV: Detroit Pistons
You can check my paragraph above in the Comments section, which basically says it all for me. Plus I just see the other teams in the division either heading up or remaining level.
Mike: Derrick Rose
Rose is the youngest player to ever win an NBA MVP. Chicago had the best record in the NBA last season and Rose was a big factor in that. The Bulls are talented as they finished tied for best record in the league, but if Rose doesn’t return relatively soon the division crown could go to a young, pesky Indiana Pacers team.
DV: Kyrie Irving
If Derrick Rose were healthy and there was a solid timeframe as to when he’d return, I’d have a better sense of which way to go here. However, D-Rose is still rehabbing to get back on the court and I have to choose someone. Who better than another point guard with tons of talent. Kyrie Irving is the real deal and will improve his production from last season, which he did in less than starter-type minutes.
Other Players to Watch
Mike: Kyrie Irving, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Danny Granger
DV: Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Paul George, David West, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight, Dion Waiters
Storylines to Watch
Mike: When will Derrick Rose be back from his injury and how effective will he be? Can Roy Hibbert take his game to the next level? Can Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis co-exist? Is Greg Monroe going to become a star? Will Kyrie Irving hit a sophomore slump?
DV: Naturally, the biggest thing to watch out here is for the return of Derrick Rose. He will make the difference between the Bulls being very good or excellent. Will Andre Drummond actually fulfill his potential or will he be another Hasheem Thabeet? Can the Pacers take that next step up and go deeper in the postseason? Can Monta Ellis make it work with another point guard? Brandon Jennings is hoping so. How good can the young Cavs get?