Tag Archives: Jimmy Butler

The intriguing possibility of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James joining forces in 2015

By: Jon

 

Why LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony should opt into their current deals?

Over the long term, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will make more money. Instead of signing a five year deal this offseason for about $130 million, the two stars can make $21 million this season and then sign a similar $130 million deal the next summer. Although opting in would be allow the duo to score more money, Melo and LeBron have earned so much money over their careers on and off the court that they will look for a better team than money. If LeBron and Carmelo opt into their current deals, they will have a better chance at winning multiple titles in the future. Next season, James and Melo will have a difficult time winning a championship, if they remain on their same teams.

Although James will have a chance to win a title, Melo will have absolutely no chance of winning a title or even a playoff round next year. Without any cap room, no draft picks, and a first year head coach, the Knicks will be unable to improve their squad which did not even make the playoffs this season. Although Melo will likely make the playoffs next season as a six or seven seed because JR Smith will have a better season, Chandler will play better defense, Amar’e played well at the end of last season, and Tim Hardaway should improve from his solid freshman performance, Melo wants to become a legend and a champion, which will not happen without help.

Will these two USA teammates team up? Courtesy of ESPN
Will these two USA teammates team up?
Courtesy of ESPN

 

Along with Melo’s problems, James will have trouble winning another championship with his current teammates. Unless a miracle occurs, Wade retires, and Bosh leaves Miami, LeBron will have the same team. Dwyane Wade’s knees make him an inconsistent star and Chris Bosh is not a number two that can help LeBron reach a title. This season, LeBron was forced to carry the Heat and it has visibly taken a tole on the best and strongest player in the world. If the duo waits a year, they can create a new big three and win a few more titles. In 2015, the Heat will have very little on their payroll and will be able to sign three stars.

Along with the Heat, the Knicks will have a lot of cap room and be able to sign 3 stars. During the summer of 2015, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brook Lopez will be free agents. Any combination of LeBron, Melo, and another star would instantly make the Knicks or Heat instant contenders and the favorite to win the championship. The triplet of LeBron, Melo, and Kevin Love would give Melo and LeBron the best chance of winning multiple championships in the future. Unlike the other stars, Love is only 25 and is entering the prime of his career. When the duo reaches their age 35 season, Love would be 30 and carry the team. As seen from the current Miami Big Three, the Heat frequently have trouble rebounding against the bigger teams. Love is an overall better player than Bosh because he is a better three point shooter and is willing to rebound at a high level, unlike Bosh. Also, at this stage of his career, Carmelo Anthony is a better player than Dwyane Wade. Due to Wade’s injured knees, he does not have the same explosiveness and his jumper is inconsistent. Although Melo will eventually age, his ability to hit jumpers will make his skills diminish at a slower pace.

 

Why LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony should opt out of their current deals?

Although in a perfect world LeBron and Melo would opt into their current deals, become free agents, and form a new big three, the possibility of the plan laid out above is highly unlikely. Under the current circumstances, Carmelo is high likely to opt out of his current deal because he cannot stand another season of horrendous basketball. If Melo opts out of his current deal, he will have many enticing options this offseason, including the Bulls, Lakers, and Rockets. The Bulls have Derrick Rose, although frequently injured, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah. The Lakers have Bryant, a top ten pick in a stud draft, but most importantly they are the Lakers and Kevin Love desperately wants to return home and play for the Lakers.

How great would it be if Melo joined forces with Kobe and Kevin Love in Los Angeles? Courtesy of Laker Nation
How great would it be if Melo joined forces with Kobe and Kevin Love in Los Angeles?
Courtesy of Laker Nation

 

The combination of Love, Bryant, Anthony, and Julius Randle would give the Lakers and Anthony a great chance at winning multiple titles over the next few years. Although Bryant will eventually retire, Randle, Anthony, and Love would be a great big three that could win multiple championships because Randle and Love have yet to enter their prime. Also, the Lakers have shown a willingness to spend money in order to build a strong bench. Although the Rockets will have to finagle and trade a few big contracts, they could sign Anthony and pair him with Howard and Harden. Although the option of LeBron and Love would be the best choice, the other teams would prove as great opportunities for Anthony and his hope to win a championship.

While it would prove best for Anthony top opt out, James may opt out  in order to sign his max long term deal. James may be able to convince Bosh or Wade to take less money in order to sign and form a deeper bench. However, it is undecided if Bosh will reunite with the Heat as the third wheel on Miami. Although he has won two championships, he receives the most criticism on the team and his numbers have been declining over the past few seasons. Also, it is unlikely that Love will find his way to Miami because the Timberwolves are likely to trade him and if he goes to free agency the Lakers are the best option for him. If Miami wins another title against the Spurs, LeBron will be more likely to stay and believe that he can win a few more titles with Miami.

Five Trades that Knicks should consider for Carmelo Anthony

By: Jon

 

With a week to go before the NBA Trade Deadline, February 20, the Knicks need to look at their current position. The biggest decision they need to make is whether to keep Melo on the roster and risk losing him to free agency or trade him and begin the rebuilding process. Although many felt that Melo would retire a Knick after he arrived in New York, the recent Knick struggles make fans worry that Melo will bolt this offseason to a team with more talent and a more optimistic future. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they have $50 million locked up in Andrea Bargnani, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. These three are vastly overpaid, which will make next season another tough year for Melo and the Knicks. If the Knicks trade Anthony, they will be looking for cap space, young talent, and draft picks. Since the Knicks do not have many future first round picks, they need to sign free agents at the end of the year. I have outlined 5 realistic trades that could give the Knicks more cap flexibility, young players, and picks. All of the trades are contingent on Carmelo Anthony signing a long term deal so that the Knicks can receive full value. Although next season will be a tough year, they will have money to sign big free agents like Rondo, Aldridge, Irving, Love, Marc Gasol, and other free agents that pick up their player options this season.

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Trade number 1:

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 9.50.41 AM

New York Knicks receive: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu, and 2015 first round pick

New Orleans Pelicans receive: Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith

Why the Knicks would want this trade: If the Melo leaves, the Knicks would receive nothing for their best player. In this trade, the Knicks will garner a nice young player, a quality rotational player, minor cap relief, and a future first round pick. Although Gordon is not posting the same stats that he accumulated with the Clippers, he has a lot of talent and is still only 25 years old. This season, Gordon has been healthy. Although Gordon is not posting great numbers, he has not been given many shots because he is the third option on offense behind Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. However, his win shares are on pace to resemble his win shares during his best seasons. Also, it is well documented that he is not happy in New Orleans, which takes away from his effort. Gordon is set to enter his prime and should be an attractive option for other All-Stars to play with in New York. Along with Gordon, the Knicks will receive stretch forward Ryan Anderson. Ryan Anderson’s scoring numbers have improved during every season of his career. Before an injury this season, Anderson was averaging 19 points per game with 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 threes per game on 41% shooting from down town. Anderson would be a great role player on a playoff or championship team because he stretches the defense and can provide instant offense off of the bench. Although he is paid a lot, 17 million over the nest two season, he is a valuable player that the Knicks would want coming off of their bench during press filled situations. The Knicks will be gaining some cap space because they will be able to rid themselves of JR Smith’s horrible contract and Aminu will be a free agent after this season. The 2015 first round pick could be valuable for the Knicks because the rookies are cheap talent and the 2015 draft class looks pretty deep, although it is premature.

 

Why the Pelicans would want this trade: The Pelicans are a team on the rise and Carmelo Anthony could make them a legitimate threat in the West. Although the Pelicans are 6 games under .500, they have talent on their roster and one of the best young players in the NBA. This season, Anthony Davis has taken the biggest step forward of any player in the NBA. Currently, Davis is averaging over 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Davis has the potential to be a player like Kevin Garnett because he has great athleticism, has the ability to score on offense, and plays great defense that will win him a Defensive Player of the Year award in the future. Along with Davis, the Pelicans have Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Holiday made his first All-Star team last season and is having another quality season this year. Tyreke has talent, but he has been unable to produce like his rookie season in the league. The addition of Carmelo Anthony will give the Pelicans another legit star to play with Anthony Davis. The duo has the ability to grow over the next few seasons, which will enable them to compete with the Thunder, Rockets, and Golden State. If Evans can return to his former form with the Kings, they have a chance to actually compete for an NBA championship. Also, if they can turn around JR Smith career, he could provide another weapon. The Pelicans may have a chance to sign Anthony because of the talent and opportunity that they could give him in the future.

 

Trade number 2:

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 6.07.41 PM

New York Knicks receive:  Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, 2015 first round pick, and 2017 first round pick

Washington Wizards receive: Carmelo Anthony

Why the Knicks would want this trade: Although the Knicks would not be receiving the same amount of talent in this deal, they will be given more cap space for the future and more draft picks. The center piece of this deal would be Bradley Beal. The second year shooting guard has a lot of talent and could be a future star in the league. After a strong rookie year when he scored nearly 14 points and shot 41% from the field, Beal has significantly improved this season while averaging 17.1 points, 3.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting a higher percentage from the field and over 40% from the three point line. Beal is only 20 years old and is on his rookie deal, which will enable the Knicks to sign other players to play around Beal while he grows into a superstar. The Knicks will be able to net two first round picks in the deal, which should prove to be beneficial as they rebuild and reshape the image of their team. Although neither pick will be for this draft, which has been labeled as one of the best crops in years, the draft picks should develop into at least rotational players, if the Knicks select the right players. The Knicks will gain two expiring contract totaling $15.5 million, which could help them sign a player this offseason. If the Knicks choose to save this money for the following offseason, they will have about $17 million in salaries which should give them about 40-50 to sign players in free agency. The Knicks could possibly sign max players in free agency, which could totally change the fortunes of their team.

 

Why the Wizards would want this trade: The Wizards have been an embarrassment and a horrible team for the last few decades. However, this season, they are showing signs of life because of John Wall. The fourth year point guard is becoming one of the best young players in the league and should become a superstar in the near future. This year, Wall is nearly averaging 20 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds,  and 2.0 steals per game. However, Wall does not have another superstar player that could help him take the Wizards to the next level. Although Beal has talent, he is not a superstar yet. Anthony could be the player that pushes the Wizards from the 5th or 6th best team in the East to one that could compete with the Pacers and Heat. Anthony has never played with another player with the talent like John Wall. Wall is only 23 years old, which means his best basketball is still ahead of him. Along with Wall, Anthony would be reunited with Nene, who is a quality big man. Anthony would probably be willing to sign an extension with the Wizards because they have a good core and Washington is a big city where he can expand his brand. Also, he grew up in Baltimore, which is only 1 hour away from Washington DC. The Wizards would still be under the salary cap, which would enable them to sign another starter or quality player to help them contend with the other teams in the East.

 

Trade number 3:

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 3.21.53 PM

New York Knicks receive: Lance Stephenson, Danny Granger, Luis Scola, Rasual Butler, 2015 first round pick, 2014 second round pick, and 2015 second round pick

Indiana Pacers receive: Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton

Why the Knicks would want this trade: Besides acquiring young talent, the Knicks can succeed by garnering more draft picks and drafting good players. The main piece that the Knicks would receive is Lance Stephenson. This season, Stephenson is competing for the most improved player of the year award. After playing well in the postseason last year, he has been great this year and does everything on the court to help a team win games and championships. This year, Sir Lancelot is averaging 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists while shooting over 50% from the field. Lance is only the fourth option on the Pacers, which makes his numbers even more impressive. Along with playing good offense, Stephenson is a great defensive player and ranks inside the top 8 in the league in both defensive rating and defensive win shares. Along with Stephenson, the Knicks would receive Danny Granger. Granger has an expiring contract, but the Knicks may be inclined to sign him to a low risk deal because of his past history and talent. After two years of irrelevance, he should be healthy and ready to become an All-Star again. Along with Granger, Scola is a very good player. The Knicks could use the first round pick to acquire more young players. If the Knicks are willing to be patient, they could draft two international players and stash them in the European Leagues until they are ready for the big leagues. In todays’ NBA, more second rounds picks are performing in the NBA. Also, international players, who were drafted in the second round, have a significant amount of value.

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Why the Pacers would want this trade: The Pacers already have the second best record in the NBA, but that does not mean they do not need to improve. Although the Pacers have been great this season, they have shown vulnerability lately. The occasional problem with the Pacers has been their inability to score. If the Pacers add Anthony, they would be nearly unbeatable because they already have the best defense in the league. Although George has been great this season and has greatly improved his scoring ability, it has not been seen if he can consistently lead the Pacers and score enough points to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Anthony would take a lot of pressure off of George down the stretch of games. Although the loss of Stephenson may slightly diminish their defensive metrics, they would still be a top three defense in the NBA. The Pacers could fit Anthony in their starting rotation because they could slide George to the two position. The Pacers would be able to put an extremely tall lineup, Hill, George, Anthony, West, and Hibbert, which would be difficult for opposing teams to match because they have athleticism, defense, offense, and versatility. The Pacers could also go to a smaller lineup by putting Anthony at the 4 to match other teams like the Heat or Nets. The addition of Felton will allow the Pacers to have another quality point guard, if Hill becomes injured or struggles. If the Pacers are willing to spend extra money because of luxury taxes, they will have a chance to be a dynasty because they have so much talent and physicality that other teams cannot stop.

 

Trade number 4:

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 4.19.11 PM

New York Knicks receive: Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Kris Humphries, and 2015 first round pick

Chicago Bulls receive: Carmelo Anthony and Phil Pressey

Boston Celtics receive: Carlos Boozer and 2014 Bulls protected first round pick (via Sacramento)

Why the Knicks would want this trade: The Knicks are almost totally devoid of young talent, but this trade would net them two young players. Taj Gibson, 28, and Jimmy Butler, 24, are two players that have significantly improved their games since Derrick Rose went down with his second knee injury. Last year, Butler showed his ability as a good two way player, who could become a quality starter in the future. Butler is strong, physical, and big, which allows him to play defense against any offensive player in the league. This year, Butler is averaging 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.2 assists per game. If Butler was with the Knicks, he would be given more opportunities on offense to show his talents. Along with Butler, Gibson has taken a significant step forward this season. This year, Gibson is totaling 12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. However, his numbers have dramatically increased lately because he has been given more time and touches during the game. Like Butler, Gibson is a good defensive player that could change the dynamic of the Knicks. The trio of Butler, Chandler, and Gibson would make the team more defensively oriented. This trade would change the team’s dynamic and attitude from a team that plays with more finesse to a team that plays physically and puts fear into their opponents. Along with the players, Kris Humphries’ expiring contract and the future first round pick will provide the team with more assets as they potentially build a championship team in the future.

Why the Bulls would want this trade: The Bulls may be able to get Anthony during free agency, which would make this deal unnecessary. However, if the Bulls want to guarantee Anthony and possibly make a run this season, they should make a trade during the deadline. Also, the deal will allow them to rid themselves of Boozer without using their amnesty and wasting $32 million. The Bulls will never be able to compete with the other powers in the NBA with just Derrick Rose. Although Noah is taking steps forward, he is not a superstar because of his limitations on offense. Although his passing skills improve his offensive value, the number of passing opportunities will decrease when Rose returns from injury. Also, the Bulls do not know whether Rose can return to his prior form. Anthony would take a lot of pressure off Rose to do everything on offense. The Bulls are constantly stagnant on offense, even when Rose is in the game. A second scoring option, who could shoot like Anthony, will open the lanes for Rose to drive and find cutters like Noah or shooters like Anthony and Dunleavy on the outside for threes or long jumpers. The addition would put the Bulls over the Pacers, who possess similar defensive intensity, but would not have the offensive skill to match Rose and Anthony. With Anthony, Rose, Noah, and Thibs, the Bulls could start their own dynasty again for the next few seasons. Although the Bulls will be losing young players and draft picks, they may not get another chance to acquire a top 15 player in the league again.

Why the Celtics would want this trade: The Celtics are in full rebuilding mode and will look to acquire draft picks through any means necessary. Although they would rather not have to surrender an expiring deal like Humphries for Boozer, who has another year and is owed $15 million, it is unlikely that they will sign any free agents this summer. With Boozer and Rondo, the Celtics will be at least respectable.

 

Trade number 5:

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 5.51.27 PM

New York Knicks receive: Emeka Okafor, Klay Thompson, Miles Plumlee, Archie Goodwin, 2015 first round pick (via Warriors), and 2014 second round pick (via Lakers)

Golden State Warriors receive: Carmelo Anthony, 2014 second round pick (via Raptors), 2015 second round pick from the Suns, and JR Smith

Suns receive: David Lee, Marreese Speights, and Jermaine O’Neal

 

Why the Knicks would want this trade: The Knicks would be receiving a lot of assets through this trade. The most prominent player would be Klay Thompson, a member of the ‘Splash Brothers’. Klay is a 24 year old shooting guard that has improved during each of his first three seasons. This season, Klay is averaging 18.3 points, 2.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 41% from the three point arc. Last season, Klay is third in the league in three pointers, but this season he is second in threes, behind his teammate Steph Curry. Last season, Klay was able to succeed during the playoffs, which made him more of a household name. This year, Klay is averaging more win share per 48 minutes than any other season in his career. With the Knicks, he could become more of a star and move out of the shadow of Curry. Along with Klay, Miles and Archie would be good players that the Knicks could use to rebuild. This season, Archie has not been given a lot of time to play. However, he is only a 19 year old rookie with a lot of talent. The Knicks could give him more time to play and improve. Plumlee has been given more time with the Suns and has significantly improved since last year. Plumlee is averaging 9 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Plumlee is a young big that could develop into a strong physical player that the Knicks desperately need inside the paint. The future picks and cap space will help them develop more players and become a championship contender.

Why the Warriors would want this trade: Although the Warriors are 9 games over 500 and have a lot of talent, they are ranked 8th in the tightly contest West. The Warriors need more help if they are going to come out of the West and compete for a championship. The Warriors have been looking for a top 15 star over the past few off seasons. Although Curry has developed into a top 15 player, they could use another superstar to beat the Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, and Heat. Anthony will make the Warriors offense nearly unstoppable. Since it is impossible to double Curry and Anthony on offense, they will both have open shots or their teammates will be given more shots. The Warriors will be able to play smaller and quicker with Anthony at the 4 instead of Lee. Also the second round picks will enable them to either get young cheap players or acquire foreign talent and wait for the players to develop into quality NBA talent. Lastly, JR Smith will have less pressure to consistently score and be a number two like on the Knicks. Smith would be a fourth or fifth option, which will give him more shots and be a more consistent player with the Warriors. If Smith plays at his best, he could replicate Thompson’s production.

Why the Suns would want this trade: The Suns have surprised the NBA this season and could use more talent in order to make the playoffs and succeed. The Suns have been looking for more talent before the trade deadline. Lee would give the Suns a legitimate scoring option inside the paint. Also, the loss of draft picks will not be bad for the Suns because they basically have every other pick in the first round. This draft, they have the possibility to have 4 picks if they do not trade a pick. With Lee, Bledsoe and Dragic would not pressured to score as often from the outside. The extra offense skill will significantly help the Suns and improve their chances of making the playoffs.

 

Pics and stats from ESPN.com

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Eastern Conference Central Division Preview

By: Evan

The Central division is one of the strongest divisions in the NBA this year and has the potential to have four playoff teams. Last year, the central division had four all-stars so the division has clear individual talent as well as team talent. The Bulls, Pacers, and Bucks all made the playoffs last year and will look to maintain similar records. The two other teams, the Pistons and Cavaliers both made significant offseason acquisitions that will revamp their rosters. Lets look at how the division will play out. (*denotes projected playoff team)

1.) *Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose looks to continue his MVP ways this season and lead chicago to a title.                                                                                                                          Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

The Bulls are arguably one of the top 3 teams in the entire NBA, and with their MVP back at the helm, the Bulls are looking to make a championship run and end the Heat’s reign as Eastern Conference Champions.  The Bulls had a successful season last year without Derrick Rose and despite being plagued with injuries to key players all season. The Bulls won 45 games, advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and ranking 3rd in points allowed on average with 92.9.  The defense has always been a mainstay with wizard head coach Tom Thibodeau and strong interior and wing defenders such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. The only problem for the Bulls last year was scoring, as they averaged only 93.2 points per game, tied for 28th in league, and clearly correlated to Derrick’s absence.  Financially, the Bulls are in a slight bind with the increase on Taj Gibson’s contract starting this year as well as the last two years of Carlos Boozer’s 5 year 80 million dollar deal, but Luol Deng’s expiring contract could be used in a trade piece and free up cap room. The Bulls could make a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves shipping their first round pick, Charlotte’s 2016 protected pick, Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler for Kevin Love, a deal that would benefit both teams. The Bulls will clearly be one of the most interesting teams to watch this year, and they could bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to the Windy City.

2.) *Indiana Pacers

Will Danny Granger and Paul George mesh? This is the crucial question for the Pacers. Courtesy of SBNation

The Indiana Pacers showed their potential last year, giving the Miami Heat a run for their money during the Eastern Conference finals, and this year should be more of the same. The Pacers are young, talented and play hard.  They gave up only 90.7 points per game, and held opponents to 42% shooting per game, 2nd and 1st in the league, respectively. This intense team defense stems from coach Frank Vogel as well as elite defenders such as Roy Hibbert and Paul George, both of whom can seriously impact an offensive game plan.  Danny Granger, a former all star, missed much of the season, and he will take on scoring responsibilities,  taking some of the pressure off  Paul George and David West who combined for 35 points per game for the Pacers.  Granger and George are similar players as they both create off the dribble and like to attack the basket,  although George is the younger and better player, Granger provides valuable experience the Pacers need.  If the two can mesh and play well together, the Pacers should be formidable this season.  If not,  the front office might look to trade Granger who is on the last year of his contract and is injury prone. The other problem is the Pacers bench as they don’t have a bench scorer that can come in and immediately contribute.  The bench becomes a pivotal factor in the playoffs as teams must rest the starting unit. Regardless of the bench,  the Pacers will probably win 45-50 games this year and be a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.

3.) *Detroit Pistons

With the addition of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, Pistons are a clear playoff team and a potential sleeper in the Eastern Conference.                                                          Courtesy of NBA.SI.com

The Pistons were probably the 2nd biggest mover in the offseason behind the Houston Rockets, trading Brandon Knight, Kris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings and then signing him to a 3 year 25 million dollar deal.   Detroit also signed Josh Smith, an underrated all around player for 4 years $54 million. The Pistons are clearly trying to turn around their moribund franchise; these are solid moves for two players who needed a change of scenery. The Pistons have an established core with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, one of the youngest and best frontcourts in league.   And now with a point guard and a dynamic small/power forward, the Pistons are relevant again. They also hired Mo Cheeks, a champion as a player and an assistant on a Thunder team that went to the NBA finals in 2012.  The team will have to learn how to balance the ball and spread it out among the big men, but this team will be a terror for opposing big men, as the three man rotation of Smith, Drummond and Monroe will be difficult to deal with. Look for the Pistons to win about 40-45 games this year and earn around a 5-7 seed and potential upset one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

4.) *Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving has a chance to be the MVP this year, but will he lead the Cavs to the playoffs?                         Courtesy of ESPN

The Cavs also made some significant offseason moves, including the signings of the oft injured Andrew Bynum and dynamic back-up point guard Jarrett Jack. Both are wildcards that could potentially vault the Cavs into playoff contention for the first time since LeBron left, or they could stay the same course of futility of the last couple of years. The team also drafted Anthony Bennett a big man with enormous potential if he can lose the his excess weight and get into basketball shape. All these pieces are shaped around the man with the ball, Kyrie Irving, a 21 year point guard who might just be the best in the league. He can create for himself, score at will and is tremendous in late game situations. He dazzled during all-star weekend (watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr_WjR6iaj4) and clearly emerged on the national stage. The Cavs also have some bright young talent in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, both showed growth throughout last season and they should continue to grow into better core players. Although the Cavs will make the playoffs as a 8 seed, there is little chance that they will advance. The Cavs are on the rise, and who knows what can happen if LeBron decides to go home in free agency.  He’d have a good nucleus awaiting.

5.) Milwaukee Bucks

Bucks fans don’t worry, you still have emerging center Larry Sanders on your squad. Courtesy of ESPN.com

After refusing to sign Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to extensions, it became clear that the Bucks want to use this season to develop players and cement their place in the lottery. Now it isn’t all bad for Bucks fans as they did resign Larry Sanders, a young, elite defender who has improved his game. They also signed O.J Mayo, a solid scorer but not a game changing type player. The Bucks clearly need a face of the franchise that can provide hope in the coming years. There is some uncertainty about whether the Bucks will be able to stay in Milwaukee becomes Seattle clamors for a team with Paul Allen providing deep, deep pockets.  The Bucks should have more clarity next season about the future of this franchise, and hopefully they land a star player to lead them.

How many teams do you think will make the playoffs from the Central? Let us know by voting below.

Stats from ESPN