It’s going to be very hard for me to do this piece without bias, as I’ve been a die hard Bulls fan my entire life. In this case, circumstance would tend to favor my interest because the biggest story in basketball will be coming out of the Windy City this year. The Pacers may be the reigning division champs, but the buzz will be centered around the Bulls. As for the rest of the division, there’s definitely a level of suckitude that’s not present in the other five chunks of the NBA. Here’s how things ended up last year…
Indiana Pacers (49-32)
Result: Due to the Boston Marathon bombings NBA cancelled the April 16 game scheduled in Boston between the Celtics and the Pacers, who had already clinched the division by that point. They went on to lose the conference finals to the Heat who eventually won the NBA Finals over the San Antonio Spurs
Chicago Bulls (45-37)
Result: Played a memorable series in which they beat the Brooklyn Nets 4-3 winning the final game of the series on the road. They would run into the Heat next and after posting one good game, their season was over
Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)
Result: Played respectably, made playoffs despite being 6 games under .500, got smoked by the Heat in the first round
Detroit Pistons (29-53)
Result: Showed up, theoretically played basketball games, went home, did drugs, packed it in by January
Cleveland Cavaliers (24-58)
Result: See “Detroit Pistons” and add Kyrie Irving
So as you can see, it was very much a case of the haves and the have-nots when it comes to success amongst teams. I still think Milwaukee wasn’t as good as their record would indicate, and that’s a rough place to be because their record wasn’t very good to begin with.
But that’s all in the past…what will happen this year?
Chicago Bulls (53-29)
As you can see, I’m picking my team to win the division but not by much. The big story of course will be the return of Derrick Rose, who sat out the entire 2012-2013 season with a torn ACL. The same Chicago sports talk radio jackasses who would have said the Bulls should have rested him longer if he would have stunk up the joint were filling the airwaves with all sorts of hatred for the guy when he wouldn’t return to action from the second he practiced in January up until the minute the Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs. The debate raged over other shitty media outlets, and had to have motivated the rest of the team into thinking that they were more than just a bunch of character actors whose lead was in his trailer with a busted knee. In all fairness, the rest of those guys had social security numbers too, and I’m pretty sure there’s more than enough playoff experience on that team to go around.
But this time around, the Bulls will have the services of Rose available. He may never be exactly the same player, but most teams in the league would be happy to have a guy like that at 90% or higher. He’s one of the most dedicated players in the NBA when it comes to practice, and moves the ball around better than most. And when it comes to accuracy, Rose is one of the best in the league. He’s got better aim than Marvin Gaye’s father, and the Bulls could be the first team in the history of the league to go from next to last in scoring to easily being in the top five.
The thing about the Bulls is that even without Rose, they are still a pretty good team. Joakim Noah may never lead the league in three pointers, but he can bang the boards like it’s nobody’s business and he can talk shit like no other. Which is a weird thing to be proud of, but basketball is a very metal game and anytime you have a guy like that who can get into people’s heads you’re a leg up.
Don’t get me wrong, they had their bad moments at times during the 2012-2013 season (the Sacramento game was especially bad) and when it rains, it pours. They averaged a dismal 93.2 points per game, but that will happen when you’re missing a guy of that caliber. They do lose both Richard Hamilton and Nate Robinson, but even though Nate had decent games last year if you can get away from your offseason and only lose those two guys that’s not by any means catastrophic when you consider what you get back. They’ll finish first and they will deserve it.
Indiana Pacers (51-31)
I really like the Indiana Pacers, even as a Bulls fan. They play some of the scrappiest basketball you can find and who can honestly say they didn’t want to see them smack the shit out of Miami in the conference Finals? (Besides David Stern, who I’m sure was doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen) They were first in the league in rebounds and there’s no reason why that trend shouldn’t continue…
The great news for you if you’re a Pacers fan is that you don’t have to look at Tyler Hansborough’s goofy ass anymore – they traded him to the Toronto Raptors so as you can imagine his family will get plenty of comp tickets.
And Danny Granger says that his knee (which has been a problem in the past) seems to be feeling better. But let’s be honest – the heart and soul of this team is Roy Hibbert and David West who had a great deal to do with that rebounding stat I barfed up a couple of paragraphs ago.
Detroit Pistons (40-42)
I see no reason that the Detroit Pistons should substantially improve their current situation other than the acquisition of Jennings. Josh Smith will make over thirteen million dollars this year. Greg Monroe led the team in overall points scored last year, averaging a whopping sixteen points a game. If your center is your leading scorer, either most of your team got purchased at halftime by a Saudi Arabian prince or you have absolutely no perimeter game at all.
In the Pistons case, it’s the latter because nobody is going to buy anything that comes from Detroit. (If you don’t believe me, count how many Toyotas you see on your morning commute. Argument over.) But seriously, this is a team that cannot shoot. Every time I suffered through a Pistons game last year I was blown away by how badly they would miss their outside shots. It’s more than just shot selection – shot selection is something that is very specific and can be a result of just missing picks – it’s just accuracy issues. And it’s not hard to see why when you consider that they haven’t had a winning percentage of over .400 since 2008.
Maybe Josh Smith will gel well with Jennings and the Pistons will be much improved. And maybe as an overweight sportswriter with no formal ballet experience I’ll become a professional ice skater in a sport where you’re considered washed up the second you get your period. (I haven’t gotten mine yet, so I still have a chance to make this happen. Don’t shit on my dreams) In other words, it’s all maybes and nothing is certain. I do believe that they will be better than they were last year, but at the same time they will continue to struggle with the teams in the league that are more experienced. However, I must contradict myself with the following statement: Chauncey Billups probably needs to hang it up. Seriously – he’s 37 years old, the guy on the team who’s the second oldest just turned 30 and they haven’t even cut anybody yet.
Milwaukee Bucks (32-50)
I don’t know what to think about the Bucks. They played well enough to make the playoffs last year, but let’s face it – no sub .500 team should ever make the playoffs in any sport. If you don’t win more games than you lose, you don’t get to play. Milwaukee did not deserve to be there last season. To make matters worse, Brandon Jennings is now gone and went to a division rival. That’s why I have to drop Milwaukee a spot because I can see the Pistons being better than they are.
To further complicate this scenario, the Bucks also lost Monta Ellis who was the team’s leading point generator. He’s gone to work for Mark Cuban, leaving the Milwaukee Bucks with a bad stack of players and a mouthful of deer shit. They did acquire Caron Butler in the offseason, but with as often as he gets traded who knows how long that’s going to work.
I’m picking the Bucks to lose 50 games, but it realistically could be a lot worse than that. Truth be told, they could get pushed around literally all season long. It’s hard though, because it’s difficult to recruit players to come to a place like Milwaukee and play. There’s pretty much no reason to go to Milwaukee unless you want to go to a rave or set the world record for drinking Miller Lite. Raves haven’t been popular since the late nineties, and nobody’s ever like Miller Lite so the Bucks will never get a Lebron James or a Kobe Bryant. Speaking of cities nobody wants to play in…
Cleveland Cavaliers (27-55)
Unfortunately for the Cavs, they will always be known as the one that let LeBron get away. They also play in the asshole of Ohio, which isn’t exactly paradise. Yep, the Cavs job is a shit one. It will be interesting to see how Mike Brown does in his return to a much different team than the one he used to coach there. He’s primarily known for his defensive emphasis, which is good for the Cavs because there aren’t exactly a lot of defensive stars on that team – They were 25th in the league in points allowed last year. They also averaged less than 21 assists a game which is relatively poor.
I’ve never been particularly impressed by Andrew Bynum and I can assure you that I’m not the only one on this website who shares that opinion. Aside from Kyrie Irving, nobody else on their roster really stands out and Anderson Varejao must have lost a bet because he’s been there for fucking ever. It is nice to see Luke Walton still floating around because we can always get a few laughs at his expense. Other than that, there isn’t much to look at.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here by picking the Cavaliers to finish last. I saw a very interesting stat from last year that mentioned the 2012-13 team had lost more games than it had won after leading by 20 or more points. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for disaster. You’ll see good things out of Kyrie Irving at times, but the Cavaliers will be a bottom feeder for sure.
I can foresee the Bulls/Pacers matchup being very intriguing over the next few years. I liken it to the way the Seahawks/49ers rivalry is starting to pan out in the NFL. But like that one, this could dip in overall interest if someone gets seriously hurt. Of course I’m talking about Derrick Rose, and the possibility that he could re-injure himself. If that happens, there is going to be a significant chance that he may go from being a superstar to questionable as to whether or not he can ever be effective again. There should be plenty to watch here, just stay away from the teams on the bottom end of the division.