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Central Division Preview

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Sportsbook.ag NBA Central Division Preview

INDIANA PACERS

2011-12 SU record: 48-29 SU (62.3%), 5th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 37-40 ATS (48.1%), 21st in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 4-to-5
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 8-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 20-to-1

GUARDS

The Pacers went 7-2 during the regular season and won a playoff series with George Hill in the starting five. He averaged 13.9 PPG and 5.3 APG in those regular season starts . . . Paul George is a defensive stopper who is making strides on the offensive end. If he can find the touches, his scoring average will rise . . . D.J. Augustin has a skill set similar to Hill's. Maybe he'll push him for minutes later in the year, but more likely he'll shoot corner threes off the bench . . . Gerald Green is another athlete for their second unit . . . Lance Stephenson has a chance for a bigger role, but he's been atrocious to this point of his career.

FORWARDS

Danny Granger's touches dropped last season, but his shot selection improved as last year went on. He'll continue to be a borderline All-Star . . . David West's knee should be fully recovered from his torn ACL in late 2010-11. He was their best player in the postseason and should be a star this season with his ability to knock down shots . . . Tyler Hansbrough looks like he's settling in as a career second unit player. His lack of athleticism really limits his upside . . . Jeff Pendergraph may or may not hold on to a roster spot in a 12th-man role

CENTERS

They're paying Roy Hibbert like a franchise player, and he has the ability to control both ends of the court. The question is whether they'll now play him 30-plus minutes, or continue to use him as more of a part-time player . . . Ian Mahinmi should step in as a decent backup center . . . Rookie Mile Plumlee was a part-time player at Duke and is highly unlikely to contribute in his first season.

CHICAGO BULLS

2011-12 SU record: 52-20 SU (72.2%), 2nd in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 42-30 ATS (58.3%), 2nd in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: Even
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 7-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 18-to-1

GUARDS

The best guess on Derrick Rose is a February return. But an ACL injury usually isn't 100 percent until the second full year back . . . With Rose out, Kirk Hinrich figures to play heavy minutes early. He's a defensive specialist who will pass and watch on offense . . . Nate Robinson could push Hinrich for minutes. He's the offensive half of that platoon, but Thibodeau almost always leans defense . . . Richard Hamilton will carry a bigger offensive load while Rose is recovering. He's a shadow of his former self . . . Marco Belinelli is a nice addition. He's solid defensively, and he brings the long-range shooting Chicago lacks. Don't be surprised if he pushes Hamilton . . . Rookie Marquis Teague will mostly sit and watch this year.

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FORWARDS


After avoiding wrist surgery, Luol Deng should be Chicago's top scorer while Rose is out. He's the only one on this team who even has a chance to generate his own offense . . . Carlos Boozer continues to be a major disappointment. In the past it's been his atrocious defense, but now he's taken a step back offensively as well. He may score more with Rose out, but he'll continue to sit late in close games . . . Taj Gibson should be in for a bigger role. With Omer Asik gone, he's one of only two defensively capable bigs on this roster . . . Vladimir Radmanovic will try to replace some of the three-point shooting they lost when Kyle Korver left . . . Jimmy Butler has a puncher's chance at a rotation spot after a good summer.

CENTERS

Joakim Noah was still working his way back from that badly sprained ankle this summer. His durability is questionable, but the Bulls will have to lean on Noah for more minutes now that Omer Asik is gone . . . Nazr Mohammed steps into Asik's role as Noah's backup. But while Asik was an active defender, Mohammed is more of just a big body with six fouls to give.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

2011-12 SU record: 31-35 SU (47.0%), 19th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 29-36-1 ATS (44.6%), T-24th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 15-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 40-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1

GUARDS

Brandon Jennings benefitted from the arrival of Monta Ellis last year. He has the offense and system to thrive, and now needs to prove he can be efficient enough to be a star . . . Monta Ellis played second fiddle to Jennings last year, and really struggled to shoot the ball. The Bucks now play the kind of tempo he likes, but he'll have to adjust to playing off the ball more often . . . Beno Udrih won't see a ton of action off the bench considering Jennings and Ellis play so many minutes. If a starter gets hurt, he could step in and hit a lot of threes . . . Second-rounder Doron Lamb has some upside as a future sixth man, but figures to ride the bench this year.

FORWARDS

Ersan Ilyasova should finally get some respect from Skiles after starring down the stretch last year . . . Mike Dunleavy re-emerged as a legitimate three-point threat, though he doesn't do much else . . . Drew Gooden's role should shrink with Ilyasova stepping up and Sam Dalembert coming in . . . Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is improving as a rebounder and can play both forward spots off the bench . . . Rookie John Henson is a defensive stud and does enough as a screener to get decent minutes early . . . Tobias Harris was a Summer League star, but he's too much of a 'tweener to thrive in the NBA . . . Ekpe Udoh provides defense and rebounding off the bench . . . Larry Sanders has potential, but this frontcourt is too crowded for him to make an impact.

CENTERS

Sam Dalembert fell in and out of favor in Houston, but he's exactly what the Bucks need as a defensive presence in the paint. Milwaukee has numerous players who can man the five in spots (Ekpe Udoh, Drew Gooden), but Dalembert is by far their best defensive option and should see big minutes . . . Joel Pryzbilla signed on in August to provide back-end depth on the pine.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

2011-12 SU record: 21-45 SU (31.8%), T-27th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 30-34-2 ATS (46.9%), 23rd in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1

GUARDS

Kyrie Irving is the real deal, a heady playmaker and near-elite shooter. He should emerge as the NBA's next great point guard this season . . . Rookie Dion Waiters has a chance to step right into the starting lineup. He can get to the rim and generally makes good choices with the ball. The only thing holding him back is defense after playing college ball in Syracuse's lazy zone . . . C.J. Miles will reportedly start at either the two or three spot, but he really needs to find the range on his shot again for him to stick in the starting lineup . . . Gunning combo guard Daniel Gibson is looking like he'll be their sixth man . . . The Cavs are still trying to figure out their second unit. Jeremy Pargo figures to be Irving's backup, but Donald Sloan is a better defender and could eventually pass him for this role, which doesn't mean many minutes unless Irving gets injured again.

FORWARDS

Tristan Thompson is trying to add a perimeter shot to his repertoire. Don't count on him becoming David West, but he should improve offensively to go along with his rebounding and shot-blocking . . . Alonzo Gee returns as the starting small forward, excelling on the defensive end, but without a polished enough offensive game to earn 35 minutes per night . . . Omri Casspi was in and out of the rotation late in the year as he battled knee issues. It's getting close to make-or-break time for him . . . Jon Leuer is a solid stretch four who has a real chance at a rotation spot . . . Samardo Samuels reportedly dropped some weight in his effort to find some minutes . . . Luke Walton is an unofficial member of the coaching staff . . . Undrafted rookie Kevin Jones could make some noise with his work on the offensive boards . . . Luke Harangody is more of a D-League talent.

CENTERS

Anderson Varejao's wrist should be 100 percent, and Sideshow Anderson should be the same relentless, double-double threat he's always been . . . Rookie Tyler Zeller is a 7-footer with some nice offensive skills -- he can knock down a jump shot in the half court, and run the floor. He'll struggle to defend in space, but made a living drawing charges at UNC, and should be able to play 20+ minutes as a rookie.

DETROIT PISTONS

2011-12 SU record: 25-41 SU (37.9%), 22nd in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 33-33 ATS (50.0%), T-16th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Central Division: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1

GUARDS

Rodney Stuckey was hampered by nagging injuries a year ago. If he's healthy, he's the best offensive weapon they have . . . Brandon Knight is more of a combo guard running the point. He can shoot, but doesn't bring much else to the table . . . With Ben Gordon gone, Will Bynum has a chance to regain a significant role . . . The Pistons' two second-round picks have a chance to carve out big roles. Kim English has a skill set similar to Gordon's, capable of heating up and scoring in bunches . . . Khris Middleton is more of a spot-up, catch-and-shoot threat only . . . Former No. 6 overall pick Jonny Flynn agreed to a non-guaranteed contract in October, as he is no guarantee to even make this sorry roster.

FORWARDS

Tayshaun Prince is still hanging on as the Pistons' best all-around player . . . Jason Maxiell should be able to reclaim his starting spot early. He rebounds and takes up space . . . Jonas Jerebko showed flashes but looked rusty in his first year back from an Achilles injury . . . 2011 2nd-rounder Kyle Singler has a good chance to step into the rotation after a solid year in Spain . . . Corey Maggette was acquired in a Ben Gordon salary dump. He'll see limited minutes . . . Austin Daye regressed big-time last year. Unless he gets off to a hot start, he'll be on the outside looking in at the rotation . . . Terrence Williams is seeking a new lease on life, but could be too much of a head case to realize he's wasting his talent . . . The Pistons are counting down the days left on Charlie Villanueva's contract (two years).

CENTERS

Greg Monroe is a solid fit in Frank's system. He's not a great athlete, but he can score and move the ball on offense, as well as rebound . . . Andre Drummond could one day be a perfect fit alongside Monroe. But for now, he'll watch and learn as a raw, boom-or-bust prospect . . . Viacheslav Kravtsov is an athletic big who will bring energy, but little offense in limited minutes.

  
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