NBA Central Division 2011-12 Preview
Mr. Basketball is back to preview the NBA's Central Division.
By Michael Illiano
Who will win the Central Division? How many teams from the division will make the playoffs? Let's take a look!
- G-Derrick Rose
- G-Rip Hamilton
- F-Luol Deng
- F-Carlos Boozer
- C-Joakim Noah
I mean where do I begin with the Bulls coming off last season? Going into last season, the Bulls were projected to be a 47-win team. They busted the bank with their stock by winning 62 games, which was a 21-game improvement from the 2009-2010 season. Chicago sported the league's youngest MVP ever, the Coach of the Year, and the league's best record. Last season, the Bulls were first in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to 43-percent from the field. They were second in the NBA in rebounding, fifth in the league in blocks, and first in defending the three point line. The Bulls fell short to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, but by all means, last season was a success. This season, the Bulls kept the core intact and added Richard "Rip" Hamilton, giving them a defender, mid-range shooter, and most importantly--some veteran leadership.
Carlos Boozer shed twenty pounds after an injury-plagued season. Boozer is the key to the Bulls' success, who will without a doubt, win the Central Division. As to whether the Bulls win the championship also relies a great deal on Boozer. The Bulls need to be able to dump the ball inside and get easy buckets to have success deeper in the playoffs--especially against a Miami team where the front line is weak. This is the Bulls' advantage. They are bullies in the front court and go deep with Gibson and Asik coming off the bench. Anyone who watches basketball will agree the Bulls are winning this division hands down, so I am not making any real bold prediction with them.
Let's take a look at some keys for the Bulls to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
1) Carlos Boozer interior play has the raise from a season ago.
2) Derrick Rose has to become more efficient. By that I mean, get to the free throw line more, lower turnover ratio, and not settle for 13-for-30 nights. Rose was beyond a shadow of a doubt the MVP last season, but to elevate to greatness, he needs to raise his basketball IQ.
3) Stay healthy. Last season, Boozer missed 23 games and Noah missed 34 games. This was all masked by the Bulls' amazing season. However, staying healthy in this shortened season will be tough for the Bulls, considering the max effort they give on a daily basis
4) Kyle Korver's consistency. One of the best three point shooters in the league really got iced in the Miami series. If Korver is not knocking down threess, then having him on the floor is a defensive liability. I assure you that Coach Thibs is probably more frustrated with Korver at times than any other Bull.
5) Continue the max effort from a season ago. My new nickname for the Bulls is the Re-spawners, mainly because every time you think they are dead in a game, they re-spawn and shoot you in the back of the head. The opening day game against the Lakers was an example of something the Bulls did throughout last season. The Bulls were 18-9 in games decided by five points or less. This trend needs to continue.
Projected win total: 47
- G-Darren Collison
- G-Paul George
- F-Danny Granger
- F-David West
- C-Roy Hibbert
The Pacers could have held the lineup from last year and I would still be high on them. After a 17-27 start last season, they fired Jim "I coached too long in NBA for doing nothing in my career" O'Brien and gave the job to assistant Frank Vogel. Vogel gave Indiana new life. They were 20-18 under Vogel, raising their defense to another level. The Pacers even gave the Bulls some trouble early in the first round of the playoffs.
This season, they added veteran forward David West to a very young, talented Pacer team. The Pacers sport one of the deepest front courts in the league now with West, Hibbert, Hansbrough, and Foster leading the way. There is no reason to think the Pacers are not a playoff team. They are on the road for about 75-percent of January, so a slow start could be possible, but if they stay afloat, they may emerge with a four or five seed in the Eastern Conference. For me, the Pacers have jumped teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks in the pecking order.
Keys to Pacers' success: