NBA training camps start on Tuesday, and after a fairly turbulent and rumor-filled summer, many squads are looking different or wishing they did. Here’s a breakdown of the offseason each Central Division franchise had and how good it was with consideration for what could be expected and how it sets up the future success of the team. So far we've looked at the Southwest Division.
We won’t know for a little while if new head coach Tom Thibodeau is a keeper, but the assumption is that he is considering what he was part of in Boston. The Bulls started the summer by trading Hakim Warrick, Kirk Hinrich, and their only draft pick (a relatively unknown Kevin Seraphin) essentially for nothing to clear up cap space to lure Dwyane Wade to town, but that didn’t happen. Thankfully they didn’t spend the rest of the offseason sulking. They quickly picked up Carlos Boozer, who should team up quite well with Joakim Noah to create one of the best rebounding front lines, plus he provides the high-end offense to Noah’s high-end defense. They added more ex-Jazz players in Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, two nice pick-ups who bring long-range shooting and wing versatility/defense, respectively. Throw in veteran free agent signings CJ Watson, Kurt Thomas, and Keith Bogans, and no one can say the Bulls didn’t have a clear Plan B when Wade stayed in Miami. Everything the Bulls did looks like it will help them be the East’s #4 squad. Grade: A-
The Cavs' happenings are difficult to watch. You feel really bad for them that LeBron James left town in a really uncool way (at least Carmelo is letting Denver get something for him), but then you realize they allowed him to run things for so long and the result is a poorly put-together squad with some salary issues. His exit just keeps making things worse and worse. They had to replace their entire coaching staff and front office – who knows what that means in the long run? Their only free agency signings were Joey Graham and Samardo Samuels (had a good summer league after going undrafted), which is as inconsequential of a list as I can give you. They re-upped Jawad Williams and Leon Powe (has been a good rebounder and defender in limited minutes over the years when he hasn’t been injured) for a year each at next to nothing. They’re biggest move was trading Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair to Minnesota for C Ryan Hollins and PG Ramon Sessions, who could have quite a future ahead of him if they actually develop him and not simply sit him behind Mo Williams. They lost homegrown James and company man Zydrunas Ilguaskas to the now hated Heat and did nothing to make anyone think they had a back-up plan – it was a terrible summer for Cleveland, with the only exception being the Sessions acquisition. Grade: D-
The Pistons didn’t do much this offseason, which is bad considering they aren’t very good and have been flirting with trading Tayshaun Prince and/or Richard Hamilton forever, which would allow them to stop pretending they still have a core that can compete in the East. A lot of people liked their selection of Greg Monroe with the #7 pick in the draft, but I’m not sure a big man whose best quality is his passing is what a rebuilding squad needs. I’d personally want a big man who is known for either scoring a ton or playing lights out D, and who is also tough as nails; Monroe is none of these and would be a much better fit on an established squad. Their second-round pick was SG Terrico White, who’s an insanely athletic dunker but is soft (doesn’t rebound or get to the line much for a guard) and isn’t the most consistent defender or passer. Detroit unnecessarily signed Tracy McGrady, which sounds like a joke, but they re-upped Ben Wallace for two more years for cheap. They also brought back G Will Bynum for three years at only $3.5 million per. This franchise is in a bad spot and hanging onto the scraps of what they once were. They need much better summers than this one if they plan on finally facing the future. Grade: D+
The Pacers have wanted to trade almost everyone on their roster and acquire a decent PG for several years now. They did turn expiring contract Troy Murphy into PG Darren Collision and James Posey, so that was good for their future and their style of play. After that, things get a little more questionable. Their draft netted them Danny Granger-clone (but worse) Paul George, who’s supposed to be an outside shooter but who shot 33% overall and 12% from deep in the Orlando Summer League. Everyone was big on him right before the draft because he’s a tall outside shooter with nice athleticism, but no one checked if he could actually play (he didn’t make the WAC’s First-Team last year as his team’s centerpiece); I’m not going to say he can’t, but a lack of results is a lack of results. Their other pick was well known major head case Lance Stephenson, who scored well in the Summer League but then got in a heap of legal trouble for supposedly throwing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs. We’ll just call that a wasted pick and signing. They also ended up with rookie C Magnum Rolle, who had a great summer league, but is currently injured and still unsigned; Rolle should have been their top priority after seeing him rebound and block shots the way he did in Orlando, but Indy’s dragging their feet for whatever reason. They got Collison, but basically nothing from the draft to use for a while. Grade: B-
Milwaukee’s defense allowed the team to come out of nowhere last year and become one of the better stories in the league by April. Since then they’ve made a hodgepodge of decent moves and some real head scratchers. They got hard working rebounder Jon Brockman for next to nothing in a trade and signed veteran PG’s Earl Boykins and Kenyon Dooling on the cheap – all nice albeit not franchise-changing decisions. The moves that made headlines included re-signing John Salmons (seems good, but the contract is way too long), signing PF Drew Gooden for five years (not a good thing to do at this point in his career), and trading two guys who understood what the Bucks under Scott Skiles were about (Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric) for me-first scorer Corey Maggette – all three pick-ups ranged between could-work-out and truly puzzling. First-round draft pick Larry Sanders looks like he’ll eventually make a good defensive pair inside with Andrew Bogut. All in all, Milwaukee’s summer was a lot of two steps forward, two steps back. Grade: C