Picking up where I left off from my Atlantic lookback, I am moving on to the Central Division. I do think this division had more action and mix-up that warrants analysis. Now let’s break down what each team did.
Looking at and evaluating the Bulls’ offseason is a tricky one as many of the moves felt win-now, and the team simply has not performed. Some players they brought in might not have lived up to expectations so far, but the bigger issue stems from Lauri Markkanen starting off slow and Otto Porter being hurt. However, I think we can look at how each individual has performed and how it helped progress the team and its players to truly see how the offseason went. During the summer, I thought the Bulls did well, bringing in a solid point guard, Tomas Satoransky, a good forward, Thad Young, and a solid draft pick, Coby White. There were smaller moves, bringing in Luke Kornet and Daniel Gafford, Bringing in Satoransky and Gafford have both performed very well so far, and I believed both were good additions at the time. Satoransky came in to help at the point, and I thought he would be just a role player. However, Sato has stepped into the starting role seamlessly and has had a phenomenal season. Gafford does not play as much, but has showed promise in his limited NBA minutes, where I can see him as a solid defensive presence in the upcoming years. Thad Young has not been performing up to standards nor expectations, as his $14 million contract is an overpay and he wants to leave the Windy City already. He is still a fine defender, but his shots have not been going in. I did not expect Thad to really fall off so quickly into this contract, and because of this, I do think the Bulls are willing to move on as quickly as possible. The last move I want to touch on was the drafting of Coby White. White played point guard at North Carolina, but always was a shoot-first player. Regardless, I thought he would come into the league in a similar fashion, starting for the Bulls and spreading the floor. However, White instead has come off the bench with the greenest light, letting threes rain as much as he wants. I do think this is a smart move as his defensive deficiencies are lessened when guarding bench guards, and having free reign for nearly 25 minutes against worst defenders is helping his confidence and skills. The Bulls did have a good offseason, and it might be viewed higher if their returning players performed better (and maybe had a better coach). Until Otto and Lauri step up, it is hard to truly evaluate the team, but I still think they did a solid job.
I gave the Cavaliers a very interesting grade of INC/???/C and honestly, I might have been too high with that last part being a C. That is not me saying the C is too high, but I do think they really should have just stuck at a ? grade as we still really do not know truly what went on. Usually, a small number of moves are fine, as keeping the team together usually bodes well for building a team. However, the Cavaliers are in real need of a do-over as they have a few young pieces and a ton of older guys who really do not fit into a true timeline. The only real moves were drafting Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. while signing some smaller deals and moving on from players who really would not crack their rotation. I do think the Cavs really need to make moves and redo their roster, as they are just wasting everyone’s time and effort by having a mishmash of players who do not truly fit. Windler has been hurt all season, allowing for an even smaller evaluation population. However, let’s look at those two picks. I was low on the Garland selection as he seems to be too similar to Collin Sexton and I really did not see them fitting well together. I am still skeptical of that now as neither are great playmakers for others, and I don’t see either developing that skill as their vision seems pedestrian at best. While many of the other players available did not seem much better, I do think trading down in the draft or selecting Coby White could have really helped them build a better team for the future. By trading down, they could have found solid role players who fit next to Sexton better (Tyler Herro) or Coby White could be a better fit as I do think he does have some playmaking potential and might be a better shooter. On the Kevin Porter Jr. side, I thought the trade for the pick was fine, as most of the picks would be fairly bad, but the actual selection I was skeptical on. I do think they still should have drafted a higher upside bigman (Daniel Gafford), but Porter Jr. has performed better than expected so far this year, scoring the ball with decent efficiency and has not been just a one-dimensional guy. My biggest issues still stem from not doing enough and truly rebuilding, but the small moves they did do seem to be working okay from a fairly short term perspective.
In a similar manner to the Chicago Bulls, the Pistons’ moves are harder to evaluate due to some of their returning players underperforming or having injuries (Blake Griffin). But even with these factors, Detroit’s offseason looks great. I think their draft is still their biggest weakness, as their second-round picks look still bad, and even worse considering how good Eric Paschall looks. Paschall would easily start for this team, but drafting Sirvydis instead really looks like a miss. Similarly with Jordan Bone, Terence Davis went undrafted and he would be higher in the pecking order too. My view on the Sekou Doumbouya pick was pretty high when it happened, and considering how little he played, I cannot say I am right nor wrong yet. He has looked solid in the G-League, but I think we do need to wait more to really analyze this pick. In terms of free agency, they really hit on nearly every move. Due to Reggie Jackson’s injury, I do think they would like to have Ish Smith back, but predicting injuries is pretty hard to do and Tim Frazier has been doing a solid job considering these circumstances. The other signings and moves, however, have worked out phenomenally. Tony Snell still does not do a ton, but is having an efficient season from deep. Markieff Morris is able to bring more to the game than Snell, and he too is also having a great shooting season so far, helping negate the absence of Blake Griffin early on. Christian Wood has lived up to the highest expectations, as I thought the end of last season could have been a fluke, but Wood has been efficient and impactful while backing up Andre Drummond. Finally, Derrick Rose has been phenomenal. Rose has reestablished himself as a good point guard, now being more efficient coming off the bench in a Lou Williams-esque role. I was also skeptical that his time last season might have been fluky, but he has really stepped up and has been one of the bright spots on the Pistons’ roster. Overall, I think that many people were too low on the Pistons, and if they were healthy, they would certainly be in the playoff mix. While their second round picks look pretty bad, everything else looks really good and seems to be a good sign for their future.
The Pacers had a large deal of mix-up too, but I do think it is easier to analyze their summer. And I will admit, I was too low on them. While I gave them an A-, I felt I was too critical on some of their moves that really paid off. The largest of these was the Malcolm Brogdon sign and trade. My argument was the Pacers gave him a large contract and also had to trade away multiple picks to get him. I still think in a vacuum they gave up a ton, but people did mention that Indiana does not really get free agents. Because of this, teams like the Pacers, or any other small market team, would need to give up more assets to get a free agent. Considering that, and how good Brogdon has been this year, this move was very good. I was also lower on the signing of Edmond Sumner and Justin Holiday, but both moves have been successful. Throw in every other move has been a good one, and none of their losses seem major, I believe the only thing that prevented a perfect offseason was drafting Goga Bitadze over Brandon Clarke. Goga has been fine, but it does feel that there is a logjam at center, and while Sabonis has been good at the 4, he really is a center. Clarke would be able to play with either of the Indiana big men much easier than Goga can. Yes, he is much younger, but I do think Goga is more limited and will never be as good as Clarke.
The Bucks have been steamrolling teams this season, but I do feel they regret one large part of their offseason. This move was mentioned very recently, and that was moving on from Malcolm Brogdon. Milwaukee was in a tough spot since nearly everyone on their team besides Giannis was a free agent, so realistically, one would be gone. I think if the Bucks could go back, they would not have given Eric Bledsoe the extension during last season, and tried to keep Brogdon instead. So while they might regret seeing Brogdon leave, I do think they ended up recovering fairly well. Kyle Korver has been better than I predicted, as his shooting has been good and has done his job of spacing the floor when he is out there. Similarly, Wes Matthews has been good too, filling some of the holes Malcolm Brogdon’s departure left. I think I tend to try and predict players falling off too early, and that was why I viewed the Bucks as low as I did. To be fair, the Thanasis and Dragan Bender signing both seem pointless, as neither have made an impact this season, so I cannot say they had a good offseason. But due to their circumstances, they were able to piece together an okay one, and because how good Giannis is, it does not matter too much, or at least not for now.
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