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New Faces in New Places: Central Division

A look at some of the most important new faces set to play in the Central Division this season.

John Zitzler profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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In Basketball Insiders’ new series, New Faces in New Places (click here to read the first part of the series on the Southeast Division), we take a look at some of the more impactful offseason moves made throughout the league. This installment focuses on the Central Division and what new acquisitions figure to be most valuable to their new teams.

Chicago Bulls:

Pau Gasol – The Bulls made a strong push to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, doing everything in their power to lure Anthony away from New York. When those efforts fell short their attention quickly turned to the veteran big man. Gasol, at 34 years old, is entering the latter stages of his career, but still appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank. Despite playing on an undermanned Lakers squad this past season, Gasol was very productive averaging 17.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. He showed he still has what it takes to be one of the top post players in the game today. Gasol will step right in as the Bulls’ starting power forward position and play alongside Joakim Noah. The two will give the Bulls arguably the top power forward/center tandem in the Eastern Conference. Both players not only have the ability to score the ball, but are skilled passers as well. With the return of Derrick Rose and the addition of Gasol down low, look for the Bulls to have a much easier time scoring the ball this season.

Nikola Mirotic – Mirotic arrives in Chicago after playing for Spanish basketball power Real Madrid of the Liga ACB since 2008. During his time with Real Madrid Mirotic put together quite an impressive resume for such a young player. He was named the Spanish League MVP in 2013, named to the All-ACB team in 2013 and 2014 and was named to the All-Euroleague second team in 2013 and 2014. Mirotic is an excellent shooter from three, a career 39.7 percent shooter from deep in Liga ACB and Euroleague play. With a point guard like Rose, having a guy that can come in and space the floor like Mirotic is something that should prove to be a valuable addition.

Doug McDermott – The Bulls made it clear just how much they valued McDermott on draft night, trading the 16th and 19th picks to secure the prolific scorer out of Creighton. McDermott was dominant at the collegiate level, leading the nation in scoring, averaging 26.7 points per game. Unlike most lottery picks, McDermott stayed in school for all four years before declaring for the draft. The extra time spent at the collegiate level allowed him to enter the league a bit more polished than most prospects. McDermott along with Mirotic gives the Bulls two strong options off the bench, who both have the ability come in and change the game.

Cleveland Cavaliers:

LeBron James – James is one new face in a new place that just about everyone is aware of. James sent shockwaves through the basketball world this summer when he announced that he would not be returning to the HEAT, but instead heading back to Cleveland. There isn’t a single player in the league that contributes more to their team’s success than James. His arrival alone immediately made Cleveland a title contender. Now add Kevin Love to an equation that already includes Kyrie Irving and it’s hard to imagine Cleveland, at the very least, not making a deep playoff run. James will be as hungry as ever to bring a title to Cleveland, something that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the league.

Kevin Love – When Love checks in as a team’s second best offseason acquisition, it’s safe to say that team had a pretty good summer. During his time with the Timberwolves Love was one of the best rebounders in the NBA, averaging just over 12 rebounds per game for his career. Love’s ability to rebound the ball is something the Cavs will count, but maybe even more valuable will be his ability to shoot the ball. Love has developed a steady shot from three, one that he isn’t afraid to show off. Love shot over six three’s per game this past season with the Timberwolves. Love will get plenty of chances to spot up from the outside playing with two guys in James and Irving who can penetrate and creates for their teammates. For the first time in his career Love won’t be counted on to do all the heavy lifting on the offensive end. With the trio of Love, James and Irving Cleveland will a nightmare for opposing defenses to stop.

Shawn Marion – Not only did the Cavs land two superstars this offseason but they were also able to add some nice complementary pieces. Marion may not be the player he once was, but he proved last season he can still be a valuable asset on a contending team. He is remarkably durable for a player of his age, playing and starting in 76 of the Mavericks’ 82 games this past season. Marion is also still a very steady defender and strong finisher around the rim. He will be the leader of the Cavs’ second unit and provides the team with great depth.

Mike Miller – Miller is another one of the solid complementary pieces added by the Cavs this offseason. He reunites with a former teammate in James after spending last year with the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite concerns regarding his health over the last few years Miller was able to play in all 82 games for the Grizzlies – the first time he has done so since his rookie season in 2000-01. Like Marion, Miller will be counted on to give the team a boost off the bench. Miller shot an impressive 45.9 percent from three point range this season; his deadly accuracy from deep is just another weapon at Coach Blatt’s disposal.

Detroit Pistons:

Jodie Meeks – The biggest move the Pistons made this offseason was signing Jodie Meeks to a three-year deal. Meeks thrived playing in Coach Mike D’antoni’s uptempo, wide open offense and put together the best season of his career last year with the Lakers. His ability to shoot the ball from three fills a massive void for the Pistons. They were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league last season, collectively shooting just 32.1 percent from beyond the arc. Meeks is the likely frontrunner for the Pistons’ starting two guard job. If he can continue to be a knockdown shooter from three it will go a long way to help balance the Pistons’ offensive attack.

D.J. Augustin – Like Meeks, Augustin is coming off a great year last year. After being let go by the Raptors, Augustin signed with the Bulls and played extremely well. He became an integral part of their rotation in the absence of Rose. He proved he is more than capable of handling extended minutes and that he can be productive in those minutes. Augustin in all likelihood will begin the season off the bench playing behind Brandon Jennings. He will give the team a steady second option at point guard with the ability to provide a spark offensively with the second unit. With Jennings’ sometimes inconsistent play, having Augustin off the bench to spell him during those rough stretches should prove beneficial as the season progresses.

Indiana Pacers:

C.J. Miles – Miles joins the Pacers after spending the last two years with the Cavaliers. With Paul George slated to miss the majority of the season if not the entire season, after suffering a horrific leg injury in a Team USA scrimmage, Miles will have the opportunity to step up and play consistent minutes. He will almost certainly be in the running to replace George in the starting rotation. He is coming off the best year of his career in terms of shooting the three, after shooting 39.3 percent last season with the Cavs. He will be counted to provide scoring to team that has had its struggles on the offensive end in the past.

Rodney Stuckey – Miles wasn’t the only Central Division transplant that landed with the Pacers this offseason, long time Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey signed a one-year deal to join the team as well. Stuckey is another player who will be counted on to help fill the void left by George. Stuckey has averaged over double digits in points in every year of his career outside of his rookie season. Both his and Miles ability to contribute on the offensive end will be crucial if the Pacers hope to compete without George.

Milwaukee Bucks

Jabari Parker – The Bucks couldn’t have been happier after landing Parker in the draft last June. Parker will be a cornerstone piece as the franchise looks to turn the page with new ownership. Expectations will be high for Parker, many are forecasting him as the favorite to be Rookie of the Year, but with his skill set there is no reason to believe he won’t be able to live up to the hype. He possesses that alpha scorer mentality and is constantly looking for ways to attack the defense. It may take some time for him develop into that role but he has certainly looks like he has the talent to do so. It will be interesting to see how coach Kidd chooses to utilize the young Duke product. Parker has the ability to play both the three and the four. That versatility will allow Kidd to experiment with different lineup combinations to see where and with who Parker fits best.

Kendall Marshall – The Lakers surprisingly decided to waive Marshall this summer after averaging 8.8 assists per game with the team last season. The Bucks quickly put in a claim on Marshall and were happy to him take him off the Lakers’ hands. Marshall is a classic pass-first point guard and has developed into a one the better assist men in the league. His ability to create for his teammates is something the Bucks sorely needed. He will have the chance to learn from one of the all-time great point guards in his new head coach. The situation seems to be a great fit for both sides and is one that should really help Marshall grow as a player.

This is John's second year with Basketball Insiders, after spending last season working as an intern. Based out of Milwaukee, he covers the NBA with a focus on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Central Division.

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