As detailed in our ranking series on Basketball Insiders, the Central Division has drastically changed.
Maybe not so much for the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers—though the Kyrie Irving news could slightly alter things— but for the two teams that were in the playoffs last season who now may be living in the basement of the Eastern Conference for the next few years.
There hasn’t been too much good going on this summer among these five teams, but there are still some notable positive moves to mention. Here are the best ones.
Detroit Pistons acquire Avery Bradley and 2019 second-round draft pick from Boston Celtics in exchange for Marcus Morris
Once it was decided that Jeff Bower and Stan Van Gundy didn’t want to pay Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a king’s ransom to retain him, the organization acted to search for a similar player to suit the team’s needs. What the Pistons found was better than what they had before.
Bradley has three years on KCP, in age and experience. He’s a much more consistent offensive threat and brings a gritty mentality to the defensive end of the floor that suits the style Van Gundy is trying to implement.
Unfortunately, Detroit had to part ways with Morris, an integral part of the team and a close friend of many on the roster. But with Stanley Johnson waiting in the wings to regain the success he found during his rookie season, it was the right call.
If Bradley can stay healthy, this deal will get the Pistons back into the playoffs and help make some noise. The success of the team, however will ride heavily on the shoulders of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.
Indiana Pacers acquire Cory Joseph from Toronto Raptors in exchange for draft rights to Emir Preldzic
The first trade of Kevin Pritchard’s tenure as president of basketball operations didn’t receive a ton of praise, but this one should. As the franchise moves on past the days of Paul George, the goal should be to get younger talent together and develop over time.
Bringing in Joseph is a step in the right direction to do so. For five years, the 25-year-old has been learning from some of the most talented and respected point guards in the game. Could it finally be his turn to shine in Indiana?
That’s the plan, of course, if Darren Collison doesn’t pan out how they hope. Regardless of that, Joseph will have an opportunity to prove his worth as a legitimate starter in this league soon.
Pritchard’s blueprint to rebuild around Joseph, along with Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and mainstay Myles Turner, isn’t a bad one. It may take a while to turn it into a consistent product, but at least they can play together and learn one another’s tendencies on the court.
Cleveland Cavaliers sign Jeff Green and Cedi Osman
Is there really something positive about the Central’s top dogs amidst a dumpster fire of an off-season? The answer, reluctantly, is yes.
Two things are an immediate improvement here for the Cavaliers: youth and wings. Last year, and even the last three seasons, they were non-existent.
Green was an utter disappointment for the Orlando Magic after signing a lucrative $15 million contract for one year of play, but in all fairness, the team itself and his fit on the team weren’t the greatest. At 6-foot-9 and a weight of 235 pounds, at the very least Green offers size and versatility. The 30-year-old is lengthy and will improve a Cleveland team that so desperately needs defensive and bench help.
The same goes for Osman, except with eight fewer years on the legs. He’s an overseas prospect with plenty of potential as a hybrid player with athleticism. The 31st pick in the 2015 draft will likely have to prove himself before becoming a permanent member of the rotation.
Greg Monroe opts in to remain with Milwaukee Bucks
Coming off a highly successful season and playoff showing, this is a great move for both parties. On one hand, Jason Kidd gets the anchor of his bench bunch back to carry the load. His impact with the second unit was a perfect way to use his skill set and should be continued next season.
As for Monroe, he collects $17.9 million as the second-highest paid player on the Bucks’ roster. He gets to showcase his talents one more time around before hitting the market in the summer of 2018 in what could result in a decent pay day.
Chicago Bulls re-sign Cristiano Felicio
Robin Lopez won’t be around for long with this rebuild. Felicio will step in and become the bolstering body inside with Lauri Markannen spacing the floor as a stretch four.
He displayed flashes of aggressiveness and athleticism last season. There’s not too much to look forward to with the Bulls right now, but the emergence of this up-and-coming center should soften the blow.
Indiana Pacers sign Bojan Bogdanovic
Nate McMillan needs shooters. Pritchard gave him one.
He might not be the flashiest player in the bunch, but Bogdanovic can play. As Indiana looks to re-establish itself in the coming years, look for him to become a key component to this offense.
With the migration of two All-Star franchise players, the Central Division got much worse. Hopefully, the moves made this summer will pan out in the future, but right now, there’s not a whole lot of competition for the Cavaliers.
Pending on the LeBron James sweepstakes next off-season, this could easily turn into the worst division in basketball. But in the present, it’s where the beasts of the East still reside.
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