Central Division Preview


52 Wins

Notables In:

Mike Dunleavy

Notables Out:

Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli

Best Value Large Contract:

Joakim Noah ($1,284,013 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Carlos Boozer ($4,044,485 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Jimmy Butler ($136,612 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Marquis Teague, $1.1M, produces zero wins



51 Wins

Notables In:

Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland

Notables Out:

Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustine

Best Value Large Contract:

George Hill ($873,988 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Danny Granger ($6,730,458 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Lance Stephenson ($185,615 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Donald Sloan gets $900k and dribbles out of bounds

The Pacers made some solid moves to embellish their bench, but these guys win by playing their great starting unit a ton so I do not expect the new additions to add too much (keep in mind that last year's Pacers squad had the point differential of a 52 win team).

There were a lot of micro trends at the team level to look at in the Pacers last season, but I think the end result is probably a fair assessment of what this team is about: average-ish offense, superb defense. Their excellent starting rotation, tough playing style and strong home court advantage will make the Pacers a very difficult out for any team in a 7 game series.


40 Wins

Notables In:

Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings

Notables Out:

Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon, Jason Maxiell

Best Value Large Contract:

Josh Smith ($1,613,522 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Charlie Villanueva ($10,303,457 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Andre Drummond ($302,666 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Will Bynum ($3,060,465 per Win)

I see Jennings as the intriguing piece on this team. Not because I think he can be good, more because the Pistons have not had competent guard play since 2008 and "competent" is about how I would describe Brandon Jennings' ceiling.

For all the legitimate criticism of Brandon Jennings' personality, I think he showed last year that he is more open to suggestions than a lot of other players would be. He reportedly tried to change his playing style around the all star break and I think this is reflected in the numbers:

Per36 FGA

Per36 AST


Pre All Star Break




Post All Star Break




And it does seem like he is interested in continuing this trend in Detroit:

"You're going to see a whole different player…I definitely have to change my game."

"The things that I was doing in Milwaukee, I won't have to do here, take all the bad shots," Jennings said. "Now, I can just actually be myself and be who I was five years ago when I was in high school, playing AAU basketball."

Unfortunately he fails to talk about the most concerning aspect of his game, which is his defense. I suspect no one has adequately taken him to task for his appalling play on that end because his steal rate has always been good and often people simply look at steal rate to determine a guard's defensive value. Here are some interesting splits showing how the Bucks performed defensively when Jennings was on the court during different parts of last season:

Skiles Era

1.09 PPP

Pre All Star Break (Boylan)

1.04 PPP

Post All Star Break (Boylan)

1.22 PPP

That last figure is not a typo. Bucks gave up 1.22 points per possession when he was on the floor after the all star break. 1.22 PPP is superior to the fast break efficiency of both the Knicks and the Cavs last year. If the Pistons wish to make the playoffs they desperately need Jennings to shore this up or else opponents are just going to run PnRs at he and Greg Monroe every game, all game.


35 Wins

Notables In:

Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark

Notables Out:

Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston

Best Value Large Contract:

Kyrie Irving ($627,258 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Andrew Bynum ($2,328,776 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Tristan Thompson ($869,845 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Earl Clark ($5,809,846 per Win)

When it was announced that the Cavs had signed Andrew Bynum most people seemed to praise this as a low risk-high reward move and I wondered why people thought that way. Certainly the way the contract is written minimizes much of the team's financial risk, but when I look at the Cavs beyond Bynum I see a 24 win team that added Jarrett Jack. Haven't the Cavs admitted they are seeking a playoff spot this year and that the tanking is over? It seems like that plan depends quite a bit on Bynum being healthy and very good again. Bynum, a guy whose knees couldn't withstand 10 frames of bowling much less an 82 game NBA season. How is that low risk?

The Cavs signed Jarrett Jack this summer to join Kyrie and Dion Waiters in rounding out their corps of play-makers. Jack played over 1500 minutes with Steph Curry last season and over 300 minutes with him in the playoffs, so it seems plausible that GM Chris Grant envisions Jack playing with both Kyrie and Waiters at times.

With the Jack and Curry pair the Warriors scored 1.11 PPP on offense and allowed 1.07 PPP defensively. So its a good combo, nothing special. However, for Kyrie and Waiters to even reach "nothing special" status when paired with Jack they need to improve their defensive production. Both of them carry terrible on/off court defensive numbers and Jack is not a good defender either.


33 Wins

Notables In:

Gary Neal, O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Carlos Delfino, Luke Ridnour, Zaza Pachulia

Notables Out:

Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Luc a Moute, J.J. Redick, Beno Udrih, Samuel Dalenbert, Mike Dunleavy

Best Value Large Contract:

Ersan Ilyasova ($1,421,547 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Zaza Pachulia ($1,850,243 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Larry Sanders ($443,710 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Gary Neal ($4,029,690 per Win)

The question of redistributing Jennings' and Ellis' shots is potentially interesting, except it seems inevitable the hefty usage responsibility will devolve on to the new guards, which means lots of shots for Mayo, Knight, Neal and Ridnour. Mayo, by the way, will be showing his third fan base now that he in fact has nothing new to show them.

When Jennings and Ellis were both off the floor last year shot creation fell to the super-efficient Mike Dunleavy (1.35 PPP without Monta and Brandon) and the inefficient Beno Udrih and John Henson (sub 1.00 PPP for each). Two of those three are gone, but Henson is still around to shoot whenever he touches the ball and generally show observers what Kevin Seraphin would be like if he were cut in half vertically and not terrible.

Larry Drew is a competent coach who will not do anything to get in the way, but he cannot change the fact that this Bucks team is more an agglomeration of random mediocre veterans than a serious, thoughtfully constructed basketball team. I have to imagine another pick in the 10-15 range is in this team's future.

By the way, you should read Brewhoop and listen to their podcast even if you don't care about the Bucks. I think it is one of the 5 best basketball productions on SB Nation.

Stats courtesy of:

Basketball Reference


Hickory High

Team Rankings




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