By Hocine LOUKKAF on 9/24/2018

Cleveland has watched Lebron leave without any compensation and it will be hard for them to prevent Indiana or Milwaukee from becoming the kings of the Central. Chicago has used the draft to grab a jewel in Duke alumni Wendell Carter and has brought back home local legend Jabari Parker. Detroit’s offseason has been quiet, too quiet maybe for a team that has been so disappointing recently.

#1 Indiana Pacers

After an impressive first round where the Pacers pushed the Cavs to the 7th game, Oladipo and his teammates are ready to be ambitious for the upcoming season. The Hoosier has proved he was one of the best two-way players in the League and the front office has brought subtle changes to the roster to keep it stable but improved at the same time. At the guard spot, Stephenson has been replaced by Tyreke Evans, a more consistent and better scorer. At the wing, McDermott will be given time and the opportunity to be more than a rotational player. Inside, O’Quinn is a rugged ans smart player who will play an interesting 15/20min per game to help Myles Turner and Sabonis. Finally, as the newt one  supposed to take Collison’s spot in the future, another UCLA alumni with 1st round pick Aaron Holiday, a promising player who can defend and shoot very well from outside.

#2 Milwaukee Bucks

It’s nice to reach the playoffs but what’s the point if you can’t pass the first round. One of the best players in the League, Antetokounmpo needs to bring his team further in the playoffs and that’s what the front office tried to do with the new recruits. Inside, Brook Lopez will be the focus point inside and that should create space for shots and drives. Yet, he’s far from being a good rebounder, something the Bucks really miss. After a subpar season where he averaged only  6.9pts 1.9rbds and 1.3as, Tony Snell will have competition at the guard spot with rookie DiVincenzo ready to show his Final Four perf was no fluke. Ilyasova knows the house and is a versatile player. Bucks may also receive help inside from Christian Wood, who had a successful stint in the summer league. Milwaukee needs to be more than underdogs.

#3 Chicago Bulls

My main wildcard in the East. A pretty weak team last year, the Bulls can count on the improvement on young players like Dunn, Lavine or Markanne, who played very well with Finland in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, but also on new players, above all through the draft. With the 7th pick of the last draft, the Bulls have picked one of the smartest and most talented kids, Wendell Carter Jr. A tough defender and rebounder, Carter can do everything on offense from shooting threes to play in the low post. He will bring much needed stability despite his young age and could turn to be the leader of this team. With a hole at the SF spot for years, Chicago has chosen two players with different profiles to take the minutes. First, they used the draft to bring Chandler Hutchinson, a typical three and D with good length and athleticism, then put the trigger to sign local legend Jabari Parker. Although the Simeon high school graduate’s career has been derailed by injuries, the city hopes he will finally be luckier and play some healthy seasons. The price was high but it may be worth the risk…

#4 Cleveland Cavaliers

Poor Cleveland, they  could not do nothing but watch Lebron leave for the Lake show without getting anyone in return. With a roster made up mainly of vets like George Hill or JR “are we not leading the game?” Smith, it’s hard to imagine the front office try to win games instead of tanking the season and try to trade thoses guys. Yet, the staff decided to re-sign Kevin Love on a long term deal, and took profit from the draft to pick Collin Sexton, a hard nosed PG who needs the  ball and space as he’s more of a scoring PG than a creator. There still are some interesting players like Thompson, Nance or Osman who may be motivated to show they can be competitive without Lebron but whatever happens, it definitely will be a transition year for the Cavs.

#5 Detroit Pistons

Can the duo Griffin/Drummond be efficient? That’s the main question after a weak end of the season as Griffin posted his lowest shooting percentages of his career. In a League where shooting has become the key, Detroit’s success relies on its inside combo. Outside, the too often injured Jackson is the only potential top 25 player at his spot from the backcourt, small forward included. Stanley Jackson has not yet become the player the Pistons have hoped while Kennard showcased some skills but will have to compete with rookies Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas, two very good defenders, with Thomas being the most talented offensively and most touted. With that said, the Pistons will have a new sheriff in town with former Raptors’ coach Dwayne Casey once again in position to change the destiny of a franchise, a tough challenge to take up.

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