NBA Offseason Preview: Central Division

NBA Offseason Preview: Central Division

This article is part of our NBA Offseason series.

With the 2022 NBA season officially over, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The NBA draft and free agency are just days away, so let's examine the Eastern Conference Central Division.

Central Division

Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton's knee injury in the playoffs derailed another championship-caliber season in Milwaukee. The stars are all returning for another run and the Bucks should be able to keep most of their core intact.

Chicago Bulls: Despite being bounced in the first round of the playoffs, star power abounds. Chicago still has clear weaknesses and sits a tier beneath true contenders.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Armed with a formidable interior duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, point guard Darius Garland leads a fundamentally sound team. Cleveland lost in the play-in tournament last season.

Indiana Pacers: Owners of the No. 6 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, the Pacers are on the fast track to retooling around centerpiece Tyrese Haliburton with an underrated supporting cast.

Detroit Pistons: Owners of the No. 5 pick in the upcoming Draft, Detroit has a rising star in Cade Cunningham.

Detroit Pistons

Potential Departures: Marvin Bagley, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Rodney McGruder 

The 23-year-old Diallo has seemingly plateaued developmentally, while the 23-year-old Bagley can carve out a role offensively on a winning team. Both are decent pieces of a rebuild at the right price but ultimately not needle-moves.

With the 2022 NBA season officially over, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The NBA draft and free agency are just days away, so let's examine the Eastern Conference Central Division.

Central Division

Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton's knee injury in the playoffs derailed another championship-caliber season in Milwaukee. The stars are all returning for another run and the Bucks should be able to keep most of their core intact.

Chicago Bulls: Despite being bounced in the first round of the playoffs, star power abounds. Chicago still has clear weaknesses and sits a tier beneath true contenders.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Armed with a formidable interior duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, point guard Darius Garland leads a fundamentally sound team. Cleveland lost in the play-in tournament last season.

Indiana Pacers: Owners of the No. 6 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, the Pacers are on the fast track to retooling around centerpiece Tyrese Haliburton with an underrated supporting cast.

Detroit Pistons: Owners of the No. 5 pick in the upcoming Draft, Detroit has a rising star in Cade Cunningham.

Detroit Pistons

Potential Departures: Marvin Bagley, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Rodney McGruder 

The 23-year-old Diallo has seemingly plateaued developmentally, while the 23-year-old Bagley can carve out a role offensively on a winning team. Both are decent pieces of a rebuild at the right price but ultimately not needle-moves. It's likely Detroit retains both – especially Bagley – unless a splash in free agency precludes it.

Rumors of a Deandre Ayton fit are out there. Detroit leads the league in cap space and can choose to splurge on forming a big three around Cade Cunningham and the No. 5 pick. 

Now that Jerami Grant is on an expiring deal, exporting him out of Detroit feels imminent. A deal happening pre-draft is possible. An additional pick to add a backcourt mate for Cunningham as well as a modern piece in the frontcourt would turbocharge the rebuild.

Outside of Cunningham, Saddiq Bey is the Pistons' other notable contributor. Detroit remains a blank slate to build a vision.

Draft Considerations: Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe, EJ Liddell, Orlando Robinson

Offseason Considerations: Trading Jerami Grant, star power in the frontcourt, low-cost wings

Indiana Pacers

Potential Departures: T.J. Warren, Jalen Smith 

Indiana is quietly teeming with talent. Tyrese Haliburton has a radiant effect on the roster, aided by salary-dump turned revitalized asset Buddy Hield – a familiar face for Haliburton from Sacramento.  

Myles Turner is still just 26 and returns as a proven interior anchor with real skills as a floor spacer and trailer on offense. He will be on an expiring contract, however, and could very well be moved this summer. Isaiah Jackson is an exciting, upside-ridden rim runner. Terry Taylor is a sneaky unknown player in the league. Chris Duarte is a good creator under cheap control through 2025.  

Malcolm Brogdon remains – at least for now. He had a down year from beyond the arc and has lost a step heading into his age-30 season, but sharing the backcourt more than ever in his upcoming years with the Pacers bodes well. Depending on the organizational fondness of keeping him, an exchange of big contracts could net the Pacers a pick through dealing Brogdon to a contender.  

This Pacers team will surprise people sooner rather than later. Additionally, there are enough assets in play for Indiana to strike another deal with Sacramento and move up to No. 4.

Draft Considerations: Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe, Dereon Seabron, Christian Braun, Christian Koloko

Offseason Considerations: Evaluate potential Brogdon and Turner trades, retain Jalen Smith in free agency at the right price.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Potential Departures: Collin Sexton, Moses Brown

The core of Garland, Allen and Mobley performing as well as it did without Sexton takes a lot of pressure off matching his restricted free agency. Nonetheless, Sexton is a bucket and his poor defense could be disguised like never before next season. His market value and subsequent retention will dictate Cleveland's draft strategy.

Wings are the need. Caris LeVert will have a sizable role, despite a disappointing end to this 2021-22 season after coming over from Indiana via trade. Beyond that, it's bleak. Isaac Okoro is progressing but at a snail's pace. Dean Wade and Dylan Windler have graded as fine defenders but are really underwhelming roster pieces. Cedi Osman is underwhelming also.

Cleveland is an offensive punch away from being dangerous. It could be Sexton. It could come through the draft. With some of the aforementioned wings on expiring deals and pick No.39, taking on a regretted contract could net a positive contributor.

Draft Considerations: Malaki Branham, Ochai Agbaji, Jalen Williams

Offseason Considerations: Sexton decision, rotational shake-up

Chicago Bulls

Potential Departures: Zach LaVine, Troy Brown, Derrick Jones

Re-signing Zach LaVine is unlikely to end well for the Bulls. The odds of Chicago regretting a five year, $212 million deal by the time LaVine is 30 is high. LaVine is 27 currently, and even in his peak years there's skepticism about Chicago fighting for a ring with the existing core.

Portland covets Anfernee Simons, but he'd be a divine use of that capital, if available. Chicago would be wise to pursue Malik Monk. He's just 24 years old, would lead to a financially flexible future and is a talented scorer. Accompany Monk with Chris Boucher or another stopper option at the four.Those dollars can be diversified. Clutch playmaking suffers slightly, but LaVine's role can be mostly accounted for.

When Alex Caruso was absent, this Bulls team struggled immensely. Caruso returning to health – ditto for Lonzo Ball – will be huge for Chicago. At least one more quality season from DeMar DeRozan is realistic. More growth from Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams is also realistic. Nikola Vucevic remains an impactful player.

Derrick Jones is a plus as a lengthy defender, but re-signing him won't be imperative if the Bulls succeed elsewhere in free agency. The Bulls have a few different candidates to hit home runs in the draft. Solutions abound for solving a physically one-dimensional wing cast or a lack of explosiveness at the guard position.

Draft Considerations: Tari Eason, Jaden Hardy, Marjon Beauchamp

Offseason Considerations: Scorers to replace LaVine (if he departs), big defensive stoppers, especially at the four.

Milwaukee Bucks

Potential Departures: Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, Jevon Carter

Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton would mark major losses for Milwaukee. Subtracting two quality defenders and three-point scorers hurts. Portis has a more impressive overall offensive game and is three years younger, making his price tag higher – especially after he took a big-time, post-title discount to stay in Milwaukee this past season. Connaughton brings value as an underrated finisher and athletic defender. It's unlikely that Milwaukee retains both, but the Bucks should try.

Brook Lopez and Grayson Allen remain. Wesley Matthews could also be back. The Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday trio is locked up. Orchestrating a top-five offense but an underwhelming defense in the halfcourt, Milwaukee's selection with pick No. 24 should be best player available or lengthy grit on the defensive end.

Draft Considerations: Kennedy Chandler, Dalen Terry, Bryce McGowens, Trevor Keels

Offseason Considerations: Sparkplug on offense, basic 3-and-D wing(s), depth at center

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Weinberg
Henry is a sports writer and analyst, specializing in NBA analysis, CBB coverage and draft prep. He's a freelance scout, passionate baseball fan, elite fantasy football player and former Butler Bulldog.
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