Central Division Offseason Review
By: Devin Zanskas
This shortened NBA season is coming to an end soon, and there is still history to be made with the play-in tournament and the rest of the playoffs right around the corner. However, there is clearly a large enough sample to tell how the acquisitions of the 2020 offseason have panned out. On December 3rd, ESPN’s John Schumann shared a “continuity ranking”, ranking all thirty NBA teams based on the percentage of ’19-’20 regular season minutes under contract for ’20-’21. The central division has the top two teams in continuity, the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. They also have two of the bottom four teams based on continuity in the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Detroit Pistons only had five players return from the previous year, and the two most notable names, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, have since moved on to play for playoff teams. Detroit’s free agency acquisitions for this season include Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington, Josh Jackson, and Jahlil Okafor. The reactionary opinion on these additions was that Grant was overpaid and miscast as a go-to scorer, and that the overspending on big men was laughable considering the evolution of the game. Although the latter is subjective, the former has been challenged very much by Grant himself, averaging a career-high 22.5 points per game. The Pistons also made three first round selections in the 2020 NBA Draft in Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. According to Bleacher Report, Hayes suffered a labral tear in his hip. That injury stole 40 games from Hayes’s rookie year. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner notoriously ranked Hayes as the number one prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft. O’Conner says that he already has two ready-made NBA skills in playmaking and defense. If Hayes can develop his swing skills in shooting and ball handing, O’Conner believes his prediction may age better.
The Milwaukee Bucks replaced Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, George Hill, Robin Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, and others with Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, Bryn Forbes, Torrey Craig, and DJ Augustin. If the $160 million extension wasn’t enough proof, the Bucks are overjoyed by the upgrade at point guard, which also produced player of the week honors. Bucks fans accepted the price for Holiday, given that it likely played a large role in Giannis signing the supermax extension, but they were also concerned that this necessitated a loss of depth. However, Portis and Forbes have defied the fans’ expectations by averaging around ten points per game while shooting 44% or above from beyond the arc. Ironically, many Milwaukee fans imagined that Craig and Augustin may be most effective, filling the hole left by Matthews and Hill. However, that wasn’t the case, and more importantly, they were imperative in the trade for versatile defender, PJ Tucker.
The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves around the middle of the pack on the continuity rankings at 12, however their biggest acquisitions were young wings with no more than three years of experience in Isaac Okoro, Damyean Dotson, and Lamar Stevens. Although when one looks at the rest of the roster, there are plenty of familiar contributors in Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, and Dylan Windler. The explanation for the Cavs not having a higher continuity ranking may their recent midseason trades of Jordan Clarkson, Javale McGee, Kevin Porter Jr., and more. The Bulls and Pacers retained 14 and 15 players, respectively, but Bulls rookie Patrick Williams is someone to watch as a starting-level player for the future.