September 26, 2016 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s NBA Divisional Rankings
Eastern Conference – Central Division
Kyrie Irving, *J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
PG Kay Felder, SG/SF Iman Shumpert, SF Mike Dunleavy, PF/C Channing Frye, PF/C Chris Anderson
PG Mo Williams, SF Richard Jefferson
The defending champs still lead the Central Division, despite all the movement by the other teams, especially with LeBron James on the team. Kyrie Irving proved to be one of the best one on one scorers in the league and a very clutch player; he has the potential to be even better than last season. J.R. Smith is expected to re-sign with the team, but once a deal in line with the outrageous deals other free agents were signing, but his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor and a good deep ball, he is expected to be back. LeBron continues to be one of the most dominate players in the league and will continue to lead this team deep in the playoffs. Kevin Love is ready to go after his 1st championship and learning to play a new role, as more defender and rebounder. Tristan Thompson continues to dominate the boards and do the dirty work inside providing a nice shot blocking presence. 2nd round pick Kay Felder is a tough, undersized guard who can really score, but if he isn’t ready the team signed on veteran Mo Williams who contemplated retirement. Iman Shumpert is one of the better on ball defenders in the league and has developed a nice outside shot, as a solid 3 and D player. Mike Dunleavy was brought in to give the team a new dimension with his size, shooting, and consistency; he should help LeBron rest, as well as cause matchup problems. Channing Frye will continue to be a stretch big man off the bench who can provide high scoring in limited minutes. Chris Anderson will help replace the toughness and post defense of Timofey Mozgov who left via free agency. Richard Jefferson is back to provide more veteran leadership and solid minutes in spurts. The Cavs still have their championship core, a year polished, and LeBron James; the addition of Dunleavy could make things interesting.
Rajon Rondo, Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez
G Jerian Grant, SG Denzel Valentine, F Doug McDermott, F Nikola Mirotic, PF/C Bobby Portis
SG/SF Tony Snell, PG Spencer Dinwiddie
The Bulls really mixed things up via trade and free agency, as they couldn’t go with the same formula for another year. Rajon Rondo was brought in after a big season with the Kings, proving that he still one of the top passers and defenders in the league, with a touch of scoring when allowed. The big surprise was the Bulls ability to bring in hometown veteran Dwayne Wade from his long term spot, as face of the Heat, but he is ready to make change on the team and in the city. Wade showed last season that he has a lot left in the tank and can still dominate when healthy. Jimmy Butler proved that he is a star and one of the top two-way wingmen in the league with his solid perimeter defense and athleticism; he is now the face of the franchise. After a long wait, veteran Taj Gibson is finally the official starter and he can still provide solid interior defense and toughness, as he always has. Robin Lopez was brought in via trade as a solid rim protector with good consistency and he can score in spurts. Jerian Grant is still trying to prove that he is a legit NBA PG in his 2nd season, but if he struggles Spencer Dinwiddie can steal his minutes as a consistent role player off the bench for the Pistons. 1st round pick Denzel Valentine has good scoring ability and athleticism the Bulls are hoping that he is NBA ready. Doug McDermott proved last season that he can find ways to score in the league and has become a valuable asset off the bench; with Dunleavy gone he has more opportunities. Ditto with Nikola Mirotic who proved that he can be a big time scorer and deadly from outside. Bobby Portis proved in his rookie season that he can bang inside and find ways to score, while adding a nice rebounding touch. Tony Snell continues to provide solid two-way play off the bench at either wing spot (SG/SF). The Bulls have a solid veteran group and solid role players off the bench, as they mix in some youth; they definitely have the makings of a playoff team no one wants to play.
Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner
PG Aaron Brooks, G Rodney Stuckey, SG/SF C.J. Miles, PF/C Lavoy Allen, C Al Jefferson
SG/SF Glenn Robinson III, F Georges Niang
The Pacers finally decided to change things up after some smart trades and free agent signings, as usual from Larry Bird. Jeff Teague was brought in via trade, as a contrast to George Hill who they sent out. Teague is more of a scoring guard who can provide instant offense on a team where Paul George needed more help; this is also a homecoming for him, which should be a plus. Monta Ellis didn’t look like himself last season, but hopefully he will be able to provide more scoring help and playmaking ability consistently. Paul George continues to be a star in the league and one of the top two-way players in the league with his ability to play solid defense inside and outside; luckily, he will no longer be forced to be a stretch 4 this season. Thaddeus Young was brought in via trade as a solid veteran who has really carved a role, as athletic defensive stretch 4, after years of bouncing between SF and PF; he was a solid pickup coming off a big season. Myles Turner is a young developing big man who proved that he can be a solid defensive inside presence and has earned more minutes and a starting spot. Aaron Brooks was brought in to provide solid veteran play, as he was a solid contributor for the Bulls, off the bench and as a spot starter. Rodney Stuckey continues to be a solid contributor off the bench with the ability to play both guard spots and provide scoring and playmaking ability. C.J. Miles is a solid role player off the bench who can provide instant offense, but he needs to stay healthy. Lavoy Allen proved that he can play either big man spot and provide good interior defense and rebounding in limited minutes. Veteran Al Jefferson was a smart free agent pickup, as he proved last season that he can still dominate off the bench with his nice scoring touch and rebounding ability. Glen Robinson III proved that he can provide a spark offensively in limited minutes, but he must be more consistent to see minutes increase. 2nd round pick, Georges Niang, proved to be a pleasant surprise in the summer league, despite being an undersized PF which scared most teams away. The Pacers have added a nice mix of scorers around Paul George, on a team that struggled to score, but there is enough defense to not see much of a drop off in that area.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, *Khris Middleton, Rashad Vaughn, Jabari Parker, Miles Plumlee
PG Michael Carter-Williams, PG/SG Matthew Dellavedova, F Mirza Teletovic, PF/C John Henson, PF/C Greg Monroe
F Michael Beasley, SG Malcolm Brogdon, F Thon Maker
The Bucks have an interesting mix of players and mismatches for the 2nd year in a row, but they are hoping that it will result in more wins and a return to the playoffs. Star point-forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will finally make the move to PG that Coach Jason Kidd wanted to experiment with, giving them a lanky playmaking 6’11 PG who can do anything on both ends of the floor. Khris Middleton was expected to continue to be the lanky go to scorer, but a left hamstring injury has sidelined him for 6 months. The injury to Middleton caused the team to trade young PG Tyler Ennis for veteran F Michael Beasley who provided consistent bench scoring and rebounding for the Rockets in a surprising comeback year. Rashad Vaughn is moving to a starting spot after showing his scoring ability and athleticism; he will be even more valuable with the loss of Middleton. Jabari Parker proved to be a consistent offensive threat and rebounder once he was finally healthy and should continue to grow into a solid two-way player; he will have even more opportunities this year. Miles Plumlee took over the starting job last season and provided solid interior defense and energy; I don’t think Coach Kidd will interrupt this mix. Michael Carter-Williams is a matchup nightmare and solid all-around player when healthy; he could be the key to the bench play. Matthew Dellavedova was brought in via free agency after providing a solid spark off the bench for the champs and they are hoping for the same, maybe more after a solid showing in the Olympics. Mirza Teletovic proved to be a solid scoring 6th man with the Suns last season with good shooting range; he will be a much needed floor spacer. John Henson is finally healthy and should be a welcome addition to provide rebounding and a shot blocking/defensive presence. Greg Monroe should continue to be a high volume scorer off the bench inside. 1st round pick Thon Maker was a pleasant surprise in the summer league and may not be as raw as believed, which could make a big difference. 2nd round pick Malcolm Brogdon is a solid perimeter defender, but he needs to polish his offensive game. The Bucks have an interesting mix of players and could surprise some teams, but the injury to Middleton doesn’t help them, as they need to get off to a quick start in an improved Eastern Conference.
Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond
PG Ish Smith, SG Darrun Hilliard, F Stanley Johnson, F Jon Lauer, PF/C Aron Baynes
PF Henry Ellenson, SG/SF Michael Gbinije
The Pistons will have a whole season of their starting lineup together and they have shaken things up on a bench that couldn’t provide much help last season. Reggie Jackson proved to be worth his contract as an explosive one on one scorer who can scorer in bunches, but he needs more consistency. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finally developed into the shooter he was expected to be by midseason and has been a reliable scorer, especially from deep; he is still very young. Marcus Morris developed into a consistent all-around threat and the Pistons hope that he can repeat the season on even improve, as he has been a great glue guy. Tobias Harris was brought in via trade midseason and still needs to find his niche on the team as a stretch 4, after leaving Orlando as the primary scorer. Andre Drummond is the face of the franchise and one of the top centers in the game with his rebounding, defense, and interior presence; he should continue to dominate. Ish Smtih has always been a solid bench contributor, but was a solid all-around player with the 76ers, as a starter last season so he should be able to lead the 2nd unit. Darrun Hillard is a young 2nd round pick from last year who has a nice 3pt shot and defensive potential; possible 3 and D player. Stanley Johnson took lead in the summer league again, but must continue to work on his shot if he hopes to get serious starter consideration, but he has good defense and athleticism. Jon Lauer was brought in via free agency as an expensive stretch 4, but he showed last season that he can score in spurts in limited minutes, which is what this team is missing from the 2nd unit. Aron Baynes was a solid role player for the Spurs in limited minutes and after a strong showing in the Olympics will be allowed to do even more with the Pistons. 1st round pick, Henry Ellenson has stretch 4 potential, but he needs more time to develop after an inconsistent summer league showing. 2nd round pick Michael Gbinije is a raw, but athletic prospect who they believe can play multiple positions maybe even PG; he is coming off experience from the Olympics, as well. The Pistons have a strong starting lineup and good coaching, but bench production could determine their spot in the playoff rankings.