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CENTRAL

Dec. 05, 2011
Dec. 05, 2011

Table of Contents
Dec. 5, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NBA PREVIEW 2011-12
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
PRO FOOTBALL
  • A first-ever postseason berth is the righteous cause in Houston—but with two QBs already lost to injury, the Texans will need hard-charging, deep-thinking feature back Arian Foster to lead the way

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
SPECIAL REPORT
Departments

CENTRAL

CHICAGO BULLS(62--20)

This is an article from the Dec. 5, 2011 issue

What they've got

At 22, Derrick Rose was the NBA's youngest MVP, and another summer spent drilling with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love should make him even better. Luol Deng became a two-way star at small forward, and a healthy Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah could yield even more wins in Chicago.

What they need

The Bulls desperately need a two guard, and athletic free agent Jason Richardson, who averaged 15.6 ppg for the Suns and the Magic, is at the top of their list. Free agent Jamal Crawford (Hawks) could also draw an offer, or Courtney Lee (Rockets) or O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies) might be had in a trade. The job description is pretty simple: defend, run the floor and be ready to shoot when the defense collapses on Rose.

Bottom line

Young legs and a deep roster should make the Bulls a force in the regular season. Then coach Tom Thibodeau must prove that his offense is diverse enough to win in the playoffs.

INDIANA PACERS(37--45)

What they've got

Point guard Darren Collison answered any lingering questions about his ability to start, averaging 13.5 points and 5.1 assists. Roy Hibbert is a rare pure post player, and while Danny Granger is overpaid at $12 million, he's a consistent 20-points-per-game scorer.

What they need

Tyler Hansbrough isn't the answer at power forward, at least not as a starter. A rival G.M. expects the Pacers to be a front-runner for free agent David West (Hornets), while Carl Landry (Hornets) and Paul Millsap (Jazz) are on team president Larry Bird's radar.

Bottom line

Indiana made huge strides under rookie coach Frank Vogel, giving Chicago all it could handle in their opening-round series. With an established rotation and the likelihood that young players such as 6'8" Paul George and guard George Hill, acquired from the Spurs, will continue to develop, Indiana will be in the hunt for a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS(35--47)

What they've got

Point guard Brandon Jennings and center Andrew Bogut form a potent inside-out combination, while newcomer Stephen Jackson is a reliable third option. The Bucks were among the stingiest defensive teams in points allowed (third) and opponent field goal percentage (sixth), and they drafted D-minded 6'8" forward Tobias Harris from Tennessee.

What they need

Milwaukee's offense was awful last season, finishing last in the NBA in scoring (91.9 points per game) and field goal percentage (43.0). G.M. John Hammond would love to lure a scoring power forward—Milwaukee native Carl Landry (Hornets) is a target—to take pressure off Bogut in the post.

Bottom line

The Bucks have 12 players with guaranteed contracts—13 if, as expected, restricted free-agent forward Luc Mbah a Moute returns—and little room under the cap. Even if they find a way to give the offense a boost, the No. 8 seed is probably the best they can hope for.

DETROIT PISTONS(30--52)

What they've got

Second-year center Greg Monroe was a double-double machine down the stretch, and when motivated, forward Charlie Villanueva is a dangerous inside-out threat. Despite a subpar 2010--11 season, guard Ben Gordon can still single-handedly take over games.

What they need

The likely departures of Tayshaun Prince (free agent) and Richard Hamilton (amnesty) will take a lot of scoring out of the lineup. The Pistons won't replace them; instead they'll lean on forward Austin Daye and 6'10" Jonas Jerebko.

Bottom line

The tension between players who weren't used to rebuilding (Prince, Hamilton, Tracy McGrady) and youth that needs to develop (Daye, Rodney Stuckey, Jerebko) will be gone, which should make the locker room less toxic. But Detroit is still a work in progress, and new coach Lawrence Frank will likely incorporate two rookies—point guard Brandon Knight of Kentucky and forward Kyle Singler of Duke—into the rotation.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS(19--63)

What they've got

Youth. The Cavs plucked Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, 19, and Texas power forward Tristan Thompson, 20, with the draft's first and fourth picks, respectively. Forward Omri Casspi became a solid rotation player in his second season, and high-energy forward Anderson Varej√£o, 29, is healthy after missing the second half with a torn tendon in his left ankle.

What they need

There are holes everywhere (shooting guard, center, bench), but Cleveland won't fill them just to win a few more games. Point guard Baron Davis is an amnesty candidate, and forward Antawn Jamison will be shopped for young players or veterans eager to be part of a rebuilding franchise.

Bottom line

Irving and Thompson played a combined 47 games in college. Coach Byron Scott will let them learn on the run, and while the early results won't be pretty, the long-term benefits could be.

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (ROSE)ROSE RISING After becoming the youngest MVP ever, the Chicago point guard could be even more formidable if his big men stay healthy.PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (COLLISON)PHOTOGREG NELSON (NOAH)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JENNINGS)PHOTOFERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (STUCKEY)PHOTODAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (DAVIS)
SCOUT'S TAKE
"The Bulls need Carlos Boozer to be a go-to scorer. Derrick Rose was getting killed trying to carry that team, and it wore him down in the playoffs."