Who would have guessed that all the red-hot offseason news would take place in the Central Division? LeBron James coming home, Paul George out for the year, Pau Gasol leaving the Lakers for Chicago, Detroit handing the reins over to Stan Van Gundy, and Milwaukee adding to their impressive stable of young talent. That sure beats getting excited about Carlos Boozer. Let's debate the resulting position battles from all this hectic activity.
How did it take this long for the Bulls to rid themselves of Carlos Boozer? Oh well, the Windy City is once again excited for the NBA season. I don't think the United Center will be adding a Gasol statue next to Michael Jordan's, but Gasol is a serious upgrade from Boozer. With a healthy Derrick Rose (fingers crossed), Jimmy Butler, Gasol, and Joakim Noah, the only debate about quality is at small forward.
Small Forward: Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott
With all the injury turmoil last year in Chicago and the trade of Luol Deng, Dunleavy and Snell had opportunities to shine. Dunleavy started 61 games last year (up from three starts each of the two previous seasons), and the rookie Snell averaged 20+ minutes per game December through February, but clearly, the Bulls' brass were concerned about small forward for the coming season when they traded up to get McBuckets with the 11th pick in the draft this summer.
Everyone knows the Bulls need outside shooting, and they hope they can get it from McDermott. He averaged 2.7 three-pointers per game while shooting 45 percent from long distance last season at Creighton.
I'd be shocked if coach Tom Thibodeau threw McDermott into the starting lineup to start the season. McDermott will clearly have a lot to learn on the defensive side of the court in the NBA.
The 33-year-old Dunleavy should hold on to his starting spot for the first month or two, but Dunleavy is an on-going health risk. From the 2008-09 season through that 2012-13 season, he averaged only 55 games per season, though he did play in all 82 games last year.
Both players would be better served if Dunleavy could be the leading scorer for the second unit and McDermott could have his defensive issues covered by Butler, Noah, and Rose. Snell made the decision at small forward more complicated with a strong summer league showing in Las Vegas, where he averaged 20.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 30 minutes per game through five games.
Look for Dunleavy to start and get relatively heavy minutes, but to gradually give way to McDermott, while Snell vultures about 18 mpg at small forward and shooting guard.
Have you ever, ever heard someone yell, "Yes, CLEVELAND!"?
Unless you live near South Beach (in which case you are too busy applying hair products to subscribe to RotoWire), you had to be happy this summer for the Mistake By The Lake. I lived in Cleveland for six years – trust me, that town needs some good news. And these are some sweet t-shirts...ooops, sorry...I meant these t-shirts.
At this point, the word is Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and the Cavaliers' 2015 first-round pick are headed to Minnesota for Kevin Love. (FYI, Bennett is then supposed to go to Philly for Thaddeus Young, but I digress.)
That means power forward, small forward, and point guard are locked up in The Forest City. (It's true, that's a nickname for Cleveland.)
Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova, Ray Allen, Craig Ehlo
This really should be Waiters' job to lose, but it became quite clear last year that Waiters and Kyrie Irving do not play nice with each other. So, does coach James, er, coach David Blatt give Waiters a chance to grow up or does Dellavedova's outside shooting and defense help improve floor spacing for James and Love? Also, does Ray Allen retire or join King James in The Cleve? (Yes, also a nickname.) I suspect Dellavedova may get the minutes, but Waiters, by leading the second squad, has a better chance of getting shots and putting up fantasy points.
With that said, you know who really deserves to start? Craig Ehlo. Come on, let Ehlo play with "the man" and forget this ugly memory: (Watch him just collapse after MJ's shot goes through.)
Center: Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson
This will be dictated by the health of James' pal Varejao. Maybe they talked about this in Brazil. Varejao somehow managed to play in 65 games last season, this after averaging only 27 games the three previous seasons. Like Waiters, Cavs fans keep waiting for Thompson to have his breakout season, but it hasn't happened. Frankly, this debate may be pointless assuming Love gobbles up most of the rebounds and inside buckets. If forced to choose the better fantasy option, I'd go with Thompson strictly based on Varejao's health record.
Our in-office Pistons fans are very excited about the arrival of Stan Van Gundy. I don't know if this is praise for SVG or disgust with Joe Dumars' past few seasons, but as of today (8/12/2014), Greg Monroe is still hanging out in restricted free agent land. It's not 100 percent that he'll return to the Motor City. (Now, that's a legit nickname.) So, we'll do our best with what we know now, but remember, this situation is fluid.
Wings: Jodie Meeks, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Singler, Caron Butler, Joe Smith
This situation was murky last year, and it didn't get much clearer, even after adding Meeks and Butler. Butler is 114 years old. (OK, he's 34.) SVG was eager to sign Meeks, surprising some with a quick three-year, $19 million deal. That kind of cash implies the shooting guard job is Meeks' to lose. After four mediocre seasons, Meeks exploded last year for 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.1 three-pointers per game, and he did it while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Did Meeks finally blossom, or was it the case of someone forced to score on a very bad team? The nice shooting percentages suggest the former. I bet Meeks' shooting looked particularly good after viewing video of KCP shooting 40 percent from the field last year. When your point guard also shoots worse than 40-percent, you need a real SHOOTING guard. You know, somebody who can shoot and space the floor.
That someone could have been Singler, who got the chance to start 29 games at shooting guard last year, but Singler is a natural small forward at 6-9 and too slow to guard guys like Bradley Beal and Lance Stephenson. If (big IF) the Pistons don't keep Monroe, then Josh Smith can move to his better position of power forward, and Singler can play small forward, as he should. We'll see.
I think RotoWire's Detroit Pistons beat writer Shannon McKeown says it best: