After a thrilling season, the NBA is officially over for another year. So, the team at SportsTips thought it would be a good idea to go through every team in the Central Division, and have a look at the year that was!
It was a successful season for the Chicago Bulls in 2021-22 and it all started in the offseason with the sign-and-trade acquisition of DeMar DeRozan. He would go on to average 27.9 points per game and help the Bulls go from a team that narrowly missed the playoffs to one that earned a 6 seed.
Zach Lavine worked alongside DeRozan and made yet another All-Star team in 2022 with his points average sitting over 24 a game. Unfortunately, the return to the postseason was short lived for the Chicago Bulls who ran into the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
🚨 OFFICIAL 🚨
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) July 7, 2022
It was a running theme all season of how poorly the Bulls did against top-tier teams and it was the case in this series as they only won a single game. Chicago went into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouths given the fact they lost the last three games of the series and by a combined 70 points.
That experience should be a learning one and I expect them to once again be one of the most relevant teams in the Eastern Conference in 2022-23. Zach Lavine signed an extension at the start of free agency, which was the top priority and while they may not be an elite team, they are one to watch as they have the stars that can get hot and make some noise.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the surprises of the entire NBA season but it was all for nothing in the end as they weren’t able to sneak into the postseason. They were easily one of the worst teams in the entire league in 2020-21 but used their high pick to draft Evan Mobley out of USC.
Mobley would form a deadly front court duo with first time All-Star Jarrett Allen which helped them double their wins from 22 to 44 in just one year. The biggest key to that improvement though was the huge steps Darius Garland made in his game, as he also made his first All-Star team.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) July 2, 2022
The young point guard improved his points from 17 to over 21 and assists from 6 to 8.6 and earned himself a five-year extension worth $193 million following the season. Head coach JB Bickerstaff was a huge reason for the team’s improvement as well and he received a lot of talk to be considered for Coach of the Year.
He couldn’t ultimately win the award due to the Cavs barely missing the playoffs however. The reason for the fall in the standings was injuries throughout to multiple players, most notably Jarrett Allen and Ricky Rubio who was a key piece in running the second unit offense.
At the trade deadline, the Cavs swung a trade for Caris LeVert to bring him back to his home state and they just appear in all ways to be heading in the right direction as a team. If injuries do not derail them again, you can expect these young guys to be a force to be reckoned with and a legit playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
The Detroit Pistons had the #1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and selected Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham in a move that gave so much excitement to the fan base. Adding Cade to the rest of the young and inexperienced roster did not change much in their expectations, as it was still going to be a long rebuild but they were able to improve their win total from 20 to 23.
The top lock struggled initially as many rookies do, but as he adjusted to the speed at the new level he showed that he will be a guy in this league for a long time. He has an all-around game and finished the season with averages of 17.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 5.5 rebounds a game, finishing 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting.
It’s official🤝🏾 Let’s get to it Detroit!! pic.twitter.com/JdHMagGmbW
— Jalen Duren (@JalenDuren) July 7, 2022
This upcoming year will be another in the rebuild but if Cade continues to develop alongside players like Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, then the future could be promising. Bey flashed elite scoring potential at times, highlighted by a 51-point explosion on March 17 against the Orlando Magic. Stewart is a good force down low and is known for his rebounding ability and just overall scrappy play.
With the selection of Purdue’s Jaden Ivey in the 2022 draft to pair with Cade, they now have one of the most exciting young backcourts in the league and it will be interesting to see how they mesh. Don’t expect a lot of wins from them but with head coach Dwayne Casey running the show, they will compete night in and night out.
The Indiana Pacers had another disappointing season in 2021-22 in head coach Rick Carlisle’s first year with his new team. The franchise fired Nate Bjorkgren after the 2021 season when the Pacers lost in the play-in tournament to the Washington Wizards, eliminating them from the playoff contention.
Aside from hiring a new head coach, the team practically ran back the same squad along with the drafting of Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson. A lot of projections before the year had them slated as a potential playoff team but things didn’t go as planned and they lost a lot more games than anticipated.
let ’em know, Stix is back. 😈 pic.twitter.com/qeTZ2Vdu9h
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) July 6, 2022
The slow start caused them to make some selling moves at the trade deadline which included trading away Damontas Sabonis and Caris LeVert at the trade deadline. Some good came from that, as they were able to acquire young talent like Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings.
Halliburton is an excellent shooter and facilitator who makes everyone around him better while Hield is a guy who can also shoot the lights out of the ball. An improvement on their 25 wins in 2021-2022 should be assumed with a full offseason of their new pieces getting integrated while being led by a former NBA Final winning coach in Carlisle. I’m not sure it will be enough to sneak into the postseason but I also would not be surprised.
A lot of pressure was on the 2021-22 Milwaukee Bucks and rightfully so given the fact they were the defending NBA champions. They lost a few pieces from that team, like PJ Tucker who would do all the dirty work, but for the most part the same nucleus was intact.
They were also able to add a couple shooters in the offseason, Wes Matthews and Grayson Allen, to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo. The regular season was pretty excellent for them as they managed to win 51 games and earn the 3 seed in the East, setting them up for a first round matchup with the Bulls who they dominated in the regular season.
Not the result we wanted but an incredible season nonetheless.
Thank you, Bucks fans!! 💚 pic.twitter.com/JZkbICbwLz
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 16, 2022
It was an easy first round win in 5 games as expected, but the postseason run ended in the next round at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee led that series 3-2 heading home for Game 6 but couldn’t close it out and eventually lost in seven on the road.
All-Star forward Khris Middleton missing that series was a big reason why they couldn’t win and advance to defend their title but with him back next year and the same core yet again, we can look for them to be right at the top of the list of title contenders.
Even though the season has finished, we’ve got you covered with all the latest information on the NBA! We keep you as up to date as possible, so you don’t miss any of the action this off-season.