Despite the inactivity from the Chicago Bulls, who will be welcoming back their MVP in Derrick Rose this season, the Central Division was exposed to more roster shifts than any other division in the NBA during the 2013 offseason. This has a lot to do with how the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons finishing in the standings last season, as both teams had high first-round draft picks and finished the night with three new additions to the roster. Detroit grabbed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the eighth overall selection, while Cleveland selected Anthony Bennett with the first pick and Sergey Karasev at 19 with their first-round picks. In the second round, the Wine and Gold took ferocious defender Carrick Felix, while the Pistons snagged Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell to cap off an active night from the 2012-13 Central bottom dwellers.
Even with Bennett being the only one out of the 2013 draft group yet to officially sign on board, we can still get a good look at how these two teams will push for the playoffs this upcoming season due to their rapid activity this offseason. The Cavs and Pistons weren’t afraid to spend and take risks, but which of these two squads has the potential to climb out of the gutter and compete for a spot in the Eastern Conference’s postseason? The Pistons added two All-Star caliber talents in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, but both players have seemingly large holes that could derail Detroit on their ascent into the top 8 spots in the East. As for the Cavs, it’s the matter of whether or not unfortunate luck will infect the team’s primary options – Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and the newly acquired Andrew Bynum – once again.
These teams no longer want to be banking on flying out to New York and hoping luck rolls their way every summer, so this looks like the season for two teams that were prominent contenders in the League just over a few years ago. After a couple offseasons of casually spending in their rebuilding efforts, their rosters are finally starting to come to fruition. Let’s take a look at how exactly these two teams spent this offseason and where their moves put them in the Eastern Conference landscape in regards to their positioning last season.
Players retained from the 2012-13 season: Will Bynum, Andre Drummond, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe, Kyle Singler, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva
Players lost from the 2012-13 season: Jose Calderon, Kim English, Brandon Knight, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Corey Maggette (FA), Jason Maxiell, Khris Middleton
Players added for the 2013-14 season: Chauncey Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Luigi Datome, Brandon Jennings, Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva, Josh Smith
Here’s a look at how the Pistons spent this offseason:
July 9: Luigi Datome – two years, $3.5 million ($1.75 million in 13-14)
July 10: Josh Smith – four years, $56 million (13.5 million in 13-14)
July 15: Will Bynum – two years, $5.7 million ($2.8 million in 13-14)
July 16: Chauncey Billups – one year, $2.5 million ($2.5 million in 13-14)
July 19: Tony Mitchell – three years, $2.26 million ($500,000 in 13-14)
July 19: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – two years, $5.43 million ($2.7 million in 13-14)
July 30: Brandon Jennings – three years, $24.2 million ($7.7 million in 13-14)
August 5: Peyton Siva – two years, $1.31 million ($490,180 in 13-14)
The difference between what Cleveland did this offseason and what Detroit did with their extra cash starts with the Pistons’ signing of Smith. Detroit was a team that achieved success on the shooting end solely in the paint last season before they brought in one of the best shooters in the league in Jose Calderon (49.1 percent from the field). Without that force on the team this season, Jennings will have to carry a lot of the load from outside, which is what he does best. We’ll touch on that in a bit, but taking a look at how good Detroit was in the paint thanks to their bigs – Andre Drummond (60.8 percent from the field) and Greg Monroe (48.6 percent from the field) – and how awful they were from outside of that area makes the Smith signing a head scratcher to many. Yes, Smoove is a very talented NBA player, but we’ve seen too many times in this league where a player finds himself in position where his piece of the puzzle just won’t fit into the complete piece without jamming it in or cutting off corners. Around the rim the Pistons shot 53.4 percent from the field as a team. Every area outside of that the team didn’t reach a percentage point higher than 39.2 percent. Smith is just another elite scorer around the basket added to a team that needs to find its scoring production from outside if they want to be a full season threat in the Eastern Conference. Smith converted on 63.2 percent of his shots close to the basket, but didn’t convert on over 36.3 percent of his shots from outside that area (this included a 20.8 percent effort from the left wing). For a player who put up almost 16 shots a game last year, this could be a problem down the road for Detroit. If the two new starting acquisitions can find a happy medium together by using their shooting strengths for the betterment of the team, then this Detroit team can be a force in the East once again. His 42.6 percent shooting down low will be helped by guys like Smith, Drummond and Monroe, but he needs to be able to continue his stride from outside (37.5 percent shooter from three) for this team to become a cohesive unit instead of a hodgepodge of horrendous outside shooters.
Players retained from the 2012-13 season: Alonzo Gee, Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller
Players lost from the 2012-13 season: Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington, Daniel Gibson (FA), Kevin Jones, Shaun Livingston, Chris Quinn, Marreese Speights, Luke Walton (FA)
Players added for the 2013-14 season: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, Matt Dellavedova, Carrick Felix, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev
Here’s a look at how the Cavaliers spent this offseason:
July 12: Earl Clark – two years, $9 million ($4.25 million in 13-14)
July 12: Jarrett Jack – four years, $25.2 million ($6.3 million in 13-14)
July 18: Andrew Bynum – two years, $24.79 million (up to $12.25 million in 13-14)
July 22: Sergey Karasev – two years, $3 million ($1.5 million in 13-14)
August 2: Carrick Felix – four years, $3.29 million ($510,000 in 13-14)
August 7: Matt Dellavedova – three years, $2.25 million (possibly $490,180 in 13-14)
The difference between what Detroit did this offseason and how Cleveland progressively upped each successive signing starts with the “I” word: Injury. Cleveland added pieces to their roster that weren’t addressed via the draft. Fans groaned when no big and no backup to Kyrie Irving was chosen when the Wine and Gold had multiple opportunities to fill both of those voids. The biggest question mark on the roster – small forward – still remains larger than ever even with Clark joining on board, but the most secure move that Cleveland made this offseason was with a player who will be one of two roster members in the 30s come the regular season. I’m not saying that Jack is too old to contribute off the bench for the Wine and Gold, but only Anderson Varejao and him will be the only players on the roster older than 26 years old (Gee and Miles are both of that age). Jack, who shot over 40 percent from three last season, will be able to aid Kyrie comfortably as his backup and will even be able to pair up with last season’s three-point champion in the same lineup. This will allow Kyrie to play off the ball, as Jack is a confident passer who averaged 6.7 assists per 36 minutes with the Golden State Warriors last season. This means Kyrie will be able to get more open looks from three in this sort of lineup, which will be devastating to opponents. Cleveland ranked 26th (20.7 APG) last season in APG, so the addition of Jack adds a proven passer off the bench, which will also help guys like Bennett and Zeller succeed in the PnR with their pick-and-pop game. Bynum, a player who fills a gaping hole in the middle as a rim-protecting big and true center, is another perfect fit/fix for the 2012-13 roster that completely fell apart at the seams down the stretch. It wasn’t like much magic was being made prior to the injury to Wild Thing and minor injuries to Irving and Waiters, but having three of the team’s stars out for a large portion of the campaign really started to show when teams were gearing up for playoff contention. Like I mentioned earlier, health is the main concern here. The potential could be through the roof, and we’ve even been talking about being able to find playing time for our frontcourt members if all goes well. That would be ludicrous if those thoughts were brought at the end of the regular season even with the notion of Cleveland possibly making a splash in the offseason. Although Bennett hasn’t signed on officially with the team, this is of little concern. A few top draft picks have yet to sign the dotted contract line, so no need to fret. Bennett will be an important role player this season for the Wine and Gold if he receives the proper playing time (more than 20 MPG/around the 25 MPG area). This could be hard on this roster if the injury bug finally decides to move cities, but this also means that a member of this season’s frontcourt could be moved at some point. Potential is on the table for both of these teams, but the concerns are mildly different.