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Capsule previews of the NBA's Central Division

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm •  Published: October 28, 2013

A look at the Central Division teams as they head into the 2013-14 season, in predicted order of finish:



LAST SEASON: 49-32, lost to Miami Heat 4-3 in Eastern Conference finals.

STARTING FIVE: G George Hill (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.7 apg), G Lance Stephenson (8.8, ppg 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg) or Danny Granger (5.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.6 apg), F Paul George (17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 4.1 apg), F David West (17.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.9 apg), C Roy Hibbert (11.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.4 apg).

KEY ADDITIONS: F Luis Scola (trade, Suns); F Chris Copeland (free agent, Knicks); G C.J. Watson (free agent, Nets), F Solomon Hill (draft, No. 23); G Donald Sloan (free agent, Pelicans).

KEY LOSSES: F Tyler Hansbrough (free agent, Raptors); G Gerald Green (trade, Suns)

COACH: Frank Vogel, fourth season with Pacers; 111-74.

EYES ON: Granger. The Pacers came within one win of reaching the finals despite losing the former All-Star for all but five games because of a bad left knee in 2012-13. After undergoing surgery in April, teammates and coaches say he's looking like his old self. If he plays that way, the Pacers will either add scoring punch to an already stout starting five or have a strong scoring presence coming off a bench that they believe will be vastly improved.

OUTLOOK: The defending Central Division champs believe they're ready to take another step after going from playoff team in 2010-11 to a second-round exit in 2011-12 to the conference finals last season. President of basketball operations Larry Bird says the Pacers are "all in" to win a title this season, and they certainly behaved that way during a creative offseason. They've improved their biggest weakness, the bench. George and Stephenson continue to get better and if Granger is healthy, the Pacers could contend. But they would still have to get past two-time defending champion Miami.



LAST SEASON: 45-37, lost to Miami Heat 4-1 in second round.

STARTING FIVE: G Derrick Rose (21.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 7.9 apg in 2011-12), G Jimmy Butler (8.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.4 apg), F Luol Deng (16.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 apg), F Carlos Boozer (16.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.3 apg), C Joakim Noah (11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: G Mike Dunleavy Jr. (free agent, Bucks).

KEY LOSSES: G Richard Hamilton (waived), G Nate Robinson (free agent, Nuggets), G Marco Belinelli (free agent, Spurs).

COACH: Tom Thibodeau, fourth season with Bulls, fourth season overall; 157-73.

EYES ON: Rose. The Return is now The Reality. Rose is back after missing last season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The big cloud hanging over the team last season is gone, the debate about when and whether he should return a thing of the past. Now, the only question is how soon he regains his dominant form.

OUTLOOK: Simply put, with a healthy Rose, the Bulls believe they're back to being championship contenders and challenging LeBron James and the Miami Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. Indiana, New York and Brooklyn might have something to say about that, but Chicago is locked and loaded again. The Bulls earned the top seed in back-to-back seasons before Rose went down in the 2012 playoff opener against Philadelphia, and they see no reason why they can't challenge for it again.



LAST SEASON: 29-53, missed playoffs.

STARTING FIVE: G Brandon Jennings (17.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 6.5 apg), G Rodney Stuckey (11.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.6 apg), F Josh Smith (17.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.2 apg), F Greg Monroe (16.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.5 apg), C Andre Drummond (7.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg).

KEY ADDITIONS: Smith (free agent, Hawks), Jennings (trade, Bucks), G Luigi Datome (free agent, Europe), G Chauncey Billups (free agent, Clippers).

KEY LOSSES: G Brandon Knight (trade, Bucks), G Jose Calderon (free agent, Mavericks), F Jason Maxiell (free agent, Magic).

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