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2015-16 NBA Preview: Central

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Cleveland

Go-to-guy: LeBron James, as if there were any question here, is the Cavaliers’ leader and crunch-time hero. You probably thought we’d go with Matthew Dellavedova here didn’t you?

Player with upside: Kevin Love. Strange to pick a proven star here, but last year was his worst season statistically since his rookie campaign as the Cavs got off to a rocky start. Love should gel better in his second season in Cleveland.

Best case scenario: Best case is the Big 3 stay healthy and run rampant through the East, then sweep each round of the playoffs until LeBron gets his third ring.

Worst case scenario: Worst case is fragile Kyrie Irving breaks down early and Love gets suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Then LeBron is left to play with chuckers Mo Williams and J.R. Smith as the Cavs barely make the playoffs and get knocked out of the first round by James' old team, Miami.

Chicago

Go-to-guy: Good question. Probably Jimmy Butler. Maybe Derrick Rose or Pau Gasol. This used to be Rose’s team; now we’re not so sure Butler isn’t the guy. He's certainly the healthier of the two. Meanwhile Pau just keeps on trucking at 35.

Player with upside: Nikola Mirotic. The versatile Montenegrin really came on strong in March last season averaging 20.8 points and 7.6 rebounds off the Bulls bench over a 15-game stretch. Not bad for a rookie. He’s only going to get better as a sophomore.

Best case scenario: At best, the Bulls could win the East. If Rose and Noah stay healthy and regain their energy and athleticism from a few years back this team could be very, very dangerous, but probably still wouldn’t win the Finals against a Western team.

Worst case scenario: Worst case is Rose and Butler can’t get on the same page offensively, clogging an otherwise solid offense and the Bulls lose to LeBron again in the playoffs.

Milwaukee

Go-to-guy: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker or Greg Monroe. One could just pick any of the starters. How about Middleton? The Bucks showed their faith in the fourth-year player signing him to a five-year, $70 million deal during the offseason.

Player with upside: Again, there’s a youth movement in Milwaukee so nearly the entire roster has upside. Let’s go with Parker. The second pick in last year’s draft played in just 25 games before suffering a knee injury that he still hasn’t fully recovered from. He’ll miss a few games at the start of the 15-16 season but watch out when he’s back.

Best case scenario: Antetokounmpo continues his meteoric rise (literally and figuratively - he actually grew four inches over the summer of 2014) and the rest of the young Bucks follow suit. Milwaukee wins 55 games in the regular season and gets the three-seed in the East before battling to the conference finals.

Worst case scenario: Parker comes back but he’s not the same, Carter-Williams hasn’t improved his shooting and Jason Kidd reverts to the coach he was in Brooklyn. The Bucks barely miss the playoffs and end up with a low-end lottery pick.

Indiana

Go-to-guy: Paul George is back and he might be playing power forward this season. Monta Ellis is the only other option here; beyond that the Pacers are a wasteland.

Player with upside: Larry Bird and co. drafted Myles Turner at No. 11 and he showed promise in summer league. Turner could be the starting center sooner rather than later.

Best case scenario: Paul George is back and better than ever, putting up insane numbers on a still average team. The Pacers sneak into the playoffs, shake things up by winning in the first round before bowing out in the conference semis.

Worst case scenario: George gets hurt again and an already thin bench becomes non-existent. The Pacers finish with one of the worst records in the NBA and are in prime lottery contention again.

Detroit

Go-to-guy: Andre Drummond tugs the boat but Reggie Jackson steers it. For the first time, Jackson enters the season as a starter and leader. He lost 10-straight in Detroit last year but finished winning 9-of-16 to end the season.

Player with upside: Stanley Johnson was picked eighth this year and still feels like an under-the-radar rookie. He’s got an NBA-ready body and the opportunity to stand out on a bad team.

Best case scenario: Maybe, maybe the Pistons could grind their way to a seven or eight-seed. It is the East after all.

Worst case scenario: Brandon Jennings comes back from his Achilles injury and plays well enough that it hurts Jackson’s psyche. The team implodes mid-season and finishes a league-worst 16-66.

2015-16 NBA Preview: Atlantic

2015-16 NBA Preview: Southeast

2015-16 NBA Preview: Northwest

2015-16 NBA Preview: Southwest

2015-16 NBA Preview: Pacific

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