Central Division Roundup: Sweet Love in Cleveland, Parker Goes Home to Chicago and Other Musings

Eastern Conference Central Division Weekly Roundup

Free agency is finally dwindling down and its relatively quiet before the storm of training camp in September. The Eastern Conference has shifted dramatically, as there will likely be a new representative in the NBA Finals. With LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the West Coast, Cleveland’s reign of terror in the Eastern Conference is more than likely over.

Divisions? Yeah those still exist in the NBA, despite plenty of discussion around eliminating them all together. The fact of the matter is the winner of a division gets an automatic bid to the playoffs, meaning winning it outright still holds value. Schedules are built around the division too, as teams play their inter-division foes more frequently. Having the unfortunate placement in a difficult division will make a team’s schedule harder.

As it turns out, the Detroit Pistons are in a fairly competitive division, the Central Division. This weekly news, notes, and opinions write up will focus on the teams in the Central Division.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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Kevin Love has agreed to a 4-year $120 million extension to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Nick Wass/AP)

Love is in the air in Northeast Ohio. Cavs forward Kevin Love has signed a four-year $120 million extension with Cleveland, the team announced in an official press release. Just like everyone predicted, Love is the last man standing from Cleveland’s championship-winning “Big Three” with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The 6’10” power forward was an All-Star last season, averaging 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Love has averaged at least 16 points and nine rebounds per game in nine of his ten NBA seasons.

Cleveland still has a few roster spots to fill too. They reportedly have also been in contact with free agents Luke Babbit, Trevor Booker, and David Nwaba. Babbit and Booker would likely be backup options for Love, while Nwaba is a more intriguing player. He is much younger (will turn 26 during next season) and had 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season with the Chicago Bulls. He gained a reputation as a solid perimeter defender, something Cleveland has seemingly been seeking forever.

The last major free agent, following the signing of Clint Capela, is Rodney Hood. The Cavs offered him a $3.4 million qualifying offer, allowing Cleveland to match any other team’s offer for Hood. However, nobody has made the former Utah Jazz guard an offer. To make matter more complicated, talks between Hood and the Cavs have reportedly stalled.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have taken a shotgun-approach the last few seasons by acquiring underwhelming, yet high-potential, players to see what sticks. This plan was further put forth by the signing of former number two overall draft pick Jabari Parker. Chicago gave him a 2-year, $40 million deal with essentially a team option for the second season. This gives Parker, who is a Chicago native, an opportunity to prove he is healthy next season and try for a longer, more lucrative contract next offseason. With Parker, however, health will be his chief concern. He has undergone multiple ACL surgeries and has at times appeared sapped of the athletic prowess he once displayed at Duke Univesity, which would be a major downside to his, well, upside. Last season, Parker averaged 12.6 points per game on 48.2 percent shooting.

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Forward Jabari Parker hopes signing with his hometown Chicago Bulls will be the first step in re-establishing himself in the NBA. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

Chicago also signed rookie Rawle Alkins to a two-way contract according to Yahoo Sports. The former University of Arizona standout spent the Summer League with the Toronto Raptors, averaging nine points, 4.7 rebounds, and two assists per game. Alkins, who went undrafted, impressed in his brief time in Toronto.

Indiana Pacers

Former Pacers center Al Jefferson has reportedly agreed to a contract in China. The underrated NBA big man relinquished his backup center duties last season to Domontas Sabonis. Indiana will end up eating a portion of 3-year $30 million contract that Jefferson signed in 2016.

On his podcast, shooting guard JJ Redick said that he was ready to sign with the Pacers this offseason before Philadelphia upped the offer. Redick signed a 1-year, $12.25 million deal with the Sixers, while Indiana added Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott. The sharpshooting Redick signed a 1-year deal with Philadelphia last offseason as well.

Detroit Pistons

Detroit has signed second-round pick Khyri Thomas, according to mlive.com. The details of his contract are not known. Thomas, a product of Creighton, averaged 15.1 points per game for the Blue Jays last season. He was selected 38th overall by Detroit after a trade with Philadelphia. You can check out what we think of Thomas’ fit with the Pistons here.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks signed a few players to two-way contracts, a practice that many teams are employing this time of year. Jaylen Morris and Trevon Duval have both signed with Milwaukee, per the team’s official site. Morris, who was un-drafted in 2017, spent last season with the Erie BayHawks and averaged 12.6 points per game before being called up to Atlanta. Duval is a rookie out of Duke University who was also un-drafted. He played for the Houston Rockets’ Summer League squad and, for the most part, impressed by averaging 9.2 points per game.

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Rookie Trevon Duval went undrafted, but impressed enough in the NBA Summer League to get a two-way contract with the Bucks. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle)

Milwaukee also added sharpshooting guard Pat Connaughton on a 2-year deal worth just over the minimum salary. Connaughton spent the first three years of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. After being mostly a garbage-time player, the 6’5” Notre Dame product averaged over 18 minutes per game last season. He shot 42 percent from the floor last season with 35 percent from behind the arc. The idea of putting shooting around Giannis Antetokounmpo has long-been the goal for Milwaukee, and Connaughton certainly provides that.

(Featured image by Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com)

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