This division got some love when the offseason smoke cleared, driven by some new faces, development of talent from within and the presence -- for the first time since 2004-05 -- of the league's defending champions. But stronger overall doesn't translate into more competitive at the top -- it's unlikely any of the other four will make a serious run at the Cleveland Cavaliers. How they jockey amongst themselves, though, could very much be up for grabs.
Team On The Rise
Indiana Pacers -- The Pacers have a strong Kia MVP candidate (Paul George), a young future star (Myles Turner) and a transfusion of helpful vets (Thaddeus Young, Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague).
Team On The Decline
Chicago Bulls -- Adding Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo made this season more about marking time and staying "relevant" in the city's sports pecking order.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers -- As good as Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Andre Drummond and Giannis Antetokounmpo are or will be, LeBron remains the guy you'd choose for this season.
Player On The Rise
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers -- Prized asset of the Pacers, Turner's offense is ahead of his defense but he's still only 20 years old, for crying out loud.
Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons -- What SVG has done in his first two seasons, both on the court and in reshaping the roster, has the Pistons racing along their learning curve.
Coach On The Hot Seat
Fred Hoiberg, Chicago Bulls -- Process of elimination plays a role here -- the other four have accomplished more, have clout with ownership and/or are more freshly hired -- and so does last season's fall from the playoffs for Chicago.
Denzel Valentine, Chicago Bulls -- The No. 14 pick from Michigan State doesn't lack for confidence -- he picked himself to win Kia Rookie of the Year. The depth chart suggests he'll get more opportunities than some of the other top youngsters in the division, and as a four-year college player who turns 23 in November, there's no time like the present.
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