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THE CENTRAL IS STACKED
Posted by Rob Peterson on October 27, 2005 noon ET

TOP TO BOTTOM, TOUGHEST DIVISION IN THE NBA

Pardon me if I step out onto this very shaky limb, but you heard this here first:

Come April, I expect to see all five Central Division teams in the postseason.

Mark my words. Print it, fax it, e-mail it to friends and foes alike. All five.

(Heck, e-mail us your thoughts. We're interested in what you think. I also think the East is far, far, far better than the West, but that's another Click.)

Why the sudden declaration and with such certainty ... or as much certainty as one can have five days before the season begins?

A trade. Yes, the Jamaal Magloire from NOLA/OKC to Milwaukee trade on Wednesday for Desmond Mason, the Bucks' 2006 first round pick and cash, has convinced me. Before the trade, we would talk around the office about how the Central Division, from top to bottom, could be the toughest in the NBA.
-- [Bucks.com]

This trade seals it.

Let's attack this rhetorically or like a Donald Rumsfeld press conference: I'll ask and answer the questions. It's best to keep pesky outside opinions at bay.

Does Indiana, which before that night played like the best team in the East, miss the playoffs? No. What about the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion Pistons? Not a chance. You think the re-tooled Cavs with MVP candidate LeBron James will miss the playoffs this year? Only if LBJ -- gasp! -- gets hurt. Will the Bulls backslide out of the playoffs? Some publications think the Bulls will make it, others are mixed.
-- [SI.com, ESPN.com]

(By the way, how many guys does ESPN have covering the NBA this year? 50?)

I don't think the Bulls go golfing the morning of April 20 because Scott Skiles is a tough coach with a tough point guard in Kirk Hinrich and an emerging post presence in Tyson Chandler, not to mention Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon and Luol Deng. Oh, and by the way, when we talk about underrated offseason moves, one NBA GM agrees with us about Darius Songaila. Have you seen Songaila play this preseason? Nice job, Mr. Paxson.

And that leaves the Bucks.

(Full disclosure: Bucks GM Larry Harris hired me to do video and chart shots for the Bucks in the early '90s. So, yes, I did shot charts for players such as the unforgettable Anthony Pullard, Todd Day and Jon Barry when he had hair. But, I'm here to talk about today, not the $10 per chart (Was it even that much?) I earned back then.)

Barring injury and/or a complete collapse, the Bucks with Magloire should have flexibility with Andrew Bogut, Joe Smith and Dan Gadzuric in the front court and depth in the backcourt.

As for the whispers that the Bucks aren't happy with Bogut, well, one NBA scout said that's just not the case.

"No, not at all," said our scout when asked if the Bucks were down on the No. 1 overall pick. "But I think any big guy will take time to develop and, they needed to shore up their inside presence anyway."

OK, they're not whispers, they're shouts. The fantasy guys are reading the tea leaves about Bogut, including NBA.com's own Talented Mr. Roto.
-- [ESPN.com]

"I think it's a good trade both fantasy value," said Matthew Berry, aka TMR. "Magloire takes a small hit, but it speaks volumes about the Bucks' confidence in Andrew Bogut." Au contraire, said Bucks coach Terry Stotts:

"This was not a trade about Andrew's readiness," Stotts said. "It was more a statement of we want to be a playoff team and this improves our roster to become a playoff team."
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

By shipping Mason, the Bucks clear the logjam they had on the wing.

"It opens up the spot for Bobby Simmons," our scout said. "Of course they have Michael Redd and now they have a big man who score inside, rebound and play defense.

"In addition to Bogut, it makes them more complete and strengthens their position in the Central that much more. Barring injuries, I think they're good for fourth or fifth in the East."

Whoa. Don't know if we'd go that far.

So, what do the Hornets gain in this trade? Well, they get a 2006 first round pick for an obvious re-building project. They also get Desmond Mason, who'll score for them, because basically no one else on that team can. That, and they have also received one of the league's best community ambassadors. Add to that, Mason matriculated 66 miles away in Stillwater, Okla. at Oklahoma State, which was news to Byron Scott.
-- [The Oklahoman]

Oh, and the Talented Mr. Roto recommends that fantasy owners get thee a Desmond Mason, now, if you don't already have him.

"Mason, he goes to a team with nothing, literally nothing," Berry said. "Who else will score beside him and Chris Paul?

"I think he becomes the No. 1 scoring option and it helps Desmond, who was playing shadow of Michael Redd."

TIP-INS

Remember when Antonio Davis refused to report to the Knicks after being included in the trade that brought Eddy Curry to the Big Apple? Well, now Davis could be starting. You can't always get what you want, I guess.
-- [New York Post]

The Rose Garden isn't smelling so sweet these days.
-- [The Oregonian]

Who'll be a Celtic this season? Go see the Doc to find out.
-- [Boston Globe]

AND FINALLY...

The East's prohibitive favorites have not made their head coach happy.

"They're all just standing around," Oh, nothing. Just a hunch, because, it's not like it hasn't happened before.
-- [USA Today, NBA.com ]

WEIGHING THE OPTIONS
Posted by Jeff Dengate on October 25, 2005 2:45 p.m. ET

NO DEAL FOR NENE?

By now you know the 2005-06 season tips off with four games on Nov. 1. But before we get you back to your regularly-scheduled League Pass programming, there's still a little business to take care of: Fourth-year team options on rookie contracts must be picked up by Monday, Oct. 31 or the player becomes a restricted free agent after this season.

Note: Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, rookie contracts beginning with the class of 2005 consist of two years plus two one-year team options for a third and fourth year, as opposed to a three-year contract with a team option for the fourth.

Some rookies, like Boston's Marcus Banks, could be going through the season with a cloud of uncertainty hovering over them. Banks not only starts the season with a broken leg, but the prospects of not having a contract beyond the season's end. Of course, nothing quite propels an athlete like a contract year.
-- [Boston Herald]

So, Banks could be left to test the free agency waters next summer if his options is indeed not picked up by Monday. But others, like Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, Seattle's Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour, Portland's Travis Outlaw and Golden State's Mickael Pietrus and Zarko Cabarkapa, know which jerseys they'll be wearing through 2006-07 at least.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times and The Seattle Times]

Monday also marks the deadline for players one year further along in their development (Class of 2002 first-round picks) to sign long-term deals or become restricted free-agents next summer. So far, only Yao and Amare have put pen to paper.
-- [NBA.com and The Arizona Republic]

With each day that passes, it's looking less likely any other top-10 pick from 2002 will join Yao and Stoudemire.

The second overall pick, Jay Williams, is still without a team. After giving basketball another shot, Williams decided he needed a little more time to rehab.
-- [NBA.com and MSNBC.com]

No. 3 Mike Dunleavy has been hitting the books, when not hitting jumpers.
-- [Contra Costa Times, Reg. req'd]

Meanwhile, it looks like the Cavaliers are going to make Drew Gooden play for his money.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

That leaves us at one of the more interesting situations: Nene.

After a promising rookie season, the Brazilian big man suffered his share of injuries and took a seat behind both Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby. In that time, Nene has been mentioned in a number of trade rumors -- including one supposedly having him headed for Boston with Andre Miller in exchange for Paul Pierce.

So far, Nene's stayed put in Denver, but should he be on the move? Well, maybe. Given the chance on another team, Nene could develop into a strong post presence. He's not the most athletic and doesn't have the best pivot skills, but he's developing and is one of the better big men up and down the court. But the hang up seems to be: Is he worth what he's asking for?

It sounds like Nene's eyeing a deal similar to the one Sam Dalembert reportedly signed this summer. That could be stretch right now, but if Nene turns in a solid campaign this season and manages to say injury-free, he could easily command those kind of numbers before next season.
-- [FOX Sports]

There's the gamble for Nene. Staying healthy. It sounds like Nene has thought that through, taking out an insurance policy so he can play through the season without worrying about such matters.
-- [Rocky Mountain News]

The Nuggets are also gambling if they let Nene play the season without a contract: Nene could command more on the open market than the Nuggets are willing to pay, essentially letting him walk for nothing in return.

So, if you're Kiki Vandeweghe, do you think about trading Nene? It seems like you wouldn't have to flip very far through your Rolodex. (Does anybody still use one of those? No, really?)
-- [Denver Post]

Maybe Kiki should start at the letter P. "Hello, Mr. Paxson?"
-- [Chicago Tribune, Reg. req'd]

TIP INS

Forget a contract for next season, these guys just want to know if they'll get a paycheck next week.
-- [Indianapolis Star]

I think it's fair to say this guy's not going to make the cut. Sorry, Jack.
-- [SportsIllustrated.com]

Alright, alright. Gentle we can accept as long as 'Sheed remains vocal.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

Magloire means muscle for Milwaukee.
(Greg Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
SI's Jack McCallum, who spent five days as a Suns assistant coach:

"Steve Kerr, the TNT commentator and now a Suns' advisor, visits practice, and for reasons that escape me I bet (Alvin) Gentry $20 that Kerr, shooting cold in street clothes, can't make five-of-10 3-pointers. 'You so lost that bet,' says Gentry."
-- [SportsIllustrated.com]

2004-05 ARCHIVE
Oct. 19 -- All Dressed Up
Oct. 14 -- LeBron Out Of Hospital
2004-05 -- Archive
2003-04 -- Archive