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Cavs still team to beat, while Bulls and Bucks battle for 2nd

Central Division 2015-16 Preview

POSTED: Oct 13, 2015 10:52 AM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner

NBA.com

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CENTRAL DIVISION

If the NBA hadn't essentially rendered division titles meaningless by approving a 1-through-8 conference seeding system starting with the 2016 playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers would have, running away from the competition in the Central. LeBron James, with a healthier crew far more familiar with roles and responsibilities this season, will not be denied his sixth consecutive trip to The Finals. Chicago returns most of its roster while Milwaukee stitches together enticing parts and improved depth in the battle for second place. The Pistons figure to gain traction around Andre Drummond while Indiana's makeover in style could lead to slippage.

DIVISION PREDICTION

1) Cavaliers*
2) Bulls*
3) Bucks*
4) Pistons
5) Pacers

* Playoff team

SUPERLATIVES

Team on Rise: Milwaukee Bucks -- Young, long, adding talent (Greg Monroe, healthy Jabari Parker) and clicking with coach Jason Kidd.

Team on Decline: Indiana Pacers -- Trying to do a 180 in style (big to small, defense to offense) with a star, Paul George, who hasn't bought in.

Top Player: LeBron James -- Still the surest bet among the league's 450 performers, year in, year out, to reach The Finals.

Top Coach: Jason Kidd -- Basketball savant as a player, natural mentor/teacher in current role.

Coach on Hot Seat: David Blatt -- Maybe unfair, but anything less than an NBA title next spring could dial up the heat.

Top Rookie: Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers -- Bushel of skills and plenty of minutes headed his way to flex them.

— Steve Aschburner