Schedule Breakdown: Central Division

Learn more about each team from the five-team Central Division heading into the new season.
by Kyle Ramos
Writer, Digital

The 2017-18 season continues to draw closer and with many exciting encounters just on the horizon, will be breaking down each division around the Association and take a closer look for what to watch for.

Chicago Bulls

Following a thrilling first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics in the 2017 Playoffs, Chicago has retooled its roster heading into next season.

All-Star guard Jimmy Butler was dealt to Minnesota and now the Bulls look to build around the core of young guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and sharpshooting big man rookie Lauri Markkanen.

The young talent is emerging on Chicago, but it will be interesting to see how Dwyane Wade performs as presumably the No. 1 scoring option as enters his 15th year in the Association.

Both matchups between Chicago and Sacramento should present opportunities for the young talents and the future Hall of Fame veterans from each squad to face off, in what could be fun-filled contests.

2017-18 matchups vs Bulls
12/1/17 @ Chicago
2/5/18 vs Chicago

Cleveland Cavaliers

Currently riding a streak of three-straight trips to the NBA Finals, the defending Eastern Conference champions continue to be one of the teams to beat in the NBA.

Even with this reputation, Sacramento managed to topple the Cavaliers in Cleveland last season in an exciting overtime contest, splitting the two-game season series.

The Cavaliers saw a shift in the composition of their team this offseason following a blockbuster trade that sent point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston - receiving crucial components Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder in return.

Thomas was one of the top scorers in all of the NBA last season, ranking third at 28.9 points per contest. His offensive ability along with the 3-and-D playstyle of Crowder bring a fresh look to a Cavs team that maintained its other core pieces in LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson.

Thomas will take on his former Kings squad on two occasions in 2017-18, presenting an opportunity for rookie guard De’Aaron Fox to showcase his speed and defensive skills against Thomas, who is one of the more agile and crafty scorers in the game today.

2017-18 matchups vs Cavaliers
12/6/17 @ Cleveland
12/27/17 vs Cleveland

Detroit Pistons

Much like the Kings in last year in downtown Sacramento, the Detroit Pistons will be opening up a new building this upcoming season in downtown Detroit.

With the new place, there will also be some new faces in Detroit - most notably Avery Bradley, who was acquired via trade with Boston.

Detroit’s roster also features several former Kings, including Anthony Tolliver, Langston Galloway, and Eric Moreland - all of whom could see significant minutes in head coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation in the upcoming season.

In hopes of adding an additional scoring punch, the Pistons added rookie Luke Kennard who was one of the top offensive performers during his last season with the Duke Blue Devils. The one ACC player who outscored Kennard last season in college hoops was none other than Kings rookie and former North Carolina Tar Heel Justin Jackson, who will get his chance to renew the heated Duke-UNC rivalry over the course of the two game series.

2017-18 matchups vs Pistons

11/4/17 @ Detroit
3/19/18 vs Detroit

Indiana Pacers

Adding to the trend of overhauled rosters from this offseason, Indiana has hit the reset button after trading away star forward Paul George in exchange for new key franchise pieces in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Saboins.

The Pacers made additional under the radar moves, adding the returning Darren Collison after his three solid seasons in Sacramento, as well as Bojan Bogdanovic and rookies T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu.

Indiana’s main cornerstone is Myles Turner, who is quickly developing into one of the most versatile big men in the League. His skill set will be a strong test for the young Kings core of bigs, particularly rookie Harry Giles, who could parlay a strong showing against Turner into an early statement for his career.

The Kings held a four-game winning streak against the Pacers heading into last season but Indiana claimed both meetings against Sacramento in 2016-17. Each matchups went down to the wire – both being decided by six points or less and one requiring overtime. This could mean more close contests down the line as these squads are set for two more encounters in 2017-18.

2017-18 matchups vs Pacers

10/31/17 @ Indiana
3/29/18 vs Indiana

Milwaukee Bucks

Led by an early MVP candidate and developing young players, Milwaukee has begun to blossom as one of the up-and-coming powers in the Eastern Conference.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the aforementioned candidate for Most Valuable Player, has continued to make huge strides in his game, rapidly improving each season since entering the League in 2013.

His development, along with the rise of the youth around him (Malcolm Brogdon and Jabari Parker especially) has generated a lot of buzz for the Bucks as a team that could be contending for a run at the championship sooner rather than later.

Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo create a challenging opponent for the Kings, as Giannis’ versatility makes him difficult to game plan for. One matchup to watch in particular will be the battle of the sophomore guards Buddy Hield and Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.

Both guards proved themselves to have bright futures at their positions, especially with the strong second half of the season Hield turned in. Now, with their rookie campaigns under their belts, these two rising stars will have two more opportunities to try and best each other and make their marks in the Association.

2017-18 matchups vs Bucks

11/28/17 vs Milwaukee
12/2/17 @ Milwaukee

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