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The Rundown v04.16.23b – Central Division Season Wrap-Up


Facing the Miami Heat in the first round 54-28

Second in the Central


First in the Central

I got suckered in by the Milwaukee Bucks’ winless pre-season when prognosticating the Central Division last October. No Khris Middleton, due to injury, and a seemingly lackluster performance in games that apparently meant nothing. Giannis Antetokuonmpo proved why I continue to vote for him as the NBA Most Valuable Player, leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best regular season record and posting MVP-like numbers of 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. He may not have scored as many points as Joel Embiid (33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists), he has been MVP twice and seems to deserve his third in five seasons. With Middleton only playing 33 games, Jrue Holiday stood tall in Antetokuonmpo’s shadow, contributing 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 7.4 assists through 67 games and was an All Star this season. Middleton ended up with 15.1 points per game, but should be ready to throttle Easter Conference and NBA Finals opponents in the playoffs.

Facing the New York Knicks in the first round 55-27

First in the Central


Second in the Central

I had higher expectations for J.B. Bickerstaff and the Cleveland Cavaliers after last season’s eye-opening foundation was laid … and the addition of Donovan Mitchell. Bickerstaff should be Coach of the Year, but will likely finish to Sacramento (and former Cleveland) head coach Mike Brown. Bickerstaff had a great year, don’t get me wrong, and Mitchell had his 71 point game, and finished with 28.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4,4 assists in his first campaign by the lake. As the Cavaliers moved on from Collin Sexton to Darius Garland, DG the PG rewarded Bickerstaff and the team with 21.6 point, 2.7 rebound, and 7.8 assist performance through 69 of 82 games. Evan Mobley finished his sophomore run with over-his-average numbers of 16.2 points, nine rebounds, and 2.8 assists for the seven-foot power forward. Cleveland’s and Bickerstaff’s days ahead are promising as the Cavaliers made the NBA playoffs for the first time in this millennium without a player named LeBron James on the roster.

Cleveland currently is down in their series with the New York Knicks, 0-1.

Faced the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat in the Play-In; eliminated 42-40

Fourth in the Central


Third in the Central

It’s been a long, long time since I have been broken-hearted about a Chicago Bulls team not making the playoffs. But it was tough to see players like Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, and Nikola Vucevic not advance – especially when I thought they could give the Milwaukee Bucks a tougher run than the flaccid Miami Heat. Despite coming up on the short end of the stick to the Heat in the Play-In, we can rest assured that this version of the Bulls won’t be put out to pasture by general manager Marc Eversley, as confirmed by Arturas Karnisovas. LaVine and DeRozan had near identical numbers this season, though LaVine played three more games (77). LaVine ended the 2022-23 regular season with 24.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists; Deebo ended the year with 24.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.1 dimes. Vucevic had 17.6 points and 11 boards a night through all 82 games played.

Did not make the post-season 30-52

Fifth in the Central


Fourth in the Central

The addition of Tyrese Haliburton (via trade from the Sacramento Kings) mid-season last year proved to be nothing more than a nominal move for the Pacers, who seemed to have gotten more in the deal by getting Buddy Hield. In 26 games to finish out that season, Haliburton was still scoring in the teens. Fast forward to 2022-23, and it’s Haliburton – not Hield – who lead the Indiana Pacers to their surprising, albeit moderate, success. Hey, at least they weren’t in the basement of the Central Division. Haliburton bested his career average by dropping the only 20 piece average for the Pacers at 20.7 points per game through 56 games. He also finished the season with 3.7 rebounds and a team-high 10.4 assist average. Hield and Myles Turner, all season playing with rumors of being traded, averaged 18.0 and 16.8 points per game average.

There is promise in Indiana; Rick Carlisle can still coach and Kevin Pritchard still has what it takes in an executive capacity.

Did not make the post-season 43-39

Fourth in the Central


Fifth in the Central

With the talent on this roster – Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and Killian Hayes – as raw as it is, should have performed better than 17 wins. So it’s appropriate that Dwane Casey steps down. Question is, who replaces him? Who’s best suited to handle young talent like this and coalesce them into a competitive, contending unit? It’s hard to identify anyone other than Nick Nurse, who took the reins from Casey in Toronto, and is still wondering in his own mind if he has what it takes with the more experienced Raptors lineup as constructed. (Personally I like Nurse better in Houston). The veteran Bogdanovic led the team statistically with 21.6 points per game through 59 games, on .539 shooting, .411 from beyond the arc. Cunningham is nothing but potential, having only played 12 games this season, while the bulk of minutes fell to the rookie tandem of Duren and Ivey. Whoever takes over for Casey has their work cut out for them – there’s nowhere to go but up.


Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show,, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years i

n locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia 

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