As we cross the midway point of the offseason, we're taking a week-long look at the biggest offseason move by each team. Up next? The Central Division.
LeBron James is gone, leaving in his wake a Central Division in serious flux. Though Indiana appears to enter the season as favourites, can it be said with absolute certainty that it will take another step forward? Both Milwaukee and Detroit have new coaches while Chicago and Cleveland made moves this summer which give the impression that each is serious about making the playoffs. How will things shake out in the LeBron-less Central? Only time will tell.
MORE BEST MOVES: Pacific Division | Southwest Division | Northwest Division
Biggest move: saying goodbye to LeBron James
Cleveland didn't make this decision. And as much as we'd like to focus on decisions the Cavaliers did make - drafting Collin Sexton with the 8th overall pick and re-signing Kevin Love to an extension - it's impossible to pen an article on the biggest offseason development for each team and NOT start with the man coming off his record 11th straight 1st-team All-NBA selection.
Every domino which fell in Cleveland this summer, including the aforementioned moves, should be viewed through the lens of what happens as a result of LeBron's move to Los Angeles.
Though Sexton was drafted before James made his decision, he instantly becomes the first important building block in a post-LeBron world. Much in the same way Kyrie Irving once took the reins after The King's departure, it's now the ultra-competitive Sexton charged with turning the page.
Kevin Love's 4-year, $120M extension sparks intrigue on a number of fronts. Now the unquestioned No. 1 option, Love returns to the role he played in Minnesota, one that saw him finish fourth in the NBA in scoring as recently as 2013-14. Though an All-Star campaign from Love could propel the Cavs to fringe playoff contention, it's important to note the timing of his extension also affords Cleveland the opportunity to trade Love prior to the trade deadline should they opt for the full rebuild. With James gone and Cleveland far off from true contention, Love's extension could prove to be a domino still falling. Stay tuned.
Biggest move: re-signing Zach LaVine
When the Sacramento Kings extended a 4-year, $80M offer sheet to restricted free agent Zach LaVine, it served as a crossroads of sorts for a franchise still searching for stability in the post-Tom Thibodeau era.
A prominent figure in the Jimmy Butler trade from last summer, LaVine remains a tantalizing athlete with promise who has never truly had the opportunity to shine after playing third fiddle in Minnesota behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins before landing in Chicago during rehab from a torn ACL. Fully healthy and with an entire summer to prepare, the Bulls decision to match shows their belief in LaVine's ability to reach his potential as a major building block alongside Lauri Markkanen.
Beyond LaVine, it's been a busy offseason for the Bulls. Rookie Wendell Carter Jr. looks like a steal after a strong showing in summer league which left many experts wondering how he slipped to 7th while the Bulls also took a team-friendly flier on former No. 2 overall pick and Chicago native Jabari Parker who could wind up leading the team in scoring.
Biggest move: hiring Dwane Casey
On the court, the biggest changes in Mo Town were the additions of Glenn Robinson III, Zaza Pachulia and Jose Calderon along with the departure of Anthony Tolliver. So yeah... not much to move the needle in either direction.
Of far more importance was the decision to move on from former president and coach Stan Van Gundy and hire Dwane Casey who was let go by the Raptors despite winning a franchise-record 59 games. The reigning NBA Coach of the Year's first order of business will be finding out how to squeeze the most from the frontcourt pairing of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. With those two alone on the hook for nearly $120M over the next two seasons, Detroit's fate is directly tied to Casey's ability to extract max value from his two All-Star bigs.
Biggest move: signing Tyreke Evans
It's been a productive summer for the Pacers who have empasized depth to help bolster a team that pushed LeBron James to the brink in the 1st round after winning 48 games. The most important addition is Tyreke Evans who could be a strong 6th Man of the Year candidate a year after averaging over 19 points per game in Memphis in 2017-18. At least on the offensive end, Evans represents a significant upgrade over Lance Stephenson especially for the stretches when Victor Oladipo sits.
In addition to giving the Pacers another player comfortable and confident in creating offense from scratch, Evans has somewhat under the radar become a consistent outside threat, knocking down 38.7 percent from beyond the arc over the last three seasons which is comparable to the likes of Bradley Beal, Paul George and Khris Middleton.
The signing of Evans, to go along with the additions of Kyle O'Quinn, Doug McDermott and rookie Aaron Holiday, puts Indiana in the conversation with Boston for the deepest team in the Eastern Conference.
Biggest move: finally acquiring shooters
The decision to move on from Jabari Parker may have generated the most headlines but it was Milwaukee's commitment to finally adding some shooters that should generate the most buzz. While Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova and Donte DiVincenzo may not move the needle in a vaccuum, each matters more in Milwaukee than perhaps anywhere else as the Bucks have never been able to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with enough spacing to truly tap into the superstar's ability to destroy teams in and around the paint.
Those three pieces in concert with new coach Mike Budenholzer should do wonders for an offense that far too often fell succumb to sagging defenses. That the Bucks were able to finish with a top 10 offense last season despite ranking just 27th in made 3s should provide plently of optimism that surrounding the Greek Freak with a few new complimentary pieces in a system predicated on ball movement will result in the Bucks taking that long awaited next step in their evolution from a pesky group with potential to legitimate threat ready to finally compete in latter rounds.