Catching Up on the NBA Offseason: The Central Division

Which team has had the best offseason so far in the Central Division? Can the Cavaliers stay on top?

Last week, we started recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division. We started with the Atlantic Divison, and then moved out west for a look at the Southwest Divison. This week, we're shifting back east to break down the Central Division (noticing a pattern?).

In this series, we hope to provide a one-stop spot for you to catch up on the flurry of trades and signings that have happened so far this summer, just in case you've fallen a bit behind or want an idea of the overall picture now that most of the dust has settled. For the sake of our analysis, we'll be using our in-house nERD metric as a point of comparison, focusing on nERD in and nERD out for each team.

If you're not familiar with nERD, it combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to Win Shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past). For the sake of this study, we'll use last season's nERD scores and leave out rookies (since they're so dang unpredictable).

There was a fair bit of movement in the Central Division this offseason, most notably with free agent Greg Monroe leaving the Detroit Pistons for the division-rival Milwaukee Bucks. Other than that, the biggest moves were of the re-signing variety, with big names like LeBron James and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls staying put.

So, will the division continue to be ruled by the Cavaliers and Bulls, or have the Bucks, Pistons, or Indiana Pacers made up some ground with their offseason transactions?

Chicago Bulls

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD

nERD in: 0.0
nERD out: 0.0
Net nERD: 0.0

The Bulls didn't exactly do nothing this offseason, as they re-signed Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, and Aaron Brooks. As far as players coming in and going out, however, they did diddly-squat. In which case, we're in for another year of a ceiling between 50 and 60 wins and a fringe title contender in Chicago, with all their hopes resting on the big "if" of good health when it comes to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Pau Gasol.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Richard JeffersonFA-0.4Brendan HaywoodTrade-0.5
Mo WilliamsFA-4.8Shawn MarionRetired-0.9
   Mike MillerTrade-1.9
   Kendrick PerkinsFA-4.2

nERD in: -5.2
nERD out: -7.5
Net nERD: 2.3

The big moves in Cleveland this summer were the re-signings of LeBron James and Kevin Love, but it also didn't hurt that they re-upped Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova, and James Jones (and it's only a matter of time before they do the same with Tristan Thompson and possibly J.R. Smith). All the players they've lost this offseason were old, end-of-the-bench guys and they brought in two still old, but slightly less end-of-the-bench guys. Mo Williams, in particular, can still give the Cavs decent minutes backing up or playing alongside Kyrie Irving and should be an upgrade over the four guys they lost combined, despite the -4.8 nERD he put up trying to do too much in Minnesota and Charlotte last season. Regardless, the Cavs have gained 2.3 nERD so far this offseason and have kept their core in place, so they should be title contenders once again after an impressive second half of 2014-15 and Finals run.

Detroit Pistons

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Aron BaynesFA3.2Greg MonroeFA4.9
Ersan IlyasovaTrade3.1Shawne WilliamsFA-0.4
Marcus MorrisTrade-0.2Quincy MillerTrade-0.7
Reggie BullockTrade-1.1Caron ButlerFA-1.6
Danny GrangerTrade-1.3   
Steve BlakeTrade-2.0  

nERD in: 1.7
nERD out: 2.2
Net nERD: -0.5

The Detroit Pistons may have lost talented big man Greg Monroe in free agency, but they still managed to pull off a few deals to cobble together a decent roster to put around budding star Andre Drummond, who is now unequivocally the team's franchise player. Reclamation project and he of a decent nERD, Ersan Ilyasova (3.1), should eat up Monroe's minutes at power forward just fine, while Marcus Morris will be a very serviceable backup. Most importantly, the Pistons have added some needed shooting and bolstered their depth chart, while putting an official end to the failed trio of Drummond, Monroe, and Josh Smith. Whether or not re-upping Reggie Jackson for 5 years and $80 million was a smart idea is a whole other can of worms, but for now, the Pistons seem to have recovered fairly well - or at least at a minimal net loss - after watching one of their best players leave in free agency.

Indiana Pacers

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Glenn Robinson IIIFA-0.9C.J. WatsonFA2.0
Chase BudingerTrade-2.7Luis ScolaFA1.5
Jordan HillFA-3.8David WestFA0.6
Monta EllisFA-4.8Roy HibbertTrade0.0
   Damjan RudezTrade-1.5
   Chris CopelandTrade-4.0

nERD in: -12.2
nERD out: -1.4
Net nERD: -10.8

It's a relative changing of the guard in Indiana, as the Pacers traded Roy Hibbert to the Los Angeles Lakers and David West bolted for the revamped San Antonio Spurs. They added a splashy name in Monta Ellis through free agency, but his general lack of efficiency in both shooting and holding onto the ball, coupled with his high usage, make him one of the least nERDy players in the NBA. It might not seem like it at first glance, but according to our metric, the Pacers have had one of the worst offseasons in the Association. They've lost four rotation players with positive nERDs, while bringing in four guys with negative ones. Of course, a healthy Paul George -- whose last full season in 2013-14 resulted in a 9.5 nERD, 15th best in the NBA -- could effectively keep the Pacers in the playoff conversation in the lowly Eastern Conference anyway.

Milwaukee Bucks

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Greg MonroeFA4.9Ersan IlyasovaTrade3.1
Shawne WilliamsTrade-1.4Jared DudleyTrade1.8
Caron ButlerTrade-1.6Zaza PachuliaTrade1.3
Greivis VasquezTrade-2.6  
Chris CopelandFA-4.0  

nERD in: -4.7
nERD out: 6.2
Net nERD: -10.9

The Milwaukee Bucks have the distinction of having added the player with the highest nERD of all the teams in their division this summer in Greg Monroe, but that doesn't necessarily mean they've won the offseason in the Central. Their other additions are generally nERD-averse, while outgoing guys like Ersan Ilyasova, Jared Dudley, and Zaza Pachulia were quietly solid for the Bucks last year and have good nERDs to prove it. All in all, Milwaukee actually had the biggest drop in Net nERD in their division this summer at -10.9. Still, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Michael Carter-Williams are all a year older and future star Jabari Parker will be coming back healthy this season for a do-over on his rookie season lost to injury, so the Bucks are still trending in the right direction as an organization.


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Chicago Bulls0.00.00.0
Cleveland Cavaliers-5.2-7.52.3
Detroit Pistons1.72.2-0.5
Indiana Pacers-12.2-1.4-10.8
Milwaukee Bucks-4.76.2-10.9

The Bucks got the division's top free agent that changed zip codes in Greg Monroe, but the Cavs and Bulls keeping their cores in tact will likely prove to be more valuable than any transaction pulled off by the remaining teams in the Central Division. The Bulls didn't really have to do much besides locking down Jimmy Butler (which was admittedly a big deal, so kudos to them), so the best offseason in the division almost surely would have to go to the Cavaliers. They're bringing back their big names in LeBron and Love, kept or are in the process of keeping their other core rotation players, and swapped out some grizzled vets for some other ones (with a net gain in nERD to boot). As of now, it looks as though It'll be hard for anyone to keep Cleveland from repeating as Eastern Conference champions this season.