The Cavs and Bulls square off starting tonight in what seemed like it would be an Eastern Conference Finals matchup when the season began. It’s instead a conference semifinal, but the stakes are nonetheless enormous for those involved. Here’s more on that and other Central Division business as we wait for tipoff tonight:
- The effectiveness with which Tristan Thompson plays in place of Kevin Love for the Cavs over the rest of their playoff run will probably determine the kind of money he sees on his next deal, argues Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. The soon-to-be restricted free agent is skilled, and now’s the time for him to show it, Amico writes.
- Cavs coach David Blatt‘s plan to replace the injured Love and suspended J.R. Smith seems to involve Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, a pair of offseason signees who have experience stepping into roles midstream for title-winners, as Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal examines.
- Doubt about whether Tom Thibodeau will be back, the soon-to-be unrestricted free agency of key role players Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks and a Cavs team well-positioned for the future make winning the title this year an imperative for the Bulls, opines Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Indeed, the Bulls organization understands the scarcity of the opportunity in front of it, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com explores.
- The Pistons will likely draft a forward if the lottery stays true to form, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, given the team’s needs and the available talent. Detroit is intent on evaluating prospects and free agents by character and compatibility as well as talent this year, GM Jeff Bower insists, as Langlois explores.