By RICK SOLEM
2. Cleveland Caveliers
They have no center, no rim protector. Anderson Varejao is a great fit for what Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will be chucking at the basket (combined 44% FGs last season). And he can shoot well enough from 15 to give LeBron James room in the lane to drive or post up. But, Varejao will be injured. And Tristan Thompson isn’t the answer when he goes down. And Brendan Haywood certainly isn’t. Shawn Marion is a great fit for this team, but after that, they’re thin. Irving, also, hasn’t been the most healthy in his career. Nobody likes Dion Waiters, except James, and that’s all you need to know. The key is how Irving plays PG – selfish or a distributor.
1. Chicago Bulls
This team won 48 games while trying to tank last year. They lost Rose 10 games in, traded Deng soon after and it backfired to a degree. They got better, thanks to Joakim Noah playing point-center. Rose is back, Pau Gasol was added, along with rookie Doug McDermott, who hasn’t shown anything yet. Jimmy Butler should have a breakout campaign (in a contract year). They can afford to lose Gasol or Noah – who are prone to injury – with Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic backing them up. They’ve proved they can lose Rose and win. Now they have to prove they can win with Rose, who needs the ball in his hands – which takes it out of Noah’s and Gasol’s hands. If they’re smart, that doesn’t happen. Rose can play the slasher without the ball.