What better way to kick off the season preview than look at how the Pacers will fare against the Central Division opponents. What better opponent to start with the team that I believe will be vying for that title in the Chicago Bulls? We saw some great games last season between these two teams. I think that first meeting provided the springboard for Paul George to come out and make a name for himself. He was coming off that scoreless game in Golden State, and then hit for 34 points in a win against the Bulls in Chicago. That game he looked like he was on a mission, and now if he has to go against Derrick Rose, I believe George steps up just as big.
Which will bring us to the biggest question mark in this battle for the title, Derrick Rose. Is he mentally ready to go? Obviously, last season, Rose was never ready to go. But if he is, then the Bulls become that much of a better team. Rose can carry this team as far he wants to. It will be up to Paul George to put the clamps down on Rose as I know that the Pacers want their best defender on the best player on the other side. That will be a fun matchup to watch. These two teams are so aggressive on the defensive side, we might not see a lot of points scored.
I think another battle to watch will be that post battle. You have Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer going against David West and Roy Hibbert. A great big man tag team match there. We all know how physical David West can be, and he’ll need to be every bit of that as he wants to take advantage against Boozer. Hibbert and Noah should be two guys wanting to outplay each other. If Rose is the floor leader, I think Noah is that emotional leader for the Bulls. If he plays strong and will bring that energy, the rest of the team really steps it up. Just look at last season, when Noah was playing on that bum foot, and he still played as strong as he could.
I know it’s all about the starting units for these two teams because we don’t know what to expect out of the bench units. Just a couple of years ago, the Bulls had a deep bench that they really used to their advantage. And maybe that comes back around for them. The Pacers have improved their bench with the addition of Chris Copeland and Luis Scola, but until they step on the floor, we won’t truly know that improvement.
Ultimately, I can see these teams splitting the season series, but the Pacers will get the last laugh by coming out on top of the division. If Rose is healthy, that division title might not be decided till the final month. The Pacers look to be the better team, so I am pulling for them to win another division title.