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CENTRAL DIVISION

Last season: 54-28, won NBA title, 4-1, over Lakers.

Coach: Larry Brown, second season with Pistons, 54-28; 22nd season overall, 933-713.

Added: F Antonio McDyess (free agent, Suns), F Derrick Coleman (trade with 76ers), G Carlos Delfino (rookie, Skipper Bologna, Italy), G Ronald Dupree (free agent, Bulls).

Lost: F Corliss Williamson (traded to 76ers), F Mehmet Okur (free agent, Jazz), F Tremaine Fowlkes (free agent, Hornets), G Mike James (free agent, Bucks).

Better or worse?: Improved throughout the final two months of the regular season and during the course of the playoffs last season after acquiring Rasheed Wallace, and now will have a year of experience under Brown's leadership. McDyess could be a valuable addition, but the Williamson-Coleman deal made little sense from a talent standpoint.
Last season: 61-21, eliminated, 4-2, by Pistons in Eastern Conference finals.

Coach: Rick Carlisle, second season with Pacers, 61-21; fourth season overall, 161-85.

Added: F Stephen Jackson (trade with Hawks), C David Harrison (draft, No. 29, Colorado), G Eddie Gill (free agent, Trail Blazers).

Lost: F Al Harrington (traded to Hawks), C Primoz Brezec (expansion draft, Bobcats), G Kenny Anderson (free agent, Hawks).

Better or worse?: Lost some of their depth by dealing the unhappy Harrington to Atlanta but added a much-needed outside shooter, Jackson, who will move into the space soon to be vacated by Reggie Miller, who broke a bone in his left hand Friday night. Tinsley is a cut below the league's best point guards, and Jonathan Bender and Austin Croshere need to become productive -- especially with Jeff Foster out for the first six weeks of the season -- if the Pacers are going to approach 60 victories.
Last season: 35-47, missed playoffs.

Coach: Paul Silas, second season with Cavaliers, 35-47; 10th season overall, 321-370.

Added: F Drew Gooden (trade with Magic), G Eric Snow (trade with 76ers), G Sasha Pavlovic (trade with Bobcats), F Luke Jackson (draft, No. 10, Oregon), F Robert Traylor (free agent, Hornets), G Lucious Harris (free agent, Nets), F Anderson Varejao (rookie, FC Barcelona, Spain), F Scott Williams (free agent, Mavericks).

Lost: F Carlos Boozer (free agent, Jazz), F Eric Williams (free agent, Nets), C Tony Battie (traded to Magic), G Kevin Ollie, F Kedrick Brown (traded to 76ers), F Jason Kapono (expansion draft, Charlotte), F Lee Nailon (free agent, Hornets).

Better or worse?: Gooden is nowhere near the talent Boozer was at power forward, but Snow is a key addition to the backcourt, Pavlovic and Harris will open up the court for LeBron James with their outside shooting, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas might just be the conference's second-best center behind Shaquille O'Neal, at least from an offensive standpoint.
Last season: 23-59, missed playoffs.

Coach: Scott Skiles, first full season with Bulls, 19-47; fifth season overall, 135-126.

Added: G Ben Gordon (draft, No. 3, Connecticut), G Andres Nocioni (rookie, Tau Ceramica, Spain), F Luol Deng (draft, No. 8, Duke), F Othella Harrington, G Frank Williams (trade with Knicks), G Eric Piatkowski, F Adrian Griffin (trade with Rockets), F Gary Trent (free agent, Timberwolves), G Chris Duhon (draft, No. 38, Duke).

Lost: F Scottie Pippen (retired), G Jamal Crawford, F Jerome Williams (traded to Knicks), G Ronald Dupree (free agent, Pistons), F Linton Johnson (free agent, Spurs), F Marcus Fizer (free agent).

Better or worse?: Now in their sixth consecutive year of rebuilding, the Bulls may actually be on the verge of some real improvement. Eddy Curry shed 30 pounds over the summer to get fit for his contract year, Kirk Hinrich has been fantastic during the preseason, Nocioni will be a pleasant surprise, and Gordon can flat-out play.
Last season: 41-41, eliminated, 4-1, by Pistons in first round of playoffs.

Coach: Terry Porter, second season, 41-41.

Added: C Zendon Hamilton (free agent, 76ers), G Mike James (free agent, Pistons), C Jelani McCoy (free agent, Cavaliers), C Zaza Pachulia (trade with Bobcats), G Maurice Williams (free agent, Jazz).

Lost: G Damon Jones (free agent, Heat), C Brian Skinner (free agent, 76ers), G Brevin Knight (free agent, Bobcats).

Better or worse?: The continued absence of T.J. Ford because of a spinal cord injury, along with the departure of Damon Jones via free agency, gives Milwaukee some serious questions in the backcourt. One of the league's surprise teams before losing 14 of their final 22 games. That success may have lulled Bucks into a false sense of security that produced nothing resembling an upgrade over the offseason. The center position is weaker, with Skinner gone and Daniel Santiago and Dan Gadzuric trying to step in.

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