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2008-09 Prediction: Pistons hold off Cavs in Central

10/28/2008
Is this the season the Pistons finally slip in the Central Division? Some say yes, but most don't. Allen Einstein/NBAE/ Getty Images

Editor's note: We asked our panel of NBA experts, "Who will win the Central Division?"

1. Detroit Pistons: 11 votes

Henry Abbott, ESPN.com's TrueHoop: Hard to pick against LeBron James. But the maturation of Rodney Stuckey and Amir Johnson could make this team better than ever.

Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: The Pistons are deep enough to overcome an injury to any one of their core players. What happens in Cleveland if No. 23 goes down?

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: A better regular-season team than Cleveland.

Ric Bucher, ESPN Mag: The Spurs of the East -- no matter how dim their title chances, they will grind out 10 wins less gritty teams (ahem, Cavs) will let slip away.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Detroit should be in a dogfight with Cleveland for the division crown, but the Pistons' depth puts them over the top.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com

Tim Legler, ESPN: They will win 50-plus and be there when it matters, but will new coach Michael Curry get them over their playoff meltdowns?

Keith Lipscomb, ESPN.com Fantasy: Now, even if the gracefully aging leaders start to play like it occasionally, the young and hungry are ready to help.

Chris Palmer, ESPN Mag: It's a tired pick, but their experienced core has been together longer than anyone else's.

Jalen Rose, ESPN: Through multiple coaches, they've reached six straight Eastern Conference finals with basically the same core of players.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Give Joe Dumars credit for not making a panic trade. But the pressure will be on Michael Curry to get them off to a strong start, keeping Dumars from having an itchy trigger finger. I think Curry can.


2. Cleveland Cavaliers: 7 votes

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Time for the supporting cast to earn the right to stay. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the only teammate left from LeBron James' rookie year.

Chris Broussard, ESPN Mag: No more regular-season flameouts. They now recognize how important home-court advantage is in the playoffs.

Mark Jackson, ESPN: Two words -- LeBron James.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN: Mo Williams. Enough said.

Jack Ramsay, ESPN Radio: Expect a big year from LeBron and a quicker pace with Mo Williams to give them just enough to finish ahead of Detroit.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com:
The Cavs have been consistently ordinary in the regular season, even in the LeBron era, but this season will be different. That's my view, even if Detroit (as I expect) holds off the steep decline many are forecasting.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: It's a coin flip with Detroit, but Cleveland's defensive discipline and improved bench should lead to a division title.