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Offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Central Division

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Between a flurry of draft-day trades and a breakneck free-agency period, it's no easy task to remember where everyone landed. Not only does theScore have each team's moves listed in one place, but our news editors have also graded every organization's offseason so far.

Atlantic | Central | Southeast
Northwest | Pacific | Southwest

The Milwaukee Bucks remain the class of the Central Division after posting the NBA's top record in each of the last two seasons. Aside from the Bucks, only the Indiana Pacers should factor into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The other three teams have struggled to remain relevant in recent seasons and are probably a few years away from challenging for a postseason berth.

Milwaukee Bucks

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Last season: 56-17 (.767)
Departed: Eric Bledsoe (NOP); George Hill (OKC); Wesley Matthews (LAL); Robin Lopez (WAS); Sterling Brown (HOU); Ersan Ilyasova (FA); Marvin Williams (retired)
Drafted: Jordan Nwora (No. 45); Sam Merrill (No. 60 via NOP)
Re-signed: Pat Connaughton
Added: Jrue Holiday (NOP); D.J. Augustin (ORL); Bobby Portis (NYK); Bryn Forbes (SAS); Torrey Craig (DEN); Nik Stauskas (Kirolbet Baskonia)

The Bucks are pulling out all the stops to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo beyond next season. Milwaukee got things rolling by acquiring Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans. The All-Star guard is a clear upgrade over Bledsoe at the point and brings a similar skill set as ex-Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon with his playmaking, outside shooting, and defense.

Holiday undoubtedly makes Milwaukee's Big Three more formidable, though the club gave up three first-rounders and two pick swaps for a player that could walk away at season's end. While Bogdan Bogdanovic would've been a solid complementary piece, the team regrouped nicely after the botched sign-and-trade deal.

Augustin gives the Bucks the pick-and-roll operator they previously lacked and can run the offense when Holiday sits. Portis is a stretch-big that can play the four or five, while Forbes is a career 40% 3-point shooter. Craig is a physical wing that could be an option in crunch time if Milwaukee needs a stop.

The Bucks had little choice but to go all-in on the 2020-21 campaign. Only time will tell if their efforts were worth it.

Grade: B

Indiana Pacers

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Last season: 45-28 (.616)
Departed: TJ Leaf (OKC)
Drafted: Cassius Stanley (No. 54)
Re-signed: Justin Holiday; JaKarr Sampson; Brian Bowen
Added: Jalen Lecque (PHO)

Indiana entered free agency with big aspirations but came up empty. Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said the club pursued Gordon Hayward and was willing to overpay to land the local star. Boston reportedly declined Indiana's sign-and-trade proposal of Myles Turner, a first-round pick, and a rotational player.

The Pacers managed to keep Holiday on a three-year, $18.1-million contract. It isn't a sexy move, but the deal locks in a solid two-way wing at a relatively bargain price.

Nate Bjorkgren represents the only major shakeup in Indiana this offseason. The rookie head coach inherits a top-10 defense and virtually the same roster as the year before. Continuity isn't necessarily the worst thing as the Pacers should once again challenge for a top-four seed in the East. However, it's hard to see the franchise going deep into the playoffs as constructed.

A sixth straight first-round postseason exit would almost certainly spell the end of Victor Oladipo's tenure.

Grade: B-

Chicago Bulls

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Last season: 22-43 (.338)
Departed: Kris Dunn (ATL); Shaquille Harrison (FA)
Drafted: Patrick Williams (No. 4); Marko Simonovic (No. 44)
Re-signed: Denzel Valentine
Added: Garrett Temple (BKN); Noah Vonleh (DEN); Devon Dotson (Kansas)

The Bulls' personnel changes accounted for most of the team's activity this offseason. New executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has a great track record in drafting and player development from his seven-year tenure with the Denver Nuggets.

Billy Donovan takes over as head coach after a pair of dismal seasons for Chicago under Jim Boylen. The ex-Florida bench boss guided a young Oklahoma City Thunder squad to 44 wins in 2019-20 and should help the Bulls' youthful core.

The new regime's first major move was selecting Williams. The reigning ACC Sixth Man of the Year was an effective defender at the collegiate level but remains raw offensively. Chicago's gamble on Williams wasn't the only head-scratching move as the Bulls extended a qualifying offer to the oft-injured Valentine over defensively-sound guards Dunn and Harrison.

Dotson is an intriguing name to watch in training camp. The undrafted Kansas standout was one of the NCAA's fastest end-to-end players last season and is a pesky on-ball defender.

Grade: B-

Detroit Pistons

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Last season: 20-46 (.303)
Departed: Christian Wood (HOU); Langston Galloway (PHO); Bruce Brown (BKN); Luke Kennard (LAC); Tony Snell (ATL); John Henson (FA); Brandon Knight (FA); Thon Maker (CLE)
Drafted: Killian Hayes (No. 7); Isaiah Stewart (No. 16 via POR); Saddiq Bey (No. 19 via BKN); Saben Lee (No. 38 via UTA)
Re-signed: None
Added: Jerami Grant (DEN); Mason Plumlee (DEN); Jahlil Okafor (NOP); Josh Jackson (MEM); Delon Wright (DAL); Rodney McGruder (LAC); Wayne Ellington (NYK); Dzanan Musa (BKN)

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver had a confusing first offseason in charge. The club landed their point guard of the future (Hayes) and one of the top 3-and-D prospects (Bey) in this year's draft but recklessly splurged in free agency just a few days later.

Detroit handed Plumlee a three-year, $25-million deal and agreed to a three-year, $60-million contract with Grant. Meanwhile, Wood's three-year, $41-million pact with the Houston Rockets could turn into quite a steal if he continues to produce at the same level as last season.

The Pistons also acquired Dewayne Dedmon and Zhaire Smith to waive and use the stretch provision on them. The procedure allows the club to fit Plumlee and Grant's deals under the salary cap. Detroit famously waived and used the stretch provision on Josh Smith in 2014 and paid him $5.4 million annually over the last five years.

The Pistons rebuild is overdue, and Grant and Plumlee's additions only prolong the team's stay in mediocrity.

Grade: D+

Cleveland Cavaliers

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Last season: 19-46 (.292)
Departed: Tristan Thompson (BOS), Alfonzo McKinnie (LAL), Ante Zizic (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Drafted: Isaac Okoro (No. 5)
Re-signed: Matthew Dellavedova
Added: JaVale McGee (LAL); Damyean Dotson (NYK); Thon Maker (CLE)

The Cavaliers' porous defense got some much-needed help this offseason. Okoro was the top perimeter defender in this year's draft class and should help mitigate the shortcomings of their offensively-minded starting backcourt.

Cleveland also added a bona fide rim-protector in McGee for little cost. The veteran center averaged nearly two blocks per game over the past two seasons, while the Cavs finished dead last in the same department during that timespan.

Dotson was another under-the-radar addition for Cleveland. He's a career 36.1% 3-point shooter and played solid defense over three seasons with the New York Knicks. The Cavs have marginally improved, but don't expect the team to push for a playoff spot, especially if Andre Drummond or Kevin Love is dealt before the trade deadline.

Grade: C+

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