Tag Archives: Chicago Bulls

Clueless In Chicago

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11 of the last 13 NBA seasons have seen the Chicago Bulls make the playoffs, but they’ve never been able to recapture the magic that they had in the 1990’s. That decade saw the Bulls win six NBA Championships as they were led by Michael Jordan who many people view as the greatest basketball player to have ever played. Jordan would leave the Bulls in 1998 which paved the way for the franchise to head into a tailspin. The next six seasons would see the Bulls fail to make the playoffs as they were one of the worst teams in the NBA. Since 2005, the Bulls have been respectable in spite of the fact that have never made it back to the NBA Finals since Jordan’s departure. However that respectability appears to be heading by the wayside.

Jimmy Butler

Leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, the Bulls began to shop swignman Jimmy Butler with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers showing some interest. However the Celtics weren’t willing to part with high draft picks, while the Cavaliers don’t have the salary cap space, and they’re also dealing with front office issues. Those proposed deals fell through rather quickly and it appeared that cooler heads would prevail with Butler remaining in the Windy City.

However during the draft it was announced that Butler was part of a deal that would see him traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Butler along with the draft rights to center Justin Patton are being sent to the Twin Cities, while point guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, along with the draft rights to power forward Lauri Markkanen are going to the Windy City as this could be one of the worst trades in the history of Chicago based sports franchises.

Butler was selected 30th overall by the Bulls in 2011 and in that time his game has improved immensely. Butler’s points per game total has increased in each of his six NBA seasons with him averaging 23.9 points this past season to go along with 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Each of the last three seasons have seen Butler be an NBA All-Star, while he is also a three-time NBA All-Defense Second Team member. Butler rose through the ranks to become the face of the Bulls franchise, while he has also become one of the better players in the NBA. But none of that matters as the Bulls have sent Butler packing. However this should not come as a super surprise since the Bulls front office has been making poor decisions for a very long time.

Gar Forman

Gar Forman assumed the post of Bulls general manager in 2009 which did see the team reach the postseason over the next six years. However Forman and head coach Tom Thibodeau could not remain on the same page which led to him begin fired in 2015 in spite of the fact that he made the Bulls into one of the NBA’s better teams. Things have continued to spiral downwards for the Bulls since they let Thibodeau go as Forman hired a head coach in Fred Hoiberg who he is on the same page with, but the same cannot be said about the players that were retained that fit the system of their former head coach.

During the 2015-2016 NBA season, the Bulls went 42-40 and missed the playoffs, while they would back into the playoffs this past season with a record of 41-41. The Bulls won the first two games of their opening round series with the Celtics before they would lose the next four to be eliminated which symbolized their season in a nutshell.

The Bulls dealt with in fighting all season long as Butler and veteran shooting guard Dwyane Wade criticized the team’s young players, while the youngsters fought back with point guard Rajon Rondo as their mouthpiece. Hoiberg doesn’t have the personality to police the Bulls locker room in the same fashion as Thibodeau as it appeared that the inmates were running the asylum which is never part of a formula for success. And that dysfunction continued with the trade of Butler which hurts the Bulls franchise is several ways.

The Bulls no longer have a face of their franchise that fans in Chicago can relate to and more importantly get behind. This also signals that the Bulls won’t be a competitive team for the upcoming season as they don’t appear to have any semblance of order when it comes to figuring out what direction that they are going in. And last but certainly not least, they’ve traded Butler to a Timberwolves team that employs Thibodeau as their president of basketball operations and head coach.

Tom Thibodeau

Upon taking over the Timberwolves last year, Thibodeau attempted to pry Butler away from the Bulls, but he was unwilling to part with a first-round pick as well as small forward Andrew Wiggins. Thibodeau used his first-round pick on Dunn last year who is now headed to Chicago, while he gets Butler to team with Wiggins and center Karl-Anthony Towns to give Minnesota one of the better trios in the Western Conference. And more importantly the Timberwolves now have a finisher in Butler who not only excels at both ends of the floor, but he is a Thibodeau guy.

Now the fortunes for the Timberwolves have risen as this is a franchise that has failed to make the NBA Playoffs since 2004 which was the only year in their history that they advanced past the first round as they made the Western Conference Finals. And for the Bulls, Forman must now face the music as both the media and fans alike in Chicago are not thrilled that an All-Star in Butler was shown the door in exchange for what could amount to nothing more than a hills of beans.

No matter what the sport, great players and great teams don’t win championships as it comes down to great organizations, and what the Bulls have shown us is that the people of Chicago will have to worship the statue of Jordan that is outside of the United Center even more because it is going to be a very long time before we see another championship parade for this team heading down Michigan Avenue. And for a man in Forman who wasn’t on the same page with Thibodeau when they worked together in Chicago, he certainly went out of his way to make his new job in Minnesota that much easier.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

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1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics)-Markelle Fultz-Freshman-Point Guard-Washington

The 76ers once again have the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and they will get themselves a quality ball handler.

2. Los Angeles Lakers-Lonzo Ball-Freshman-Point Guard-UCLA

It would not shock me to Lakers pass on Lonzo Ball here, but the fact that they brought him in for a second workout means that they’ll more than likely give in and select him.

De’Aaron Fox

3. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers)-De’Aaron Fox-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

The Celtics trade and still get themselves a quality point guard, while also stock piling more future draft picks.

4. Phoenix Suns-Josh Jackson-Freshman-Small Forward-Kansas

The Suns already have a solid young back court of point guard Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Devin Booker, and now they can add another versatile perimeter player in Josh Jackson.

5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia 76ers)-Jayson Tatum-Freshman-Small Forward-Duke

All signs point to small forward Rudy Gay leaving the Kings as a free agent and they can find his replacement right here.

6. Orlando Magic-Jonathan Isaac-Freshman-Small Forward-Florida State

For years the Magic have been without an impact player at the small forward position. Jonathan Isaac won’t be a superstar, but he could be a solid developmental project in Orlando.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves-Lauri Markkanen-Freshman-Power Forward-Arizona

If the Timberwolves don’t trade this selection they will be in a position to select the best athlete available.

8. New York Knicks-Malik Monk-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

Don’t look know but the Knicks could find the perfect player at the point guard position to compliment power forward Kristaps Porzingis.

Dennis Smith Jr.

9. Dallas Mavericks-Dennis Smith Jr.-Freshman-Point Guard-North Carolina State

The Mavericks could go in several directions with one of them being finding a floor general.

10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans)-Frank Ntilikina-Point Guard-Belgium

The Kings are building towards the future which means finding a point guard to run their offense.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Luke Kennard-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Duke

The Hornets could go in several directions with this pick, but they need to find more perimeter scoring if they want to be a consistent playoff team.

12. Detroit Pistons-Terrance Ferguson-Shooting Guard-United States

If all the top point guards are gone, I would not be surprised to see the Pistons trade down. But at the same time Terrance Ferguson could fill a need in the Pistons back court if shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope elects to leave in free agency.

13. Denver Nuggets-Zach Collins-Freshman-Center-Gonzaga

The Nuggets are continuing to stock pile depth in their front court as they seek to make a playoff push next season.

Harry Giles

14. Miami Heat-Harry Giles-Freshman-Power Forward-Duke

The Heat were on the cusp of making the playoffs this past season. And with the selection of Harry Giles, along with what could be a busy summer for them in free agency, Miami could once again be a force in the Eastern Conference.

15. Portland Trail Blazers-Justin Patton-Freshman-Center-Creighton

If the Trail Blazers decide to retain this selection they could find a developmental project for their front court.

Justin Jackson

16. Chicago Bulls-Justin Jackson-Junior-Small Forward-North Carolina

The Bulls already have Jimmy Butler at small forward, but they could get some depth behind him, while also finding a player who fits perfectly into the system of head coach Fred Hoiberg.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Jarrett Allen-Freshman-Center-Texas

The Bucks are already one of the most athletic teams in the NBA, and they can get better here with a player in Jarrett Allen who can clean up on the glass, while also blocking every shot in sight.

18. Indiana Pacers-Donovan Mitchell-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Louisville

In a last ditch effort to possibly keep small forward Paul George happy, the Pacers must hit on this selection.

19. Atlanta Hawks-John Collins-Sophomore-Power Forward-Wake Forest

There is a chance that power forward Paul Millsap will leave the Hawks this summer which means that it’s more than likely time for them to start over at that position.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers)-Ike Anigbogu-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

For the Trail Blazers it’s all about finding players in their front court that can compliment point guard Damian Lillard.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Tyler Dorsey-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Oregon

I would not be surprised to see the Thunder either trade down, or attempt to get more picks for next year.

T.J. Leaf

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards)-T.J. Leaf-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

With the Nets not having a first-round pick next year, they need to hit a home run with this selection.

23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks)-Caleb Swanigan-Sophomore-Power Forward-Purdue

If the Raptors are going to be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference, they will need more offensive production from their front court.

24. Utah Jazz-OB Anunoby-Sophomore-Small Forward-Indiana

This could be an interesting selection for the Jazz as all of their hopes will rest on whether or not that small forward Gordon Hayward will re-sign with them.

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors)-Jonathan Motley-Junior-Power Forward-Baylor

Aside from Aaron Gordon, the Magic currently don’t have any power forwards on their roster which would give Jonathan Motley the opportunity to come in and be an immediate contributor.

26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)-Bam Adebayo-Freshman-Center-Kentucky

With a trio of first-round picks I expect the Blazers to trade at one of them, but if they draft Bam Adebayo, I see him staying in the Pacific Northwest.

Tyler Lydon

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)-Tyler Lydon-Sophomore-Small Forward-Syracuse

Tyler Lydon could provide the Nets with some quality perimeter shooting that they lacked last season.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)-Josh Hart-Senior-Small Forward-Villanova

Josh Hart might possess a second round grade, but he has plenty of intangibles which includes knowing how to win.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Ivan Rabb-Sophomore-Power Forward-California

If Ivan Rabb left school last year he could have been a top-five pick. However Rabb’s loss could be the Spurs gain.

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)-Dwayne Bacon-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Virginia

In watching the Jazz this season, their lack of depth in the back court was a glaring weakness.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0

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Markelle Fultz

1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)-Markelle Fultz-Freshman-Point Guard-Washington

If the Boston Celtics do not trade this pick, they will be stumbling on some more talent for thier back court.

2. Los Angeles Lakers-Lonzo Ball-Freshman-Point Guard-UCLA

The Lakers are the only team that Lonzo Ball is working out for, and if he isn’t picked here, he will drop on the draft board.

3. Philadelphia 76ers (via Sacramento Kings)-De’Aron Fox-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

If the Lakers mess things up for themselves with the second overall pick, it won’t take the Sixers that long to pick up the pieces.

4. Phoenix Suns-Josh Jackson-Freshman-Small Forward-Kansas

The Suns already have a young and exciting back court with point guard Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Devin Booker; now it is time to get more players in the front court who can produce.

5.Sacramento Kings(via) Philadelphia 76ers Kings-Jayson Tatum-Freshman-Small Forward-Duke

A selection here of Jayson Tatum all but signals the end of small forward Rudy Gay’s run with the Kings.

6. Orlando Magic-Jonathan Isaac-Freshman-Small Forward-Florida State

The Magic could raise some eyebrows here by taking a youngster that has plenty of upside.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves-Lauri Markkanen-Freshman-Power Forward-Arizona

The Timberwolves continue to stockpile young talent and you have to wonder if some of it will be used in a trade to acquire a veteran player.

Malik Monk

8. New York Knicks-Malik Monk-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

Don’t look now but the selection of Malik Monk would be the best thing that the New York Knicks did at the NBA Draft in a very long time.

9. Dallas Mavericks-Zach Collins-Freshman-Center-Gonzaga

With an aging power forward in Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks need to have themselves a youth movement in their front court.

10. Sacramento (via New Orleans Pelicans) Kings-Dennis Smith Jr.-Freshman-Point Guard-North Carolina State

The Kings have the opportunity to do something that they have not done in years which is to select some talent.

Justin Jackson

11. Charlotte Hornets-Justin Jackson-Junior-Small Forward-North Carolina

The Hornets could go in several directions with this pick, but I don’t see Michael Jordan passing up on a fellow North Carolina Tar Heel.

12. Detroit Pistons-Frank Ntilikina-Point Guard-Belguim

The one thing that is holding the Pistons back from being a consistent playoff team is their lack of a true point guard.

13. Denver Nuggets-Justin Patton-Freshman-Center-Creighton

The Nuggets barely missed on making the NBA Playoffs this year, and they could get there next season as they are stockpiling solid big men.

14. Miami Heat-Harry Giles-Freshman-Power Forward-Duke

By putting Harry Giles alongside center Hassan Whiteside, the Heat could be building a young and formidable front court in the Eastern Conference.

15. Portland Trail Blazers–John Collins-Sophomore-Power Forward-Wake Forest

As the Blazers have three first-round picks, they could either move up, or focus on improving their front court.

Luke Kennard

16. Chicago Bulls-Luke Kennard-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Duke

Dwyane Wade is still the Bulls starting shooting guard, but as he is 35-years of age, it is time to look towards the future.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Jarrett Allen-Freshman-Center-Texas

The rich get richer here as the Bucks can develop another athletic big man.

18. Indiana Pacers-Terrance Ferguson-Small Forward-United States

If the Pacers want to retain the services of small forward Paul George they need to put some more talent around him.

19. Atlanta Hawks-Ike Anigbogu-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

With power forward Paul Millsap scheduled to become a free agent, the Hawks need to get themselves some insurance in the front court should they lose him.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, and Cleveland Cavaliers)-OG Anunoby-Sophomore-Small Forward-Indiana

The Trail Blazers focus for the NBA Draft must be focusing on upgrading their front court.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Bam Adebayo-Freshman-Center-Kentucky

For the Thunder it’s all about guys who can play off of point guard Russell Westbrook as Bam Adebayo is a player that can crash the boards.

Caleb Swanigan

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards)-Caleb Swanigan-Sophomore-Power Forward-Purdue

The Nets will have to wait until they can pick in the draft, but they’ll get the chance to draft a quality big man.

23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks)-Tyler Lydon-Sophomore-Small Forward-Syracuse

The Raptors are going to have their hands full as far as retaining the services of point guard Kyle Lowry this summer when he hits free agency. However they’ll at least find a solid shooter to play alongside shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.

24. Utah Jazz-Donovan Mitchell-Sophomore-Point Guard-Louisville

The Jazz need to upgrade the point guard position after George Hill led the team in assists last season with only 3.6 per game.

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors)-T.J. Leaf-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

As the Magic only have one power forward currently on their roster in Aaron Gordon, they need more depth at the position.

Ivan Rabb

26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)-Ivan Rabb-Sophomore-Power Forward-California

If Ivan Rabb had left school last year he could have been a top-five pick. But Rabb’s loss could be the Trail Blazers gain.

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)-Rodions Kurucs-Small Forward-Spain

For a team that didn’t have a ton of hope entering the draft, the Nets could emerge and save face.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)-Josh Hart-Senior-Shooting Guard-Villanova

New Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has an eye for talent and Josh Hart is a leader that can fit into their ball movement offense.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Isaiah Hartenstein-Power Forward-United States

It wouldn’t be the Spurs if they didn’t draft a guy that has played overseas.

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)-Edmond Sumner-Sophomore-Point Guard-Xavier

I expect an open competition at point guard for the Jazz this summer.

 

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Windy City Bull

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Fred Hoiberg

The transition from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls has not been a good one. In each year that Thibodeau was the head coach of the Bulls, he got them to the playoffs. But since Thibodeau was unable to get along with Bulls general manager Gar Forman, he was asked to leave in 2015. In Hoiberg’s first season with the Bulls they posted a record of 42-40 but failed to make the playoffs, and things have gotten worse during this campaign.

The Bulls won their first three games of the season, but they have struggled ever since. Chicago’s record of 31-32 has them tied with the Detroit Pistons for third place in the Central Division and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference.

When the NBA season began, the Bulls were expected to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. However with the regular season set to finish in about a month, there is a possibility that the Bulls could be watching the playoffs from home for a second consecutive year.

Gar Forman

There was optimism last summer for the Bulls when Gorman was busy making moves. The Bulls traded longtime point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, while they also allowed center Joakim Noah to leave in free agency as he joined Rose in the Big Apple. The Bulls would also sign shooting guard Dwyane Wade who is a native of Chicago whose career has been highlighted by helping the Miami Heat win three NBA Championships. Along with Wade, point guard Rajon Rondo would join the Bulls as these two were expected team with small forward Jimmy Butler to give Chicago a solid trio.

Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler

Wade has had a solid season for the Bulls as he is averaging 18.9 points, while Butler is leading the way with 23.9 points per contest. Rondo’s reputation as being a malcontent has followed him to Chicago as he’s been benched, while also clashing with Wade. Rondo is only averaging 6.9 points and 6.5 assists after he led the NBA in assists last season with 11.7 as a member of the Sacramento Kings. And even when you take Rondo out of the equation, the Bulls have individual talent, but that alone won’t win as the issues with the team fall right into the lap of Forman who has put this team together.

In nearly two seasons with Hoiberg as the Bulls head coach, Chicago has yet to find an identity. Under Thibodeau you knew that the Bulls were going to grind out games due to their defense which was one of the best in the NBA. The Bulls were up and down last season primarily because Hoiberg attempted to open things up on offense, while concentrating less at the defensive end of the floor which has been Chicago’s bread and butter. But Hoiberg tried to do this with Thibodeau’s players and there was never any middle ground.

This season those struggles have been magnified as everyone on the Bulls appears to be playing for himself as there isn’t a concept of team basketball; especially when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter. Wade has criticized some of the younger players on the Bulls for “not wanting it enough”, while Rondo became the spokesperson for the team’s young talent as he went to social media to criticize the leadership of Wade. And although that Wade and Butler are big names, neither former Marquette Golden Eagle has provided the Bulls with the leadership that is needed. And as the Bulls are languishing through this NBA season, the term “starting over” is not that far-fetched for them as it might be time for team owner Jerry Reinsdorf to pull the switch on this team.

A house cleaning would make sense for the Bulls as the team parted with the wrong guy in Thibodeau instead of Forman. The Bulls need a new voice that will provide this team with structure and the emphasis of once again providing this organization with an identity. Hoiberg is not the man to lead the Bulls on the sideline as in spite of the fact that he played in the NBA for a decade, he can’t get his message across in the same manner that he did collegiately at Iowa State University where he was the head basketball coach for five years. Each roster spot for the Bulls needs to be evaluated; including Butler who in spite of being Chicago’s best player is not expendable.

It’s not as if we haven’t seen Reinsdorf start from scratch before as after the Bulls won the NBA Championship in 1998 for their sixth title of the decade, this team was quickly dismantled. And it was seven years before the Bulls made it back to playoffs, while they’ve never won another NBA Championship. It might appear to be insane, but the Bulls are no closer to an NBA Championship now than they were the day that Forman hired Hoiberg as the past two seasons are clear evidence that the Bulls at best are nothing more than first-round cannon fodder for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

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2016-2017 Central Division Projections

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Y-Cleveland Cavaliers 59-23 (1)

The Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the 2016-2017 NBA season in an unfamiliar spot as they will be the hunted instead of the hunter. The Cavaliers are coming off of their first NBA Championship in franchise history after an epic comeback against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals that saw them overcome a 3-1 deficit in the series. Last season saw the Cavaliers push all the right buttons, and with Tyronn Lue entrenched as the team’s head coach, he must find a way to make sure that his squad doesn’t get complacent.

LeBron James

Luckily for Lue, he has strong leadership on the court for the Cavs that begins with small forward LeBron James. James returned to Cleveland in 2014 after four seasons with the Miami Heat, and he immediately made the Cavaliers a title contender. In 2015, the Cavs won the Eastern Conference Championship for the second time in franchise history, but injuries hindered their chances against the Warriors in the NBA Finals. However this time around the Cavaliers were healthy and thus they were able to win the NBA Title.

And even though that James is only 31-years of age, you have to wonder when the wear and tear is going to catch up to him. James is a 13-year NBA veteran that has appeared in the last six NBA Finals, along with playing in three different Summer Olympics for the United States. For his career James has averaged 39 minutes per game which is something that Lue will definitely keep an eye on as it is more important for the Cavaliers to have the best all-around player in the NBA fresh and ready to go when the postseason rolls around.

Around James, the Cavs do have a strong supporting cast that includes point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love. Both Love and Irving were up for the challenge of playing alongside James last year en route to winning a championship, and their presence along with an overall hunger will be vital if Cleveland intends on repeating.

Tristan Thompson

With the likes of center Tristan Thompson, shooting guard Iman Shumpert, and small forward Richard Jefferson, the Cavaliers should once again be one of the better defensive units in the NBA. Last year the Cavs were fourth in the NBA in points allowed at 98.3 per game, and it is vital to have a solid defensive unit on the floor in the final minutes of a contest. James can lock down the oppositions best perimeter player, while Shumpert and Jefferson aren’t slouches in that category either. Thompson is the Cavs best rebounder which is going to be more important this year after Cleveland lost center Timofey Mozgov in free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The NBA Playoffs won’t begin until April, but every night will be like a playoff game for the Cavaliers after what they were able to accomplish last year. And Cleveland must find a way to be up for the challenge.

Y-Indiana Pacers 55-27 (2)

For the first time in nearly six years, the Indiana Pacers will begin an NBA season without Frank Vogel as their head coach. Vogel led the Pacers to the playoffs in five of the six years that he coached the team and only Slick Leonard won more games than him in franchise history. But Pacers team president Larry Bird decided that it was time for the team to go in a new direction with an eye on becoming more offensive oriented which comes as a surprise since he was the one responsible for giving Vogel the lack of offensive fire power to work with.

Nate McMillian served as an assistant coach for Vogel during the last four years and now he will assume the role of head coach for the Pacers. But this won’t be McMillan’s first trip around the block as a head coach in the NBA as he was the head coach of the Seattle Supersonics from 2000-2005, and then leading the Portland Trailblazers from 2005-2012.

Paul George

McMillan’s transition to being the man that is calling that shots should be a seamless one as he has the services of small forward Paul George. George is back to the form that he had prior to him suffering a broken leg in 2014 and he is coming off of a career-high in points as he averaged 23.1 points per contest last season. The Pacers have been using George more as a power forward due to their “small ball” approach which means that he will continue to crash the boards as well.

The Pacers were tied with the Sacramento Kings in rebounding last season as they averaged 44.2 per contest which was 11th in the league. But the Pacers should be able to improve in that category now that they’ve acquired power forward Thaddeus Young and center Al Jefferson. Young averaged a career-high in rebounds last season with 9 as a member of the Brooklyn Nets while also scoring 15.1 points. The Pacers had to give up the draft rights to swingman Caris LeVert to order to obtain Young who could be in line to have his best NBA season as he plays alongside George. Jefferson is twelve-year NBA veteran that has averaged 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds for his career. Jefferson and the Pacers agreed on a three-year contract that is worth $30 million after he spent the last three NBA seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. And what Jefferson provides the Pacers with is a proven low-post scoring option in the post. Along with Young and Jefferson, power forward Myles Turner is looking to build off of a solid rookie season where he averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds as Indiana is definitely more bigger and physical than they were at the end of the 2016 NBA Playoffs.

Shooting guard Monta Ellis averaged 13.8 points last season in his first year with the Pacers, and he’ll have some more help in the back court this time around as Indiana acquired point guard Jeff Teague from the Atlanta Hawks, and signing veteran guard Aaron Brooks. Teague gives the Pacers a proven ball handler that will take some pressure off of George, while Brooks will give Indiana instant energy off of the bench.

The Pacers are definitely one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and they should be able to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a definite scare.

Y-Detroit Pistons 48-34 (5)

It hasn’t taken Stan Van Gundy that long to once again make the Detroit Pistons respectable. In 2014, Van Gundy became the Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations as he has his hands all over the outlook of the franchise. And by Van Gundy’s second year in Detroit, the Pistons were playoff bound for the first time since 2009. Although that the Pistons were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual NBA Champions in the Cleveland Cavaliers, this team has what it takes to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

Reggie Jackson

After the Pistons acquired point guard Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, he is developing into one of their franchise players. In Jackson’s first full season with the Pistons, Jackson averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists, but the time is now for him to take the next step in order for Detroit to become a title contender. Jackson must become more of a facilitator as he had his moments last year when he would tend to become an iso-player. And with the likes of center Andre Drummond and power forward Marcus Morris on the Pistons roster, Jackson could see an increase in his assists if he is able to consistently get the football to them.

Drummond is only 22-years of age, but he is already a four-year NBA veteran. Drummond was the Pistons first-round pick in 2012, and in each season with the club his production has increased. Last season Drummond led the NBA in rebounds at 14.8 per game, while he also averaging 16.2 points per game. Drummond entered the NBA as a very raw talent and his overall game has continued to improve which is evident by the Pistons giving him a five-year, $130 million extension over the summer. Drummond is now a legit threat in the post for the Pistons, but he must find a way to improve his free throw shooting as he was just 35% from the charity stripe last season.

The Pistons are Morris’s third NBA team, but he appears to have finally found a home as he averaged 14.1 points per game last season in Detroit. Morris can be just what the doctor ordered for the Pistons offense due to the fact that he can hit the mid-range shot which takes pressure off of Drummond in the post, while also being a passing option for Jackson when he penetrates.

The Pistons have sized and depth that includes the likes of small forwards Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson. Both Harris and and Johnson are Van Gundy’s kind of player as they simply do whatever it takes to win, and opponents must always account for them. Rookie power forward Henry Ellenson could have an impact for the Pistons as in one year of college ball for the Marquette Golden Eagles, he showed the low-post scoring ability that can take some more of the front court scoring pressure off of Drummond.

Defensive basketball has always been a hallmark of Van Gundy’s teams and the Pistons must find a way to improve at that end of the floor where they gave up 101.4 points per game which was 12th in the NBA. But as Van Gundy continues to get his kind of players in Detroit, the defensive intensity should increase this season.

Stan Van Gundy

Van Gundy’s team have been known to make their opponents work for everything that they get which should once again be the case this season as the Pistons should be a force in the Eastern Conference.

Y-Chicago Bulls 46-36 (7)

 

Fred Hoiberg

The first year for the Chicago Bulls under head coach Fred Hoiberg saw them finish with a winning record, but the season was an overall disappointment. The Bulls went 42-40 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 as there was a high level of inconsistency with this club. Hoiberg tried to implement his uptempo offensive system with a team that was full of defensive minded players who were left over from Tom Thibodeau’s time as the Bulls head coach. But now as Hoiberg is set to begin his second year in Chicago, and there has been a roster overhaul, he and the Bulls are hoping for better results.

The Bulls roster overhaul began with them parting with two players that defined the most recent era of basketball in the Windy City. The past nine years saw center Joakim Noah become the heart and soul of the Bulls due to his determination and toughness. Noah was one of the better rebounders in team history, and with him roaming the paint, there was never an easy basket for a Bulls opponent. But as injuries began to take their toll on Noah, the Bulls decided to allow him to leave in free agency as he is now a member of the New York Knicks.

The Knicks and Bulls would also become trade partners over the summer as Chicago sent longtime point guard Derrick Rose to the Big Apple. During Rose’s first four years with the Bulls, he was one of the most explosive players in the NBA until knee injuries sapped him of that. And as Rose is still attempting to find the form that made him the NBA’s MVP in 2011, the Bulls decided that it was time to move on.

Dwyane Wade

The Bulls are welcoming an icon home as after 13 seasons and three NBA Titles with the Miami Heat, shooting guard Dwyane Wade is returning to his native Chicago. Wade will be 35-years of age in January, and although that he might not have the explosiveness that he once possessed, he can provide this team with tons of leadership as he has seen it all during his NBA career. On top of that the Bulls could be dealing with a very motivated Wade since he felt that the Heat disrespected him in their contract negotiations which opened the door for him to go to Chicago.

Along with Wade, the Bulls signed point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo is one of the most talented point guards in the NBA as he led the league in assists last season at 11.7 per contest. But the Bulls will be Rondo’s fourth different NBA team since 2014 as he has been known to wear out a welcome and it will be interesting to see if he is ready to conform to how Hoiberg wants his offense run in Chicago.

When the Bulls traded Rose to the Knicks, part of the deal was that they acquired center Robin Lopez. Lopez averaged 7.3 rebounds last year for the Knicks, and although that he won’t makes the folks in Chicago completely forget about Noah, he is definitely a member of the “all-energy team” as his hustle on the defensive end of the floor will earn the praise of the folks in the Windy City.

The Bulls have a very solid bench that is full of young players in forwards Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott who should all contribute positively this season for Hoiberg.

Jimmy Butler

But the engine that makes the Bulls go is shooting guard Jimmy Butler. In five seasons with the Bulls, Butler’s points per game averaged has increased, and if he averages 25 points or more this season, he will definitely find himself in the MVP discussion. And with Wade now as a member of the Bulls, we could see more of Butler at small forward this season, while along with Rondo, Chicago could have three proven ball handlers on the court at the same time.

The Bulls have plenty of new players that must find a way to work with one another. And although that Chicago could start the season slow, they should be able to pick it up en route to finding their cohesion.

Milwaukee Bucks 41-41

The Milwaukee Bucks began the 2015-2016 NBA season as a trendy pick to do some damage in the Eastern Conference. But as the Bucks had one of the youngest teams in NBA, they were never able to get on track. And as Jason Kidd is set to begin his third season with the Bucks, the talent is there, it is just a matter of Milwaukee living up to their potential.

The Bucks will begin the upcoming NBA season at a huge disadvantage as they will be without the services of shooting guard Khris Middleton. A hamstring injury will sideline Middleton for six months which leaves a void for the Bucks as was their leading scorer last season at 18.2 points per game.

The injury to Middleton would see the Bucks acquire forward Michael Beasley from the Houston Rockets. Beasley has had a very interesting basketball journey which has included three stints with the Miami Heat and two years in China. Beasley was the second overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Heat, and outside of averaging 19.2 points per game during the 2010-2011 season as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has been consistently inconsistent during his time in the league. But luckily for Beasley, he joins a Bucks team where can be one of the guys as it will give him time to figure out his role with the team.

Giannis Antentokounmpo

The Bucks will have to compete for the majority of the season without Middleton, but they have an emerging star in small forward Giannis Antetonkounmpo. In each of Antentonkounmpo’s first three seasons with the Bucks, his numbers have improved as he averaged 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists last season. And if there is one player that should become the focal point of Milwaukee’s offense, it is Antetonkounmpo who at 6’11” is a matchup problem for opponents due to his length and ball handling ability.

The Bucks are also loaded with talent and size in their front with the likes of power forward Jabari Parker and center Greg Monroe as Milwaukee would greatly benefit if the NBA allowed them to operate the 2-3 defensively due to their length. But surprisingly with all of the size that Milwaukee possesses, they were still 27th in the NBA last season in rebounding at 41.7 points per game.

A few years ago the Bucks were very high on point guard Michael Carter-Williams when they acquired him from the Philadelphia 76ers. But Carter-Williams would struggle last season in Milwaukee which saw benched. And with the injury to Middleton, it was the perfect opening for the Bucks to trade Carter-Williams as they sent him to the Chicago Bulls in favor of swingman Tony Snell who gives them more depth on the perimeter.

The Bucks are still a young team, but the addition of veteran players such as guards Jason Terry and Matthew Dellavedova who each have NBA Championships on their resume should help this squad figure it out.

The Bucks should be an up and down team during the upcoming NBA season, but they will be exciting.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

X-Clinched Division

Y-Playoff Berth

 

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The National Debt, NBA Style!!!!!!!!

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NBA Players such as Mike Conley Jr. have hit the jackpot this summer, but will the teams that paid them roll snake eyes when it’s all said and done?

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Three Mile Island Windy City Style

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The Chicago Bulls and point guard Rajon Rondo have come to an agreement on a two-year deal that is worth $28 million, but I am not sure that the Bulls are ready for the headache that they are about to receive. Rondo is a 10-year NBA veteran that has been known to clash with head coaches and his time with the Bulls should not be any different.

During Rondo’s time with the Boston Celtics, he did help the franchise win an NBA Championship in 2008, but he was known to clash with head coach Doc Rivers which made him the subject of trade talks numerous times. The Celtics would trade Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks in 2014 and during his brief time there, he clashed with head coach Rick Carlisle. Last summer Rondo would sign a one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings. And in one season with the Kings, Rondo was able to lead the NBA in assists at 11.7 per game. But the Kings were hands down the most dysfunctional team in the NBA this past season with Rondo being a big part of it. Now Rondo will join a Bulls team that spent the entire 2015-2016 NBA season searching for their identity, and they won’t get any closer to finding it by signing the four-time All-Star to be their floor general.

This past NBA season saw the Bulls be an up and down team as they were transitioning from being a tough minded defensive unit under former head coach Tom Thibodeau, to being more of an offensive team under current head coach Fred Hoiberg. The Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 while they traded longtime point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks last month, and saw center Joakim Noah join him there via free agency. Now the Bulls have officially become small forward Jimmy Butler’s team, but only time will tell if he and Rondo will be able to get on the same page.

Rondo can bring out the worst in people as Rivers was ready to fight him during his Celtics tenure, while Carlisle who is a player’s coach was unable to get through to him. With the Kings, Rondo played under George Karl who is a Hall of Fame head coach, and just like Rivers and Carlisle, was left perplexed. Rondo tends to play to his own beat, and if these NBA veterans of the sidelines had issues with him, what is Hoiberg going to do with him on a Bulls team that is searching for an identity while also lacking the veteran leadership to keep the stubborn point guard in line?

Rondo’s best run in the NBA came during his nine-year stint with the Celtics; primarily because Boston had a strong veteran presence in their locker room with the likes of small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Kevin Garnett. The Bulls had to make a decision between parting with the oft-injured Rose or Butler as the two could no longer co-exist on the same squad. But after trading Rose, the Bulls had several options to address their point guard situation instead of signing Rondo. The Bulls didn’t draft a point guard during the NBA Draft last month, while there were other point guards available on the free agent market that could have been better fits in Chicago. Rondo’s past issues with head coaches could partially explain why he only received a two-year deal for $14 million per, as compared to point guard Mike Conley who received $130 million over five years from the Memphis Grizzlies.

Fred Hoiberg

Now we get to sit back and watch Hoiberg attempt to school Rondo on how he wants his offense run which will be the equivalent of mixing oil and water. And the more that the folks in Chicago will get to have a glimpse of Rondo, it might make them long for Rose that much more.

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A Very Important Summer

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This past NBA season saw the Chicago Bulls finish with a record of 42-40. But in spite of the Bulls possessing a winning record, they failed to qualify for the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2008. The past few years have seen the Bulls as one of the upper echelon teams in the Eastern Conference, but they have been unable to reach the NBA Finals as injuries and LeBron James have done them in. Now the Bulls have to answer several questions over the summer within their organization with one of them being whether or not is it time for them to start over.

The problems for the Bulls began last spring when Tom Thibodeau was fired as their head coach. Thibodeau had been the head coach of the Bulls since 2010, and he took Chicago to the postseason in each of the six seasons that he was with the team. But Thibodeau and Bulls general manager Gar Forman had a strained relationship at best which reached a breaking point last spring.

Fred Hoiberg

Forman would maintain his position with the Bulls, and he would hire Fred Hoiberg to replace Thibodeau. This past NBA season wasn’t an easy one in Chicago as Hoiberg was attempting to implement his system which concentrated on opening up the Bulls offense as opposed to Thibodeau’s style that focused more on defense. The end result was attempting to put a square peg into a round hole which resulted in the Bulls missing the playoffs.

Point guard Derrick Rose was the first overall pick of the NBA Draft by the Bulls in 2008 and he has been a solid player which included him being named as the league’s MVP in 2011. But Rose suffered a torn ACL to start the 2012 NBA Playoffs, and that along with several knee injuries since then have taken away from his effectiveness. This past season saw Rose appear in 66 games for the Bulls as he averaged 16.4 points and 4.7 assists. However next year will mark the final year of Rose’s contract with the Bulls, and even at the age of 27, you have to wonder if the team is ready to move on from him?

Like Rose, center Joakim Noah has been a staple of Bulls basketball in recent years. Noah was the Bulls first-round pick in 2007, and he has been the heart and soul of the team since then. Noah was the embodiment of the Bulls under Thibodeau as he was a defensive presence which was highlighted by him being named as the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. However injuries have begun to take their toll on Noah as he has missed 68 games over the last two years. Noah is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and as the team has had a change in philosophy, I doubt that he will continue to call the Windy City home. And along with Noah, center Pau Gasol will more than likely opt-out of his contract as he has been a frustrated player in Chicago.

Jimmy Butler

However as Rose’s star he begun to fade in Chicago and the Bulls are no longer one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, the stock of small forward Jimmy Butler has taken off as he has become the new face of the franchise. Butler was a diamond in the rough as he wasn’t selected until 30th overall in 2011. Butler’s numbers have increased in each of his five NBA seasons and he is turning into one of the better two-way players in the game. Butler made the NBA’s All-Star team in each of the last two years, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that he could one day be the MVP of the league.

But with the Bulls currently as the crossroads, they have to make a decision as far as completely starting over, or building around Butler. If the Bulls wanted to trade Butler, a player with his caliber could command a ton in return to Chicago if the team were willing to part with him. However being that the Bulls became such a down trodden franchise after the Michael Jordan era team was dismantled in 1998, I don’t see the team willing to start over from scratch like that again which means that they must find the right players to put around Butler. Aside from Butler, the Bulls do have quality players on their roster in small forward Doug McDermott, power forward Nikola Mirotic, and reserve forward Taj Gibson. The Bulls do have the 14th overall pick in the NBA Draft this month while they also have free agency. This year’s draft is a deep one and there is a good possibility that the Bulls could find themselves an impact player early on; especially a point guard which will be important as the team already has $74 million committed to salaries for next season.

Gar Forman

Forman found his man, but the Bulls spent the entire 2015-2016 NBA season searching for their identity under Hoiberg which they still haven’t found. And this will be an important summer for the Bulls as the last thing that they can afford to do is revert back to being an afterthought after all of the hard work by Thibodeau which once again made them a contender.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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