Bulls

Annual NBA GM survey: Bulls squarely behind Cavs in East

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Annual NBA GM survey: Bulls squarely behind Cavs in East

The NBA GM survey is, simply put, a must-read every year. NBA's John Schuhmann compiles votes from each of the 30 NBA general managers on 49 different questions pertaining to the league.

Still, the survey is hardly fail-proof, and plenty changes in the course of a calendar year. Consider that last season Joakim Noah was voted the best defensive player in the NBA, Doug McDermott was voted the draft's second biggest steal at No. 11, and Jimmy Butler received zero votes when the 30 GMs were asked which played was most likely to have a breakout campaign; six months later he hoisted the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

Below are the questions in which the Bulls or a player from the Bulls received votes. Here's a link to the entire survey and its results. Again, it's must-read stuff every year.

Rank the top four teams in the Eastern Conference:

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th % Total
Cleveland 96.6%       38.9%
Chicago 3.4% 65.5% 13.8% 6.9% 24.7%
Atlanta   13.8% 34.5% 17.2% 12.8%
Miami   13.8% 20.7% 31.0% 11.5%
Washington   3.4% 24.1% 17.2% 7.6%
Toronto     6.9% 10.3% 2.4%
Milwaukee   3.4%   10.3% 2.1%

Analysis: Few surprises here. Despite their myriad injuries, the Cavaliers are the unquestioned favorites in the East. In fact, more than half the voters (53.6%) chose the Cavaliers to win the 2015-16 NBA title. The Bulls received zero votes in that category, with San Antonio, Golden State and Oklahoma City rounding out the list. Miami brought back Goran Dragic, gets back Chris Bosh and looks primed to contend with Atlanta, Washington and Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the East. Milwaukee is only getting better, though it's a stretch to consider them the second best team in the East.

Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?

1. James Harden, Houston (79.3%)
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State (10.3%)
Also receiving votes: Jimmy Butler, Chicago; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

Analysis: What a year for Butler, who 12 months ago couldn't find his name anywhere on this list, let alone receiving a vote over Harden and Thompson as the game's best shooting guard.

What was the most surprising move of the offseason?

Also receiving votes: Tom Thibodeau fired

Analysis: Fair to assume Gar Forman didn't submit his vote for this one. Thibodeau's firing was the only of the 10 "moves" that was not player-related. DeAndre Jordan flip-flopping back to the Clippers received 24.1 percent of the vote, while Greg Monroe bypassing larger markets for Milwaukee received 20.7 percent of the vote.

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the draft?

1. Justise Winslow (10), Miami (31.0%)
2. Bobby Portis (22), Chicago (24.1%)
3. Emmanuel Mudiay (7), Denver (20.7%)
4. Myles Turner (11), Indiana (6.9%)

Analysis: Gar Forman and Fred Hoiberg meant it on draft night when they said they were shocked Portis was available at No. 22. The SEC Player of the Year has shown why in preseason, too, averaging 12.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game. He may not show it in Year 1 because of the Bulls' depth, but Portis absolutely was a steal so late in the draft.

Who is the best international player in the NBA?

1. Marc Gasol, Memphis (62.1%)
2. Pau Gasol, Chicago (17.2%)
3. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas (10.3%)
4. Tony Parker, San Antonio (6.9%)
5. Goran Dragic, Miami (3.4%)

Analysis: Spain, led by the Gasol brothers (and Nikola Mirotic), was also selected as the country most likely to challenge the U.S. for an Olympic/World Cup gold medal in the next 10 years. Marc and Pau had similar years in 2014-15, with both earning All-NBA First Team honors. The rankings here aren't surprising, however, considering Marc (30) is five years younger than Pau (35).

Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA?

1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (44.8%)
2. Tony Allen, Memphis (17.2%)
3. Jimmy Butler, Chicago (10.3%)
3. LeBron James, Cleveland (10.3%)

Analysis: More stellar company for Butler to be placed in, trailing only the Defensive Player of the Year in Leonard and a perennial All-NBA Defensive Team defender in Allen in this category. Earning as many votes as the world's best player is never a bad thing, either.

Which is the best defensive team in the NBA?

1. Golden State (58.6%)
2. Memphis (34.5%)
Also receiving votes: Chicago, Cleveland

Analysis: The Thibs effect? A year ago the Bulls were the overwhelming favorite in this category, earning nearly 86 percent of the vote. Chicago, however, ranked just 11th in defensive efficiency (the first time it had ranked outside the top-5 under Thibodeau) and replaced Thibodeau with the offensive-minded Fred Hoiberg. Still, with Butler, Noah and Gasol in the mix, the Bulls should remain in the top half of the league in defense this upcoming year.

Which new (or relocated) coach will make the biggest impact this season?

1. Alvin Gentry, New Orelans (32.1%)
2. Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City (28.6%)
3. Fred Hoiberg, Chicago (17.9%)
4. Scott Skilss, Orlando (10.7%)
5. George Karl, Sacramento (7.1%)
6. Mike Malone, Denver (3.6%)

Analysis: The three coaches who enter jobs with contending teams lead the way, with Gentry expected to help take Anthony Davis to the next level of super-stardom in New Orleans. Oklahoma City has had a championship-caliber roster for years, never being able to get over the hump with Scott Brooks, giving Billy Donovan an excellent chance to do just that with a healthy Kevin Durant. Hoiberg, meanwhile, will look to give the Bulls a distinct offensive identity as they try and figure out a way to get past LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Who is the best assistant in the NBA?

Also receiving votes: Jim Boylen, Chicago

Analysis: Boylen is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the NBA, having been a part of Indiana's league-best defensive units as well as the perennially-solid Spurs defenses the last two years.

Which active player will make the best head coach someday?

Also receiving votes: Kirk Hinrich, Chicago

Analysis: Hinrich received votes in this category for the second consecutive offseason, though he said last year he has no plans to go into coaching once his career is over.

Miscellaneous categories:

Jimmy Butler received votes as the player who moves best without the ball; Nikola Mirotic received votes as the bench player who makes the biggest impact when he enters the game; both Butler and Joakim Noah received votes as the league's toughest players

Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin weighs in on Bulls-Cavs
 
Kurt Helin isn't confident 2015 is the year the Bulls get past LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the playoffs, but is looking forward to Fred Hoiberg's modern, motion offense that should be entertaining to watch.
 

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Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.