Bulls

NBA Buzz: Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic show importance to Bulls' offense

NBA Buzz: Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic show importance to Bulls' offense

With another disappointing Bears season now in the books, it’s time to focus some extra attention on what’s going on around the NBA, so here’s our first edition of NBA Buzz for 2017. We start with the roller-coaster ride otherwise known as the Bulls' 2016-17 season.

It might sound a little strange to place so much importance on Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, a pair of third-year reserve forwards, but the reality is the Bulls’ offense has an entirely different look when those two players are turning in productive minutes.

Take Wednesday's game against Cleveland for example. With Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade struggling from the field in the first half, it was McDermott and Mirotic combining for 26 points to rally the Bulls and turn an early 13-point deficit into a six-point halftime lead.

Then with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Fred Hoiberg turned to McDermott and Mirotic as floor spacers to open up driving lanes for Butler, and Butler responded by scoring 10 straight points to clinch a meaningful road win.

The Bulls' offense simply has better options with 3-point threats on the court. I'm sure you've noticed we don't see a lot of Robin Lopez in fourth quarters, and the idea behind that is to rely on a quicker lineup with an additional 3-point shooter (either McDermott or Mirotic, sometimes both).

When the Bulls were starting games with Lopez, Taj Gibson and Rajon Rondo, defenders could pack the paint to protect against drives by Butler and Wade and dare the other three to shoot mid-range jumpers. Michael Carter-Williams is also a subpar shooter, but his height and ability to finish at the rim gives the Bulls another option they didn't have with Rondo and a threat opposing defenses can't ignore.

It's no secret the Bulls' front office had been counting on a major step forward by McDermott and Mirotic in Year 3 of the their NBA careers, and maybe we're finally starting to see that progression. Mirotic has been much more aggressive since not playing in two games last month, and McDermott is showing more versatility to his offensive game since returning from the league's concussion protocol, including three post-up baskets in the win over Charlotte.

Butler has increased his scoring average to a career-best 25 points per game, and Wade is still a reliable scoring option in his 14th NBA season. But Wade turns 35 on Jan. 17, and Butler ranks sixth in minutes played at 36.6 per game. The Bulls need to identify and rely on more options to share the scoring load on a team that currently ranks 23rd in points per game. Giving McDermott, Mirotic and Carter-Williams bigger roles in the offense should ease the burden on Butler and Wade and help the Bulls get to the playoffs in a tightly bunched Eastern Conference.

As we move closer to the halfway point of the NBA schedule, here are a few of the stories that have caught my attention.

Westbrook, Harden battle for MVP

It's easy to forget these guys were actually teammates in Oklahoma City for three seasons before ownership's refusal to pay any luxury tax led to the trade that sent Harden to Houston. Of course, you can argue how the high-scoring trio of Westbrook, Harden and Kevin Durant would have co-existed in OKC, but remember they did get to the 2012 Finals, where they lost to Miami, and at that point, all three players were still trying to figure out just how good they could be at the NBA level.

Fast forward to January 2017, and Westbrook and Harden are each trying to become the first player since Nate "Tiny" Archibald in the early 1970s to lead the league in both scoring and assists. Westbrook is currently first in scoring and second in assists, while "The Beard" is first in assists and fourth in scoring. Right now, Westbrook probably has a better shot to complete the league-leading double, and his flirtation with Oscar Robertson's distinction of averaging a triple-double for the season stamps him as the favorite to capture his first MVP award.

Mike D'Antoni enjoying career revival in Houston

I have to admit I was pretty skeptical when D'Antoni first announced he would play Harden at point guard in his pace-and-space, 3-point dominant offense. Harden has always been a cold-blooded scorer, sometimes at the expense of his teammates. But now he's fully embracing the share-the-wealth mentality, getting the ball to capable 3-point shooters like Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza. Harden is averaging right around 12 assists per game, and his leadership has taken the Rockets to the third-best record in the West. And how about that 53-point, 16-rebound, 17-assist game on New Year's Eve against the Knicks, the first time in the history of the league a player had 15 or more rebounds and assists in a 50-point game.

Isaiah Thomas playing like the Hall of Famer with the same name

Not many people expected the 5-foot-9 dynamo to be a difference-maker in the NBA. Heck, not many people expected Thomas to be in the league after Sacramento selected him with the last pick in the draft back in 2011. But Thomas' career has taken off since a trade to Boston at the 2015 deadline. He currently ranks fifth in scoring and turned in a 52-point game against Miami last week. Thomas is one of the toughest covers in the league, with blazing speed on the fast break, quick crossover moves and deep 3-point range. Celtics' general manager Danny Ainge has been looking to add a star-quality player to his roster for the last several years. Turns out he already has one in the diminutive and dynamic Thomas.

Celtics fans courting Gordon Hayward

Speaking of stars, did you see Celtics forward Jae Crowder's angry reaction to Boston fans cheering for Utah's Gordon Hayward in a recent game at TD Garden? It's no secret the Celtics will be pursuing Hayward in free agency this summer, and they feel like they've got a decent chance to steal him away from Utah, considering Brad Stevens used to coach Hayward at Butler. But since Crowder and Hayward play the same position, you can't blame Crowder for wondering about his future. He tweeted after the game in all caps.

By the way, Crowder scored 21 points in the Celtics' win.

Sixers future looking brighter

NBA writers had a lot of fun ripping former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie for tearing down one of the league's traditionally strong franchises and going with a complete rebuild. Hinkie is gone, but "The Process" he began is starting to make sense. 2014 first-round pick Joel Embiid is showing everyone why Hinkie was willing to draft a 7-foot center with foot problems and just wait for him to get healthy. Embiid can score from all angles with Hakeem Olajuwon-like moves in the post and shooting range out to the 3-point line. The Sixers also drafted a few other promising young players in Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric and Chicago native Jahlil Okafor, and they're still waiting for 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons to take the floor. It might be another year or two before the Sixers get back in the playoffs, but the young talent on the roster should make Philadelphia fans understand what "The Process" was all about.

Greek Freak is the talk of the league

Have you seen the latest issue of Sports Illustrated with a cover story on Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo? Bulls fans know how good Giannis is after watching him lead the Bucks to three straight wins in the season series, but the rest of the NBA universe is just starting to take notice. Antetokounmpo is averaging almost 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals, which is a stat line we haven't seen since blocks and steals became official stats. Antetokounmpo is unquestionably headed to the All-Star Game and is one of the top 20 players in the league. Now the question is: How long will it be before Antetokounmpo joins the likes of LeBron James, Durant, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and Westbrook as a First-Team All-NBA performer?

The SI story went on to detail Antetokounmpo's amazing work ethic that includes driving to the team's practice facility for late-night drills after a bad game still wearing his sweat-soaked uniform. Giannis vows to improve his 3-point shooting (28 percent for his career), and once he accomplishes that, good luck trying to guard him.

The Bucks also have another outstanding young forward in former Simeon star Jabari Paker, and they're hoping to get sharp-shooting guard Khris Middleton back from injury just after the All-Star break. When LeBron finally starts to slow down, watch out for the Bucks as a rising force in the East.

Stat of the week

I'm thrilled to have CSN's stats guru Chris Kamka (a.k.a. The Cruncher) on board for another season of NBA Buzz. This week, Chris has some interesting facts about Butler's 52-point explosion against the Hornets on Jan. 2 at the United Center.

Fifty-plus-point games at the United Center:

— 57 points, Jerry Stackhouse, Pistons (April 3, 2001, vs. Bulls)
— 55 points, Michael Jordan, Bulls (April 27, 1997, vs. Bullets)
— 53 points, Michael Jordan, Bulls (March 7, 1996, vs. Pistons)
— 52 points, Jimmy Butler, Bulls (Jan. 2, 2017, vs. Hornets)
— 51 points, Michael Jordan, Bulls (Jan. 21, 1997, vs. Knicks)
— 51 points, Ray Allen, Celtics (April 30, 2009, vs. Bulls)
— 50 points, Jamal Mashburn, Mavericks (Nov. 12, 1994, vs. Bulls)

With his 52-point game, Butler became the second player in Bulls history with multiple 50-point games. Jordan had 38, including playoff games. Butler had the first 50-point, 10-rebound, five-assist game in United Center history and was the first Bulls player with multiple 40-point games over a six-day span since Jordan did it in April 1998.

Quote of the week

Back to Antetokounmpo. Since he grew up in Greece, he didn't know much about the history of the league when the Bucks drafted him as an 18-year-old in 2013. So, check out this quote from the Lee Jenkins story in SI about Bucks head coach Jason Kidd.

The first time Kidd benched him, Antetokounmpo was irate. "I was like, 'Let's see what this guy did in his career, anyway,'" Antetokounmpo recounts, and called up Kidd's bio on his phone. "I saw Rookie of the Year, NBA championship, USA Olympic gold medal, second in assists, fifth in made 3s, blah, blah, blah. I was like, 'Jesus freaking Christ, how can I compete with that? I better zip it.'"

Pretty funny stuff, and great awareness for such a young player. By the way, Antetokounmpo is currently in position to be an All-Star starter after the first returns in the fan balloting, ahead of established stars like Butler, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Yes, it's good to be the Greek Freak, who's planning to do some big things in his adopted home of Milwaukee.

NBC Sports Chicago announces Bulls expanded season-long multi-platform coverage details

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NBC Sports Chicago announces Bulls expanded season-long multi-platform coverage details

NBC Sports Chicago’s 46-Game Bulls Regular Season Game Schedule gets underway with the 2017-18 SEASON OPENER at the Eastern Conference rival Toronto Raptors this Thursday, October 19!

Live streaming coverage of EVERY Regular Season Bulls telecast on NBC Sports Chicago – including all Pre/Post-Game Shows –

to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com and via the NBC Sports app!

SEASON OPENER coverage on October 19 to feature morning practice updates on Facebook Live, “Bulls Pre/Postgame Live,”

a new Bulls season preview PODCAST, plus - expanded social media coverage via every NBC Sports Chicago portal all day/night!

NEW THIS SEASON: NBC Sports Chicago to carry “Bulls Pre/Postgame Live” before/after EVERY GAME (including all games airing on WGN and ESPN)!

NEW THIS SEASON: Bulls Legend/Four-Time NBA Champion HORACE GRANT to join NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Coverage Team!

NBCSportsChicago.com to feature in-depth reporting from Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill; Live Coverage of Every Postgame Press Conference,

“BullsTalk Podcasts,” Expanded Game Highlights, plus 24/7 Twitter updates from NBC Sports Chicago’s crew of Bulls experts and much more!

“Bulls Season Preview” special airs TONIGHT at 9:30 PM CT!

Chicago, IL (October 17, 2017)NBC Sports Chicago, the multi-platform home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Bulls, is once again ready to deliver another thrill-packed season of NBA excitement with 46 live regular season Bulls games, which includes live streaming to authenticated subscribers via NBCSportsChicago.com and the NBC Sports app.  NBC Sports Chicago is also announcing the addition of Bulls legend/four-time NBA Champion HORACE GRANT to its Bulls coverage team, plus – for the first time ever – LIVE pre/postgame coverage for EVERY Bulls telecast (including games airing on WGN and ESPN), and much more!

The 2017-18 Chicago Bulls regular season on NBC Sports Chicago gets underway with the SEASON OPENER at the Eastern Conference rival Toronto Raptors on Thursday, October 19 with expanded, day-long multi-platform coverage; note the following details (all non-game programming also available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers 24/7 at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive):

  • (MORNING) Breakfast with the Bulls – NBC Sports Chicago will get the day started with an early morning Bulls practice report from the Air Canada Centre.  Hosted by NBCSportsChicago.com’s Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill, Breakfast with the Bulls will be streamed “exclusively” on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). Interviews with Bulls players/coaches can be seen on NBC Sports Chicago’s Facebook page later in the morning.
  • (THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE AFTERNOON/EVENING)In addition to Facebook (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) and Twitter (@NBCSChicago & @NBCSBulls), NBC Sports Chicago’s social media outlets will provide fans with a multitude of Opening Night “Sights & Sounds” moments from ‘NBCSChicago’ via Instagram and Instagram Stories. Plus, fans can look forward to a brand new “Season Preview” Bulls Talk PODCAST (NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts) hosted by the network’s team of Bulls experts.
  • 5:00 PM – “5 at 5” on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) – Fans can look forward to a special Bulls Opening Night preview on NBC Sports Chicago’s popular “5 at 5” segment on Facebook Live featuring Bulls Pre/Postgame Live host Mark Schanowski, studio analysts/former Bulls standouts Kendall Gill and Will Perdue, along with Bulls digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman discussing the Top 5 hottest Bulls/NBA topics heading into the season opener in Toronto.
  • 6:00 PM – Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light – Opening Night coverage gets underway with Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light featuring host Mark Schanowski, along with analysts Kendall Gill and Will Perdue.  In addition to up-to-the-minute pre-game reports from NBCSportsChicago.com’s Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill from Air Canada Centre, this half-hour show will feature a complete player match-up breakdown, interviews with Bulls players and coaches, along with a look around the league at additional games taking place during the NBA’s opening week of action.
  • 6:30 PM – 2017/18 NBA SEASON OPENER – Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors – Featuring the always-entertaining announcing tandem – entering their 10th season together – of Neil Funk and Stacey King.  ALSO – NBC Sports Chicago will carry Metro PCS Bulls Halftime Live on a special Facebook Live segment (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) featuring Schanowski, Gill, and Perdue, which will urge fans to send along their comments and questions to the studio team.
  • 9:00 PM – Sprint Bulls Postgame Live (time approx.) – Hosted by Schanowski, Gill, and Perdue, Sprint Bulls Postgame Live will provide fans with a thorough game recap/highlights/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews, along with preview of the Bulls home opener on Saturday vs. San Antonio.
  • 9:30 PM – In the Loop presented by GMC (time approx.)  Expanded “Opening Night” recap, along with the latest hot topics, highlights, and can’t miss videos from the day in sports.
  • 12:30 AM – Bulls at Toronto (game replay)

In addition to its Season Opener coverage, NBC Sports Chicago has announced it will begin providing its viewers with surrounding Bulls Pre/Postgame Live coverage for EVERY game (home and road) on the Bulls schedule, which includes local broadcast Bulls telecasts airing on WGN-TV, along with exclusive national games airing on ESPN.  These additional airings of Bulls Pre/Postgame Live will feature primary host Mark Schanowski and primary analyst Kendall Gill, along with Will Perdue for a number of select non-NBC Sports Chicago Bulls game telecasts.  NOTE: Due to live game programming airing on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel location on occasion, a number of Bulls Pre/Postgame Live editions will air on the network’s alternate channel, NBC Sports Chicago+.

ALSO – beginning this season, NBC Sports Chicago welcomes its newest studio analyst as Bulls legend/four-time NBA Champion HORACE GRANT joins the Bulls Pre/Postgame Live crew for a number of select games on the network’s Bulls season schedule.  Grant, known for his trademark on-court goggles, spent 17 standout seasons in the NBA as one of the league’s dominant power forwards and helped guide the Bulls with his fellow teammates Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen to three consecutive NBA titles (1991, 1992, 1993). 

Throughout the season, EVERY Bulls game telecast airing on NBC Sports Chicago, including surrounding Bulls Pre/Postgame Live coverage, will be accessible live via NBCSportsChicago.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service of Bulls games, viewers are urged to visit the following link: nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq

In addition, airing TONIGHT at 9:30 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago, Bulls fans can look forward to a special sneak preview of the 2017-18 NBA season with the Bulls Season Preview presented by Coors Light special.  Hosted by Schanowski, along with analysts Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill, this half-hour special, filled with player/coaches interviews and detailed season preview analysis, will provide viewers with a comprehensive look at this year’s Bulls roster and all the off-season trades & acquisitions that will have fans ready to go for the Opening Night tip-off.  The Bulls Season Preview special is also scheduled to re-air tonight at 10:30 PM.

In addition to its live stream of every NBC Sports Chicago Bulls game telecast, NBCSportsChicago.com will also provide fans with even more exclusive Bulls content throughout the season including the following:

  • NBCSportsChicago.com will stream EVERY Bulls home postgame press conference LIVE providing insider access to head coach Fred Hoiberg.
  • Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill returns for his third full season on the beat. Follow him on Twitter @vgoodwill for the latest team/player news and inside access 24/7. Bulls digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman (@markstrot) will also provide Bulls and NBA reports/features on the beat with Goodwill. Follow @NBCSBulls on Twitter for full team coverage, giveaways, fan photos and game day news throughout the 2017-18 NBA campaign.
  • Video highlights from every Bulls game, including in-game highlights at halftime.  Pre-game interviews from team practices will also be provided, as well as extensive post-game reaction from the locker room and analysis from the “Sprint Bulls Postgame Live” team. Fans can also check out the network’s fast-paced “Bulls in 60 presented by Sprint,” a comprehensive highlight package on NBCSportsChicago.com and across the network’s social media channels.
  • Weekly analytical features chronicling the Bulls and league-wide data of interest including the “Honda Road Ahead” and “NBA Power Rankings,” presented by WOW!
  • “Bulls Talk PODCAST” – Featuring Bulls Pre/Postgame Live host Mark Schanowski, analyst Kendall Gill, “Insider” Vincent Goodwill, digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman, and an array of special guests, NBC Sports Chicago’s “Bulls Talk” podcast features in-depth Bulls discussion on the hottest topics and breaking news throughout the season. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.
  • Push Alerts: NBC Sports Chicago will deliver Bulls push notifications for breaking team and player news, “Insider” reports, plus game reminder alerts via NBC Sports Chicago’s SportsTalk app for iOS and Android devices.
  • BullsTalk (NBCSportsChicago.com/Bulls) - NBCSportsChicago.com’s high-velocity, real-time, comprehensive Bulls news and opinion section featuring original commentary, reporting and social media aggregation. BullsTalk contains interactive content with continually updated insights from the network’s talent, which includes the #BullsTalk podcast.
  • Fans can also follow and connect with NBC Sports Chicago’s extensive Bulls coverage on Facebook (including numerous “Facebook Live” segments with NBC Sports Chicago talent), Instagram and Snapchat at ‘NBCSChicago’

 

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

NBCSportsChicago.com/NBC Sports app

2017 - 2018 Chicago Bulls Schedule

REGULAR SEASON

  1. Thu, Oct 19          @ Toronto                                6:30 pm         SEASON OPENER!
  2. Tue, Oct. 24         @ Cleveland                             6:00 pm
  3. Wed, Nov. 1         @ Miami                                  6:30 pm
  4. Sat, Nov. 4           vs. New Orleans                       7:00 pm        
  5. Fri, Nov. 10          vs. Indiana                               7:00 pm        
  6. Sat, Nov. 11         @ San Antonio                         7:30 pm
  7. Wed, Nov. 15       @ Oklahoma City                     7:00 pm
  8. Sun, Nov. 19        @ Phoenix                               7:00 pm
  9. Wed, Nov. 22       @ Utah                                    8:00 pm         NBCSCH+
  10. Fri, Nov. 24          @ Golden State                        9:30 pm
  11. Fri, Dec. 1            vs. Sacramento                        7:00 pm
  12. Wed, Dec. 6         @ Indiana                                6:00 pm        
  13. Fri, Dec. 8            @ Charlotte                              6:00 pm
  14. Fri, Dec. 15          @ Milwaukee                            7:00 pm
  15. Mon, Dec. 18        vs. Philadelphia                         7:00 pm
  16. Wed, Dec. 20       vs. Orlando                              7:00 pm
  17. Sat, Dec. 23         @ Boston                                 6:30 pm
  18. Tue, Dec. 26        @ Milwaukee                            7:00 pm        
  19. Wed, Dec. 27       vs. New York                            7:00 pm
  20. Sun, Dec. 31        @ Washington                          2:30 pm
  21. Wed, Jan. 3          vs. Toronto                               7:00 pm
  22. Fri, Jan. 5             @ Dallas                                  7:30 pm         NBCSCH+
  23. Mon, Jan. 8          vs. Houston                              7:00 pm        
  24. Wed, Jan. 10        @ New York                             6:30 pm
  25. Mon, Jan. 15        vs. Miami                                 2:30 pm        
  26. Mon, Jan. 22        @ New Orleans                        7:00 pm
  27. Fri, Jan. 26           vs. Los Angeles Lakers             7:00 pm
  28. Sun, Jan. 28         vs. Milwaukee                           2:30 pm        
  29. Wed, Jan. 31        @ Portland                               9:00 pm
  30. Sat, Feb. 3           @ Los Angeles Clippers            2:30 pm
  31. Wed, Feb. 14       vs. Toronto                               7:00 pm
  32. Thu, Feb. 22         vs. Philadelphia                         7:00 pm
  33. Tue, Feb. 27         @ Charlotte                              6:00 pm
  34. Mon, Mar. 5         vs. Boston                                7:00 pm
  35. Wed, Mar. 7         vs. Memphis                             7:00 pm
  36. Tue, Mar. 13        vs. Los Angeles Clippers           7:00 pm
  37. Sat, Mar. 17         vs. Cleveland                            7:00 pm        
  38. Wed, Mar. 21       vs. Denver                                7:00 pm
  39. Fri, Mar. 23          vs. Milwaukee                           7:00 pm
  40. Sat, Mar. 24         @ Detroit                                 6:00 pm        
  41. Fri, Mar. 30          @ Orlando                               6:00 pm
  42. Sun, Apr. 1           vs. Washington                         2:30 pm
  43. Tue, Apr. 3           vs. Charlotte                             7:00 pm
  44. Sat, Apr. 7            vs. Brooklyn                             7:00 pm
  45. Mon, Apr. 9          @ Brooklyn                              6:30 pm
  46. Wed, Apr. 11        vs. Detroit                                7:00 pm

23 Home, 23 Road regular season games

Total: 46 games

All Times Central Time

Schedule Subject to Change

20 crazy (or are they...?) predictions for the NBA season

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USA TODAY

20 crazy (or are they...?) predictions for the NBA season

1. The Golden State Warriors will be better than ever this season and will repeat as NBA champions...but will have big time bumps on the road in the Western Conference.

2. Kevin Durant will be better and win his second Most Valuable Player award, even though Steph Curry is still the arbiter for Golden State’s culture.

3. LeBron James will add to his resume as being one of the top five players ever, if not higher, but won’t catch Michael Jordan for total MVPs (five)...

4. ...and Cleveland had better enjoy him this year, because come July, he’s headed out of Ohio.

5. Speaking of headed out of town, a coach will be fired after a year of leaguewide stability, for an underachieving team in the underachieving Eastern Conference...

6. ...In other words, Fred Hoiberg is safe!

7. The Eastern Conference tank-a-thon will be both ugly and necessary for a couple teams in desperate need of lottery luck, including the Bulls.

8. One of the tank-a-thon teams won’t have the stomach for the losing and will make a panic move, especially when incoming college stars Michael Porter Jr or Marvin Bagley show the slightest signs of struggling.

9. Lonzo Ball will look like a point guard in the mold of Jason Kidd, a guy everyone will flock to play with...and not even LaVar Ball can screw that up.

10. But he’ll try because he won’t shut up...and we’ll never stop listening.

10. Dennis Smith Jr. will be the best incoming rookie, but Ben Simmons will win Rookie of the Year in Philadelphia.

11. Kyrie Irving will formally enter the conversation as one of the league’s best point guards, in part because Brad Stevens will help him become a better facilitator...

12. Irving is (bear with me Chicago’s own Isiah Thomas) the greatest scorer in terms of skill set from the point guard spot in the history of the league

13. For different reasons, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will struggle with their new “helpful” teammates…But will be hell on earth in a seven-game series.

14. Remember this name: Caris Levert from the Brooklyn Nets.

15. Giannis Antetokounmpo was on my top-five MVP ballot last season…he’ll be higher this time around.

16. Jabari Parker will be traded from the Bucks this year, perhaps before he returns from injury…

17. Big names will be on the trading block from the center spot: DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond.

18. Drummond, though, will have a bounceback year in Detroit and improve from the free-throw line.

19. This year will prove the Bulls didn’t get enough in trading Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves (or TimberBulls/TimberTibs)...

20. But Zach LaVine will show he’s more than deserving of a max contract when he returns from injury.