Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Bledsoe keeping LAC afloat

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NBA Power Rankings: Bledsoe keeping LAC afloat

By Tony Andracki & Mark Strotman

Each Monday throughout the regular season, Mark Strotman and Tony Andracki will rank all 30 NBA teams. Below are Week 11 Power Rankings. Think we're way off? Agree with our picks? Hit us up on Twitter at@BullsTalkCSNwith comments or criticisms.
Past rankings:PreseasonWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7 Week 8 Week 10

Tony
MarkComments1
Tony: Durant plays like he's a cheat code.
Mark: An NBA-best 18-3 against the Western conference.
2
Tony: Bledsoe starring in CP3's absence.
Mark: How many teams would use Eric Bledose as a starter?
3
Tony: Same old, same old. Can Popp stir up some controversy again?
Mark: Ginobili missing two weeks will hurt quest for top spot in the West.
4
Tony: Trade Rudy Gay? Why would they do that? Legit title shot this year.
Mark: LeBron is still my MVP pick, but they need to figure out road woes.
5
Tony: David Lee is playing like a Warrior. Get it?
Mark: LeBron is still my MVP pick, but they need to figure out road woes.
6
Tony: Wow, never thought I'd move Heat out of Top 5, but they've lost 4 of 6.
Mark: Nuggets have won 8 of 10, are 14-2 at home. Rising fast.7
Tony: Gotta find a way to beat CHI.
Mark: Don't expect Carmelo to take any cereal endorsements in the near future.8
Tony: Lawson, Iggy leading well-balanced unit.
Mark: How long can this thing (No. 5 in the West) last?
9
Tony: Hottest team in the league right now.
Mark: An Eastern Conference-best 8-2 over their last 10 games.
10
Tony: Awesome at home, not so much on the road.
Mark: Danny Granger nearing a return, which could mean trouble for fellow Central Division foes.
11
Tony: Man, they need to shore up their play at the UC.
Mark: Tough to get a read on this team, especially after this week's roller coaster.
12
Tony: Ugly, ugly, ugly loss in Chi. Should be knocked out of Top 15 for that.
Mark: Quietly have won six in a row and are back in the playoff mix.
13
Tony: Asik has slowed down a bit. Growing weary with starter's minutes?
Mark: 58 points. In a game. Erm. Moving on.
14
Tony: Sullinger is looking like Boston's savior right now.
Mark: How good was Wes Matthews in the final minute against the Heat? Real good.
15
Tony: Man, can they fill up the stat sheet. Well, the starters can, at least.
Mark: The NBA's highest scoring team continues to move right along.
16
Tony: If only they played the Bulls every game...
Mark: Solid win over Miami last night as they fight for the last playoff seed.
17
Tony: They need Mighty Mo back.
Mark: John Henson is going to be a player in the NBA.
18
Tony: Injuries just sinking this season for 'Wolves.
Mark: Still haven't given up hope, but wow, what a disappointment.
19
Tony: It's getting pretty late. Do they have time to turn things around?
Mark: Good news for Andrew Bynum! All-Star center could be back at the All-Starb break.
20
Tony: Is this their true form or just a bad slump?
Mark: The wheels are coming off without Kevin Love, and Rubio still isn't near 100 percent.
21
Tony: Have quietly won 7 of 10.
Mark: A big fan of the Lowry-Calderon point guard duo. Will the latter be dealt?
22
Tony: Mark Cuban's gonna do somethin' crazy in second half.
Mark: They've won 7 of their last 10, including W's over Miami and Atlanta.
23
Tony: Lowry and Calderon co-existing experiment going just OK.
Mark: Dirk's return hasn't meant much to Dallas, which still sits 5.0 games back of final playoff spot.
24
Tony: Cousins has been another player altogether since suspension.
Mark: Isaiah Thomas back in the starting lineup and playing well.
25
Tony: Hey! They picked up a win on the road!
Mark: Worst record in the West, but defense has played well all year.
26
Tony: Gordon, Vasquez playing well alongside each other.
Mark: Glen Davis back in the rotation will help, but they've dropped nine of 10.
27
Tony: Have lost 9 of 10 and 5 straight.
Mark: 2-8 in their last 10, but a home win against the Bulls was nice.
28
Tony: Man, they won 3 in a row?? Completely different team with Wall back.
Mark: The Wizards have won two straight since John Wall returned. Baby steps.
29
Tony: Get the nod over CHA because they're only on 3-gm losing streak.
Mark: Nice to see Dion Waiters break out of a funk with a career-high 33 points on Monday.
30
Tony: Things have gotten downright ugly in Charlotte yet again.
Mark: Very little (if any) improvement from this team, despite "increase in wins".

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”