Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Healthy Jazz team looking dangerous

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NBA Power Rankings: Healthy Jazz team looking dangerous

The Utah Jazz haven't been to the playoffs since 2012, but that may change so long as they stay healthy.

Since Derrick Favors returned after missing 15 straight games, the Jazz are 6-1 and tout the NBA's most efficient defense (92.9) and fourth best net rating (9.9).

Their current six-game winning streak hasn't been over much steep competition, but they're trending in the right direction behind Favors and Rudy Gobert, who missed 18 games in December/January. In fact, when those two play the Jazz are 13-7; when one or both are out they're 12-18.

That's not even to mention Gordon Hayward, who could have been a Western Conference All-Star, or the improving Rodney Hood (14.6 points, 2.0 3-pointers).

The Jazz look like the favorites for the No. 8 seed, and while they won't knock off the Warriors if they make the postseason, they sure won't be a fun matchup.

On to the rankings:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (46-4) Nine straight wins since the hiccups in Denver and Detroit. They're one game better than the '96 Bulls were after 50 games (45-5).
(2) (38-14) They couldn't dethrone the Warriors in Golden State on Saturday, but they sure like the team best equipped to do it in late May/early June.
(4) (43-8) The Spurs have won four straight. More importantly, they had the coolest Kobe Bryant farewell tribute to date. Watch it here.
4 (3) (36-14) They're 14th in 3FG% (35.4%) after ranking fifth in it a year ago (36.7%). Kyrie Irving (25.5%) and LeBron James (26.7%) need to get going.
5 (5) (34-16) Now just 2.0 games behind the Cavs for first place in the East, the Raptors have won 13 of 14. They'll get Cleveland at home on Feb. 26.
6 (6) (34-17) The Clips would be foolish to consider trading Blake Griffin, though the numbers don't lie: They're 17-4 without him since Dec. 26.
7 (8) (31-22) Huge week for Avery Bradley. The defensive stud averaged 15.0 points and one of his 11 3-pointers was the game-winner in Cleveland.
8 (7) (30-21) Watching Vince Carter connect on a trio of late 3-pointers in Memphis' win over New Orleans on Tuesday was an absolute joy to watch.
9 (9) (29-23) Rookie Justise Winslow is coming on strong of late, averaging 33.5 minutes in his last 10 games. Averaging 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 steal in that span.
10 (10) (30-23) We all know the Hawks aren't shooting it like they did last year, but they're up to No. 5 in defensive efficiency. 
11 (18) (25-25) The biggest movers of the week. The trio of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert is a scary one when healthy. They should be a playoff team.
12 (15) (27-24) Paul George's 30-point effort in a win over the Pistons was one the Pacers needed to avoid losing three of four (L's against CLE and ATL).
13 (12) (27-25) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope avoided serious injury and should be back after the All-Star break. Great news after what looked to be a bad spill.
14 (14) (27-26) Will the real Rockets please stand up? A 13-point win against Miami, slipping by Phoenix at home and a 17-point home loss to Portland. They get Steph and Co. on Tuesday.
15 (11) (27-23) Huge sigh of relief from the Advocate Center as Jimmy Butler avoids serious damage to his knee in Denver. That good news notwithstanding, the Bulls are 2-4 on their road trip.
16 (13) (29-25) An overtime win in Memphis both avoided a four-game skid and could become a springboard for the season's second half. A win over Utah on Tuesday would be huge.
17 (20) (25-27) The rest of their February schedule is brutal. Keep an eye on their Feb. 21 game against Utah. Those two could fight the next two months for the No. 8 seed.
18 (22) (25-26) Let's see if their Kemba-less victory over the Cavs can help them get back on track. Al Jefferson could return to the lineup shortly to help matters, too.
19 (16) (22-27) They're just 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East, but it feels like more than that. John Wall still looking for consistent help.
20 (19) (21-30) They've absolutely imploded since a five-game winning streak. Sitting 4.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the playoffs, the fun might be over.
21 (17) (18-32) Anthony Davis and co. get knocked back to reality with double-digit losses to Memphis, San Antonio and Cleveland. The home loss to the Lakers, though? That's on them.
22 (23) (21-31) Rookie Nikola Jokic is averaging 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds in his last five. His 27-point, 14-rebound effort helped Denver stop Toronto's nine-game winning streak.
23 (26) (16-36) Karl-Anthony Towns in the T-Wolves' wins at the Clippers and against the Bulls: 21.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks. He'll be an All-Star in the next two years.
24 (21) (23-31) Derek Fisher's firing Monday morning was a bit of a surprise. Would Phil Jackson ever consider hiring Tom Thibodaeu? Contrasting styles, but Thibs' resume is the best one out there.
25 (24) (20-32) Here's a scary thought. The Bucks win the lottery this summer and tout a small ball frontcourt of Ben Simmons, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
26 (25) (22-28) Losers in 15 of 18, their reward before the All-Star break is a road game in Atlanta and hosting the Spurs. Tobias Harris may be on the move to clear up minutes.
27 (27) (8-43) Great to see Jahlil Okafor (22 points, 17 rebounds) and Nerlens Noel (18 points, four steals, three blocks) tag-team in a win over the Nets on Saturday.
28 (28) (13-39) They've lost six of seven since a double-digit win over the Thunder. Hiring a general manager before the trade deadline would be a good move for them.
29 (30) (11-42) Black Mamba back? Kobe has averaged 28.3 points (on 22.3 FGA) in his last four games. His 38-point effort against Minnesota was a fun vintage moment.
30 (29) (14-38) A silver lining in this disaster of a season? Phoenix may have found something in guard Archie Goodwin (16.1 points, 4.6 assists in his last nine games).

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

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USA TODAY

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining. An update from Shams Charania of The Vertical said Butler could return for the postseason.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.