Bears

CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

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CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

By Joe Collins & Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

1 Simeon (8-0)

Results: Defeated Perspectives-Calumet 82-42 (Mon.), Corliss 79-51 (Wed.) and Whitney Young 62-55 (Thu.)

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Will Simeon and Warren meet again in the finals at Pontiac? Jabari Parker and company open with Bloomington on Wednesday.

2 Proviso East (7-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Proviso West Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: The Pirates will be the team to beat in Hillside this week. Proviso East finished in third place in the tournament last season.

3 Warren (7-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Warren will be the No. 2 seed in Pontiac. They battle Plainfield North in Wednesdays opening round.
4 Curie (8-0)

Results: Defeated Robeson 70-18 (Tue.) and DuSable 65-33 (Thu.)

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Forward Cliff Alexander and the Condors could meet West Aurora in the second round in Pontiac, provided they survive Niles West on Wednesday.

5 Downers Grove South (7-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament (York HS)

Hoops Talk: Jerron Wilbut and the Mustangs look to defend their title in Elmhurst this week. They open against Palatine on Tuesday.

6 Bogan (8-0)

Results: Defeated Urban Prep-Englewood 79-18 (Mon.) and Perspectives-Calumet 80-69 (Wed.)

This Week: Centralia Holiday Tourney

Hoops Talk: The Bengals will be the No. 1 seed in Centralia. Other Chicago teams participating include Marist, St. Laurence and Richards.

7 De La Salle (7-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament (York HS)

Hoops Talk: Gavin Schilling and Alex Foster should give Downers South a run for the title. The Meteors open tourney play against Perspectives on Wednesday.
8 New Trier (9-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Proviso West Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Connor Boehm and Austin Angel give the Trevians hope for a title this week. They will face Fenwick on Tuesday in the first round.
9 Whitney Young (4-2)

Results: Defeated Westinghouse 62-45 (Mon.) and Manley 81-38 (Wed); Lost to Simeon 62-55 (Thu.)

This Week: Beach Ball Classic, Myrtle Beach SC

Hoops Talk: Gabriel Snider and Jahlil Okafor are picking up the slack in the wake of injury losses to Tommie Hamilton and Jermaine Morgan.

10 Andrew (6-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Kankakee Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: The Thunderbolts look to be the favorites in Kankakee, a tournament that features a 3A4A and 1A2A bracket. They face Carver Wednesday.

11 Bloom (9-0)

Results: Defeated Rich East 59-50 (Tue.)

This Week: McDipper Tournament at Rich South

Hoops Talk: The Blazing Trojans, who open against Corliss on Monday, are favorites to win in Richton Park this week. Seton and Crete-Monee could challenge.

12 Plainfield East (7-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Pekin Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: The Bengals, No. 2 seed in Pekin, will battle Thornridge in Tuesdays opening round. Senior guard Dee Brown will be tough to contain.
13 Seton (11-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: McDipper Tournament at Rich South

Hoops Talk: Undefeated record will be challenged by a talented field at the McDipper. The Sting will open against Rich Central on Monday.

14 Homewood-Flossmoor (7-2)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Proviso West Tournament

Hoops Talk: A potential second round matchup of H-F and New Trier could be a nice holiday treat. The Vikings will take on Von Steuben in the first round.
15 West Aurora (8-1)
Results: Defeated York 67-42 (Fri.)

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Look for Juwan Starks to turn some heads in Peoria. Could they be the sleeper team in the tournament?

16 Elgin (12-1)
Results: Defeated Holy Trinity 54-30 (Mon.), Glenbard North 57-51 (Tue.), Neuqua Valley 52-48 (Wed.) and La Lumiere IN 40-34 (Thu.)

This Week: No games scheduled

Hoops Talk: Huge week for the Maroons, who beat national power La Lumiere to win the Elgin Tourney. Kory Brown was deadly from beyond the arc.
17 Notre Dame (9-2)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Wheeling Hardwood Classic

Hoops Talk: The Dons, along with Stevenson, look solid in this tourney. ND opens against Vernon Hills. If the Dons win, theyll battle the Lake Park-Deerfield winner.

18 North Chicago (6-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: State Farm Holiday Classic (Bloomington-Normal)

Hoops Talk: Aaron Simpson and the Warhawks look to tame the field in Bloomington. First up: Culver Academy (IN) on Tuesday.
19 Metea Valley (9-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Hinsdale South Tournament

Hoops Talk: New-kid-on-the-block Metea a perfect fit for the inaugural Hinsdale South tourney. Their opener against Eisenhowers Grinnell offense could be fun.
20 Huntley (10-1)
Results: Defeated Lake Zurich 38-26 (Tue.), Hope Academy 66-60 (Thu.) and Crystal Lake Central 55-49 (Fri.)

This Week: No games scheduled

Hoops Talk: Look out for the Red Raiders. Sophomore forward Amanze Egekeze scored 21 points in the title game.
Looming & Lurking: Benet, Morton, Marshall, Farragut, Glenbrook North, Stevenson, Libertyville, Harlan, St. Ignatius, St. Viator, Hope, St. Rita, Oak Park, Foreman, Crystal Lake Central and Crane.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”