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NBA Power Rankings: Thunder making some noise

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NBA Power Rankings: Thunder making some noise

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 7 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 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6

Tony
MarkComments1
Tony: Watch out now, the Serge Protector has an offensive game.
Mark: 11 wins in a row, showing no signs of slowing down.
2
Tony: Blake Griffin and Co. have rattled off 10 straight now.
Mark: Carmelo may be MVP, but Tyson just as valuable to Knicks.
3
Tony: Tony Parker is playing at an MVP level.
Mark: 10 straight victoriesat least one team in L.A. is winning.
4
Tony: Still holding off Miami as the beasts of the East.
Mark: Now Tony Parker is triple-doubling? These guys never get old.
5
Tony: They need Dwyane Wade to stay on the court consistently.
Mark: Chris Bosh having another underrated yet efficient year.
6
Tony: Not as hot as other teams in the West, but a bonafide contender.
Mark: Slowly coming back down to Earth, but still talented.7
Tony: Winning streak came to an end, but have still won 8 of 10.
Mark: Stephen Curry should be an All-Star for the first time this year.8
Tony: Surprisingly boast leagues 7th best D in pts allowed.
Mark: HorfordSmith frontcourt has been dominant so far.9
Tony: Bench has been coming to play, Mon. night in MEM notwithstanding.
Mark: Looking better each week, but Hinrich needs to stay healthy.
10
Tony: Rubio back, Love looking like a stud again. All is well in Minny.
Mark: Brook Lopez is back at the perfect time (ASAP).
11
Tony: D-Will calling out his coach? Uh oh.
Mark: Ricky Rubio was great in return from ACL surgery.
12
Tony: Need some frontcourt help. Last in league in rebounding.
Mark: Quietly have won seven of last 10.
13
Tony: Really like this squad, and they're starting to gel.
Mark: Ersan Ilyosova showing signs of life is great news for Bucks.
14
Tony: We all know George can get hot, but can he be consistent?
Mark: Back over .500 (13-12) for first time since Nov. 23.
15
Tony: Ersan Ilyasova coming up just when Bucks need it.
Mark: One of two teams (Milwaukee) with a winning record and negative point differential.16
Tony: See? They rely on Jrue Holiday so much.
Mark: Brutal four-game roadtrip awaiting Utah (BRK, IND, MIA, ORL).
17
Tony: If they can shore up their D, they may join ranks of elite.
Mark: Philly hoping for good news on Andrew Bynums MRI this week.
18
Tony: Just look like a completely different team without Dirk.
Mark: 12th in the West is the season ended today.
19
Tony: Lin starred in return to NY, but he has no consistency.
Mark: Could sneak into the playoffs as players continue to get comfortable playing together.
20
Tony: Can't hack it when one or two guys go down to injury.
Mark: Damian Lillard is your current Rookie of the Year, and its not close.
21
Tony: Already talking trades? Alright.
Mark: Just 4-10 on the road, and play 8 of next 13 away from Dallas.
22
Tony: When Nash comes back, run offense through him.
Mark: 2-0 week on the heels of losing seven in a row.
23
Tony: If they have Gortat, why not at least utilize him?
Mark: Impressive win over Golden State was part of 2-0 week.
24
Tony: Rough luck this season for Lowry and Co. thus far.
Mark: Trade candidate Jose Calderon will lead a contender down the stretch. Book it.
25
Tony: I like this Drummond kid. Could be dynamic duo with Monroe.
Mark: Roller coaster continues after losing four straight.
26
Tony: Man, they're sinking faster than the Titanic. This is sad.
Mark: Isaiah Thomas showing signs of life off the bench.
27
Tony: Feel bad for fans in Sacremento. No hope on horizon.
Mark: Losers of 11 straight, even Kemba cant straighten it out.
28
Tony: Kyrie's back! And he's dropping 40.
Mark: Irvings mask is a thing of beauty, and its the same dominant player behind it.
29
Tony: Vasquez is putting up solid numbers, but needs to improve efficiency.
Mark: Anthony Davis has lost his grip on Rookie of the Year honors.
30
Tony: Not even an exorcism could help this team.
Mark: Bradley Beal and Jordan Crawford will work well when John Wall returns.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.