Mark Schanowski

NBA Buzz: The Bulls look like the best bet on the board

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USA TODAY

NBA Buzz: The Bulls look like the best bet on the board

Apparently, whoever was involved in setting the summer over-under win total for NBA teams made a big mistake, which means a great opportunity for Bulls fans to make some easy money.

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas set the Bulls' win total for the 2018-19 season at 27.5, which is just a half game more than they won last season while suffering through a myriad of injuries and ever changing line-up combinations.

And, since last season ended, the Bulls used their two first round draft picks on promising big man Wendell Carter Jr. and athletic wing Chandler Hutchison, while also signing free agent forward Jabari Parker. Add in a full summer and training camp for a fully healthy Zach LaVine, and improved chemistry for the trio of LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, and even the most pessimistic NBA analyst would project the Bulls to win 30 games minimum.

The crazy thing about the Westgate over-unders is they did a solid job with the rest of the league, but just missed badly on the Bulls. That's the kind of mistake that could cost the sports book a lot of money, especially with all the people who have Chicago ties potentially jumping on the over.

But that's a Vegas problem. Back at the Advocate Center, Fred Hoiberg and his coaching staff are working on ways to best utilize a deep and young roster that's heavy on big men and wing players. Unless there's another trade in the works before training camp begins, Hoiberg will need to find minutes for Robin Lopez, Carter Jr., Markkanen and Bobby Portis up front, with LaVine, Parker, Hutchison, Denzel Valentine and Justin Holiday all competing for playing time at the two wing positions.

Portis is anxious to build off his best NBA season. He averaged 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in only 22.5 minutes per game, while shooting .471 from the field and .359 from the 3 point line. Portis and his agent are also involved in negotiations on a contract extension that could drag on until the regular season opening night deadline. If the two sides can't reach an agreement, Portis will be a restricted free agent next summer, which gives him even more incentive to put up big numbers in the upcoming season.

Problem is, with Lopez and Carter Jr. splitting the 48 minutes at center and Markkanen likely playing 32-35 minutes per game, that doesn't leave a lot of time for Portis to showcase his talent. Sure, Portis could play some center, and that might become a more attractive option to the coaching staff as the season goes on. But juggling minutes at the two "bigs" spots will be a tough challenge for Hoiberg and his staff, and we haven't even mentioned Cristiano Felicio, who enters year 2 of that 4 year, 32 million dollar contract he signed in 2017.

Minutes will be even harder to come by at the 2 wing spots unless the front office decides to make a trade to ease the logjam. Holiday started all 72 games he played in last season, either at shooting guard or small forward, but with LaVine healthy to start the season and the addition of Parker and Hutchison, Holiday could find himself as the odd man out.

The coaching staff is intrigued with Hutchison's potential as a rangy athlete who can push the ball upcourt, finish in transition and also serve as a secondary shot creator in half-court sets. It's possible he could be asked to play some games with the Windy City Bulls to further his development, but you get the impression the coaches feel he's NBA ready after his 4 collegiate seasons at Boise St.

With Parker penciled in to start at small forward after signing a two year, 40 million dollar contract, that leaves either Valentine or Holiday to back up LaVine at the shooting guard spot, and again, we haven't even mentioned G-League Rookie of the Year Antonio Blakeney, who's back with a regular NBA contract this season. Valentine showed progress in his 2nd year in the league, averaging 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.2 minutes per game, shooting .386 from the 3 point line. It's that long range shooting ability that will ultimately decide how many minutes Valentine commands in the rotation.

The Bulls value everything about Holiday and the leadership role he took on with a young team last season. Still, you get the feeling he might be best served to play a back-up role with a contending team, where his shooting ability and versatility to play both wing spots would bring a lot of value. Houston is reportedly shopping for athletes at the wing positions after losing both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, and other contenders will be looking to strengthen their benches as well. So, don't be surprised if there’s another transaction coming sometime before or during training camp.

AROUND THE ASSOCIATION

Make no mistake about it, Raptors' GM Masai Ujiri is pushing all his chips to the middle of the table for next season. Ujiri cashed in high-scoring All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan for one guaranteed year of Kawhi Leonard, and he decided to keep overpaid big men Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas.

Now, Ujiri is adding another veteran big to the roster with the free agent signing of Greg Monroe. Monroe had a couple of productive seasons early in his career with Detroit, but lately he's been bouncing around the league, going from Milwaukee to Phoenix to Boston. The Raptors had one of the league's best bench units last season, and they're hoping Monroe can capably fill the back-up center role handled by Jakob Poertl, who was traded to San Antonio in the Leonard deal.

The East's top 3 teams are all in one division, with Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia looking like locks to top 50 wins next season.

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Back to the Westgate SuperBook over-unders, the addition of LeBron James has the Lakers' total for next season at  48.5 wins, which would put them in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff field.

2-time defending NBA champion Golden St. opened at 62.5 wins, while last year's number one seed, Houston, is next at 54.5, quite a drop from their 65 wins during the 2017-18 season. Oklahoma City is at 50.5, with the Lakers and Jazz both at 48.5.

Then it's Denver at 47.5, the Pelicans at 45.5, Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves at 44.5, San Antonio at 43.5 and Portland at 41.5.

Another indication of how tough things are in the West is Westgate expects both the Spurs and Trail Blazers to miss the playoffs. San Antonio still has DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, while Portland finished as the #3 seed last season behind the outstanding play of high-scoring guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Something tells me Gregg Popovich will find a way to get the Spurs in the playoffs, with young guards Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV taking on significant roles.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Bulls projected win total of 27.5 is the 3rd worst in the league, ahead of only the Kings (25.5) and the Hawks (23.5).

Better make that wager fast before all the Chicago money changes the total!

NBA Buzz: Community service a way of life for new Bull Jabari Parker

NBA Buzz: Community service a way of life for new Bull Jabari Parker

If you haven't had a chance to read Jabari Parker's powerful essay in the Players' Tribune from August of 2016, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Parker professes his love for the city of Chicago and his desire to help fight against the problems of drugs and gang violence that affect so many of the city's impoverished neighborhoods.

Parker writes about his dad, former NBA player Sonny Parker, forming a foundation to help South Side kids stay in school and prepare for college. Sonny Parker didn't make the huge salaries that today's players earn but he stressed to his children how important it was for him to return to Chicago after his playing career ended in the San Francisco area.

Jabari wrote in the Players' Tribune, "He never really sat me down and told me why it had been important for him to come back to his hometown. But every day, I saw it. I saw the kids and the families that he helped, just by being there and pushing them in the right direction."

And now, Parker is following in his father's footsteps. During his four years playing in Milwaukee, he came back to Chicago every summer to lend a hand to charitable causes, including putting on a free basketball and life skills camp for kids. Now that he's signed on with the Bulls, Parker will expand his work even more, with this year's youth basketball camp set for August 2-3 at Quest Multisport Complex.

Parker says giving back to the community is something that's always been part of his life. "Ever since I was young, my dad was involved in the community, and my mom too. And they just emphasized how important it was to just pass it along and extend the offer of help to those who need."

Parker remembers how former Chicago Vocational H.S. star Juwan Howard would come back to Chicago every summer during his NBA playing career and put on free basketball camps for kids in the neighborhood. Parker says Howard is an important mentor in his life, and he wants to bring that same special experience he enjoyed attending Howard's camps.

"I was that same kid who hopefully is going to be at my camp, and my dreams came true just because I had that exposure. That's what I'm able to provide for the kids, just to be around me and see it up close. There's more than one way to be successful in life. Basketball was my journey, but if we provide more outlets for kids they'll get that proper exposure for whatever they want to do in life."

Parker's basketball journey has taken him back to Chicago, where he's trying to reach the All-Star potential that made him the second overall pick in the 2014 draft. Even after suffering two ACL tears in his left knee, Parker still possesses elite athleticism and scoring ability. And, those talents should fit well in Fred Hoiberg's offensive system.

Parker is already working out with some of his new teammates at the Advocate Center, and he's looking forward to building some chemistry leading into training camp.

"Just to be integrated with that style of play is going to be something fun," Parker said. "It's going to be something that I'm looking forward to, especially with the guys on the team. Right now, I'm just trying to be around them as much as I can so we can catch up on the chemistry we're gonna build during the season. That's what we're trying to do right now in the summer."

And, Parker will always be available to help kids who grew up in the South Side neighborhoods he described so vividly in his Players' Tribune essay. He plans to start a program to provide free tickets for kids to come out to the United Center and watch one of their own play a starring role for the hometown Bulls.

Around the Association

Speaking of giving back to the community, it will be almost impossible to top what LeBron James just did in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James held a news conference at the opening of his I Promise School for disadvantaged children, providing students with every possible need free of charge.

In as interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, James called the opening of the school the most rewarding thing he's ever accomplished.

“I can sit here and be at a loss for words, which I am now," he said. "This is my first time here, walking these hallways and seeing, when I was driving here, just the streets that I walked, some of the stores are still up when I was growing up.

"It's a moment I'll never forget and hopefully, the kids, starting with the 240 kids that we have going in here right now starting today, will never forget it, either."

No matter what you think about James jumping from team to team in hopes of enhancing his basketball legacy, his desire to help children in Akron can never be questioned.

James also addressed his decision to sign with the Lakers, saying he loved the plan laid out by Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka. But he admitted in the interview with Nichols that he considered other teams as well.

"I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]," he said. "I just felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me - just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a super-team, but if people look at it, I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined that team and you can look at the Lakers' record - so I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some place they haven't been in quite a while."

James hates when reporters say or write he started the super-team concept when he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, but the reality is that move altered the NBA landscape in a way no one could have anticipated. Players now openly discuss options of playing with their friends on other teams, with franchises planning for years in advance to be in position to create the next super-team.

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Houston GM Daryl Morey has been trying for years to squeeze as many stars as he can find into the team's salary cap, but Morey may have out-smarted himself with his latest move to bring in aging scorer Carmelo Anthony. Rockets' coach Mike D'Antoni did an excellent job of building an offense around two ball-dominant guards in Harden and Paul, surrounding them with 3-point shooters like Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Ryan Anderson, along with a rim-running, alley-oop finisher in Clint Capela.

That formula led to a league-best 65 wins last season, and a near miss against Golden State in the conference finals. But adding another ball-stopper like Anthony, who refuses to admit he would be better coming off the bench at this point in his career, could dramatically slow down the Rockets' high octane offense.

Anthony chafed at playing power forward in Oklahoma City last season, and didn't appreciate losing shot attempts to the All-Star duo of Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Now, he's another year older, facing the same issues in Houston. Anthony and D'Antoni feuded openly during their time together with the Knicks. It will be fascinating to see what both men learned from that experience. The future of the Rockets as a championship contender could be riding on it.

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Finally, congratulations to Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley on her second consecutive victory in the WNBA 3-point shootout during All-Star weekend in Minneapolis. The former DePaul and Joliet Catholic H.S. star racked up 29 points in a tiebreaker round to beat Kayla McBride. Quigley made 5 out of 5 shots on her money-ball rack to clinch the victory.

As you probably know, WNBA players aren't making huge salaries, but for the second year in a row, Quigley donated her $10,000 winnings to a scholarship fund at Joliet Catholic, set up in the memory of her father, Patrick, who died at a young age.

Just like Parker and James, Quigley deserves praise for wanting to help the children who look up to her as a role model.

NBA Buzz: Busy offseason doesn't change much at the top

NBA Buzz: Busy offseason doesn't change much at the top

With just about all of the major offseason roster shuffling completed, not much has changed among the haves and have-nots in the NBA.
Here's a look at where the teams stand heading into the 2018-19 season.

1. Warriors: The two-time defending champs are the prohibitive favorite to make it four titles in five seasons. At some point during the 2018-19 campaign, they'll add All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to a line-up that already includes four other All-Stars. We don't know if Cousins will return to the form that had him averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists before an Achilles tendon injury last January, but the Warriors will gladly take whatever he can contribute when the playoffs begin in April. Free agent Jonas Jerebko and 1st round draft pick Jacob Evans will add quality depth to one of the league's deepest rosters.

2. Celtics: With the expected return of All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from serious injuries, Boston is clearly the class of the East. Young wing players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown played beyond their years in the Celtics' run to the Conference Finals and look like future stars. Add in veteran big man Al Horford and a deep bench, and Boston is positioned for a long run as a championship contender.

3. Raptors: I could be wrong here, but with Raptors' nemesis LeBron James out of the conference, GM Masai Ujiri's bold move to trade for one guaranteed year of Kawhi Leonard's services could get Toronto to the Finals. When healthy and motivated, Leonard is a top seven player in the league, and don't forget the Raptors also got playoff-tested Danny Green in the deal with San Antonio. The Raptors had the NBA's most productive bench unit last season, and all of those players return with the exception of young center Jakob Poertl, who was traded to the Spurs in the Leonard deal.

4. 76ers: Philadelphia wasn't able to lure LeBron or Paul George to join their star duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but the Sixers should be better next season with some valuable playoff experience under their belts. Reports out of Philly indicate that 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz is healthy and playing at a high level this summer. Plus, the Sixers traded for underrated veteran forward Wilson Chandler and drafted guards Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet to give Brett Brown even more options off the bench.

5. Rockets: Maybe it's just me, but I'm totally unimpressed by the Rockets' offseason. Losing versatile, defensive minded forwards like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute in favor of a rapidly declining Carmelo Anthony figures to make Houston weaker on both ends. Plus, Mike D'Antoni did not get along well with Anthony when he was head coach of the Knicks and it's hard for me to believe the reunion will work out any better. It will be interesting to see if James Harden and Chris Paul can lead Houston anywhere near the 65 wins they recorded last season.

6. Oklahoma City: Call it addition by subtraction. Losing the ball-stopping Anthony should make the Thunder offense much more efficient in 2018-19, and the high-scoring duo of Russell Westbrook and George should have more freedom and shot attempts. Plus, GM Sam Presti made an underrated move in getting speedy point guard Dennis Schroder from Atlanta in the Melo deal, giving OKC another weapon off the bench when Westbrook takes one of his infrequent rest breaks. Presti also picked up the well-traveled Nerlens Noel on a bargain deal to back up emerging center Steven Adams.

7. L.A. Lakers: Anytime a team can add the best player on the planet, you'd have to say it was a successful offseason. LeBron James will bring so much to a young Lakers' roster that quietly played some really good basketball down the stretch last season. Sure, the later moves to add all-time NBA space cadets like Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley caused a lot of head-scratching around the league, but putting LeBron in the line-up should get the Lakers to 50 wins, and you know Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka are planning to bring in Kawhi Leonard or another star next summer. 

8. Utah: Another quality young roster out West with a future superstar in high scoring guard Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz paid to keep their own free agents, Derrick Favors and Dante Exum, and they figure to continue to improve under the direction of one of the league's top young coaches in Quin Snyder. The West is loaded, but Utah seems to have figured out a style that can be successful against the powerhouse teams at the top.

9. Pacers: Led by All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, Indiana came out of nowhere to finish as the No. 5 seed in the East last season, and the Pacers should be even better in 2018-19. Young center Myles Turner is poised for a breakout season, and the Pacers strengthened their bench with the free agent signings of Tyreke Evans, Kyle O'Quinn and former Bulls' 1st round pick Doug McDermott. Rookie point guard Aaron Holiday gives head coach Nate McMillan another option in the backcourt.

10. Pelicans: Can New Orleans build on the strong finish that included a 1st round sweep of Portland in last season's playoffs? Boogie Cousins is gone, but the Pelicans played their best basketball with ex-Bull Niko Mirotic in the starting line-up alongside All-NBA center Anthony Davis. New Orleans replaced Cousins by signing Julius Randle, who averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds in a starting role with the Lakers. The Pelicans will miss veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who quietly had one of his most efficient seasons playing alongside Jrue Holiday, but they added a player who should help fill the void in former lottery pick Elfrid Payton.

11. Trail Blazers: Portland finished 3rd in the West last season behind the high-scoring backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Blazers were able to keep restricted free agent center Jusuf Nurkic and added more perimeter shooting with the free agent signings of Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas. It will be interesting to see if trade rumors start to heat up around Lillard and McCollum if Portland gets off to a slow start.

12. Timberwolves: Things didn't go exactly the way Tom Thibodeau planned after making the trade to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Bulls last summer. On the court, Butler did pretty much what the Timberwolves expected, but he missed about a month because of a knee injury and questioned the commitment of young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This is another team that could look to make a major trade if the season starts poorly. 

13. Bucks: After another 1st round flameout, the Bucks decided to make a coaching change, bringing in the highly-respected Mike Budenholzer, who worked wonders in Atlanta before the organization decided to go into rebuild mode. In Milwaukee, Budenholzer will try to design a more successful offense around one of the 10 best players in the league, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks drafted NCAA Tournament hero Donte DiVincenzo to add more shooting to the perimeter trio of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell, and they'll be looking for bigger contributions from young bigs Thon Maker and D.J. Wilson. 

14. Spurs: Never underestimate what Gregg Popovich and his staff can do with their roster. Leonard is gone, but he only played 9 games last season, and the Spurs still found a way to win 48 games in the regular season. San Antonio acquired high-scoring guard DeMar DeRozan in the Leonard deal, and he should fit in perfectly in the Spurs' system alongside veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. San Antonio is also building for the future, adding talented young point guard Dejounte Murray and intriguing shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV in the last three drafts.

15. Wizards: The Dwight Howard nationwide tour of NBA cities continues with this season's stop in the nation's capital. Howard is talking about playing eight more years, but he might run out of potential new teams by then. Star point guard John Wall wasn't happy with the production the Wizards got from last season's starting center, Marcin Gortat, so it will be fascinating to see what he thinks of Howard's carefree approach to his job. Still, with Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter providing the scoring, Washington should be a playoff team in the East.

16. Nuggets: Denver missed out on the playoffs by virtue of an overtime loss to the Timberwolves on the final day of the regular season. Mike Malone has done a great job with a young roster that features backcourt scorers Jamal Murray and Gary Harris and one of the league's most unknown stars in 23 year old center Nikola Jokic, who just signed a max contact extension. Denver is hoping for a bounce back season from free agent addition Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 29 points a game for Boston just two years ago, and the Nuggets also could get contributions down the road from top draft pick Michael Porter Jr., who recently had a second back surgery.

17. Heat: Another team that makes the most of its talent just about every season under veteran head coach Erik Spoelstra. Heat President Pat Riley probably made a mistake by handing out huge contracts to the likes of James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson in recent years, so the Heat are going to be pretty much what they've been over the last two seasons, good enough to make the playoffs in a watered down conference, but not much else.

18. Pistons: New coach Dwane Casey takes over the challenge of how to make this roster work after Stan Van Gundy was fired from his dual roles as head coach and director of basketball operations. Van Gundy rolled the dice with the mid-season deal that brought Blake Griffin over from the Clippers, but couldn't get the Pistons to the playoffs last season. Still, with the return of a healthy Reggie Jackson, the frontcourt duo of Griffin and Andre Drummond could be enough for Detroit to eke out a playoff spot in 2018-19.

19. Cavaliers: Now that Kevin Love has agreed to a four-year, $120 million contract extension, it looks like Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert has decided to put off a major rebuilding program following LeBron leaving his home state for the second time. GM Koby Altman had already started planning for the post-James era with the mid-season trades that brought in young prospects Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., and it looks like the Cavs have an exciting young point guard to run the show in their 1st round draft pick Collin Sexton.

20. Grizzlies: Yes, the Grizzlies were awful last season, but star point guard Mike Conley missed almost the entire season and the injury epidemic affected just about every player on the roster. With Conley healthy again, and the addition of 6'11'' shot blocker Jaren Jackson Jr. to team with Marc Gasol up front, Memphis should take a big step forward in the upcoming season, even though they're not nearly good enough to crack the playoffs in the West. 

21. BULLS: It's hard to project what we should expect to see from an extremely young team that could wind up starting five players age 24 or younger. But make no mistake about it, the future is bright after John Paxson and Gar Forman were able to add Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Jabari Parker, Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison in the last two offseasons. If it all comes together quickly, the Bulls could easily compete with the Heat, Pistons, Cavs and Hornets for one of the final playoff spots in the East. More likely, the Bulls should increase their win total by double digits and be able to identify which players will hold the most prominent roles on future playoff teams.

22. Hornets: Another disappointing season cost head coach Steve Clifford and GM Rich Cho their jobs in Charlotte. Hard to see where the improvement will come on the existing roster, and the Hornets could lose All-Star point guard Kemba Walker in free agency next summer. 1st round draft pick Miles Bridges will add some athleticism to the frontcourt, but basically it looks like more of the same with underachieving lottery picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller still in the rotation.

23. Mavericks: Mercurial owner Mark Cuban finally got his man with DeAndre Jordan signing on as a free agent after backing out on a commitment to the Mavs several years ago. Jordan is still a quality big man who will tremendously upgrade the Mavericks' defense, but there's nowhere to hide 40 year old Dirk Nowitzki on that end of the court. The future Hall of Famer is getting ready to begin his 21st season in Dallas, and at times it’s painful watching him try to run up and down the court. The Mavs traded up to get international sensation Luka Doncic, and we should expect to see plenty of Doncic and explosive point guard Dennis Smith Jr. on highlight shows next season.

24. Clippers: Lob City is no more in L.A. Jordan, Griffin and Paul are all gone, and Doc Rivers even agreed to let the front office trade his son Austin in the team's on-going rebuild this summer. The Clips have some interesting pieces in forwards Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, guards Lou Williams and Avery Bradley, and lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, but unless they hit it big in 2019 free agency, they figure to be L.A.'s "other" team for many years to come.

25. Suns: Love the Suns' draft this summer which brought in franchise center Deandre Ayton and versatile forward Mikal Bridges. The front office also locked up elite shooter Devin Booker with a max contract extension and brought in some veteran experience in forward Trevor Ariza. But this is still one of the league's youngest rosters, and more growing pains lie ahead.

26. Knicks: The Knicks took a big step in restoring their image by hiring David Fizdale as their new head coach. Fizdale has a lot of respect among players around the league from his days as an assistant coach in Miami and his brief run as the head coach in Memphis. The question is, can Fizdale show enough progress with next season's team that could be without All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis (ACL rehab) to entice a star player or two to join the Knicks in free agency next summer?

27. Magic: Orlando's front office didn't waste any time in locking up restricted free agent forward Aaron Gordon with a four-year, $84 million contract on the opening day of free agency. The Magic also added 7-foot shot blocker Mo Bamba to join Gordon, Nik Vucevic and 2017 1st round pick Jonathan Isaac up front. Problem is the backcourt is woefully thin with ex-Bulls D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant competing for the starting point guard spot.

28. Kings: Sacramento continues to stockpile young players, drafting explosive power forward Marvin Bagley III with the No. 2 overall pick in this summer's draft after adding point guard De'Aaron Fox with the No. 5 pick in 2017. Sacramento also has recent 1st rounders Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere and Ben McLemore on the roster. You would think that sooner or later all those high picks would lead to more wins, but the Kings are the classic example of how playing for draft position rarely works out in the NBA.

29. Nets: In Brooklyn, it's all about the summer of 2019 when the Nets are expected to have two max salary slots available and might be in the position to sign the All-Star duo of Butler and Irving, who've been talking about playing together for a few years. As for the upcoming season, not much to get excited about unless you like to watch mediocre veterans on expiring contracts. 

30. Hawks: Atlanta's home arena is one of the quietest in the league, so it makes sense the Hawks would reach for exciting but inefficient point guard Trae Young with their high lottery pick. The front office cleared the way for the former Oklahoma star by trading the team's best player, Dennis Schroder to Oklahoma City. So look forward to plenty of 30 footers from Young in the upcoming season. The Hawks have a couple good young forwards in John Collins and Taurean Prince, but not much else except for the possibility of three 1st round picks next June.