Bulls

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 93-92 loss to Toronto.

0:45 - Reaction to losing another close game

2:00 - Kendall Gill stops by to give Matt Peck a hard time about Derrick Rose

3:30 - On Wendell Carter Jr and wanting more

4:45 - Viewer comment on Bulls shooting 46 three-point attempts

7:20 - Concern over Lauri Markkanen

8:10 - Viewer comment still believing in Lauri

9:40 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford

12:10 - Viewer comment on running more pick n roll w Zach and Lauri

15:35 - Viewer question on Otto Porter and Hutchison

16:30 - Viewer trade idea: Kevin Love for Markkanen

17:15 - Any comfort in coming close to beating two of the top teams in the East?

20:30 - Viewer comment on losing games

23:00 - Viewer comment on Coby should start

24:05 - Viewer comment pandering to John Sabine

24:40 - Sabine shares his weird dream that involves Jim Boylen

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Report: Ja Morant will not compete in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Report: Ja Morant will not compete in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest

After much speculation as to just how loaded the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest would be, we now have a better idea of how the field will actually look. Though the full lineup is not out yet, we know that Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard is competing in the contest, hoping to bring back the excitement that surrounded the event when he was the star of it from 2007-09. The next name rumored to be competing was standout Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant but he has indeed declined an offer to the event. 

According to sources that spoke to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Morant is focused on "good health for the duration of the season."

Morant is having a stellar rookie season that has led many to believe he will take home the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year honors. He is averaging 18 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game on 49.4% shooting from the field, 40.7% from the 3-point line, and 80.4% from the free throw line. Morant's excellent play currently has the Grizzlies in the eighth and final playoff spot in Western Conference. 

Morant did suffer an injury, resulting in back spasms, after a very serious fall into the baseline camera operator on November 25 in a game against the Pacers in Indiana. 

There is still no official word as to whether or not Bulls star Zach LaVine will participate in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, as the belief is he wants to see if he will make the Eastern Conference All-Star team first. High-flying Miami Heat wing Derrick Jones Jr. is expected to receive an invite and accept it with the news of Morant declining, though it has been reported before that Jones—who was a runner-up in the 2017 dunk contest while with the Phoenix Suns—will definitely compete in Chicago. 

The 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest takes place in Chicago on February 15, a day before the All-Star game. 

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Plenty of fascinating storylines heading into the 2nd half of NBA season

Plenty of fascinating storylines heading into the 2nd half of NBA season

With NBA teams reaching the midpoint of the 82 game regular season marathon over the past week, we have a pretty good idea of which teams are legitimate championship contenders, which teams are likely to make the playoffs, and which teams are starting to focus on lottery odds.

Right now, the Bucks, Lakers, and Clippers look like the class of the league, with teams like Philadelphia and Boston in the East and Denver and Utah in the West hoping to challenge for a spot in the Finals.

With just three weeks to go until the NBA trade deadline on February 6, it will be interesting to see which of the contending teams are able to strengthen their rosters. You can expect to see veterans like Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Robert Covington, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, Malik Beasley, former Bulls Derrick Rose and E’Twaun Moore, and possibly current Bulls Thaddeus Young and Denzel Valentine to be mentioned in a variety of trade rumors as we get closer to the deadline. 

Utah already got a big boost with their trade for combo guard Jordan Clarkson, and the Minnesota Timberwolves started their sell-off on Thursday by trading veteran point guard Jeff Teague and reserve Treveon Graham to Atlanta for swingman Allen Crabbe.

Plus, the two L.A. teams are competing to add free agent point guard Darren Collison, who unexpectedly retired after last season. And, as always, there will be a number of veterans who get bought out of their contracts and are free to join contending teams before the March 1st deadline for playoff eligibility.

So, as we anticipate an active month of personnel moves ahead, let’s take a look at how some of the traditional NBA awards would play out and our "most surprising" and "most disappointing" teams at the midway point:

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

When Giannis Antetokounmpo was presented his 2018-19 MVP award outside of Fiserv Forum last year, he told the adoring crowd not to call him MVP anymore until he won the award next season. Giannis dedicated himself to an offseason of working on his short list of weaknesses (outside shooting, late-game decision-making), and he came back an even better player. Antetokounmpo has increased his numbers in just about every major statistical category, and his 3-point shooting has improved enough to open up driving lanes. The Bucks are currently on pace for a 70 win season, thanks to Antetokoumpo's play. 

Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers

Harrell’s teammate Lou Williams has pretty much owned this award in recent seasons, and Sweet Lou is still the leading scorer among non-starters. But Harrell’s play on both ends is one of the keys to the Clippers’ championship hopes. He’s currently averaging 19.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, shooting 57.3% from the field. Plus, he plays much taller than his listed height of 6-foot-7 with all-out hustle and relentless work on the boards.

Most Improved: Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans.

The 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft had been viewed as largely a disappointment during his three seasons with the Lakers. Matter of fact, when the Lakers were negotiating the Anthony Davis trade with New Orleans, their priority was finding a way to keep Kyle Kuzma out of the discussion, not Ingram. Well, all Ingram has done since joining the Pelicans is average 25.1 points (11th in the NBA), 6.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while keeping the team afloat as they wait for the regular season debut of Zion Williamson next week.

Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Unless Zion averages 25 points and 15 rebounds per game in his half-season with the Pelicans, this award will go to Morant in a landslide. Morant has been nothing short of sensational, leading the young Grizzlies into playoff position at the midway point. Morant’s athleticism is off the charts, and his spectacular ball-handling and high-flying dunks have been featured nightly on highlight shows. He’ll be one of the faces of the league over the next decade.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

This award could probably go to Antetokounmpo as well, since the Bucks are No. 1 in the league in defensive rating, and Antetokounmpo can defend all five positions. But the recent trend has been to go with the best rim protector, and Gobert has established himself as a defensive force for the Jazz. Gobert is currently 3rd in the NBA in rebounds and 7th in blocked shots. 

(By the way, did you know the much-maligned Hassan Whiteside leads the league in blocks and is 4th in rebounding? P.S., he won’t win the award!)

Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan, Indiana Pacers

With apologies to the coaches of the conference leaders, Mike Budenholzer and Frank Vogel, no coach has done more with less to this point than McMillan. While waiting for the return of star guard Victor Oladipo from a serious leg injury (expected to be on January 29th against the Bulls), McMillan has the Pacers in 5th place in the East with a 26-15 record. Not only has Oladipo missed the entire season, but key players Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb have all been out for multiple games because of injuries.

Most Surprising Team: Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks (TIE)

We could probably throw the Oklahoma City Thunder in here as well, but not many analysts expected the Heat or Mavericks to be competing for a top-4 seed in their respective conferences. Jimmy Butler has been the leader of the overachieving Heat, who are getting better than expected production from young players Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. While out West, the incredible Luka Doncic is a top-5 MVP candidate, leading the Mavs to a 26-15 record (currently 6th) with incredible stats of 28.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9 assists per game. The international duo of Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis will be fun to watch for years to come.

Most Disappointing Team: Portland Trailblazers 

Plenty of options here, but Portland gets the nod. Don’t forget, the Trail Blazers were in the Western Conference Finals last spring. To be fair, injuries have played a role in their 18-24 start, but with a backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Portland’s record should be significantly better. The Blazers even brought Carmelo Anthony out of exile to provide some much-needed scoring support. Big man Jusuf Nurkic should return after the All-Star break, and the Blazers are only a game and a half out of the final playoff spot in the West but don’t be surprised if the front office decides to blow up the roster ahead of the February 6 trade deadline.

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