Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith might duke it out for All-Rookie honors

Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith might duke it out for All-Rookie honors

There's no real value given to players who make the All-Rookie Team. And, as the tweet below shows, it's not an end-all. be-all to who the best players in the class are and who projects as the best players down the line.

But it's still nice rookies to hang their respective hats on, which makes it interesting that Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith Jr. might be battling for the final two spots on the list. Here's a look at the realistic six players battling it out for five spots on the All-Rookie Team. (Note: We didn't include Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox or Bogdan Bogdanovic, who are playing well lately but likely don't have the full-year credentials to make the team).

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: Apologies to the man following him on this list, but Ben Simmons is your Rookie of the Year. And it shouldn’t really be close. Simmons, who missed his entire first year with a broken foot, has averaged 16.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists on 53 percent shooting. Six other players have ever reached those thresholds: Larry Bird (once), Michael Jordan (once), Oscar Robertson (once), Wilt Chamberlain (twice), LeBron James (five times) and Magic Johnson (six times). That would be 6-for-6 on Hall-of-Famers, if you’re counting at home. Simmons, also with Joel Embiid, also has the Sixers in position to make their first postseason since 2012. He’s your Rookie of the Year. There’s no argument.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah: Two years ago Karl-Anthony Towns was named Rookie of the Year despite a fantastic season from Kristaps Porzingis. 2018 has a similar feel to it, in that Mitchell would be a frontrunner for the award most seasons, but likely won’t win it. Mitchell has all the makings of a superstar at the NBA level and has been remarkable in Year 1, leading the Jazz back from the dead and into playoff contention. He’s averaging 19.6 points, and that’s after a relatively slow start. Since Nov. 1 he’s averaged 21.0 points on 44.6 percent shooting, 2.5 3-pointers and has the Jazz back in playoff contention. He’s going to be the face of the Jazz for a long time.

Jayson Tatum, Boston: His numbers won’t jump off the page, but that’s how it goes for a guy who’s the third or fourth option, at best, in an offense. But simply put, Tatum has been incredible. Thrust into a much larger role when Gordon Hayward suffered that gruesome ankle injury on Opening Night, Tatum has averaged 13.3 points on 47 percent shooting, 43 percent from deep (sixth in the NBA) and has started all 63 games for the No. 2 seed in the East. He just looks the part, making plays and defending veterans like he’s been in the league 10 years himself. The only other rookie to average 13 points on 47/43 percent shooting was Steph Curry. Solid company for Tatum.

Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers: OK, so he’s probably not a lock to make the All-Rookie Team, but for the sake of tonight’s Bulls-Mavericks game just go with it. Kuzma has been this class’ biggest surprise, averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds after being the No. 27 pick in the first round. Kuzma has hit a serious wall since the calendar flipped to 2018, which coincided with teammates Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram thriving. But Kuzma’s numbers are still impressive for a guy who joined the Lakers with the loudest rookie in some time in Lonzo Ball. Instead, Kuzma has been the talk of the Lakers rookie class and has a solid shot to earn All-Rookie honors.

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago: Thrust into a starting role after one power forward in front of him on the depth chart punched the other in front of him in the face, Markkanen has exceeded expectations. He hasn’t simply been a 3-point threat, and he’s shown some flashes of being a plus defender. Markkanen is solid off the dribble, is improving in the past and has shown he’s an able passer. He’s got some kinks to work out, and he had an atrocious February after a stellar January, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can work past the rookie wall (and the becoming-a-father wall). Regardless of how he finishes, he’s proven to be a versatile scorer who rebounds well and is capable of depending. The Bulls couldn’t be happier with his rookie season to date.

Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas: The Las Vegas Summer League first teamer came to Dallas with sky-high expectations, and he’s met most of them – albeit in wildly inefficient form. His raw averages look solid on the surface: 14.6 points, 4.8 assists, 1.0 steals in 29.4 minutes. But he’s also shooting 38.8 percent on 14.4 attempts (the worst percentage of anyone shooting that often; Zach LaVine is second), 30.6 percent from deep, 69.0 percent from the free throw line (nice) and 2.9 turnovers. But his flashes of greatness – usually in transition or well above the rim – have made him a fan favorite and show just how good he can be down the line. He just turned 20 years old. The Mavs are giving him the keys to the car down the stretch of his rookie season, meaning he might put up some big volume numbers that earn him a spot on the All-Rookie Team, potentially over Markkanen.

Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup


Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup

Antoine Griezmann, you just won the World Cup, what are you going to do next?

Apparently, profess his love for Derrick Rose.

In the celebrations of France winning the World Cup on Sunday, French forward Griezmann spotted his teammate Paul Pogba getting interviewed by FOX Sports. Recognizing this was the American audience, Griezmann took the mic from FOX's Jenny Taft and had one thing to say:

"I love Derrick Rose."

Griezmann, who scored a goal in France's 4-2 win against Croatia in the final, is a big NBA fan. He has been spotted at multiple games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Cavs.

This also isn't the first time he has made a comment about D-Rose. He recently signed a contract extension with his club team, Atletico Madrid, but a year ago said the only way he would leave was to play with Rose.

"I would only leave Atleti to play with Derrick Rose," Griezmann said through translation.

In 2015 he posted an image of himself in a Derrick Rose Bulls jersey to his Instagram.

Later that year he took in a Bulls game and got a photo with Joakim Noah.

Maybe when the 27-year-old is ready to leave Europe, he will join a Major League Soccer team just so he can watch more NBA games.

UPDATE: Rose tweeted congratulations to Griezmann.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million.