NBA Power Rankings: 2018 NBA Draft class making a huge impact


NBA Power Rankings: 2018 NBA Draft class making a huge impact

The 2018-19 season is off to being one of the more interesting ones in recent memory. Though NBA fans are finally free—sorry Cleveland—of the dreaded Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals matchup, the regular season season was still expected be boring. The Warriors and Rockets would decimate the Western Conference, while the now wide-open Eastern Conference would be a parity-filled snorefest.

We're 25 games into the season and the NBA couldn't be anymore exciting, and the 2018 draft class has played a major part.

As the Warriors struggle with complacency and injuries, the Rockets have struggled with their depleted depth. And during all of that, the stellar play of rookie Luka Doncic has pushed the Dallas Mavericks into the playoff race. Doncic's play (18 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG) is awesome for any player, let alone a rookie. If his ceiling is as high as some scouts believe, Dallas won't need to add much more to their roster to be a complete team.

The Suns are awful and dealing with an injury to star Devin Booker, but No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton has shown off much of the skills that made him the top pick in the draft. He has a sky-high 62.5 true shooting percentage and has flashed a great amount of ability as a playmaker. Ayton is averaging a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Suns will get another high lottery pick, and it could be the final piece to their core, with Booker and Ayton looking like surefire future All-Stars.

And back on the winning side of the spectrum, the Grizzlies and Clippers are 6th and 2nd in the Western Conference standings. They likely wouldn't have those records at this point of the season without the play of their 2018 1st round picks. No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. posted a monster 36-point, 8-rebound game in a double-overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets last Friday. In that same game he was a team-high +13 on the floor. The Grizzlies are 1st in the Southwest Division and seem to have completed their vision of being a competitive playoff team that simultaneously has an eye towards the future.

For the Clippers—who at the time of publication have a better record than the Warriors—No. 11 overall pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a relief as a reliable starter at just 20 years old. He is averaging 10 PPG, 3 RPG and 2 APG for a team that is scoring over 117 PPG. Gilgeous-Alexander has the 2nd best defensive rating of the Clippers starters and has been great at using his length (6-foot 6) to bother the many smaller guards he goes against nightly.

Less heralded rookies like Donte Divincenzo, Mitchell Robinson, Landry Shamet and Hamidou Diallo have all played well and most have played roles in the success of their teams.

This upcoming week has some great games on tap. Warriors-Cavaliers (sorry again Cleveland), Warriors-Bucks, Sixers-Pistons, Rockets-Mavericks and of course Thunder at Bulls (on NBC Sports Chicago), will help us further with understanding where teams stand in the playoff and (NBA lottery odds) race.

Check out our latest 2018-19 NBA power rankings here.

Someone dropped a WHOLE bunch of money on a Michael Jordan basketball card


Someone dropped a WHOLE bunch of money on a Michael Jordan basketball card

Someone had some cash burning a hole in their pocket. 

On Thursday afternoon, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about how someone spent THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on a Michael Jordan basketball card. The card is, according to the piece, one of only 10 ever made. Of those 10 cards, only 3 -- including this one -- have been graded by the Professional Sports Authenticator service.

The card is apparently the most expensive MJ card yet, and the third most-expensive basketball card ever. What's even funnier is that the card was about to sell for $100,000, but a bidding flurry in the auction's final couple minutes raised the price almost 200%. 

That is a staggering amount of money to spend on a laminated, wallet-sized picture of a basketball player, but if that's what you want to drop hundreds of thousands of your dollars on, far be it from me to say otherwise. 

Otto Porter showing off a versatile skill set with Bulls: 'It's been exciting'


Otto Porter showing off a versatile skill set with Bulls: 'It's been exciting'

Sample size is important to remember in any numbers piece, especially when analyzing the addition of a player to a 12-win team and bottomed out expectations. Otto Porter was going to make the Bulls a better basketball team. On top of adding a more talented player to the core than what they sent back, Porter also filled an immediate and desperate need as a floor spacer on the wing with the true ability to guard multiple positions in multiple roles.

Still, it’s hard not to look at Porter’s four-game sample size and be excited about what the Bulls may have added to their core – and what they may have unlocked by putting him in a more prominent role than he had in Washington.

Porter is receiving 6 more frontcourt touches per game in Chicago than he did in Washington (29.3 vs. 23.1), and his dribbles per touch are up from 1.05 in Washington to 1.81 in Chicago. That may not seem significant but it’s clear Porter has been on the move more than he was as a spot-up shooter with the Wizards (something he did very well).

Case in point: Porter is averaging 5.3 drives per game in four games with the Bulls, more than double the 2.6 drives he averaged in Washington.

“His drive game is very interesting to me because he has such positional size that he can shoot over, even maybe when he’s closely guarded, he can score over the top of the defense,” Jim Boylen said Thursday after practice. “And then he has a real good feel of passing to the pocket, so I think what’s interesting for me with him is there’s a part of me that wants him off the ball cause he’s a great receiver, and there’s part of us that want him with the ball on the ball because he’s a pretty damn good creator with positional size.”

Porter will never be asked to carry the load for the Bulls because of guys like LaVine and Markkanen, but even in the early going it’s clear Boylen and the coaching staff is giving him a little more freedom within the offense.

Porter has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA over the last three seasons – 42.6 percent on 4.2 attempts per game – but there appears to be more to his game. Again, it’s just four games but the Bulls are beginning to open up more for him and he’s answering with some eye-opening numbers.

In 40 games with the Wizards he had 24 post-up possessions. In just four games with the Bulls he’s tallied six post-up possessions. Again, it’s nothing earth-shattering, and the Bulls haven’t suddenly found the second coming of Shaq on the low block, but he’s played 40 percent of his minutes at power forward and center in small-ball lineups and is being used as a mismatch perhaps more than he was in Washington.

“You don’t realize how big he was until you get on top of him. His positional size is off the charts. I didn’t know how easily he would be able to gravitate to the four like he has. I know he played some for [the Wizards], but that’s not an easy process and he’s done that really well. So that’s been, I don’t want to say surprising, but it’s been exciting.”

The word “versatility” in today’s NBA has become as cliché as “wingspan” has to analyze draft prospects. But it’s true with Porter, and it’s especially true on a Bulls team that was running out Bobby Portis at center, Chandler Hutchison at power forward and Shaq Harrison at small forward out of necessity rather than true fit.

Plus, this is only the beginning. Boylen said the Bulls have really tried to simplify the offense since Porter arrived, and the All-Star break and subsequent practices coming out of it have helped the 6-foot-8 wing with terminology, sets and chemistry. He won’t continue shooting .621/.579/.778 but the potential is there for Porter to really open up and become an all-around talent, adding to his already stellar defensive traits.

“Practice is where you can get acquainted with everybody, coaching staff, still learning names, but it’s always good to get a couple practices in with the team,” Porter said on Thursday. “Right now I’m just learning our defensive schemes, where coaches want us to be defensively. And offensively just getting accustomed to all the name calls.”

It’s still been just four games, so take it all with a grain of salt, and Porter is still playing in his Wizards colorway shoes. Lucky for him, those colors blend right in with the Bulls uniforms, and lucky for the Bulls their newest addition to the rebuild is blending in seamlessly with the rest of the core.