Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: The closely contested Eastern Conference

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NBA Power Rankings: The closely contested Eastern Conference

There are 10 teams in the Eastern Conference within 3.5 games of each other. Oh, and they're the 10 best teams in the conference.

Yes, the East has been entirely muddled all year and six weeks into the season we still haven't seen much separation.

The Cavaliers lead the way with a 15-7 record and certainly should improve as Kyrie Irving nears a return to the lineup. The Raptors and Bulls are at No. 2 and 3, respectively, as many expected they'd be. Charlotte, Indiana and Miami are next up, so the teams that likely will be in the thick of it in May are atop the conference. But there's little wiggle room among them, as well as the teams just below them.

Orlando, sitting at 12-11, is currently out of the playoff picture by a single game and yet are just 3.5 games out of the top spot in the East. The top dogs will separate themselves eventually, but for now it's wild to think that a two- or three-game losing streak could vault a team from a top-3 spot in the conference to out of the playoff picture as a whole.

On to the rankings:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (24-1) So they're human. Certainly not a bad loss by any standards, considering it came on the final game of a seven-game road trip.
(2) (20-5) One player in the NBA is averaging at least 20 points, two steals and one block per game: Kawhi Leonard.
(6) (16-8) They've won an NBA-best five straight games, with Kevin Durant averaging 25.8 points on shooting 58.6 percent in that span.
4 (5) (15-7) It would be great to see Kyrie Irving return on Thursday as the Cavaliers travel to Oklahoma City. Big barometer test for both teams.
5 (9) (16-9) DeMar DeRozan is 32-for-34 from the free throw line in his last three games. He's a big reason Toronto is up to No. 6 in offensive efficiency.
6 (4) (13-9) Beating up on the Heat was sandwiched in between blowout losses against Golden State and Detroit. They go as Paul George goes.
7 (7) (13-8) Just win, baby. The Bulls are 2-0 since Taj Gibson replaced Nikola Mirotic in the starting lineup despite the No. 28 offensive efficiency.
8 (3) (13-9) They needed a desperation comeback against the Grizzlies to avoid losing their fourth straight. Dwyane Wade was clutch down the stretch.
9 (13) (14-10) This team is for real. After nearly beating the Warriors in 2OT, they traveled to Charlotte the following night and beat the Hornets.
10 (8) (14-9) Three teams rank in the top-6 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Golden State, San Antonio and the Hornets.
11 (16) (14-10) Since falling below .500 the Clips have won seven of nine. DeAndre Jordan has averaged 15.7 rebounds in his last seven games.
12 (15) (12-12) Winners in seven of nine, and James Harden is starting to roll as the Rockets are finally back to .500. 
13 (12) (13-11) The Mavericks are just 5-5 at home after going 27-14 there a year ago. Still lots to figure out with this reworked roster.
14 (10) (14-11) Blown out by Oklahoma City and San Antonio to end this past week, they could pick up a big win against the Heat on Monday.
15 (12) (13-12) A 1-3 week, and now they get Washington, Dallas, Chicago and Indiana. A huge week to see where they stand among West contenders.
16 (18) (14-11) Lose four of five, win four straight, lose two then win two. Back and forth they go, but a 22-point win over the Pacers was impressive.
17 (14) (12-11) Evan Fournier has come to a screeching halt. He's averaged 9.3 points on 38 percent shooting in his last nine games.
18 (22) (11-14) Winners in three of their last four, with Eric Bledsoe averaging 22.8 points and 5.8 assists in that span. Getting Tyson Chandler back will help.
19 (17) (10-12) They've lost five of seven and get the Spurs on the road on Monday. The loss of Rudy Gobert has taken a massive toll defensively.
20 (25) (10-15) Giannis Antetokounmpo records his first career triple-double as the Bucks knock off the Warriors. Let's see if that jumpstarts them.
21 (24) (10-12) More leg issues for Bradley Beal, who will be sidelined two weeks. Big for the Wiz to get road wins over Miami and Dallas.
22 (23) (6-17) The record doesn't do this squad justice, as they're a borderline playoff talent when healthy. The problem is they haven't been healthy all year.
23 (20) (11-14) Carmelo Anthony is shooting a career-worst 41.2 percent from the field, but he scored 37 on 13 of 21 shooting in a Saturday win over Portland.
24 (19) (10-15) It's a lost season in Portland, but Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum continue to build a stellar young backcourt for the future.
25 (21) (9-14) Players averaging 9+ boards, 2+ blocks and shooting 50% from the field? DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.
26 (27) (9-15) Sign me up for more throwback Rajon Rondo. He's now up to averages of 12.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and a league-high 11.0 assists per game.
27 (26) (9-14) Just not a ton to get excited about with this group, though wins in three of four is a nice bounce-back after losing eight straight.
28 (28) (7-16) Brook Lopez is quietly playing like an All-Star. He's averaging 19.4 points and a career-high 8.2 rebounds for the Nets.
29 (29) (3-21) Great to see D'Angelo Russell starting to put it together. He's averaged 19.7 points in his last three outings.
30 (30) (1-24) Robert Covington is shooting 50% on 4.4 two-pointers per game. He's shooting 31 percent on 6.9 3-pointers per game. Take it inside, bud.

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

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AP

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.