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.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine gets no respect

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine gets no respect

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, Dave Watson, and John Sabine react to the week in the NBA and ‘list’ season.

1:45 - On Sports Illustrated top 100 NBA players list and the Bulls players, LaVine disrespect

13:10 - Which recent draft class would have the best starting five?

22:30 - Would Iman Shumpert be a good fit for the Bulls?

32:55 - Matt Peck goes on a rant that involves Wade+Melo

34:45 - Dave gives his top 5 PG’s of all-time

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

NBA G League to introduce new, $100K prize tournament

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USA TODAY

NBA G League to introduce new, $100K prize tournament

The NBA G League is introducing a new tournament format for their premier showcase games, starting in the 2019-20 season. 

The 2019 NBA G League Winter Showcase will take place December 19-22 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and it will feature all 28 teams in the league, with the winning squad taking home a $100,000 prize. 

Under the re-brand, the NBA G League Winter Showcase will see the teams seeded No. 1 through 28, with the top four seeds receiving a bye and advancing straight to the Championship Bracket. The remaining 24 teams will get placed into six separate four-team brackets. All games played at the Winter Showcase will count against G League regular-season records.

For a league full of players fighting for NBA attention and ultimately, (NBA) dollars, the $100,000 prize is sure to add a decent amount of motivation. Last season more than 60 players received Gatorade call-ups (to the NBA) during or right after the showcase games. 

The Bulls know quite a bit about the talent that can be found at the NBA G League Winter Showcase.

Last season the Bulls signed guard Brandon Sampson to a Two-Way contract following a breakout performance at the 2018 G League Showcase for the Rio Grande Vipers.

Sampson averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists through 18 G League games for the Vipers before signing his Two-Way deal with the Bulls and gaining 214 minutes of NBA experience over 14 games. 

The new tournament format for the Winter Showcase will make for an exciting spectacle to for hardcore basketball fans and will add a great layer of intrigue to what is already the best in-season scouting event for NBA scouts interested in the G League.