Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Evaluating teams at the All-Star break

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NBA Power Rankings: Evaluating teams at the All-Star break

It's been just four days since the last power rankings came out, so there wasn't much movement prior to the All-Star break (though the Bulls and Blazers did make significant movement in different directions).

So instead of analyzing what the teams did this week in their four days worth of games, we'll analyze their respective seasons as a whole and look ahead to the "second half" of the schedule.

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (48-4) They've already hinted at it, but fully expect them to gun for 73 wins in the season's second half. They need to go just 25-5 to get there. 
(2) (40-14) With a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook they're the Warriors' toughest matchup. And they'll likely meet in the West semifinals. Wild.
(3) (45-8) They're banged up right now, but Danny Green is putting things together after an atrocious first three months. He'll be key to a deep run in the West.
4 (4) (38-14) Kyrie Irving is heating up, and that's bad news for the East. In his last eight games he's averaged 26.9 points and 6.0 assists. 
5 (5) (35-17) It'll be interesting to see if they make a much-needed move for a power forward at the deadline. If they do, Cleveland's got a legitimate threat in the East.
6 (7) (32-23) Not sure they're the sixth best team in the NBA, but Brad Stevens has this group playing great defense. Will they make a move for Al Horford or Dwight Howard?
7 (6) (35-18) J.J. Redick has averaged 17.9 points on 49.6 percent from beyond the arc since Blake Griffin went out. A big reason the Clips are 18-5 without Griffin.
8 (8) (31-22) Marc Gasol's broken foot is a death sentence for a Grizzlies team playing its best basketball of the year. They'll compete, but hopes of a playoff run have been dashed.
9 (10) (31-24) The most intriguing seller to see at the trade deadline. They're competing in the East but could unload one or both of Jeff Teague and Al Horford.
10 (9) (29-24) They appear to be kicking the tires on dealing impending free agent Hassan Whiteside. If they don't, they'll be a tough out come playoff time.
11 (11) (26-26) They've got the inside track on a playoff berth now that they're healthy. They'll go as far as their stifling defense will take them, which could be far. Sleeper in the West.
12 (12) (28-25) There were plenty of great moments during All-Star Weekend. Paul George going for 41 points Sunday night was one of the best.
13 (17) (27-27) Let's see if Damian Lillard takes another All-Star snub and uses it as motivation in the second half. Wild that Portland is still in the playoff hunt this late into the season. 
14 (18) (27-26) They've recovered well after being left for dead a few weeks ago. They've won five of six, including wins over Cleveland and Indiana to gain some second half momentum. 
15 (16) (29-26) They're sort of in no-man's land, a pronounced tier behind the heavy hitters in the West but good enough so that they won't be in the lottery. Maybe they can steal a round in the playoffs.
16 (14) (27-28) They've got an important decision to make on potentially unloading Dwight Howard. Something's got to give on one of the league's most inconsistent teams. 
17 (13) (27-27) There's too much talent on this team for them not to make the playoffs (they're currently ninth). Getting KCP back to go with Drummond and Jackson should do it.
18 (15) (27-25) They've lost 13 of 18 and Jimmy Butler's on the shelf the next three weeks. It'll be interesting to see if Pau Gasol or Taj Gibson are moved this week. 
19 (19) (23-28) John Wall has a chance to average 20 points and 10 assists, which has only been done 22 times (by 10 players) since 1947. He's at 20.0/9.9 right now.
20 (21) (20-33)  Tyreke Evans is done for the year and essentially ends any hope of a late playoff push. This is just going to be a year to forget for the Pellies.
21 (20) (22-31) Six of their first eight games out of the break are against teams with winning records. Unless they catch fire they could be out of playoff contention by early March.
22 (22) (22-32) Denver was well represented this weekend with Emmanuel Mudiay (Rising Stars, Skills), Nikola Jokic (Rising Stars) and Will Barton (Dunk). Mike Malone's building something.
23 (25) (22-32) With the playoffs essentially out of reach, hopefully Jabari Parker will continue to show improvement. His post-ACL numbers have been just average.
24 (23) (17-37) Karl-Anthony Towns wins the skills competition and Zach LaVine goes back-to-back in the Dunk Contest. Good weekend for the young T-Wolves.
25 (26) (23-29) Aaron Gordon deserved to win Saturday's Dunk Contest. His second dunk in the finals will go down as arguably the best we've ever seen.
26 (24) (23-32) Godzingis was one of the many highlights from All-Star Weekend, scoring 30 points in the Rising Stars Challenge. He'll be fun in the second half.
27 (27) (8-45) Jahlil Okafor's having a fine rookie season, but his on/off splits are troubling. Philly is 11.6 points per 100 possessions better with Okafor OFF the floor.
28 (28) (14-40) Though the season's been over for awhile, it will be fun to watch rookies Chris McCollough and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (when he returns) progress. Solid pieces to build on. 
29 (30) (11-44) The weekend-long tribute to Kobe Bryant in Toronto was awesome. Good to see the Black Mamba play well in his final ASG (10 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds).
30 (29) (14-40) It's getting ugly in Phoenix. The Markieff Morris-Archie Goodwin scuffle was a new low. They're playing for lottery balls and not much else.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.