Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Hawks starting to put it together

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NBA Power Rankings: Hawks starting to put it together

Exactly two weeks ago the Atlanta Hawks sat at 14-12, having just lost their third straight game by 10+ points.

It was difficult to peg where Mike Budenholzer's group stood in the East, considering they had wins over Miami, Boston, Oklahoma City and Dallas but had also lost to Minnesota (twice) and Brooklyn.

They also had failed tests against the Cavaliers (12-point loss), Raptors (10-point loss) and Heat (12-point loss), leaving them in the middle of the pack in a crowded Eastern Conference.

But since then, the Hawks have righted the ship. They've won a league-best six straight games, scoring 100 or more points in each, and have moved within a single game of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

In that span they've had the league's most efficient offense (112.0) and seventh most efficient defense (99.4), and have topped Boston (on the road), Orlando (on the road) and Detroit at home to get back on track.

And it hasn't been one player doing the damage. Paul Millsap is leading the team during this stretch with 17.7 points, but Al Horford (15.3), Jeff Teague (15.2), Dennis Schroder (14.0) and Mike Scott (10.7) are all close behind. Each of those players are shooting at least 48 percent from the field in the last six and all but Scott are averaging at least three assists per game.

They won't top 60 wins like they did a year ago, but when the Hawks have the ball moving they're a lethal offense.

On to the rankings:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (28-1) They need to finish the season 45-8 to break the all-time single-season record for wins. The mountain doesn't seem that steep anymore for Steph and Co.
(2) (26-6) If not for the other-worldly Warriors, we'd be talking much more about the Spurs, who moved to 17-0 at home and now have won 26 straight in San Antonio.
(4) (21-10) They laid a Christmas Day egg against the Bulls, but their 22-0 run to start the third quarter against the Lakers was a sight to behold. When they're on, they're ON.
4 (8) (20-12) Owners of the league's current longest win streak, the Hawks have climbed back to within a single game of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
5 (3) (19-9) Two losses on the opposite ends of the spectrum: a six-point loss at Golden State in which they had a chance at the end, followed by a 29-point loss in Portland in which they trailed by 22 after a quarter.
6 (7) (19-12) They go 11-6 without Jonas Valanciunas, who will return Monday. Bismack Biyombo was huge in his absence, averaging 6.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in that span for the Raptors.
7 (5) (18-11) After dropping a winnable home game to the Pistons they respond with wins against the Pelicans and Magic (on the road) on back-to-back nights. Just a perfectly rounded team.
8 (12) (18-13) That's how you respond. After losing four of five they win four straight, including big road victories over the Hornets and Pistons. They could run the streak to seven with the Lakers and Nets (twice) up next.
9 (9) (18-13) They passed their first test without Blake Griffin by slipping past the struggling Jazz. Bigger tests await. Chris Paul will be needed in an even bigger role.
10 (6) (17-12) Paul George is shooting under 37 percent in 13 December games after earning the East's Player of the Month honors in November. They're getting nothing from their backcourt, too.
11 (13) (17-13) Left for dead when DeAndre Jordan flip-flopped to the Clippers, the Mavericks are now fifth in the West. JJ Barea has filled in superbly with Deron Williams battling a hamstring injury.
12 (10) (17-14) They had three tests this week and went 1-2, beating the Heat on the road before dropping contests in Atlanta and against Boston. Still plenty to like about Andre Drummond and Co.
13 (11) (16-12) It's a fairly safe bet that the Bulls will be the only team in the NBA to lose to the Nets at home and beat the Thunder on the road. Let alone doing so in a four-day span.
14 (14) (17-13) Nikola Vucevic is making quite the All-Star case in Orlando. The big man is averaging 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks for the Magic, ranked No. 8 in the East.
15 (19) (14-14) John Wall's continued efforts have the Wizards back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 25. Their January schedule is a nightmare, so let's see if they can keep that .500 pace.
16 (18) (16-16) It wasn't pretty, but a victory over the Spurs is noteworthy regardless of how it happens. It's still tough to pinpoint this Rockets team, however, which lost to New Orleans two days later.
17 (15) (16-13) They had lost five of six before rallying to beat the Grizzlies to end the week. Kemba Walker is quietly shooting a career-best 43.5% from the field through 29 games. Not great, but still a career-best.
18 (17) (17-16) They were close to road wins in Washington and Charlotte but couldn't eke out either. Tuesday's game against the Heat will be a battle of two of the league's best defenses.
19 (20) (12-19) Yes, it's true. The Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the No. 5 seed in the East last season, have the conference's third worst record. They're 2-4 since beating the Warriors. So much for momentum.
20 (24) (12-17) The most impressive week of the non-contenders, with victories at Toronto and Indiana. Rajon Rondo compiled 32 points and 29 assists in those two games. Yeah.
21 (22) (10-20) Winners in four of their last six and they're now only three games out of the No. 8 seed in the West. Still plenty of of work to be done, but the arrow it pointing up.
22 (16) (14-18) Since Nov. 15 they've gone W4, L4, W2, L4, W4, L4. Their next six opponents (DET, CHI, ATL, ATL, MIA, SAS) mean a win streak isn't likely to follow their latest slide.
23 (25) (13-20) C.J. McCollum has put the Blazers on his back (doe) with Damian Lillard out. He went for 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a road win over Sacramento on Sunday night.
24 (23) (12-16) Things go from bad to worse now that Alec Burks will miss six weeks with a broken leg. So much for being this year's breakout team in the West. They need Rudy Gobert back in a hurry.
25 (23) (12-19) They've now lost five of their last six after winning five of six, and Emmanuel Mudiay's lingering ankle issue isn't a sign of better things to come in the short-term future.
26 (21) (12-20) When you hand the Sixers their first road victory in their last 23 tries, and your star point guard is out indefinitely with a knee injury, you drop this far in the rankings.
27 (26) (11-19) They really look better than their record indicates, and double-digit losses to the Celtics, Spurs and Pacers were to be expected. Karl-Anthony Towns may have ROY wrapped up by the All-Star break.
28 (28) (8-22) It's that time of the year when we begin pondering what type of value for the future players like Thaddeus Young or Brook Lopez could bring in a trade. The Nets have lost six straight at home.
29 (29) (5-26) The Lakers now own the league's worst defensive efficiency and second worst offensive efficiency. Byron Scott's days in L.A. are numbered.
30 (30) (2-30) Ish Smith arrives with the Sixers and they earn their second victory of the season. He's no savior, but he gives stability at the point guard position for a team needing plenty of it.

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.