NBA Power Rankings: Hawks starting to put it together


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.

Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup


Antoine Griezmann professes his love for Derrick Rose after winning World Cup

Antoine Griezmann, you just won the World Cup, what are you going to do next?

Apparently, profess his love for Derrick Rose.

In the celebrations of France winning the World Cup on Sunday, French forward Griezmann spotted his teammate Paul Pogba getting interviewed by FOX Sports. Recognizing this was the American audience, Griezmann took the mic from FOX's Jenny Taft and had one thing to say:

"I love Derrick Rose."

Griezmann, who scored a goal in France's 4-2 win against Croatia in the final, is a big NBA fan. He has been spotted at multiple games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Cavs.

This also isn't the first time he has made a comment about D-Rose. He recently signed a contract extension with his club team, Atletico Madrid, but a year ago said the only way he would leave was to play with Rose.

"I would only leave Atleti to play with Derrick Rose," Griezmann said through translation.

In 2015 he posted an image of himself in a Derrick Rose Bulls jersey to his Instagram.

Later that year he took in a Bulls game and got a photo with Joakim Noah.

Maybe when the 27-year-old is ready to leave Europe, he will join a Major League Soccer team just so he can watch more NBA games.

UPDATE: Rose tweeted congratulations to Griezmann.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million.