Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Healthy Jazz team looking dangerous

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NBA Power Rankings: Healthy Jazz team looking dangerous

The Utah Jazz haven't been to the playoffs since 2012, but that may change so long as they stay healthy.

Since Derrick Favors returned after missing 15 straight games, the Jazz are 6-1 and tout the NBA's most efficient defense (92.9) and fourth best net rating (9.9).

Their current six-game winning streak hasn't been over much steep competition, but they're trending in the right direction behind Favors and Rudy Gobert, who missed 18 games in December/January. In fact, when those two play the Jazz are 13-7; when one or both are out they're 12-18.

That's not even to mention Gordon Hayward, who could have been a Western Conference All-Star, or the improving Rodney Hood (14.6 points, 2.0 3-pointers).

The Jazz look like the favorites for the No. 8 seed, and while they won't knock off the Warriors if they make the postseason, they sure won't be a fun matchup.

On to the rankings:

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

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (46-4) Nine straight wins since the hiccups in Denver and Detroit. They're one game better than the '96 Bulls were after 50 games (45-5).
(2) (38-14) They couldn't dethrone the Warriors in Golden State on Saturday, but they sure like the team best equipped to do it in late May/early June.
(4) (43-8) The Spurs have won four straight. More importantly, they had the coolest Kobe Bryant farewell tribute to date. Watch it here.
4 (3) (36-14) They're 14th in 3FG% (35.4%) after ranking fifth in it a year ago (36.7%). Kyrie Irving (25.5%) and LeBron James (26.7%) need to get going.
5 (5) (34-16) Now just 2.0 games behind the Cavs for first place in the East, the Raptors have won 13 of 14. They'll get Cleveland at home on Feb. 26.
6 (6) (34-17) The Clips would be foolish to consider trading Blake Griffin, though the numbers don't lie: They're 17-4 without him since Dec. 26.
7 (8) (31-22) Huge week for Avery Bradley. The defensive stud averaged 15.0 points and one of his 11 3-pointers was the game-winner in Cleveland.
8 (7) (30-21) Watching Vince Carter connect on a trio of late 3-pointers in Memphis' win over New Orleans on Tuesday was an absolute joy to watch.
9 (9) (29-23) Rookie Justise Winslow is coming on strong of late, averaging 33.5 minutes in his last 10 games. Averaging 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 steal in that span.
10 (10) (30-23) We all know the Hawks aren't shooting it like they did last year, but they're up to No. 5 in defensive efficiency. 
11 (18) (25-25) The biggest movers of the week. The trio of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert is a scary one when healthy. They should be a playoff team.
12 (15) (27-24) Paul George's 30-point effort in a win over the Pistons was one the Pacers needed to avoid losing three of four (L's against CLE and ATL).
13 (12) (27-25) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope avoided serious injury and should be back after the All-Star break. Great news after what looked to be a bad spill.
14 (14) (27-26) Will the real Rockets please stand up? A 13-point win against Miami, slipping by Phoenix at home and a 17-point home loss to Portland. They get Steph and Co. on Tuesday.
15 (11) (27-23) Huge sigh of relief from the Advocate Center as Jimmy Butler avoids serious damage to his knee in Denver. That good news notwithstanding, the Bulls are 2-4 on their road trip.
16 (13) (29-25) An overtime win in Memphis both avoided a four-game skid and could become a springboard for the season's second half. A win over Utah on Tuesday would be huge.
17 (20) (25-27) The rest of their February schedule is brutal. Keep an eye on their Feb. 21 game against Utah. Those two could fight the next two months for the No. 8 seed.
18 (22) (25-26) Let's see if their Kemba-less victory over the Cavs can help them get back on track. Al Jefferson could return to the lineup shortly to help matters, too.
19 (16) (22-27) They're just 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East, but it feels like more than that. John Wall still looking for consistent help.
20 (19) (21-30) They've absolutely imploded since a five-game winning streak. Sitting 4.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the playoffs, the fun might be over.
21 (17) (18-32) Anthony Davis and co. get knocked back to reality with double-digit losses to Memphis, San Antonio and Cleveland. The home loss to the Lakers, though? That's on them.
22 (23) (21-31) Rookie Nikola Jokic is averaging 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds in his last five. His 27-point, 14-rebound effort helped Denver stop Toronto's nine-game winning streak.
23 (26) (16-36) Karl-Anthony Towns in the T-Wolves' wins at the Clippers and against the Bulls: 21.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks. He'll be an All-Star in the next two years.
24 (21) (23-31) Derek Fisher's firing Monday morning was a bit of a surprise. Would Phil Jackson ever consider hiring Tom Thibodaeu? Contrasting styles, but Thibs' resume is the best one out there.
25 (24) (20-32) Here's a scary thought. The Bucks win the lottery this summer and tout a small ball frontcourt of Ben Simmons, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
26 (25) (22-28) Losers in 15 of 18, their reward before the All-Star break is a road game in Atlanta and hosting the Spurs. Tobias Harris may be on the move to clear up minutes.
27 (27) (8-43) Great to see Jahlil Okafor (22 points, 17 rebounds) and Nerlens Noel (18 points, four steals, three blocks) tag-team in a win over the Nets on Saturday.
28 (28) (13-39) They've lost six of seven since a double-digit win over the Thunder. Hiring a general manager before the trade deadline would be a good move for them.
29 (30) (11-42) Black Mamba back? Kobe has averaged 28.3 points (on 22.3 FGA) in his last four games. His 38-point effort against Minnesota was a fun vintage moment.
30 (29) (14-38) A silver lining in this disaster of a season? Phoenix may have found something in guard Archie Goodwin (16.1 points, 4.6 assists in his last nine games).

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.