Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: James Harden, Rockets get back on track

12231521_10103174857402340_788722994_n.jpg

NBA Power Rankings: James Harden, Rockets get back on track

Week 2 of the NBA season is in the books, and we know this will come a surprise but the Golden State Warriors are the league's only undefeated team.

The bigger surprise was the team without a win in last week's rankings, the Houston Rockets. James Harden's group became the first team in NBA history to lose their first three games by 20+ points, signaling perhaps a serious chink in the title contender's armor. But that's why teams play more than three games in a season. Houston rebounded in a big way this week, and it has them back in the top five of this week's power rankings. See where the other 29 teams rank heading into the season's third week.

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (7-0) The NBA's last remaining unbeaten has a point differential of +18.3 points per game. Next best? Cleveland and San Antonio at +9.3.
(4) (6-1) Winners in six straight, LeBron and the Cavs are rolling...with Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert on the sidelines.
(5) (4-2)  Kawhi Leonard (21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds) has taken the reins of and run with the lead dog role in San Antonio.
4 (11) (7-1)  Seven straight wins, with their only loss coming against the Pistons on opening night. Kent Bazemore has stepped up in DeMarre Carroll's absence.
5 (13) (4-3)  That's more like it. In four straight wins, James Harden has averaged 38.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
6 (3) (4-2)  One or two possessions away from beating Golden State and Houston this past week. Not bad for those to be your only two blemishes.
7 (10) (5-1)  Andre Drummond is an early-season MVP candidate (not named Steph Curry). He's averaging 20.3 points and 20.3 rebounds for the league's biggest surprise.
8 (2) (4-3)  Three straight L's before topping Suns on Sunday, but still second in offensive efficiency. Durant and Westbrook still figuring out how to best complement each other.
9 (6) (5-2)  Road win over the Thunder? Good. Road losses to Orlando and a 20-point loss to Miami? Not so good. Still, a solid start north of the border.
10 (12) (4-2)  Their NBA-best defense hasn't skipped a beat since the second half of last season. They're just fine picking up wins in old-school fashion.
11 (9) (4-3)  A road win over the Pacers would have been nice, but they responded with a dominant performance against the Raptors.
12 (7) (4-3)  The roller coaster continues for Chicago, with an impressive win over Oklahoma City sandwiched between confusing losses to Charlotte and Minnesota.
13 (14) (3-3)  They began the week with an impressive home win over the Spurs, but followed it with blowout losses against Boston and Atlanta.
14 (15) (3-3)  Staying afloat in the West while Chandler Parsons ramps up his minutes will do the Mavs just fine. Dwight Powell (11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds) has been a nice surprise.
15 (15) (3-3)  Three of their four losses have come to contenders, but they've lost those four games by an average of 27.3 points. Odd start for the Griz.
16 (22) (3-4)  Maybe premature to have them this high, but they were arguably this past week's most impressive team that doesn't play in the Bay Area.
17 (19) (4-3)  Four straight wins came against teams with a combined 3-24 record (BRK x2, NYK, PHI). Let's wait and see if they can keep it going.
18 (18) (2-3)  Quiet start for the Celtics, though an impressive win against the Raptors could jumpstart things.
19 (23) (3-4)  Don't be surprised to see Orlando in the hunt for a playoff spot. Scott Skiles has the young Magic playing competitive basketball. The talent is there.
20 (26) (4-3)  Credit to Terry Stotts for replacing four of five starters and beginning the year like this, Sunday night's home collapse against Detroit notwithstanding.
21 (16) (3-4)  It's early, but Tyson Chandler hasn't been the difference maker defensively we're used to seeing. Phoenix ranks 17th in efficiency, same as they did a year ago.
22 (21) (3-4)  Kristaps Porzingis hasn't looked like a rookie, averaging 12.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in just 24.3 minutes per game. Also averaging 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals.
23 (24) (3-2)  Karl-Anthony Towns has been every bit as good as advertised, and Andrew Wiggins scoring 31 on Jimmy Butler in a road win over the Bulls was an eye opener.
24 (25) (2-4)  Could be higher on these rankings, as they tout the NBA's fourth most efficient offense after ranking 28th in that category a year ago.
25 (27) (2-4)  Great to see Kenneth Faried balling again. The Manimal exploded for 28 and 15 in a win over the Lakers.
26 (20) (1-5)  Tough schedule made tougher with DeMarcus Cousins out of the lineup. Willie Cauley-Stein has been a bright spot early.
27 (17) (0-6)  Mind-boggling to see Anthony Davis' team rank last in the NBA in defensive efficiency (111.9). Worst possible start for Alvin Gentry.
28 (29) (1-6)  Kobe Bryant is ranked 125th of 126 qualified players in FG% (32.0%). And he's 21st in field goal attempts (16.2). That is....not good.
29 (30) (0-6)  Jahlil Okafor has struggled mightily on the defensive end. Still, he's everything we thought he'd be as a scorer (19.7 points, 52.7% FG).
30 (28) (0-7)  Danny Ainge and the Celtics must be salivating watching the Nets flounder (Brooklyn owes Boston its unprotected 2016 first round pick).

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

lavine-and-parker.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."