NBA Power Rankings: Pistons/Bulls, Rockets/Mavs battling it out


NBA Power Rankings: Pistons/Bulls, Rockets/Mavs battling it out

With two-and-a-half weeks remaining in the NBA's regular season, there's still plenty to be determined.

Dallas has lost nine of 11 and is now on the outside looking in, the Bulls are looking for any sense of identity to catch the Pistons in the East, and the third through sixth seeds in the East could go any way the final nine or 10 games of the season.

Which teams will step up and finish the year strong? Which teams will play spoiler? And will the Warriors make history?

See how each of the 30 teams stacked up in this week's edition of the NBA Power 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 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (2) 66-7 Steve Kerr said he won't be resting starters down the stretch. Good for him. 73 wins would be historic. They need to go 7-2 to accomplish it.
(1) 61-12 Gregg Popovich essentially conceding the No. 1 seed in the West, resting his stars on Saturday in a 19-point loss to the Thunder. But make no mistake: They'll be ready for the postseason.
(3) 52-21 LeBron appears to be gearing up for the postseason. In his last five he's averaged 28.4/7.4/7.4 and shot 58 percent from the field. Buckle up, Eastern Conference.
4 (5) 51-22 Don't look now but the West's third best team owns the league's longest winning streak (seven), with five of those victories coming against playoff teams. They've averaged 117 points in that stretch.
5 (4) 49-23 Losses to Houston and Boston all but kill the Raptors' chances of catching the Cavs in the East. But barring something wild, they'll set the franchise record for wins (50) this week.
6 (6) 44-30 The Hawks have quietly won 11 of 13 games, and in that span have touted the NBA's most efficient defense (95.3) and best net rating (11.8). They're getting hot at the perfect time.
7 (10) 43-30 What a recovery. They win four straight this week, including at home against the Raptors, to get back into the race for the No. 3 seed. Jae Crowder returning Thursday will only make them stronger.
8 (8) 45-27 Blake Griffin will have six games to tune up before the playoffs following his four-game suspension. Though L.A. has to feel good with a potential first round matchup against Memphis looming.
9 (7) 42-30 It will be interesting to see how the Heat use Hassan Whiteside while countering teams going small. But they'll need to find a way to keep him (26 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks on Friday) on the floor.
10 (9) 42-31 Don't discount the Hornets from trying to jump into that No. 3 seed. Currently sixth and 1.5 behind ATL, six of their last nine are against sub-.500 teams (including the next two against Philadelphia).
11 (12) 39-34 They're essentially in because of such a weak remaining schedule, but the Pacers can deliver a crushing blow to the Bulls' chances on Tuesday when the two teams meet.
12 (14) 38-36 They've lost four of six (all four came on the road to playoff teams) and really hurt their chances to jump Memphis for the No. 5 seed (and miss OKC in Round 1 in the process).
13 (11) 41-32 Myriad injuries appear to finally be taking their toll. They've lost six of eight, and their best hope is to hang on to the No. 5 seed. With no Gasol/Conley, expect them to be one-and-done.
14 (13) 36-38 If they miss the playoffs (currently 0.5 games up on Dallas for the No. 8 seed) they'll look back on Wednesday's loss to the Jazz as the reason why. Houston led by 18 in the second half.
15 (16) 39-35 They feasted on weaker competition to help them jump the Bulls for the No. 8 spot in the East and then picked up a huge victory against the Hornets. Difficult stretch coming up, though.
16 (19) 36-37 Wednesday's win against Houston was enormous. Now they play six of their last nine games at home, and their three road games are against the Suns, Nuggets and Lakers. They should be in.
17 (17) 36-37 A five-game winning streak got them back in the playoff hunt, but a crushing double-OT home loss to Minnesota really hurt their chances. They're 2.5 games back and currently on a West trip.
18 (15) 36-36 Chicago will play five times this week, with four against current playoff teams. If they can somehow go 3-2, with one win coming against Detroit (Saturday) , they could still sneak into the playoffs.
19 (18) 35-38 Rick Carlisle's group is in a free fall, having lost nine of 11, and is currently ninth in the West. And they have six games left against playoff teams. Apr. 6 against Houston could decide their fate.
20 (21) 29-44 A credit to DeMarcus Cousins, who is dealing with nagging injuries but appears ready to finish out the season instead of shutting down. He's the front runner for All-NBA First Team honors at center.
21 (22) 31-43 Denver has plenty of work to do this offseason (getting healthy will be a start), but Emmanuel Mudiay's game-winning heave was perhaps the shot of the year.
22 (26) 30-44 All Kristaps Porzingis needed to break out of his slump was a home-and-home against the Bulls defense. In those two games he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and hit 5 of 11 triples.
23 (25) 24-49 The Timberpuppies aren't backing down to end the year, as witnessed by their double-OT victory in Washington. They can play spoiler this week against Utah and Dallas, too.
24 (23) 30-43 Orlando has to like seeing a strong finish from second year point guard Elfrid Payton, who has averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 9.0 assists in his last three games.
25 (20) 30-44 They struggled as expected in a seven-game stretch all against playoff teams, going 1-6. It wouldn't be the worst thing for them to continue their slide and sneak in the top-7 of the lottery.
26 (24) 26-46 Fixing the defense (and getting Anthony Davis healthy) will be the Pelicans' biggest offseason concern. Per ESPN, the Pellies are 0-33 this year when failing to reach 100 points.
27 (27) 21-51 A credit to the Nets after victories over the Cavaliers and Pacers last week. Seven of their final 10 games will be on the road, and they're just 1.5 games ahead of Phoenix for a top-3 lottery spot.
28 (28) 20-53 Devin Booker is showing more signs of being the steal of the 2015 Draft. In his last five he's averaged 22.8 points and 4.8 assists. His shooting and turnovers have been ugly, but he's still just 19.
29 (29) 15-58 Julius Randle logged his first career triple-double last week, and in his last four has averaged 14.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a steal and block per game.
30 (30) 9-65 They've got three realistic chances left to avoid tying the worst record in NBA history with home games against New Orleans, New York and Milwaukee.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls


Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.