Bulls

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

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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.

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.