Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Spurs knock Warriors from the top

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NBA Power Rankings: Spurs knock Warriors from the top

Let's be clear in saying that the Warriors are just fine and likely still the favorites in the Western Conference.

Despite losing two of their last three, they still hold the league's best record and are on pace to win 74 games.

But it's become too difficult to ignore what the Spurs are doing as the NBA's hottest team and, for the first time this year, the top ranked team in these rankings.

During their 11-game win streak they have the league's most efficient offense (113.0) AND most efficient defense (94.7).

We'll have to wait until January 25 for the top two teams to square off against each other, but we'll likely get seven more of them in late May/early June.

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

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (2) (36-6) They've won 11 straight and 18 of 19. Golden State dominated the headlines for three months, but the Spurs have matched them step-for-step.
(1) (37-4) They've lost two of three, quieting talk (for now) about them reaching 73 wins. They can make another statement Monday night against the Cavaliers.
(5) (30-12) Three of their four wins this week came by 19 or more points. Russell Westbrook has tallied triple-doubles in his last two games.
4 (3) (28-10) They've won nine of 10, with LeBron James averaging 24.9 points on 55 percent shooting in that span. He'll get MVP consideration if the Dubs falter anymore.
5 (5) (26-14) A 10-game win streak ended against the Kings, but not before an impressive 14-point win over the Heat. They'll need DeAndre Jordan (pneumonia) back soon.
6 (8) (25-15) Winners in four straight, Kyle Lowry's group has quietly crept up to No. 2 in the East. Lowry's 21.8/8.0/55 in that span has been a major reason why.
7 (6) (24-17) After leading the league in it the last two seasons, Kyle Korver is shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc this season, the worst mark of his career by far.
8 (10) (22-18) They really could be higher than this after dominating the Warriors wire-to-wire. They're all the way up to No. 8 in defensive efficiency.
9 (14) (23-19) When Matt Barnes isn't running his mouth and writing checks the Grizzlies are playing well, with wins over the Celtics, Pistons and Nets this week.
10 (12) (22-20) They're starting to look like their old selves, winning six of seven since that four-game losing streak. They should stay above .500 the rest of the way.
11 (9) (23-18) They can't get back to South Beach soon enough after an ugly 2-4 road trip, with their only wins coming over Phoenix and Denver.
12 (7) (23-16) They've lost four of five, with their only win an overtime victory over the Sixers in which Jimmy Butler needed 53 points to get it done. Losing Joakim Noah will hurt.
13 (16) (22-19) Jae Crowder is making a strong case for NBA's Most Improved, averaging 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
14 (11) (23-19) They've lost three of four, but those L's came against Cleveland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. A road win against Chicago was a big one to get.
15 (13) (22-19) They didn't look like the NBA's third most efficient defense in allowing 129 points to the Nuggets in a loss. They've lost three straight and four of five.
16 (17) (19-20)  They're looking much better of late, winning four in a row before a loss to the Celtics. If Bradley Beal can stay healthy they'll compete for a playoff spot in the East.
17 (15) (20-22) Kristaps Porzingis is back on track. A 26-point outing against the No. 2 defense in Boston was equally impressive. 
18 (20) (18-22)  Rudy Gobert's return hasn't helped a still-struggling defense. The Jazz are 15th in defensive efficiency since he returned on Jan. 7.
19 (19) (17-23)  Road wins over the Jazz and Clippers have them just a single game out of the final playoff spot in the West.
20 (18) (20-19)  Narrow losses to the Wizards and Raptors were tough to swallow, as they've now lost six of seven. They could do with beating Atlanta on Monday.
21 (22) (18-25)  After winning six of 10, we'll get to see if this turnaround is for real in road games against the Heat and Rockets. The talent is there.
22 (25) (16-25)  Perhaps the team of the week after knocking off both the Warriors and Pacers. Danilo Gallinari has averaged 24.0 points in his last seven games.
23 (21) (18-25) Losing to the Sixers is one thing. Losing to the Sixers by 25, and trailing by as many as 29, is quite another. Not good. 
24 (24) (13-26)  If the Pellies do trade Ryan Anderson, he's auditioning well. The stretch forward has averaged 20.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his last five games.
25 (23) (18-22)  The collapse continues. An impressive win over the Hawks was canceled out by losses to the Pelicans and Bucks. They were once 17-13.
26 (28) (11-30)  They've won twice in January, and their next six likely won't improve on that number: TOR, CLE, UTAH, OKC, MIA, DAL. Somewhere Danny Ainge smiles.
27 (26) (13-29)  A good way to break a nine-game losing streak is a 30-point win. Still, expected more improvement from this young team. Hasn't yet happened.
28 (29) (9-34)  Kobe Bryant had seven assists in the first quarter Sunday to move into second place all-time on the Lakers assist list. He's still nearly 4,000 behind Magic Johnson.
29 (30) (5-37) Credit where credit's due. They had the Bulls on the ropes (before Jimmy Butler exploded) and dominated (yes, really) the Blazers in a 25-point win.
30 (27) (13-29) This is getting real ugly. Three road losses by a combined 63 points, including a 30-point thrashing via the Timberwolves. They've lost 15 of 17.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.