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NBA Power Rankings: Warriors begin their quest to repeat

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NBA Power Rankings: Warriors begin their quest to repeat

The 2015-16 NBA season finally has arrived, a little more than four months after Stephen Curry and the Warriors celebrated as champions.

A wild offseason that included unforeseen free-agent signings (LaMarcus Aldridge), expected free-agent signings (Kevin Love), surefire draft picks (Karl Towns) and wild card draft picks (Kristaps Porzingis), we're finally ready to tip off the 69th edition of the NBA regular season.

Each Monday - Tuesday, given tonight's tip-off - Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Strotman will dish out their weekly power rankings.

And to begin the year, everyone's still chasing the champs.

Rank (PR) Team
Record Comment
1 (-)   (0-0) 

 The defending champions bring everyone back. Nothing lucky about it.

(-)   (0-0)   Injuries to Irving and Shumpert will mean a bumpy start, but having LeBron James smooths out plenty.
(-)   (0-0)  The offseason's winners are no longer just an aging team waiting for Father Time to arrive.
(-)   (0-0)   A healthy Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka is as good as any trio in the league. Now we see how Billy Donovan fits.
(-)   (0-0)   If Dwight Howard stays healthy there's no reason they can't contend for a championship again this year.
(-)   (0-0)   New pieces on the second unit should help one of the league's best starting units.
(-)   (0-0)   They won't reach 60 wins again, and DeMarre Carroll's departure hurts, but this is still a dangerous team.
(-)   (0-0)  Marc Gasol is only getting better, but questions remain if they have enough talent to get over the playoff hump.
(-)   (0-0)   The Fred Hoiberg era begins with steep expectations, which they could match so long as the stout defense remains.
10 (-)   (0-0)   A sneaky pick to win the East, Dwyane Wade's health will be a key factor all season.
11 (-)   (0-0)   Anthony Davis in Alvin Gentry's system could produce numbers we've never seen from a 22-year-old.
12 (-)   (0-0)   This is the year John Wall enters the MVP conversation.
13 (-)   (0-0)   Kyle Lowry is on a mission and DeMar DeRozan enters a contract year. Important year for the team's future.
14 (-)   (0-0)   The Greg Monroe signing was quietly one of the offseason's best moves. Milwaukee could flirt with a top-4 finish.
15 (-)   (0-0)  In the wake of the DeAndre Jordan fiasco, big questions about how the aging/banged up Mavs will fare.
16 (-)   (0-0)  If Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight can co-exist, Phoenix has a shot to sneak in the playoffs.
17 (-)   (0-0)  Brad Stevens will be tasked with finding a solid eight-man rotation amongst many similarly-skilled players.
18 (-)   (0-0)  Paul George being back and healthy is a major positive for the NBA and fans.
19 (-)   (0-0)  A good bet to replace Portland or Dallas for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
20 (-)   (0-0)  A healthy Nicolas Batum gives the Hornets another valuable piece to go with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson.
21 (-)   (0-0)  Time for Damian Lillard to rally the troops and prove doubters wrong.
22 (-)   (0-0)  They'll be helped out by playing in the East, but not much to get excited about in Brooklyn.
23 (-)   (0-0)  Andre Drummond back serious breakout potential, though he'll have to do it in the East's toughest division. 
24 (-)   (0-0)  Exciting young core that may be a few years away from contending in the East. Mario Hezonja will be too fun to watch.
25 (-)   (0-0)  Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins will either be a dynamite pairing or a stick of dynamite about to be lit.
26 (-)   (0-0)   Emmanuel Mudiay's and head coach Mike Malone's arrival give some brightness to the future.
27 (-)   (0-0)  They'll be much better this season, especially if Kristaps Porzingis develops in Year 1.
28 (-)   (0-0)  Good young pieces (Russell, Randle, Clarkson) in place for what could be Kobe's last season.
29 (-)   (0-0)   As good a young nucleus as there is in the league, but the West is unforgiving.
30 (-)   (0-0)  Expect Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor to work well together. Just don't expect it to result in wins just yet.

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

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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."