NBA preseason primer: Offseason winners


NBA preseason primer: Offseason winners

Leading up to Bulls media day on Sept. 28, Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Strotman will preview the upcoming NBA season with daily features on everything related to the Association. Today the pair analyze which teams "won" the offseason with a combination of free-agent signings, trades and/or draft picks.

Mark Strotman: Well, Vinnie, the Tigers completed their fire sale more than a month ago and the Brewers haven't been fewer than 10 games under .500 since May 11. I'd say baseball season has been done for quite awhile - we can get into Packers-Lions later - for the both of us, meaning basketball season is arriving at the perfect time. The Bulls will kick off their annual media day in less than three weeks and in less than a month will take the United Center floor for the first time since Matthew Dellavedova outplayed Derrick Rose in Game 6 (That's the last Delly reference, so just breathe).

But before we discuss Fred Hoiberg's group and its expectations, let's backtrack a bit and discuss this offseason's winners. The consensus is that the Spurs were the clear victors - it's about time something went that franchise's way - signing prized free agent LaMarcus Aldridge while also maxing out Kawhi Leonard and getting David West to sign a one-year, $1.4 million deal. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are back for one more run on team-friendly deals, and re-signing Danny Green (4 years, $40 million) was subtly a really important move and great value for a 28-year-old 3-and-D shooting guard.

Given the Warriors didn't lose anything this offseason it's tough to call the Spurs the favorites, but this summer couldn't have gone any better for San Antonio - they even won the Summer League championship led by Becky Hammon, which was all sorts of awesome. Having the game's best coach score the league's best offseason? Well, Pop, in the words of a teary-eyed Terrell Owens, 'It's really unfair.'

Vincent Goodwill: Well considering the Bears only exist in my world as entertainment for Jay Cutler’s underachievement, I can remove my “Lions free” tag for two weeks every fall (which I’m sure endears me more to Chicago sports fans).  And while I don’t disagree with you about the Spurs winning the offseason, heck, they changed not only the makeup of their team but also became much more dynamic by signing Aldridge and keeping Leonard on an expected max extension, I still have my doubts about the backcourt, sans Leonard.

The one team that had to win the offseason for the future of its franchise did so, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Scott Brooks was a good coach for a team in the embryonic stage, but the Thunder have evolved well past the labor pains. They’re ready to have the baby, thus the hiring of former Florida coach Billy Donovan, who was well-regarded in NBA circles before now.

They have the deepest roster in the league, with rotating bigs, shooters and guys waiting to fill a role. Oh, and if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook come back completely healthy and stay that way? The championship road goes through Oklahoma City and Golden State in the Western Conference. Yes, they overpaid for restricted free agent Enes Kanter (but who doesn’t with the way the cap is rising?), but they can play anywhere between nine and 11(!) guys in a rotation on a given night without losing much.

While the Spurs have just shored up their future by signing Aldridge, the Thunder franchise is doing everything it can to keep Durant happy, as the clock on his free agency is ticking louder and louder. From here, if Durant’s foot problems are behind him, this could be a revenge year from the 2014 MVP. That would make Pop and the Spurs cry.

MS: Speaking of Oklahoma City, another small-market team that’s building toward something in a similar fashion is the Milwaukee Bucks. While one of Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan or Brook Lopez would’ve been ideal, the Greg Monroe signing is a perfect fit; Monroe’s strengths (post scoring) will be magnified in Milwaukee, and his weaknesses (rim protection) will be covered up by a host of long, active defenders. I thought it was the best fit of any player who signed this offseason, schematically. GM John Hammond moved quickly to re-sign Khris Middleton, who is still just 24 years old - or 23 months younger than Jimmy Butler.

The Bucks will “get back” Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick who was limited to 25 games in his rookie season after tearing his ACL, and though the Bucks will handle him with extreme caution, he’s going to be a contributor on a Bucks team that averaged fewer than 98 points a year ago. Add Chris Copeland to the forward mix, trading for Greivis Vasquez and the simple fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo will be five months older and five months better and you’re looking at a Bucks team that could challenge for a top-4 spot in the East. And while that’s not saying a whole lot, we’re talking about a team that won 15 games two years ago. Jason Kidd and Hammond deserve to be applauded. The Bucks didn’t get the sexy names in free agency. They got the right ones.

VG: I see you’re going with teams with new additions developing new traditions, and I’ve long been a fan of what the Bucks are doing with their youth along with adding Greg Monroe. Them going six games with the Bulls in the playoffs will give them much-needed positive reinforcement, as the Bulls will have to deal with that monster this season.

But I like continuity, so the Miami Heat—yes the LeBron James-less Heat—will be a team to watch this season. They get Chris Bosh back from that mysterious injury that caused him to miss the last half of the year, with a healthy Goran Dragic and a still formidable Dwyane Wade for at least 50 games (assumedly). Hassan Whiteside is a young force whose only vice is consistency but as Bulls fans know, he can swat everything in sight and lock in for an entire game.

They’ve quietly added Amare Stoudemire, who certainly isn’t a difference maker but will help you several nights during the season as a reserve when he turns back the clock on those creaky knees. They signed Gerald Green for the league minimum, a coup for Heat boss Pat Riley, who clearly wants one more shot at LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to play in the NBA Finals.

If—and it’s a big “if”—the Heat are relatively healthy, they’ll be a team nobody wants to see. They still need perimeter shooting, and one has to worry about the “Thibs” miles Luol Deng has on his body, but in-season upgrades are always available for purchase. Playing in June is still a dream, but they want to make May a nightmare for the Cavs, Bulls and any other conference contender.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition


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.