The results of the first three rounds project to have significant impact on the future of the Bears. Defensive end Shea McClellin and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery are expected to be starters before opening day.But the picks point to several important conclusions about the thinking of the organization, the talent available in this draft as well as what is thought about sections of the current roster.Selecting a pass rusher has been expected since the end of the 2011 season. Corey Wootton was a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft but has been besieged by injuries and simply hasnt developed enough to satisfy the organization.The pass rusher the Bears chose is revealing as to how the Bears draft board is set up.When the first pick came at No. 19, and wanting a pass rusher, the Bears had their pick from McClellin, Chandler Jones from Syracuse (No. 21 to New England), Whitney Mercilus from Illinois (26th to Houston) or Nick Perry from USC (28th to Green Bay). Alabamas Courtney Upshaw lasted until the third pick of the second round, going to Baltimore.General managerPhil Emery said last week that the Bears had a core of seven possibles for the 19th pick. Not all of them were pass rushers, but only Quinton Coples and Bruce Irvin were gone when the Bears picked. They did not settle for McClellin
The NBA will announce the starters for next month’s All-Star game at the United Center before the nationally televised TNT doubleheader on Tuesday.
The choices are pretty obvious in the West with Luka Doncic and James Harden well ahead of the field in the backcourt and the frontline set with Kawhi Leonard joining Laker teammates Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
The East frontcourt also should be easy to choose with Joel Embiid at center, flanked by forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Pascal Siakam. You could make the argument for former Bull Jimmy Butler being named over Siakam since the Toronto forward missed 11 games because of injury, but Siakam was the driving force behind Toronto’s fast start after losing Leonard as a free agent last summer.
Embiid has missed 13 games because of knee maintenance and a dislocated finger, but he’s the most dominant center in the East, and should get a starting spot if healthy.
Now to the East backcourt, where there really aren’t any clear cut choices to start. I would give a spot to Atlanta’s Trae Young, despite the fact the Hawks are having a terrible season with the worst record in the East. His numbers are just too impressive to ignore. Young is fourth in the league in scoring at 28.8 and also fourth in assists at 8.5.
Boston’s Kemba Walker would be my other starter. HIs arrival has allowed young perimeter players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to thrive, but Walker is also the player with the ball in his hands at the end of close games. He brings so many of the intangible qualities that Kyrie Irving lacked in Boston.
Speaking of Irving, it’s unlikely he’ll get a spot after missing most of the first half of the season because of a shoulder injury. Eastern conference coaches will name two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild card selections as reserves, which means Zach LaVine’s fate is in their hands.
If the coaches decide to reward players from winning teams, look for Ben Simmons and Kyle Lowry to get the two reserve guard spots, leaving Bradley Beal, LaVine, Spencer Dinwiddie, Derrick Rose and Malcolm Brogdon in the running for a possible wild card selection.
Will LaVine make it? The odds are against him right now, but he’s doing everything in his power to impact the coaches’ vote with a spectacular month of January. I’ll have my All-Star reserve picks next week.
Now on to the power rankings.
Akiem Hicks found himself at the NFC Championship game this weekend, and, like we're all occasionally guilty of, found himself Logging On.
While taking a video of the game's opening kickoff, Hicks was asking the right questions:
The last NFC Championship to be played at Soldier Field was in 2010, a 21-14 loss to Green Bay. Many thought the Bears had a good chance of brining the Halas Trophy back home in 2019, but, you know -- things happen. In fact, four of the Bears' five title game appearances have come at Soldier Field (2-2). Their only road game was a 23-0 loss to San Francisco in 1984. The Bears' NFC Championship history is actually sort of a bummer?