What’s next for the Chicago Bulls in 2015?

chicago-bulls-20152014 was an odd year for the Chicago Bulls, that’s for sure. They came into the season with championship expectations, but that took a hit when Derrick Rose suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. They then seemed to be conceeding the season when they shipped Luol Deng to the Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and cap space.

Interestingly enough, the Bulls actually played better after trading their star small forward and rose up to grab the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed. It was looking good too because they were facing a postseason-inexperienced Wizards squad. Then came a 4-1 series beating that leaves the Bulls with a first-round playoff exit and plenty of questions to answer.

Many of these questions start with Derrick Rose. After a 2011 season where the point guard won the MVP award, he’s since had three injury-plagued seasons in a row. There’s good news lately in that he’s recovered enough to play two-on-two games in practice. However, the Bulls must decide how much stock they can put into the 25-year-old’s knees moving forward.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau also presents another puzzling scenario for the Bulls. He’s definitely a good coach, but even the best have a difficult time dealing with the lofty year-in, year-out expectations put on Chicago. And there have been plenty of rumors that he’s unhappy with the front office and wants out, or the Bulls’ management wants him gone because of the friction. But then again, this team would have a difficult time replacing such a respected coach.

chicago-bulls-boozerOne guy who may not present any questions at all is Carlos Boozer. Although he equally split minutes with Taj Gibson during the regular season, Boozer was often benched in favor of Gibson in the playoff series against Washington. And for good reason too since Gibson averaged 18.2 PPG on 56.1% shooting while Boozer averaged 9.6 PPG on 42.6% shooting. Even worse is how poorly Boozer performed outside of the numbers, continually conceding offensive rebounds and easy buckets during the 4-1 series drubbing. Set to make $16.8 million in 2015, it seems like the Bulls may amnesty him to take $16 million off their salary cap.

Doing so would put Chicago in line to land Carmelo Anthony, one of the prized recruits of this summer’s free agent crop. In fact, many rumors have Anthony seriously considering the Bulls since they have the framework in place to be a championship contender. This team has strong inside players like Joakim Noah and Gibson as well as perimeter shooters like Jimmy Butler and Kirk Heinrich. They just need a go-to star like Anthony to make them a serious contender again.

Of course, the possibility of Rose once again emerging to be this player isn’t totally crazy. But Chicago can’t simply rely on this vision to come true, especially with three straight seasons marred by injury. Signing Anthony takes chance out of the equation and pairs him with an exceptional center in Noah.

carmelo-anthony-1The one roadblock that’s been discussed is money because, even after amnestying Boozer, Chicago would only be able to offer a $16 million starting deal. On the other hand, he opted out of his final year in New York, which would’ve paid $23.3 million, so he could test the market. But based on what he’s been saying lately, money isn’t the issue.

‘I’m going to make money. I have money,” Anthony said. “I’m good if I want to retire right now….As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level.”

It’s pretty clear that Chicago will do what they can to remain as attractive as possible to Anthony. And if they can land him, they’ll no longer just be a middling East team with a very good center and solid role players.

2013 NBA Playoffs Betting – Second Round Matchup Analysis

tony-parkerThe first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs won’t exactly go down in history. Seven of the first round series ended after six games or less. And the only series that did go the distance – Bulls vs. Nets – was loaded with injuries, thus preventing a great matchup between two full-strength teams.

Fans will no doubt be hoping for some closer series in the second round of the playoffs, though we’re sure some of the matchups look prime for more blowouts. Assuming you’re betting on the 2013 NBA Playoffs, hopefully you’ll be on the right side of these potential blowouts. With that said, let’s take a closer look at all of the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Dwyane Wade JaVale McGee#1 Seed Miami Heat vs. #5 Seed Chicago Bulls – The Bulls overcame a rash of injuries to pull out an emotional Game 7 win over the favored New Jersey Nets. Unfortunately, Chicago also comes out of this series with a large number of bumps and bruises. Kirk Hinrich is day-to-day with a calf injury while Luol Deng is coming off a major illness.

Miami, meanwhile, is entering this matchup relatively healthy. Dwayne Wade (knee) is slightly banged-up, but participating in full-contact practices. Seeing as how the Heat already have the three best players in this series with Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Chicago doesn’t stand a chance. However, Joakim Noah and the Bulls might pull out one game in a gutsy performance.

Prediction: Miami wins the series 4-1

paul-george-pacers#2 New York Knicks vs. #3 Seed Indiana Pacers – The Knicks look to continue their success after winning the club’s first playoff series in 13 years. However, they face a very tough matchup in the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers. This pairing is so tough, in fact, that all of the experts are divided on who’ll take the series.

New York didn’t exactly look dominant in beating the Boston Celtics four games to two. But they do have a lot of offensive weapons in Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymon Felton and Tyson Chandler. Expect Indiana to limit some of these weapons, while scoring plenty of points themselves with Paul George, David West and George Hill. But in the end, home court advantage may be the deciding factor for New York.

Prediction: New York wins the series 4-3

Western Conference

zach-randolph#1 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Seed Memphis Grizzlies – Don’t expect Oklahoma City to use not having Russell Westbrook as an excuse. They still feature one of the league’s best scorers in Kevin Durant along with solid players in Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin. However, the Thunder were built heavy at the top and don’t have a lot of firepower beyond these three.

Along with Indiana, Memphis is one of the league’s top two defensive teams. Marc Gasol and his Defensive Player of the Year award are a testament to the Grizzlies strong D. Overall, you can expect a pretty low-scoring series where Memphis comes out on top, thanks to the Westbrook season-ending injury.

Prediction: Memphis wins the series 4-2

stephen-curry#2 Seed San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Seed Golden State Warriors – Golden State pulled off the biggest upset of the playoffs when they defeated Denver 4-2, despite David Lee getting injured. They did it with exceptionally hot shooting and will be hoping the momentum caries over against the Spurs.

San Antonio comes into this series relatively fresh after destroying the Lakers in four games. However, they do have some minor injuries issues to key contributors Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. However, the trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili should have no trouble leading the Spurs to victory. Expect Stephen Curry and Lee (if he plays much) to help Golden State pull out at least one win though.

Prediction: San Antonio wins the series 4-1

NBA Power Rankings for March 6th, 2013

tony-parkerAfter the way that the Miami Heat have been playing lately, there’s little suspense about the number one team in our power rankings. Following 15 straight victories, the Heat are looking like a lock to win the East, and they are even challenging the Spurs for the top overall record. Speaking of which, San Antonio is still playing well – it’s just that they’ve been overshadowed by Miami. As for the rest of the top teams in our power rankings, you can check everything out below.

1. Miami Heat (44-14) – It’s pretty difficult to stop Miami when either LeBron James or Dwayne Wade could go off for 30+ points on any night. And that’s exactly what’s been happening during their 15-game win streak since both stars have had some big games lately. In the Heat’s last game against Minnesota, Wade poured in 32 points and dished out 10 assists. As for LeBron, four games ago, he torched the Kings for 40 points and 16 assists. Good luck to the rest of the league come playoff time…

2. San Antonio Spurs (47-14) – After falling down to number two in our last power rankings, San Antonio holds steady at this spot. They lost a disappointing home game to the Phoenix Suns on February 27th after beating them on the road just three days earlier. However, the Spurs have since bounced back by winning contests against Sacramento and Detroit. Tony Parker is being dubbed an MVP candidate behind LeBron since he’s averaging 21.0 PPG and 7.6 APG while shooting 53.3% from the field.

russell-westbrook3. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16) – The Thunder definitely appear to have put a mid-February three-game losing streak behind them. After all, they’ve won five out of the past six games and beat the Clippers on the road. Thanks to the latter victory, Oklahoma is still holding onto the second spot in the West. Russell Westbrook has played out of his mind during the recent win streak since he’s averaging over 32 points in the last six games.

4. L.A. Clippers (43-19) – Los Angeles is still sitting two games behind Oklahoma City for the second seed in the West. And this is a very important battle because these two clubs could be meeting in the playoffs’ second round, where home court advantage will be huge. Based on their fairly mild remaining schedule, it’s certainly possible that the Clippers could overtake the Thunder; however, they missed out on a big opportunity after getting beat by Oklahoma City at home.

5. Indiana Pacers (38-22) – The Pacers have been a really interesting story as the season has moved along. They got off to a very sluggish start over the first two months, but played great in January and February. Will the good times continue in March? Well so far there’s been no sign of trouble after victories over Toronto and Chicago. Paul George scored 22 points to lead Indiana over the Raptors, while David West poured in 31 points during the Bulls win. And this perfectly exemplifies the solid one-two punch that these two have provided Indiana all year.

tayshaun-prince6. Memphis Grizzlies (39-19) – Defying all logic, Memphis continues to remain among the Western Conference powers after trading leading scorer Rudy Gay. They have claimed victory in nine out of the last 10 games, and the only loss was a road contest in Miami. Defense has been the name of the game during this excellent streak since the Grizzlies have held six opponents under 90 points over the past 10 contests. Is the addition of Tayshaun Prince a big sole reason for this lock-down defense? It’s a stretch to say that, but he’s certainly been an integral part of the strong defensive effort.

7. Denver Nuggets (40-22) – The Nuggets move up a spot since they’re in the midst of a six-game winning streak. Victories against Portland (road), the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Atlanta have stood out during this stretch. The offense seems to be going through Ty Lawson more and more lately since he’s scoring 23.8 PPG over the past 10 contests – up from his season average of 16.6 PPG. On the other hand, Danilo Gallinari’s production (16.6 PPG) has taken a hit since he’s averaging just 11.7 PPG over the same period.

8. New York Knicks (36-21) – After being passed by Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings, New York has remained close to the Pacers and are only a half game back. The biggest reason why they’re hanging tough is because they have won four out of the past five games. The only fairly impressive victory during this stretch was against Golden State, but the Knicks are racking up wins nonetheless. New York might have the NBA’s best bench since it features J.R. Smith (16.1 PPG), Amar’e Stoudemire (13.9 PPG), Rasheed Wallace (7.2 PPG).

9. Chicago Bulls (34-26) – Ever since the beginning of February, Chicago has been struggling. They have dropped 9 out of the past 15 games and are tied with Brooklyn for the fourth playoff seed. They did get a nice boost though after beating the Nets on March 2nd. The game before that, against the Philadelphia 76ers, Joakim Noah had a very impressive triple-double as he scored 23 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked 11 shots. He’s quietly been the Bulls’ all-around MVP in a season without Derrick Rose.

10. Brooklyn Nets (34-26) – Just like Chicago, the Nets have had a rough time lately after losing four of the last five contests. All of the losses were against decent teams, but that doesn’t exactly take the sting away. There are still plenty of bright spots for this club though, including the outstanding rebounding of Reggie Evans. The undersized power forward is averaging 9.3 RPG in just 22 minutes per game, and he’s averaged 10.8 RPG in the past five games.

NBA Power Rankings for Feb. 7th, 2013

tony-parkerOver the past couple of years, NBA analysts and fans have questioned if the San Antonio Spurs are too old to compete with the league’s best teams any longer. And the Spurs have responded to this questioning by winning 11 straight games and grabbing the NBA’s best record. This being said, it was a no-brainer to rank San Antonio number one in our latest power rankings. As for how everybody else fared, take a look below.

1. San Antonio Spurs (39-11) – While the Spurs haven’t played any truly elite teams over the last two weeks, they did grab quality victories over Golden State, Atlanta (road) and Memphis during their 11-game win streak. A primary catalyst behind San Antonio’s recent surge is improved play by C Tiago Splitter (10.8 PPG, 5.8 PG) and SG Danny Green (10.0 PPG, 41.9% 3P). Overall, seven Spurs are averaging at least 9.7 PPG.

2. Miami Heat (32-14) – LeBron James and company have had a fair amount of success since mid-January. They’ve won 8 out of the last 10 games, including road victories over the Lakers, Nets and Warriors. James (26.8 PPG) has stepped up his scoring production in February and is averaging 30.3 PPG this month. Unfortunately, Ray Allen (10.7 PPG) has seen his scoring dip down to 3.3 PPG during the same span.

kevin-durant3. Oklahoma City (37-11) – The Thunder have stumbled from first to number three since our last power rankings. They’ve won 5 out of the last 9 games, which is pretty mediocre for this team. Furthermore, Oklahoma City lost to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers just three games ago. One big culprit for the average play of late involves the Thunder playing 12 out of their last 17 contests on the road.

4. New York Knicks (31-16) – After going through some rough patches in December and January, the Knicks appear to be back on track. They’ve won five out of the past six games and are chasing Miami for the East’s best record. Amar’e Stoudemire seems to be working his way back into the New York lineup nicely following a long injury recovery. He’s averaging 14.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG, which is far better than what he was doing a couple weeks ago.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (35-16) – Once the story of the season after winning 17 straight games, Los Angeles has struggled worse than any other NBA team lately. They’ve lost 7 out of the last 10 contests, which includes dropping games to bad teams like Phoenix, Toronto and Washington. Much like Oklahoma City, the Clippers appear to be victims of a rough road schedule, which includes playing 11 out of the last 14 games away. Things won’t get any easier since four out of the next five contests will be played on the road.

danilo-gallineri6. Denver Nuggets (31-18) – The Nuggets are definitely the league’s hottest team right now. They have been victorious in the last 13 out of 15 games and are quickly climbing the Western Conference ladder. This has truly been a team effort since nine Denver players are scoring 8.0 PPG or more. Danilo Gallinari (17.1 PPG) has really been doing well as of late since he’s averaged 21.8 PPG over the past five games. Rumor has it that Denver may be trying to further bolster their lineup by adding Kevin Garnett.

7. Indiana Pacers (31-19) – Indiana went through a three-game losing streak towards the end of January. But they’ve since rebounded by winning five straight contests, including wins over Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. Paul George (17.6 PPG) is really backing up his first All-Star selection by averaging 20.6 PPG during his team’s five-game undefeated run. David West is also pitching in 17.2 PPG and some crucial late-game baskets.

joakim-noah8. Chicago Bulls (29-19) – The Bulls have done a decent job of battling through some tough road games recently and are still looking good in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Derrick Rose still isn’t back from injury, so SF Luol Deng (17.2 PPG) continues to lead this club. C Joakim Noah has also been a force since he’s averaging 12.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. Assuming Rose can come back soon and get in shape for the playoffs, he’ll definitely have a nice supporting cast.

9. Brooklyn Nets (29-20) – While the Nets are certainly a strong playoff-bound club this year, they’ve yet to truly crack that elite team barrier. Don’t tell this to PF Reggie Evans though, who downplayed how good King James was and questioned the Heat’s lockout-shortened season title. LeBron responded scoring 24 points, grabbing 9 boards and dishing out 7 assists. Looks like Brooklyn still has a ways to go before they can back up Evans’ boasting.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (30-18) – We don’t expect Memphis to be ranked this high throughout the remainder of the season. After all, they just traded away their leading score, Rudy Gay, in a move that many people called ‘panicky.’ They did get Tayshaun Prince (10.3 PPG) in the deal; however, he’s unlikely to match the production that Gay put out. It certainly doesn’t help matters that Zach Randolph’s scoring has dropped by over a point in the last month.

NBA Power Rankings for December 12th, 2012

Entering this NBA season, we had trouble deciding if it would be the Lakers or Oklahoma City Thunder coming out of the Western Conference. Thus far, the Thunder have held up their end of the deal by rising near the top of the West standings. The Lakers, on the other hand, are a dismal 9-13 and have dropped out of our top 10 for the first time this year. Will they be back? Who knows, but the following teams are looking like strong playoff clubs right now.

1. New York Knicks (16-5) – Little has changed from our rankings last week since New York is still on a roll. Sure the Knicks recently lost a road game to the Bulls, but they also defeated the Heat on the road just before that. And once again, this is happening with Amare Stoudemire still injured!

2. Miami Heat (14-5) – The Heat remain a fixture in our top two spots – despite losing to the league’s worst team (Washington Wizards) on December 4th. At this point, the Eastern Conference Finals are shaping up to be one heck of a battle! Of course, calling the Knicks and Heat in the Conference Finals now is a little premature.

3. San Antonio Spurs (18-4) – San Antonio checks in at number three in our rankings despite having a league-best 18-4 record. The Spurs have won 10 out of their last 11 games, but we’re going to need to see something out of them in the playoffs. Second-year PG Gary Neal is adding a nice shooting touch (36.8 3P%) for the club.

4. Oklahoma City (17-4) – We keep saying that the Thunder haven’t beat a top contender yet, but they certainly have beaten some solid teams during an eight-game win streak. For this reason, they move up one spot in our rankings this week.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (14-6) – The Grizzlies flip-flop with Oklahoma City following a loss to the Hawks at home. We don’t expect Memphis to remain stagnant here though since the top of the West should be pretty back and forth. Zach Randolph is providing some really nice all-around play with 17.6 PPG and 12.9 RPG.

6. L.A. Clippers (15-6) – Los Angeles has rebounded in a big way from a four-game losing streak at the end of November. They’ve now won eight straight games with victories over Utah, Dallas and Chicago during this span. Chris Paul is doing a good job of leading this squad with 16.2 PPG, 9.0 SPG, and 2.67 SPG.

7. Atlanta Hawks (13-6) – As mentioned before, Atlanta recently won a big game on the road against the Grizzlies. And they’ve won four out of the past five contests – with the lone blemish being a road game against the Heat. Josh Smith has stepped up his game and shooting with the loss of Joe Johnson during the offseason; Smith is averaging 17.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG and shooting 46.2% from three-point range.

8. Golden State (14-7) – It’s truly time to start taking the Warriors seriously with recent wins against the Heat and Nets. With Andrew Bogut sidelined most of the year because of an injury, PF David Lee has carried the load inside with 18.8 PPG and 11.2 RPG.

9. Chicago (11-9) – The Bulls continue to stay above water even though they won’t have Derrick Rose for most of the season. Joakim Noah (10.8 RPG) and Carlos Boozer (9.9 RPG) are controlling the boards for Chicago while Luol Deng (17.8 PPG) is leading the club in scoring.

10. Brooklyn Nets (12-9) – In recent weeks, the Nets have hovered around the 5th to 7th range in our power rankings. But that was before a five-game losing streak happened! The least we can say about this bad run is that all five losses came to good, playoff-type teams. However, if the streak continues, don’t expect the Nets to be here next week.