10/18 Bulls @ 76ers Rapid Reactions

Final Score: Sixers: 127, Bulls: 108

Philadelphia 76ers

  • Sixers are really good, but not quite ready. They followed up their 18-point loss to the Celtics, Tuesday, with a commanding 19-point W tonight over the Bulls, but there’s still a lot of growing to do here.
  • Markelle Fultz ain’t it. I know, I know, it’s only game 2 for them and he’s coming off an injury, but he’s playing about 30 minutes a night and his 17 combined points on 7-22 from the field as the #1 overall draft pick a year ago, just isn’t going to cut it. The crowd did go crazy when he hit his only 3 of the night late in the 4th quarter, though, so the fans obviously love him and are willing to be a little more patient with him than I am. Go figure.
  • Ben Simmons is really good. He can virtually do whatever he wants on the floor except shoot a jump shot. Logging his first triple double of the season with 13, 13, & 11 assists, don’t be surprised if he does that kind of thing often this year, you should probably just expect it.
  • Joel Embiid picked up right where he left off last season. His 4 blocks and 1 steal to go with his 30 & 13 double double make him an extremely early candidate for DPOY. His trash talk is still A1, too, if you were wondering.

Chicago Bulls

  • Defense is a foreign concept. The Bulls led 41-38 after the 1st but would only score 67 points over the next 3 while allowing Philadelphia to put up almost 90. Everybody was lost out there and Fred Hoiberg had no idea what to do either. *Long Sigh*
  • Jabari showed flashes of  quality scoring and rebounding, but clearly he’s out of shape. His 15 off the bench tonight can definitely come in handy throughout the season, but he’ll need to shoot better than 7-16 and improve on defense if he wants to stay in the rotation. And for $20 million this year, he better.
  • Bulls are going to live and die by the 3. They opened the game 6-11 from behind the arc and looked to be on their way to a hot night. They only knocked down 5 more in the game, finishing 11-33 from deep. When they’re hitting their shots they can be a really fun team to watch, but those inevitable cold stretches are going to be brutal.
  • Bobby Portis is going to be a problem for whoever is guarding him all season. He’s the Bulls best player right now, and did it all tonight scoring 20 and grabbing 11 boards. He also had 1 block, 1 steal and dished 2 dimes, too.
  • Zach LaVine looks good. Back for his first full season since the ACL injury, he seems to have the same bounce he had before. He scored 30 on 11-19 shooting, and played hard and seemingly unbothered by the knee injury from a year ago. He could be in a huge year barring any health issues.
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Bulls sign Rawle Alkins to a Two-Way Deal

Rawle Alkins

On July 22, Rawle Alkins and the Bulls agreed on a two-way contract, according Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

The sophomore guard out of Arizona didn’t hear his name called on draft night, but this didn’t stop him from putting on a solid performance during his Summer League stint with the Raptors. The former wildcat played in six games for the Raptors, and averaged 9.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. This includes a 25-point, 11-rebound game against the Hornets.

Alkins is a 6-foot-4 guard that is known for his athleticism and intensity. He measured in with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. This gives him the ability to guard multiple positions on the wing, which is what the Bulls are lacking. Alkins is an unselfish, energetic player that has already played a season with Lauri Markkanen during his freshman year of college. Every Arizona Wildcat fan knows that Alkins possesses the ability to sky up for a posterizer.

Weaknesses for the Brooklyn native include an unproven jumpshot. Alkins shot .359 from three point range in his second season at Arizona, and hasn’t shown any ability to be a playmaker. He also has the tendency to lose the ball in traffic. In late September of 2017, Alkins suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for 12 games of the college season.

This move seems to foreshadow that John Paxson and Gar Forman have decided to move on from guard David Nwaba, who the team rescinded earlier this month. Alkins will likely attempt to fill the same role that Nwaba played for the team this past season.

Signing Alkins adds good wing depth to a Bulls team that needs to be able to guard the modern NBA small forward. Expect to see him checking in to a few games during the course of the regular season, but Alkins will likely spend a lot of time in the G-League for the Windy City Bulls. If Alkins proves to be a solid perimeter defender at the NBA level, he definetely has the potential to earn minutes in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

 

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Can Zach LaVine live up to his price tag?

Zach LaVine

Let me take you back to 2016. The then 21-year-old Zach LaVine was averaging over 18 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, throwing down highlight dunks and splashing triples at a reliable level. A future maximum salary contract seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Fast forward to the present day. LaVine is now a Chicago Bull, he has suffered and overcome an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear, and his 4-year, $78 million contract (far less than the max) is surrounded by a plethora of question marks.

The 23-year-old has heard the noise, too. He explains how he uses it as motivation when he spoke to ESPN after the signing.

“There’s nothing that any of you guys can say to me that I [don’t] take harder upon myself. I go back and critique my game every year. I’m used to people sleeping on me, and I’m also used to waking them up as well. I’m happy that I have this contract, and I’m happy that I have a little extra motivation to go out there and prove it to some people that don’t believe in me.” he said.

After putting up 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3 assists and shooting a shoddy 38.3 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from long distance, LaVine better have a full tank of that motivational fuel. While he was still prone to destructive scoring outbursts, they came less frequently than before, and his defense – which has never been a strong suit – was reminiscent of a traffic cone.

However, after 11 months on the sidelines, this form slump could be a wash. After all, the substandard numbers came in a small, 24-game sample size. With his feet under him for a full pre-season, LaVine could go back to the high-flying, shot-stroking ball of potential that hoop heads had come to love next season. For near on $20 million a year, Chicago has blown on their dice and are ready to take a massive gamble that he does return to that level – and reach a new one defensively.

If he doesn’t, there is going to be a whole lot of points given up in the Windy City.  When the human pogo stick was joined on the floor by other franchise centerpieces Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls registered a ghoulish 119.2 defensive rating. Now the front office brass decided to throw Jabari Parker into the mix, another injury prone player who happened to rank 464th in defensive real plus/minus in 2017-18.

If their freshly paid man can’t find a way to put it all together, Chicago might come to seriously regret shelling out for the wiry wing. However, when discussing the deal with ESPN, head coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t seem too stressed about that possibility.

“Listen, Zach’s a great kid. He’s a great teammate,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to move forward with the direction with this young group of guys that Zach’s a huge part of, obviously. We feel with his skill set, he fits with how we want to play. I can’t stress it enough, having a full summer, having a full offseason, a full training camp will benefit him greatly.” he said.

Next season will be the most meaningful in LaVine’s career, there is no doubt about that. At just 23-years-old, he can easily reach and outgun the play that made him such a popular talent back in Minnesota. But the large, scary shadow that is his injury and defensive woes will need to be eliminated first.

Strap yourself in Bulls fans, this is going to be fun.

 

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The Most Untouchable Player on every Eastern Conference Team

Busts of the NBA: Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams

The definition of a “bust” when it comes to an NBA player is someone who doesn’t meet the expectations given to them when they come out of the NBA draft. It’s a common occurrence for players to be highly touted coming out of college securing them to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft, and then turning out to be an underwhelming NBA player. Michael Carter-Williams has found himself to be one of those players.

 

Rookie of the Year

The terms “Rookie of the Year,” and “Bust,” aren’t typically used to describe the same NBA player, but in this case they are. In the 2013 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Michael Carter-Williams with the eleventh pick. During the 2013-14 season MCW averaged 16.7 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.9 steals per game. This stat line proved to be the best among the rookie class of 2013 as MCW won the Rookie of the Year award for that season. MCW also had one of the best rookie debuts in NBA history where he tallied 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals. That steal total is the most ever by a rookie in a debut game. To someone unfamiliar with Michael Carter-Williams they would be questioning how a player with this stat line is a bust. Well, MCW’s rookie season is where he peaked. His stats and usage would only go down from the 2013-14 season to now.

 

MCW’s second season was also a solid season. Prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 season MCW underwent a shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the beginning of the season. He would come back on November 13th, and make his season debut against the Mavericks. In that game he tallied nineteen points, eight rebounds, and five assists. By the end of MCW’s second season he was averaging 14.6 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also racked up two triple-doubles in his second season, giving him five career triple-doubles in his first two seasons.

 

The Beginning of the End

On February 19, 2015 Michael Carter-Williams found himself in a position that most NBA players dread being in. MCW was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. In the 2015-16 season MCW  found himself missing five of the first nine games of the season due to an ankle injury. After returning to play on November 14th, MCW continued to start for the Bucks but was soon moved to the bench on November 29th. Jerryd Bayless would take his spot after MCW began to show he wasn’t good enough to be the starting point guard spot. On March 7, MCW was ruled out for the rest of the 2015-16 season with a torn labrum in his left hip. He finished the 2015-16 season averaging 11.5 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 5.1 rebounds per game.

 

Traded Again

On October 17, 2016 Michael Carter Williams was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Tony Snell. MCW’s debut for the Bulls consisted of five points, six rebounds, and three assists coming off the bench. Later that season on November 1, 2016, MCW was ruled out to miss four to six weeks of game time due to a bone bruise on his knee and a wrist sprain. MCW finished the 2016-17 season with measly averages per game. MCW averaged 6.6 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 3.4 rebounds per game. These totals aren’t even the worst of his career. In just his next season his totals went down even more.

Michael Carter-Williams Bulls
The Runner Sports

A New Team, Once Again

Michael Carter Williams’ tenure with the Bulls only lasted one season. After the 2016-17 season MCW thought a change of scenery would be best for his career and signed with the Charlotte Hornets for the 2017-18 NBA season. MCW hoped to find that spark he had with Philly in his rookie season in Charlotte but unfortunately for him, he never did. MCW performed poorly the whole season and on March 9, 2018, MCW found himself ruled out for the rest of the season with ANOTHER injury. This time the injury was a labral tear in his left shoulder. He finished the season with insanely mediocre stats per game. At the end of the 2017-18 season MCW averaged 4.6 points per game, 2.2 assists per game, and 2.7 rebounds per game. MCW averaged these stats while playing in only 52 games on the season.

 

New Beginnings

For some busts the cause of death for their basketball career is health. That seems to be the case for MCW as he can’t seem to get away from the injury bug. In hopes to revive his once solid NBA career MCW signed with the Houston Rockets on July 6, 2018,  for the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season. MCW has shown once before that he has the talent to be a solid player in the league, and with him still being a young player, there is time for him to turn his career around if he can stay healthy. Let’s just hope for MCW’s sake, playing for a good team under a good coach allows him to have a breakout season and hopefully bring the title of, “Bust” off of his name.

The most untouchable player for every Eastern Conference team

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

This is it. We can do this, ladies and gentlemen. Free agency is winding down, the NBA draft has been done for what seems like ages, and summer league is wrapping up as well.

Now more than ever, we need thought provoking NBA content. Well, say no more fam.

 

1. Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young

When I first glanced at this roster, I threw up a little in my mouth. But then I took a deep breath, dry heaved some more and decided to look again. Things aren’t as bleak as they seem.

Trae Young, John Collins, Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter. The Hawks have the start of something promising or at the very least, intriguing. Is anyone on this roster truly untouchable? Probably not. Still, with management trading back and still drafting Trae Young, all signs point to him as being the least likely to be traded.

 

2. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

The rookie standout is the obvious answer here. Do the Celtics want to trade any of their core? Nope. Still, I cannot imagine Danny Ainge trading Tatum for any realistic option out there right now. (Anthony Davis cannot come to the Cs via a DPE rule.)

Tatum’s duel with LeBron in the game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final is something we could see in a 30 for 30 one day. The kid is that special.

 

3. Brooklyn Nets – Jarrett Allen

Just when I thought I was done throwing up…

All jokes aside, the Nets are finally headed in the right direction. They own their future picks and have acquired then developed some good prospects. Spencer Dinwiddie revived his career in Brooklyn, and other reclamation projects await.

Jarrett Allen has looked like a good gamble so far. There is a reason he only played 20 minutes per game last year but, his per-36 minutes suggest a bright future lies ahead.

Per 36 Minutes Table
Season Age Tm G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
2017-18 19 BRK 72 5.8 9.9 .589 0.1 0.4 .333 2.8 3.7 .776 9.7 1.2 0.7 2.2 14.7
Career 72 5.8 9.9 .589 0.1 0.4 .333 2.8 3.7 .776 9.7 1.2 0.7 2.2 14.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2018.

4. Charlotte Hornets – Miles Bridges

So this is the question: What makes Miles Bridges more untradable than Malik Monk?

Monk had a disappointing rookie season. Sure, he showed flashes during the last month or so of the season. Yet, Monk proved to be more of a project than what scouts originally thought.

Bridges may not project as the safer long term prospect however, he has a two-way ceiling higher than Monk’s. Offensively, Bridges looks to be equally as dynamic as Monk, despite these two having different skill sets. It is on the defensive side of the ball where Bridges separates himself, as he has the potential to defend four positions on the court.

 

5. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr.

I struggled with this selection as well. Lauri Markkanen set rookie records for three-pointers last year. Plus, Coach Hoiberg ran a bunch of the offense through him, something that displayed Markkanen’s playmaking ability. So why did I side with Carter Jr here?

Lauri Markkanen may learn NBA defensive spacing but, he simply lacks to physical tools to be an effective two-way player. With the game getting quicker, I can imagine future playoff scenarios where Markkanen gets played off of the court. Who does Markkanen guard when a team like the Sixers trots out Embiid, Simmons, Redick, Fultz and Covington. Carter Jr won’t ever get played off of the court. His three-point stroke and playmaking look to be just as good as Markkanen’s as well.

 

6. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton

Has anyone made an “I wanna Sexton you up” meme yet? No? Great.

Cleveland has players that are the opposite of untouchable. They should be looking to gain value for Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and others. Yet, Sexton remains untouchable. The former Alabama guard is a locker room blessing. Sexton can reset the culture in Cleveland while becoming their point guard of the future. Cedi Osman was in contention here as well.

 

7. Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond

If I were the GM of the Detroit Pistons, Andre Drummond would not be untouchable. That does mean I would be looking to unload him however, I prefer my centers to be able to switch pick and rolls, as well as space the court. Yet, Drummond is probably the most unlikely player Detroit is willing to part with.

Blake Griffin was a Stan Van Gundy guy, not someone new management particularly wanted. I am not suggesting his trade value is high enough to warrant a move but, crazier things have happened. This summer, Drummond has posted videos on his Instagram account draining threes. Perhaps he will bring this skill to the Pistons this year, and truly earn this hypothetical untouchable title.

 

8. Indiana Pacers – Victor Oladipo

I won’t get into too much detail about this because Josh Eberly of HOOPmag already did it for me:

9. Miami Heat – Josh Richardson

Why not first time All-Star and former All-NBAer Goran Dragic? Dragic can opt out of his contract after next season and will be a 33-year-old point guard. If anything, Miami should be tryingto ship Dragic off to a fringe contender looking for that next piece.

Bam Adebayo came to mind here but, paint protecting rim runners are becoming easier and easier to find nowadays. 24-year-old defensive wings who drain 37% of their threes and hit 45% from the field are not easy to find, however. Throw in Richardson’s cheap contract and Miami has a piece they should hold onto.

 

10. Milwaukee Bucks – Giannia Antetokounmpo

Ask Tim Hardaway Jr to explain this one.

11. New York Knicks – Kristaps Porzingis

Want to know how many NBA players shot 39% from deep last year while also blocking 2.4 shots per game? One. Don’t overthink this one, people. Kevin Knox will be an awesome player and is on a cheap deal. Frankie Smokes is already an elite perimeter defender with promising offensive development. Still, KP is the way to go here.

 

12. Orlando Magic – Mo Bamba

Rookies seem to be dominating this list, and I do not know if I am comfortable with that.

Aaron Gordon took a step forward with his three-point shooting ability last season yet, he still has so much more to develop if he wants to truly take advantage of his elite athleticism. With both Bamba and Jonathan Isaac looking great in summer league, I would move off of Gordon for a top-20 pick.

Jonathan Isaac has shown promise lately however, he does not have the ceiling that Bamba has. Bamba is the most boom or bust player of this bunch, but Orlando needs a star and Bamba is worth making untouchable.

 

13. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons

Let the debate begin!

I love Embiid’s game and potential. In my opinion, he has a higher ceiling than Simmons. Embiid could be an MVP and  DPOY winner. Yet, I like my untouchable players to be on the court. Out of 328 possible regular season games, Embiid has played 94 of them. Folks, he has only played in 28 percent of his games. Unfortunately, 7’1″, 260 lbs centers tend to progress towards injuries, not away from them.

Ben Simmons has an MVP ceiling as well. At one point during his career he will be the best passer in the game. Defensively, he can be elite too. Simmons has all the tools to be transcendent and a gambling man will bet that Simmons will find a way to fix that jumper. Factor in his health, and Simmons is my pick here, although I would not trade either.

 

14. Toronto Raptors – No one

Why should anyone on this roster be untouchable? Toronto is at a crossroads. With LeBron out of the East, they need to take a risk and go all in.

I have been a fan of the “DeMar for Kawhi” fake trades. Kawhi is simply a better player than DeMar DeRozan and would raise Toronto’s chances of winning. If the team can package Lowry and other assets for an upgrade, do it. Could they need to sell off OG and other young prospects for an experienced difference maker? Go for it.

If not now, when? Toronto has a very small window to win. If there is a move out there that makes them better for even one season, they must do it.

 

15. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal

Surprised you, right?

Bradley Beal had a better year than John Wall last year, straight up.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season Age GS FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
1 Bradley Beal 2017-18 24 82 8.3 18.1 .460 2.4 6.5 .375 .527 .793 4.4 4.5 1.2 0.4 22.6
2 John Wall 2017-18 27 41 6.8 16.3 .420 1.5 4.1 .371 .466 .726 3.7 9.6 1.4 1.1 19.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2018.

 

I will take Beal’s numbers here over Wall’s any day of the week. Plus, Washington should be looking to move off of Wall’s contract. John Wall will be paid $37 million dollars in 2019-2020. Compare that to Beal who will be making $10 million less! Remember when I was throwing up earlier…

…John Wall will be making $43 million when he is 31-years-old! That type of money cripples franchises from making other important acquisitions. The point guard position is the saturated one in the game today, making Wall expendable in the long term. Bradley Beal is the guy to hang onto.

NBA Awkward Endings

MJ Wizards

Tony Parker is now a Charlotte Hornet and it couldn’t feel any weirder. TP is and always will be a Spur, but it doesn’t change the fact we have to watch him in a Hornet jersey for the next two years. It always feels uncomfortable watching a player whose career is wound tightly with one franchise leave at the end. Unfortunately, not every star finishes with the franchise we identify with them the most like Kobe and Magic with the Lakers, Duncan and the Spurs, or Bird and the Celtics. We tend to almost erase the end from our memories. In this article we are going to dive into the uncomfortable, and look back at five of the most NBA Awkward Endings.

 

Karl Malone

Malone was a staple of Salt Lake City. He spent years fighting for a title while becoming one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. The “Mailman” as they came to call him was drafted in 1985 and spent 18 years in Utah. Even though Malone is most often brought up in the “best player to never win a title” debate we forget this is a 14-time all-star, 14-time All-NBA selection, 4-time all-defensive selection and a 2-time MVP. Malone spent the last year of his career however, chasing that elusive ring with Shaq and Kobe. His 19th and final season was spent in an NBA Finals loss at the hands of the Pistons. While Utah fans understood his quest, the feeling in their stomachs seeing Malone in a Lakers jersey couldn’t have been pleasant throughout that season.

 

Allen Iverson

This is the man with the cornrows. The man who stepped over Ty Lue in the Finals. The legend who in the end said he would be a Sixer until the day he died. He spent the first 10 of his 14-year career in Philly and he became a larger than life athlete. The MVP jumped around a lot in his final years in the league. He played in Denver which was weird at first, but in the end I think we got used to it. Things got real awkward when he played in Detroit. It was unsettling seeing him in that jersey. The next phase of a weird ending came when he donned a Grizzly jersey for just three games! He even played in Turkey for a while before finally hanging up the shoes for good.

Allen Iverson Grizzlies
Basket4Us

Shaquille O’ Neal

Am I allowed to speak for everyone when I ask if we can just forget the carousel Shaq took us on at the end of his career? It was the strangest thing watching a once unstoppable force of nature jump around the league so quickly. He wasn’t an abomination in Phoenix, but after the trade to Cleveland he was a shell of his former self. The final move of his 19-year career was with Boston where he… well let’s just forget it and remember The Diesel for what he was.

 

Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem gave the Rockets 17 wonderful years and the only championships the franchise has ever known. A two-time Finals MVP and 12-time All-Star Hakeem didn’t finish his career in Houston. After the 2000-01 season the Rockets felt his career needed to come to an end. Hakeem thought differently and spent his last season in Toronto where he played for Lenny Wilkens and with future Hall of Famer Vince Carter. This was one of the strangest sights ever for NBA fans and most forget it ever happened.

 

Michael Jordan

The most iconic American sports figure ever Michael Jordan spent two awkward years playing in Washington. I remember getting my picture taken with the awe inspiring statue of this man outside the United Center. There may not be a sports figure attached to a franchise like Jordan is to the Bulls. Five MVP’s, an undefeated Finals record and perhaps the greatest career in sports history didn’t mean he was immune to an uncomfortable ending. Seeing Jordan return in 2001 to play in a Wizards uniform had to almost physically hurt. It felt like you were cheating on the man, but you couldn’t be since he was the one wearing the jersey.