Tag Archives: JR Smith

BULLet Points: Bulls deliver completely empty signature victory

The Bulls technically aren’t eliminated until they lose another game or Indiana wins one, so Saturday night’s matchup with LeBron James and the Cavaliers still mattered. As is often the case, the Bulls brought their A-game for LeBron and co., pulling out an impressive 105-102 victory. Of course, it’s far too little, too late, so plenty of Bulls fans are just annoyed by this type of performance. Let’s take a look at how they did it.

  • The Spring of Cristiano Felicio continues. Felicio was 7/7 with 16 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 23 minutes. He provided a real defensive presence and was perfect from the field, slamming down several dunks. Fred Hoiberg rightfully rode Cristiano down the stretch, as he played nearly the entire fourth quarter. The Bulls were +12 in Felicio’s minutes and -9 in Pau Gasol‘s.
  • The Bulls’ success with Felicio in the game is classic addition by subtraction. Pau puts up gaudy rebounding and block numbers that largely amount to empty calories. His slowness getting back and moving defensively sink the unit. His offensive production is overvalued as his post-ups slow down the flow and he takes a high percentage of long mid-range shots. Felicio does all the little things defensively and stays out of the way for the most part on the other end. The Bulls will be a better team without Pau in the starting lineup.
  • Good news! The Bulls have the rights to Cristiano Felicio next season for under $900,000, making the 23-year-old Brazilian a legitimate find. The Bulls will also have matching rights after next year, so Felicio will be on the team for a long time if things go well. A fun silver lining to a season that’s been anything but.
  • Bobby Portis and Felicio made up the frontcourt for almost the entirety of the fourth quarter comeback. The Cavs led 82-79 after three, but the Bulls stormed ahead to a double-digit lead before a late flurry from LeBron James made things interesting.
  • Ultimately, the James-Kevin Love frontcourt didn’t get the job done, as Tyronn Lue elected to go small for that stretch. Tristan Thompson never came in throughout the Bulls’ onslaught, and I wonder if that would’ve stopped the bleeding.
  • Both LeBron and Love were phenomenal, though. James finished with 33 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes. He nearly willed the Cavs all the way back at the end, drilling multiple three-pointers at critical times. He was 4/5 from distance on the night, a far cry from his 30.2% clip on the season. Kevin Love notched 20 points and 13 boards.
  • Jimmy Butler turned it up late to secure victory. He finished with 21 points, six boards, and three steals. Derrick Rose had a tough night, adding only 10 points while posting a -20 in 32 minutes.
  • Nikola Mirotic tallied 13 points and six rebounds in only 17 minutes. He’s really started to look like a valuable player since coming back from his appendicitis. He’s shot 43.7% on threes since the All-Star break and is up to 38.2% overall.
  • J.R. Smith was lights out, scoring 24 points with seven three pointers. He’s quietly been one of the most prolific three point shooters in NBA history, and some nights he’s just going to roast you from deep. The Bulls are lucky J.R.’s hot shooting didn’t sink them.
  • Mike Dunleavy still looks like a corpse, which is unfortunate.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to New Orleans tomorrow night.

What Are The Cavs Doing?

Look, at first glance, the last couple moves the Cleveland Cavs have reportedly made look sound. On Monday, they flipped Dion Waiters, who Kyrie Irving almost definitely hates, for JR Smith, who has at least proven he can contribute to solid teams. In that move, they added potentially good wing defender Iman Shumpert and a late first round pick from Oklahoma City. Still, in doing so, they put themselves in an even tougher position salary cap-wise if Smith exercises his $6.4 million player option (pretty likely) and they try to retain restricted free agent Iman Shumpert.

Today, the Cavs have reportedly acquired Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov for two first round picks. (Update: the Cavs also received a late second round pick from Memphis). According to Adrian Wojnarowski, those are the picks that belong to OKC and Memphis. The aforementioned OKC pick should convey this season in the 20s while the Memphis pick has interesting protections:

This is a massive haul for Denver. The Nuggets had recently begun giving the talented Jusuf Nurkic minutes over Mozgov anyway and have no chance at making the playoffs. Nurkic looks like a keeper, and the two picks will help them restock their roster.

For the Cavs, the trade is quite the risk. Some combination of Dan Gilbert, GM David Griffin, David Blatt (who coached Mozgov on Team Russia), and LeBron have decided that the need for a rim protecting center in 2015 is more important than flexibility and young talent in the future. This is a notable departure from the patience message that LeBron and Blatt have preached from the start. In James’ homecoming letter, he cautioned that this was a long process and he wanted to build something long lasting. Yet every move made by Cleveland screams out that they need to win NOW.

In October, Cleveland gave the oft-injured 32 year old Anderson Varejao an extension that guaranteed him two years and $20 million. He tore his achilles in December and is out for the season once again. He’s only played more than 31 games in one season (2013-14) since 2009-10.

It’s hard to blame the Cavaliers with the previously immortal LeBron missing extended time for the first time in his career after not looking like himself early in the season. But if LeBron’s body is breaking down they have far bigger problems than winning a title this season. It seems more likely that the Cavs simply want to win now far more than they’ve let on. But do they even have a roster capable of doing so?

While Mozgov adds some needed rim protection, the Cavs are still two or three players short of a full contender’s rotation. Furthermore, their defense has been a disaster that one solid defensive center can’t fix by himself. Kevin Love has looked disinterested and the James we saw early on wasn’t playing sound defense at all. When you consider all of the injuries the Cavs have already faced, it’s extremely tough to assume full health for them come playoff time.

It seems LeBron James returning to Cleveland wasn’t all they needed to return to contention. The role of owner Micky Arison, Hall of Fame executive Pat Riley and the underrated Erik Spoelstra were all integral parts of James’ success in Miami. While Cleveland undoubtedly has a playoff roster and the hint of a championship core, it’s utter lack of competent front office and ownership personnel is clearer than ever.