- From the start, last night’s game against Detroit felt like one that would come down to the wire, and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately, the Bulls never seemed to make shots when it mattered, even though they ultimately shot better from the field (40.5%) than the Pistons (37.5%). However, Detroit had 20 offensive rebounds, leading to 20 more shot attempts than the Bulls.
- First quarter: Both teams entered the night 2-0, and though the Bulls scored first on a Pau Gasol basket, the Pistons responded with a three pointer almost immediately from Marcus Morris. This proved to be a microcosm of how the rest of the game would turn out, as Detroit never really shrunk from any sort of lead the Bulls put up. Tony Snell got into early foul trouble, drawing two within the first three minutes and E’Twuan Moore had to come in earlier than normal. From there, the Pistons capitalized on some poor Chicago shooting in the first quarter and took a 23-19 lead.
- Second quarter: This time it was the Pistons’ opportunity to look a little sloppy, and after the Bulls went on a 7-0 run, Stan Van Gundy called a timeout that ended up stalling the scoring on both ends for several minutes. The second quarter was the lowest scoring overall, with the two teams combining for just 32 points. Eventually, baskets from Aron Baynes and Anthony Tolliver ignited the action again. With 2:50 left in the half, Jimmy Butler tied it at 35, and shortly after Chicago had a chance to take the lead. Shortly after, Butler stole the ball just after Detroit brought the ball past half court, and a Tony Snell tap-in from Butler’s missed shot gave the Bulls the edge. They added another basket before the half, going up 39-35.
- Third quarter: The Pistons fought back and tied the game at 41 with 9:26 remaining in the quarter. Just a minute later, Reggie Jackson put them up by a basket. By the 6:37 mark, they were up by 8 points, and Fred Hoiberg had to call a time out to try and right the ship. This seemed to do the trick, because a Pau Gasol pass to Nikola Mirotic for a bucket brought the Bulls within three. A few minutes later, a pair of free throws from Butler put the Bulls up by one. But, once again, Detroit would not be stymied. They responded with an immediate basket and took back the lead. This was the catalyst for several lead changes that would continue for the remainder of the quarter until a beautiful dunk by Taj Gibson left the score tied at 64 to end the quarter.
- Fourth quarter: Though Doug McDermott provided a rallying three pointer a minute into the last quarter, the Pistons surged ahead by five points. The Bulls kept responding themselves, though, and a classic Derrick Rose drive to the basket set up a basket by Taj Gibson. This preceded a Mirotic three pointer that tied the game at 72. Andre Drummond and Butler exchanged free throws near the end of the quarter to swap the lead back and forth, but regulation ended with a tie at 83.
- Overtime: The overtime was just hard to watch. The Bulls came out looking sloppy and never really got it together. Detroit went on a 7-0 run and things just never really changed from there. Hoiberg called a timeout after that, but even that didn’t do it. The Bulls shot really poorly at the worst possible time, and that left the game in Detroit’s hands. They won it, 98-94. The Bulls shot three for ten in overtime compared to five of eight for Detroit.
- Though the Bulls outshot the Pistons last night, they couldn’t quite hit the ones they needed to prevail. From here, the Pistons take a break until Tuesday when they will host the Pacers. The Bulls return to the United Center to host Orlando on Sunday night before hitting the road next Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets.
This past Thursday was the most amazing trade deadline in years for us basketball junkies. So much occurred in the 11th hour before the clock hit 3:00 PM EST. Twitter was a tweeting as deals were being reported left and right and everything was coming at us at once. All of this was really hard to digest right away, and still a few days later it’s not entirely clear what every team was thinking. So here’s your guide through what actually went down, and why.
Before we get to the “nitty-gritty” and the game of “point guard roulette” that was played, lets quickly recap all the minor trades that transpired. I’m going to skip over the really inconsequential moves because nobody wants to hear my rambling thoughts on Pablo Prigioni going from New York to Houston, or why Ramon Sessions was traded for the 147th time. Here we go…
Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas from Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers
Why did it happen?
The Celtics have been pretty fond of Isaiah Thomas dating back to last off-season. Danny Ainge saw an opening to get him and in exchange gave away one of their many future 1st round picks. The Celtics are the most “un-tanky” of all the “tankiest” teams in the league (those are words now). Boston is really not helping themselves only being bad enough to secure the somewhere around 11th pick in lottery. Suns pick up a future asset and cut their losses with the ill-fated Thomas signing.
76ers trade K.J. McDaniels to Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and 2015 second-round pick
Why did it happen?
K.J. McDaniels is on a goofy one year deal and because of his play this year some team is likely to give him an offer sheet that the Sixers aren’t interested in paying. Further, many in Philadelphia are saying that Sam Hinkie doesn’t really want to deal with K.J.’s agent after botching the initial contract negotiations. Plus the Sixers really like Isaiah Canaan and have tracked him since last year’s draft, and now have an obvious void at PG. Houston grabs another wing player who can defend really well and could see minutes in the playoffs.
Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young
Why did it happen?
Flip Saunders is a genius, and when I say genius, I mean he makes other GM’s look like geniuses. T’Wolves traded a first round pick for 50 games of Thad Young, and then traded Thad so they could have a family reunion with the corpse of KG. Now they may want to extend the contract of said corpse. Flip you continue to amaze us all.
Trail Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a lottery-protected 2016 first round draft pick
Why did it happen?
Blazers get a key pickup in Afflalo who can provide scoring off the bench, something Portland needs desperately. Only costs them a future first rounder, and likely a pick that will land between 22-30. Nuggets who are now in a rebuild, acquire an asset.
All of this brings us to one of the biggest trade deadline clusterf&*%s we’ve ever seen…let’s dive into it.
In three-team trade, the Thunder acquire Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Jazz for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett and two draft picks (one from the Pistons); Oklahoma City also receives D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit for Reggie Jackson.
Why did it happen?
Let’s start with the Jazz. Kanter publicly announced he wanted out, Utah obliged and picked up some future draft picks. The Jazz are eager to start the Rudy Gobert era, and losing Kanter probably won’t haunt them. Detroit upgraded the PG position in hopes to squeeze into one of the final playoff spots in the East this season and prepare for the future. Reggie is for sure an upgrade from Augustin, and they could choose to resign him this off-season as an insurance policy if Brandon Jennings recovery is stunted. But that is something Stan Van Gundy will have to attend to later. They desperately want to make the playoffs, that’s why the deal went down.
Which brings us to OKC, who is a clear winner in this trade. They discarded an unhappy Reggie Jackson for a low post threat in Kanter, as well as some solid bench pieces in Augustin, Singler, and Novak. This gives OKC a really deep roster which could spur them to a title run this year. Augustin can definitely hold his own as a backup PG; Kanter at times is a very gifted low post scorer and may command double teams on some nights. They also acquire two lights-out three point shooters that could hit some big shots during the playoffs with so much defensive attention constantly going towards Durant and Westbrook.
In three-team trade, Suns send Goran and Zoran Dragic to Heat in exchange for Danny Granger and two draft picks, while also acquiring John Salmons from Pelicans; New Orleans gets Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams from Miami.
Why did it happen?
Dragic was emphatic over the displeasure he had with the Suns front office, and basically forced Phoenix’s hand to deal him before the deadline passed. Pat Riley savvily stole Dragic for essentially nothing: some fringe NBA players and future first round picks that Riley himself will probably never be in office to select. Miami’s league-worst stable of point guards was their one true weakness now that Hassan Whiteside has emerged as the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.
Acquiring Dragic, who was second team All-NBA last season, was such a huge acquisition for Miami that for a short 24 hours they perhaps were a dark horse title contender before Chris Bosh’s scary blood clot issue was discovered. But Miami will likely be able to resign Goran during the offseason and could potentially compete in 2016. More importantly, Bosh will be okay. So the Suns acquire more future picks and rid themselves of an unhappy Dragic. They also receive Danny Granger and John Salmons, who both could be waived or just wither away on the bench for the rest of the season. New Orleans get a warm-blooded backup PG in Norris Cole, which is something they need if they are to beat out OKC for the eight spot, though it is highly unlikely. Jrue Holiday’s injury is taking a turn for the worse, and you really can’t have Tyreke Evans playing 40 minutes a night at the point.
In three-team deal, Bucks send Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Suns in exchange for Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; Additionally, Phoenix sends their protected 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers to 76ers, and Philadelphia sends Michael Carter-Willams to Milwaukee
Why did it happen?
This was clearly the most shocking trade of the whole deadline. The Bucks imploding their frontcourt and trading their leading scorer during a playoff run is not a strategy many teams subscribe to. The Bucks must have felt that impending restricted free agent Brandon Knight was worth more to the open market this summer than he was to their organization. Milwaukee is not interested in paying a dollar figure potentially between $12-15 million that Knight will command this summer. So instead they swap in Michael Carter-Williams who is at least under team control for two more years.
The problem is they’re swapping Knight for possibly the worst shooter in the entire league. They do gain a 6’6″ point guard and now have a stable of players who are extremely long and can defend multiple positions. Jason Kidd likely sees a lot of himself in MCW and must feel that he can work with him to fix his woeful jump shot.
The Bucks definitely improve on defense, but will now really struggle to score the ball in the halfcourt and don’t really have someone to go to in crunch time. That will really hinder them this season, but going forward with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, they will surely be an interesting team to watch. They also acquire Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to add more bodies to an already deep bench.
The Suns get a pretty good replacement for Goran Dragic in Brandon Knight. Dragic is much better than Knight, but Knight may fit better into the Suns guard dominated offense. Knight is much more a combo guard than Dragic was and can be a prolific scorer. The duo of Bledsoe and Knight seems like a more natural fit than the Bledsoe and Dragic duo, because Knight can easily transition into the 2 spot. They painted themselves in a corner when they alienated Dragic and were forced to deal him and try and get some value before he became a free agent this summer. Phoenix really screwed this up, but Brandon Knight could pay dividends for the Suns eventually.
What won’t pay dividends is the idiotic move to trade the Lakers top five protected pick to Philadelphia. It’s just insane to let that pick go. They must have proposed multiple deals not involving the Lakers pick before they eventually caved to Milwaukee and Philadelphia’s demands. Losing the pick is bad, but losing Dragic and getting nothing return is worse. So they downgraded from Dragic to Knight and let go of an asset that had the potential to land them a future star this summer. Wow. That’s some Flip Saunders-like ineptitude.
So here’s what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie were thinking when they dealt away the “current” face of the franchise. The Sixers are not in the business of trying to become average; they’re trying to reach greatness. To the Sixers, MCW was just an average prospect who may have hit his ceiling. They did not view him as a future cog going forward; he plays the deepest position in the entire league and is 100% replaceable in their eyes.
Another reason for ditching MCW is that his numbers are inflated because of the run ‘n’ gun style the Sixers play, they have more offensive possessions than most teams. He also constantly has the ball in his hands and only shoots 38% from the field, and 26% from three (I just threw up in my mouth reading those numbers). His numbers are just awful by any standards for a starting guard in this league.
The Sixers want to develop a team around stars and MCW is never going to be one. By acquiring the Lakers’ protected pick, they are just giving themselves another opportunity to hit the lottery and draft a potential building block. They don’t really feel like they are taking a huge step back by shedding MCW either. By draft, trade, or free agency, the Sixers are constantly seeking the right opportunity to nab a superstar. Hinkie himself is one of the guys who orchestrated the James Harden trade. That is a type of scenario that they will be looking for moving forward, besides just drafting talent. Remaining flexible by staying way under the salary cap and gathering tons of valuable assets is what will make the Sixers a desired trade partner when a star from another team becomes available.
It’s not often those types of draft picks like the Lakers’ become available. It has the potential to be great, and the Sixers were selling high on MCW. Especially considering he’s a PG who can’t shoot and whose only viable trait is his height. All of this trying to acquire and develop around stars is easier said than done, I realize. But what the Sixers want to do is build something that will last not just a few years, but possibly for a decade or longer. The Sixers management is dedicated to building something special and you can begin to see through the mist if you squint really hard. The Hinkie strategy may seem outrageous to many and logical to few, but on Thursday they made the easy decision.
I studied my successes this morning after yesterday’s strategy of employing the likes of Reggie Jackson and Tony Parker did not work. I found out something very, very interesting- a trend that will should give me an edge in the future. Find out what that trend is in today’s video!!
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Yesterday, the Bulls finished off the Lakers to move to 25-25 and on the season. 50 games in and less than a week from the All-Star Break feels like a good time to check in around the league and make some predictions. You may remember my NBA Tipoff Preview Extravaganza, but many things have changed since October. Some of my predictions were solid (Durant as scoring champ, Washington and Dallas to make the playoffs, etc.), while some of been quite ugly (Portland finishing 10th in the West, Derrick Rose and the Bulls embarking on a storybook season). Regardless, it’s a hell of a lot easier to make informed predictions 50 games in than it is to guess off of meaningless preseason games and offseason quotes. Let’s jump in once again.
Eastern Conference Standings
- Indiana Pacers
- Miami Heat
- Atlanta Hawks
- Toronto Raptors*
- Chicago Bulls*
- Brooklyn Nets
- Washington Wizards
- Detroit Pistons
- New York Knicks
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Boston Celtics
- Orlando Magic
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Milwaukee Bucks
*-even if Chicago finishes ahead of Toronto, winning the Atlantic Division yields the Raptors the four seed
I’m expecting much of the same for the last chunk of the season. The one team I think will surely miss the playoffs is Charlotte, to be replaced by either Detroit or New York.
Western Conference Standings
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- San Antonio Spurs
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Portland Trailblazers
- Houston Rockets
- Golden State Warriors
- Dallas Mavericks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Phoenix Suns
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Denver Nuggets
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Utah Jazz
- Sacramento Kings
- Los Angeles Lakers
Memphis will reclaim its playoff spot, probably at the hands of Phoenix. I also could see the Lakers sliding all the way down to last in the Western Conference (which would be terrific for them).
If Russell Westbrook can return and stay on the floor, I like the OKC Thunder over Indiana. Miami has a legitimate shot at four straight Finals and a three-peat, but an aging roster and an increasing reliance on Wade, James and Bosh has to be alarming for Pat Riley. The Pacers are young and healthy, and every win moves them closer to home court advantage. Out West, the Thunder have inexplicably been the best team by a decent margin, mostly without Westbrook. Assuming Durant can keep up his MVP levels of play, integrating Westbrook back in would make for a vicious attack. Plus, my biggest issue with the Thunder in the 2012 Finals was Scott Brooks refusal to have Kendrick Perkins ride the pine. This year, Brooks is more willing to experiment with small lineups and better plus-minus guys like Nick Collison and Steven Adams. If this keeps up into the playoffs, the whole NBA better be on notice.
- Kevin Durant
- LeBron James
- Paul George
- Steph Curry
- LaMarcus Aldridge
For what it’s worth, my choice for MVP is LeBron James. Kevin Durant has a perfectly logical case this season, but my reasoning is as follows: if you consider Durant to be a 10/10 on offense, LeBron is still an 8.5 or 9 at WORST. On defense, LeBron is a full 10/10. He can cover every position with ease. Even if Durant has improved rapidly on that side of the floor, I think you would be hard-pressed to argue that Durant’s defense is good as LeBron’s offense. And if you disagree with that logic, you should probably watch LeBron’s defense more carefully next game. Anyway, KD’s probably gonna win this one. Voter fatigue + best record + historical offensive season. No complaints.
Defensive Player of the Year
- Roy Hibbert
- LeBron James
- Andrew Bogut
- Joakim Noah
- Dwight Howard
Hibbert is the best defender in a ridiculously, historically, mind-blowingly good defense in Indiana. Anyone that’s watched Roy play (especially against Miami last ECF) gets it.
Sixth Man of the Year
- Reggie Jackson
- Taj Gibson
- Jamal Crawford
- Tyreke Evans
- Manu Ginobili
This one is a real toss-up this year. Jackson has the best numbers but he’s started a lot of games with Westbrook out so he may not end up being eligible. Taj Gibson is turning in a career year that’s finally convinced everyone in Chicago that he is much, much better than Carlos Boozer. Crawford is having another excellent reserve season while Evans and Ginobili have fought injuries to try and keep their teams’ bench units strong.
Coach of the Year
- Terry Stotts, Portland Trailblazers
- Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers
- Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
- Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
- Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
The rare season where I don’t instantly hand off the award to Pop or Thibs. While Pop has a legitimate case (nearly NBA’s best record with a slew of scrubs playing huge minutes due to injuries), Thibs’ .500 record leaves a little to be desired. Stotts has been a revalation in Portland, turning playoff-hopefuls into home court advantage if they can hold on. Vogel continues to architect the NBA’s best defense, while Budenholzer (a Popovich student) has done a terrific job with a goofy roster in his first year in Atlanta. Brooks has shown that he’s able to adapt and maintain an elite record.
Rookie of the Year
- Michael Carter-Williams
- Victor Oladipo
- Trey Burke
- Tim Hardaway Jr.
- Giannis Antentokounmpo
Carter-Williams wasn’t even on my pre-season list, but he’s in the driver’s seat now (although he has fallen off a bit). Oladipo has quietly put together a promising campaign while Burke and Hardaway Jr. have played key roles for their teams. Giannis has a long way to go, but he may be the most promising rookie.
That’s all I’ve got for right now. Feel free to comment, tweet, or email me with your own predictions, whether you agree or not. Enjoy the rest of the season–soon enough we’ll only have baseball!