Tag Archives: Ja Morant

Triple Zeros: ‘Whatcha Say Na Coach?’

Triple Zeros

‘Whatcha Say Na Coach?’

In this episode of Triple Zeros: The Green Bay Packers kicked off NFL Week 8 win over the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football is the reason we shouldn’t overreact to one game. The Kansas City Chiefs are too, but they are in trouble all the same. Sam Darnold was benched by the Carolina Panthers and folks are questioning OC Joe Brady. But why is Matt Rhule escaping blame? Also, the Cincinnati Bengals sit atop the AFC North. Do they have staying power?

On the NBA side, Ja Morant and Stephen Curry are tied for the league-lead in scoring. The former got the win in overtime on Thursday. Anthony Edwards called out his teammates after a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. They responded with a win over the reigning-champion Milwaukee Bucks. All of that and more!

Anchor | Apple

Last Word on Pro Football

Pippen Ain’t Easy

Soaring Down South

Follow the show on Facebook and Twitter (@3ZerosPod, @JoshGBuck, @ClockerSports) and visit ClockerSport.com today!

Triple Zeros. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. Triple Zero

5 Most Impactful Guards from the First Round of the NBA Playoffs

The first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs has been nothing short of exciting and there were several players who upped their level of play appropriately. Some are playing on the big stage for the first time and showing that they fit in just fine. Others have proven they still got it. And others still have reminded us that, to put it simply, this is what they do.

2021 NBA Playoffs 5 Most Impactful Guards

5. Ja Morant – G – Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies go as Ja Morant goes. That’s not groundbreaking analysis; point guards typically dictate the flow of the game. Morant is also the face of the franchise and just oozing with talent. But there are (or were) questions about his game, both upon entering the NBA and in the playoffs. We’re getting our answers.

Morant has gone from averaging 19.1 points per game during the regular season to 31.0 in the playoffs, good for sixth in the field. Even without his 47-point explosion, he’d be over 25 PPG in the playoffs. What’s more, is he’s been able to improve (slightly) upon his 7.4 assists per (to 7.5) and cut his turnovers as well.

He’s also been more efficient from the floor overall, though his perimeter game has been almost non-existent. He was hitting his 3.8 triples per game at a  percent clip during the regular season but has hit just 22.7 percent of his 5.5 3PA in the postseason. If he can return next season with an improved jumper, the Grizz are going to be a problem.

4. Trae Young – G – Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young was once billed as the “next Stephen Curry” coming out of Oklahoma. He had made a name for himself for his scoring exploits and seemingly limitless range in college. His first couple of seasons saw him try to live up to that hype but to limited success, especially on the team level. Atlanta won 49 games over in his first two years. They won 41 this past season.

A big part of that was Nate McMillan taking over for Lloyd Pierce. The Hawks went 27-11 under the former Pacers coach’s guidance. But another, more unsung, part was forward John Collins calling Young out for his style of play. Now, Atlanta went just 11-16 between that and Pierce’s firing.

But perhaps that inspired Young, who had bumped heads with Pierce, to voice his displeasure to an ear that mattered. Whatever the case, McMillan has Young playing with a style more reminiscent of CP3 than Chef Curry. As the Hawks look to take down the Knicks in five games, their point guard is just scratching the surface of his abilities.

3. Dillon Brooks – G – Memphis Grizzlies

Yet another young Grizzlies player makes this list and this one is as much about his career to this point as it is what he’s done in the playoffs, which has been incredible. Dillon Brooks left college after his Oregon Ducks lost to two one-seeds and one two-seed in three tournament appearances. But during the draft process, he was picked apart.

Brooks is the rare NBA player whose wingspan is shorter than his actual height (Kelly Olynyk is another). He’s also not a great athlete so it’s not hard to see why scouts doubted him based on that. But his determination led him to turn himself into one of the better young perimeter defenders in the league. And during this postseason, he’s found his offense.

After scoring 20-plus points in 25 regular-season games, Brooks has scored more than that in all four of the Grizzlies playoff games. He’s averaging 25.5 points (up from 17.2 during the regular season) while sharing duties on the toughest defensive assignment. Now about those fouls…

2. Mike Conley – G – Utah Jazz

If the Utah Jazz complete the takedown of Memphis and make their way to greater pastures, they will in part have Mike Conley to thank. The 14-year vet has settled nicely into the fabric of the Utah Jazz who play with a sense of togetherness not seen since Conley’s “Grit & Grind’ Memphis teams.

Conley is averaging 20 points and 10 assists in four playoff games. In Game 1, when Donovan Mitchell missed with his ankle injury, Conley had 22 points and 11 dimes. He’s been steady as they come for his entire career but this time just feels like he’s making that much more of an impact.

Maybe that’s because this Jazz team is better (both in terms of talent and record) than any he had playing for the Grizzlies. Utah is the top seed in the West and has a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs with a win over his former team on Wednesday. He had just 11 points and seven dishes on Monday, but with a closeout at hand, another double-double could be on deck.

1. Derrick Rose – G – New York Knicks

Derrick Rose and the New York Knicks are fighting for their playoff lives versus the deeper and more skilled Hawks. But individually, Rose has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in the public eye. The former MVP (youngest in league history, in case you hadn’t heard) has bounced around since leaving the Bulls back in 2016.

Going from the Knicks to the Cavs to a cup of coffee with the Jazz to the Timberwolves to the Pistons and, finally, back to New York. Boy, should they be thanking their lucky stars he wanted to come back, this time to reunite with his former head coach with the Bulls and T’Wolves, Tom Thibodeau.

Rose has been the only consistent for the Knicks in the playoffs. He’s ahead of the 2021 Most Improved Player, Julius Randle, in points per game and not just by a little. He has a six-point edge! It’s hard to do over the slandering of Randle, but Rose’s performance deserves more praise especially considering the gravity of the situation.

Top Guards in the NBA Playoffs

This is just a shortlist of the guards who have had the biggest impact so far in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. We can do entire pieces on other positions. But guard play in the NBA is paramount these days. Who would you have on your list?

Searching for the Next Breakout Team in the NBA

Every year a team in the NBA shows they have a little more firepower in the chamber than anyone expected. It can be because of the addition (or subtraction) of a player or coach. Or it can just be lightning in a bottle; a team jelling at the right time in the Association. Regardless, we see it all the time and this season is no different.

The New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns are the best examples of this from this season. New York sits fifth in the East at 19-18 thanks in no small part to the addition of head coach Tom Thibodeau. For Phoenix, it was the Point God, Chris Paul, who has them as second in the ever-tough West with a 24-11 record.

Different needs and methods, similar results.

Which Team is Next to Break Out in the NBA?

Just A Piece Away

New Orleans Pelicans

The first group is made up of teams that are a player or coach away from being a threat and the first team in that group is the New Orleans Pelicans. A predicted team on the rise in 2020, they finished 13th in the West.

Part of why it didn’t work is they were a roster (and organization) in transition. Now with the team firmly Zion Williamson’s (sorry Brandon Ingram) they need to retool it to his strengths.

Ingram and Lonzo Ball fit well enough but center Steven Adams doesn’t. He isn’t a great rebounder or defender so he’s basically just clogging the paint.

New Orleans needs a modern, stretch big (looking at you, Chris Boucher) to take advantage of what Zion does and maximize the talent around him.Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker can platoon at guard but Jaxson Hayes does nothing to alleviate the problems an Adams-Williamson pairing causes. Too bad they extended Adams upon trading for him.

Memphis Grizzlies

Much like with New Orleans, we thought we’d be getting a much-improved version of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2020-21. So far they’re in the same spot they finished last season in, ninth in the Western Conference standings. But they’re five games better through 33 games than they were at the same point in 2020-21.

Ja Morant missed time earlier in the year with an ankle injury, but it’s Jaren Jackson Jr. that’s missed the entire campaign while recovering from meniscus surgery. Imagine this unit at full strength.

The problem for them is the West is just as tough a conference as it’s been for the majority of the last 20-plus years. Even with all hands on deck, Memphis would still have to contend with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs of the world.

While Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks are nice players, they need a wing that can get his own to fully realize their potential. Demar Derozan would be a nice addition if his Spurs weren’t fighting for the playoffs themselves.

Something’s Not Right

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas has a once-in-a-lifetime talent and MVP candidate on the wings in Luka Doncic. They also have a big man in Kristaps Porzingis that’s so unique he was given the nickname “the Unicorn”. And they have one of the best coaches of his generation. So how are they eighth in the West?

They arguably have a better duo than a couple of the teams ahead of them. But Doncic and Porzingis have only played in 78 of a possible 192 games together. They’d naturally lose some to rest and Prozingis missed an entire season recovering from a knee injury.

Since he returned to the court in 2018 it’s actually 78 out of 110 games. That’s much better and still not enough.

Dallas could also use a player on the wing to take some of the pressure off of Doncic. It would help the team as a whole honestly since they can’t rely on Porzingis to be available.

Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young was dubbed the next Steph Curry while still in college at Oklahoma. It’s not a bad comp. But in hindsight, while we got the Curry-esque individual numbers from Young in his sophomore season, we have yet to see the type of leadership that makes Steph so unique. It’s that ability that made Kevin Durant joining the Splash Bros. work.

Young hasn’t shown that per se and has even shown signs of going the other way in terms of leadership. Earlier this season he was called out by John Collins for being too ball-dominant. His response was to shoot fewer than ten times (the Hawks are 1-2 this season when he hits that mark).

Teammates fight and get over it all the time though. The concerning part was the role Young reportedly played in the dismissal of Lloyd Pierce as head coach. Nate McMillan is a good and deserving coach but Pierce had made himself a fixture in the community.

That doesn’t buy a reprieve from going 16-20 to start the season. Pierce’s firing wasn’t all on Young (and goes back to last season) but if he wanted him there, he’d still be there.

Finding the Next Breakout NBA Team

This could have been titled “What Happened…” given the expectations each of these teams had before the season started. They all have the potential to be the next breakout story. But they’re all missing one thing or another that would put them over the top.

Will they get that one piece, be it player, coach, or moment in time that will get them to the promised land? Who knows. But if Dallas or Memphis grab a wing, New Orleans figures out center, or the Hawks jell we will be speaking of them as we have the Knicks and Suns this season.

Triple Zeros: Brooklyn, Go Hard!

Triple Zeros Brooklyn Go Hard – Congrats Jags fans on winning the Lawrence Lottery, lamenting Ja Morant’s injury, and so much more! This is filler to make it green. Green it make to filler is this. This is filler to make it green. Green make it to filler this is. This is filler to make it green. Green it make to filler is this. This is filler to make it green. Green make it to filler this is. Triple Zeros Brooklyn this is filler.

Triple Zeros Ep. 107

‘Brooklyn, Go Hard’

NFL

Playoff Picture Still Murky

Congrats on landing Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars Fans!

NBA

Ja Morant, Spencer Dinwiddie both suffer injuries

Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers Both 3-0

+More!

Anchor

Congrats Jags fans on winning the Lawrence Lottery, lamenting Ja Morant’s injury, and so much more! This is filler to make it green. Green it make to filler is this. This is filler to make it green. Green make it to filler this is. This is filler to make it green. Green it make to filler is this. This is filler to make it green. Green make it to filler this is. Triple Zeros Brooklyn this is filler. This is filler to make it green. Green it make to filler is this. This is filler to make it green. Green make it to filler this is. This is filler to make it green. Green it make to filler is this. This is filler to make it green. Green make it to filler this is. Triple Zeros Brooklyn this is filler.

NBA Western Conference Playoff Preview

The calendar has turned to March and the madness is about to begin. Yes, that might have been a reference to college basketball but that still doesn’t change for the NBA. Last week I covered the Eastern Conference.

The playoffs bracket in the West is closer in terms of playoff positioning, but the Los Angeles Lakers sit at the top led by all-time great LeBron James. Can we consider LeBron a legend even though he is still active? We can get to that next week when I’ll be diving into some of the more debatable topics this league provides its fans.

Previewing the Western Conference Playoffs

The Front-Runners

The Lakers have a sturdy 5.5-game lead on the Los Angeles Clippers who many consider the favorite to come out of the West. The Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Dallas Mavericks are all separated by 5.5 games. These last few weeks could help win homecourt advantage for certain teams that thrive in there home arena.

Home-court advantage is going to be critical. If Denver gets home court over the Thunder (which would happen if the playoffs started today). Both teams are significantly better at home than on the road. Think about if Oklahoma City stole home-court advantage and was able to win their first-round series. That could change the outlook on the franchise.

The current seventh-seeded Mavericks actually boast a 21-11 road record, so they could play spoiler in a series. Luka Doncic is built for the playoffs. They might lose their first-round series, but there will be fireworks because of the Mavericks averaging 116 PPG, which ranks third in the NBA.

Last, Not Least

The battle for the eighth spot in the west might be the most interesting. The Memphis Grizzlies are sitting with a 3 game lead over the Sacramento Kings.

Other potential suitors for that eighth and coveted spot are the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and New Orleans Pelicans. All of these teams sit no more than four games back. The most compelling story is the upstart Pelicans who are led by rookie sensation Zion Williamson. But we have to respect what Memphis has done here. Their schedule after the all-star break was second in difficulty, and with a little over a month to go, they have a solid three-game lead. The Grizzlies are led by another rookie sensation in Ja Morant.

Look at the top-seeded Lakers. They have two of the top-five players in the league. Some are here to argue that Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best in the league and I have no qualms about it. I would be remiss to say that LeBron is still the number one player in the world given his incredible IQ, distribution, and understanding of the game and what needs to be done to win a title.

Still Up There

At this point, we are tired of LeBron and it skews our view on him in terms of greatness. In any best-of-seven series, the Lakers will have an all-time great as the best player on the floor. But will his supporting cast be able to do enough to get him to the finals?

The number-one threat to the Lakers returning the NBA Finals is the Clippers. After an intense six-game series where the upstart Clippers pushed the Warriors to the brink with inspiring play, free-agency ended with them having acquired the defending Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, a two-way superstar who could help the Clipper reach the promised land. The Clippers have the star power and defensive prowess to wear the Lakers down and are 2-0 against their cross-town foe.

But this reporter has seen this before. Who remembers when the 2011 Chicago Bulls went against the Lebron James led heat? Yes I know, we have different levels of stars. And Leonard and George are lengthy defenders who can combat LeBron. But when it comes down to it in a best-of-seven, give me LeBron.

Keep an Eye On

The Nuggets and Rockets are third and fourth in the Western Conference. The Nuggets main question still remains. Do they have the star power to get to the finals? Simple answer. No.

Denver is a good team, don’t me wrong. But right now they would face the Thunder in the first round; no easy out. In the second round, they would face the Clippers. They don’t have the bodies to guard the likes of Leonard and George. The athleticism of the Clippers would be too much.

The Rockets are a gimmicky team trying to beat you by spreading the floor and being unconscious from the three-point line. They have the superstar power to get to the Western Conference Finals but those stars haven’t punched their ticket to finals since 2012. That was when James Harden and Russell Westbrook were with the Thunder.

How It Plays Out

Throughout a seven-game series, the Rockets will be worn down. If they come out of the first round, they’ll be minced meat for either the Lakers or Clippers. The bottom-four teams in the playoffs have young (to a degree), up-and-coming teams that will have their title window soon. Just not quite yet. The Thunder are the surprise of the season.

After trading Westbrook and George, everyone thought the team would tank to hopefully draft their next superstar. That is not the case. Chris Paul and company are having a fantastic season and look to ruffle some feathers in the first round. Utah is a defensive dynamo led by Rudy Gobert. Unfortunately, they do not have enough pop to get to the finals. Hopefully, they’ll see Donovan Mitchell pop in the playoffs again. The Jazz are just hoping to advance to the second round.

As for the Mavericks and the Grizzlies, the only thing I want to see is the blossoming of Doncic and Morant. These two young players are on another level, and I hope to see them raise their game in the playoffs. Doncic has been in big moments for nearly a decade and you can tell in his early career he has the makings of being something special. He is currently averaging 28.5 points per game, 8.8 assists, and 9.3 rebounds.

One for the Road

Ja Morant is the Rookie of the Year in my opinion. Trust me I love Zion just as much as the next guy. But Ja has been nothing short of special for this upstart Memphis bunch and a playoff appearance in his rookie season is nothing but a sign of great things to come.

It is March and that can only mean one thing. The basketball world will come into the focus with the NCAA tournament and the NBA playoffs to follow shortly after. These are all the things I am looking for in this year’s playoffs. If you read last week’s article I chose the Boston Celtics, and for this week. I believe the Lakers will meet them in the NBA Finals, and the winner will be in next week’s article.

If you have anything you want to discuss you can hit me up on twitter @illiniRyan7

(Un)luck of the Draw

Draft Lottery Unlucky for Bulls, Fans

The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery came and went with a whoosh. But it definitely left its mark on the NBA. That mark will create ripple effects across the entire Association. For some teams, that ripple is looking like a positive. For many other teams, though, the lottery created more questions (and problems) than before.

 

Can’t Always Get What You Want

The sky is falling! No, that is not a reference to beloved fictitious character Chicken Little. It is, instead, the cries of Chicago Bulls fans everywhere in the wake of landing the number seven overall pick in the NBA Draft in last night’s Draft Lottery. ‘Landing’ is the appropriate word because you have to fall to land. And being projected for the fourth slot only to land the seventh is a fall far greater than the mere three-slot difference would suggest.

Part of the reason the results are so deflating is because the consensus is that after the top three (Duke’s Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett or Ja Morant of Murray State) there are no clear cut, must-take players. Some even say that the cutoff is the top two. That isn’t to say that the other players won’t be fine pros. It is to say that if there is a generational talent among the field from four on, it wasn’t on display while they were in college. In other words, they are more likely role players than franchise cornerstones.

The other kicker is the seventh pick represents a near-worst-case for the Bulls draft odds. The reform of the NBA’s lottery flattened out the odds for the bottom three teams to get the top pick and the results were immediately apparent. The Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies both jumped at least six spots, as did the draft’s biggest winner, the New Orleans Pelicans. Meanwhile, Horace Grant’s reaction as the Bulls name was read is representative of Bull fans everywhere.

 

What Now?

No need to cry (anymore) over spilled milk. Instead, the attention of the Chicago brain trust has certainly turned towards producing yet another surprisingly solid pick at a less than ideal draft slot. They have plenty of experience at this slot in particular, too. Both Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen (who was actually drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves) were picked in the seven-slot. And we have seen players like Donovan Mitchell (13th overall in 2017) come off the board at the end of the lottery and surprise.

So which prospects offer both the potential to exceed expectations and availability at seven? Bleacher Report currently has Chicago taking Coby White out of North Carolina, though pairing him in the backcourt with Zach Lavine would have opposing guards licking their offensive chops. Prior to the acquisition of Otto Porter, many in See Red Nation were clamoring for Duke wingman, Cam Reddish. The 6’8” forward was stifled in college playing alongside two other marquee talents, though, that’s not an issue in the Windy City.

That is the issue at hand. Even though the Bulls have a glaring need for a point guard but if it isn’t Morant there is no clear-cut answer for their lead guard. Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland (the second-ranked point guard) has questions after tearing his meniscus a mere five games into the season. The reality is beyond picks one and two, teams will be either reaching to fill needs or trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

 

Or…

The other option that has to be on the table is trading the pick. Rumors have already been swirling about the Bulls perhaps shipping the selection west to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball. The move would upgrade the point guard spot that the front office clearly doesn’t see Kris Dunn as a fit for. Outside of that, though, not many options readily present themselves. That is a credit to how the Bulls have fleshed out 3/5 of their roster. It also pigeonholes the expected return on any trade involving the draft pick. Anything other than a point guard is an unnecessary luxury.

If the Bulls feel they are really a veteran point guard away from competing in the East, a trade for the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley could be on the horizon. Trading the pick for a guard who will be 32 before the first tip of the 2019 season is…less than ideal. And that is before taking Conley’s exorbitant salary into account. The benefit to going after a vet is that it would allow Dunn to stick around and, hopefully, learn how to be a more effective floor general. That route just might not be viable through trade.

A third, and admittedly less appealing, option exists. The Bulls could trade back with another team should a player that team covets slides. That would potentially allow the Bulls to still pick a player they like, only at a more palatable slot. It also would bring in more draft capital for the future. That cannot be undervalued because, while it is not impossible, it is unlikely that they find a franchise-altering talent where they are currently slated to pick. Of course, that path would be asking for more patience from a fan base that is already clinging to fond memories of championships from 21 years ago.

 

Basketball Purgatory

Sports fans are familiar with this concept. It is often called basketball hell. When in this state, teams are neither good enough to compete for a championship nor bad enough to have a legitimate shot at the top incoming draft talent. The lottery (and its reformation) is supposed to quell tanking, but the Pelicans played their best player, Anthony Davis, 30-plus minutes once over the star big man’s final 15 games. Other than that he didn’t clear 25 minutes. News flash: they were tanking. Alas, the Bulls have gone from Ja Morant or Garland and rounding out their starting five to BPA/who knows without doing a thing. Impressive.

March A Different Kind of Madness for Bulls, Fans

Season of Woe Winding Down

The 21-54 Chicago Bulls are on pace for their worst season since the 2003-04 campaign. They have all but locked themselves in to have the fourth-best odds to get the top pick in the NBA Draft in June. Fans have witnessed key members of the core have good stretches in the slew of games that have followed the All-Star break. And the trade for Otto Porter has worked out for all parties involved. Zach Lavine even went so far as to offer to pay the fine for Head Coach Jim Boylen getting ejected against the Los Angeles Clippers.

That is all well and good. Except you have all been hoodwinked, bamboozled…you get the point. The Bulls, as predicted here, somewhat abandoned their tanking efforts and strung together a respectable run after the All-Star break. That was followed by a five-game skid that reminded everyone of what the goal was supposed to be. Then there is the question of personnel with regards to who is really part of the plan long-term for this team.

Flip Flop

‘Tank’ was the word for the Bulls entering the season and at the outset, things seemed to be trending that way. Fred Hoiberg was replaced with Boylen. Then the front office committed to Boylen in the midst of what was being reported at the time as a mutiny of sorts. Through half of their games, the Bulls had only 10 wins and seemed destined for a top-3 pick. That is significant with the new NBA Draft Lottery rules. With a mere 14 wins at the break, it seemed intentional intervention was the only way Chicago would fall out of the bottom three.

Flash forward and they have won seven out of 16 games since All-Star weekend. That is not world-beating by any stretch, but it is emblematic of the front office’s reputation in this space. Their unwillingness to bottom-out is and will be their Achilles-heel. It is not apples to apples, but researchers at MIT say that the Oakland Raiders trade of Khalil Mack was the best move of the year. The big takeaway is that unless you gut the operation, those lingering pieces are more likely to hold you back than propel you.
In a time when year-to-year turnarounds are the norm, it may seem counter-intuitive to zero out. But the duo of John Paxson and Gar Forman have always been able to hang their hats on finding and developing talent. It would have made sense for them to tear it down to the frame. But a combination of their own history, and perhaps the growing animosity towards their perception locally had the Bulls powers that be scuffling. They ended up holding on to assets they should have released (Robin Lopez) and winning games they needed to find ways to lose.

False Advertisement

Kris Dunn will not be a Chicago Bull next season. That much has become painfully clear. Not only have Bulls execs openly challenged and questioned the third-year pro, but reports have also surfaced about the team’s scouting of Murray State sophomore standout, Ja Morant. On top of all of that, Dunn’s best games all come with Lavine sidelined; just like his 26-13-6 game against the Washington Wizards. However you look at it, Dunn seems to be the odd man out of the young core.

Coach Boylen has grown on this team. Going from being reported for excessively tough practices to players volunteering to square your debts has to be an all-time boss move. But the team is abysmal in the very areas that Boylen was brought in to strengthen. They are 20th in points allowed per game, 25th in defensive efficiency, 26th in opponent effective field goal percentage, and 25th in opponent true shooting percentage. Those numbers are…ungood. And Boylen consistently referring to players playing with “fear” as opposed to actual strategy is unsettling, all things considered.

Injuries have struck this team all year so some of their statistical shortcomings are to be expected. It does not explain it all away and that is where Dunn and Boylen come into under scrutiny. Both are touted for what they bring defensively, but neither has lived up to that billing. Players have turned in favor of the embattled coach and teammates have voiced support for Dunn. Neither is a lock to return, but the Bulls have at least told us that the coach will. Meanwhile, Dunn, who was part of the Jimmy Butler trade, has seemingly been showed the door since he arrived.

D Is For…

‘Disappointment’ is the word of the 2018-19 season for the Bulls. A year filled with injury, coaching change, player unrest, and a war of semantics with the media can only be described as such. Even if being as bad as possible was the goal, as it should have been, the organization fell short. But anyone who has followed this group already knew what to expect. The rub is that knowledge does little to quell the disappointment (there’s that word again) of knowing that, in a year where they wanted to be bad, the team is likely to fall just short.

Bulls Balling, Bailing on Rebuild

Bulls Balling, Bail on Bombing

The Chicago Bulls beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-107 behind 39 points from Zach Lavine. He also had five rebounds and four assists. Most importantly, he ended the game by blocking a lob attempt by the Sixers. Robin Lopez added 19 while Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen had 15 and 11, respectively.

Late Season Surge

Chicago is 5-3 since the All-Star break. It is a modest total, but the team is gelling and can hang their hats on beating two of the top-five teams in the East. The Boston Celtics were at the start of their current slide, but Philly came in on a heater, having won four of six coming into their matchup at the United Center.

Zach is averaging 27-5-5 post-break and Lauri averaged 26 points and 12 boards for the month of February. The Bulls are also 7-3 with Porter (18-5-2) in the lineup. His efficiency (49.6% from the floor, 49% from three) and off-ball prowess fit so well with Lavine and Markkanen’s more ball-dominant styles. Lauri’s ball handling has been on display of late as well.

The Rub

These are all good things, undoubtedly. But there is still a bitter aftertaste from every win knowing it pushes them closer to locked in for the fourth slot in the lottery. They will still have a shot at the number one pick, but drop in probability is not insignificant. They also run the risk of a farther fall when the ping pong balls drop.

Of course, that depends on who the Bulls have their eyes on. There has been speculation that Murray State point guard Ja Morant would be the target, but Chicago won’t be able to get him after three (and possibly even number two). It was thought to be a foregone conclusion at the start of the year they would be selecting from the trio of Duke players Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, or Cam Reddish. Nbadraft.net, however, has them linked to Gonzaga‘s Rui Hachimura.

Silver Lining

At any rate, whomever they pick, they will have put an intriguing young nucleus together. Their ceiling is a complete mystery, but we know GarPax can put together competitive rosters. That Chicago has semi-pivoted on the tank is not a surprise. It is surprising that they held on to vets, namely RoLo. He is averaging 16 points, almost seven boards, two assists, and two blocks per game since All-Star weekend.

This space was used to lament the current status of the Bulls front office and their tendency to abandon rebuilds ahead of schedule. And how their press conferences and interviews are often standoffish. But the fact is they can identify and develop talent. The hope for Bulls fans has to be that that latter set of skills is what is most prominent going forward.