As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, we will be previewing the NBA season by ranking the clubs in reverse order and revealing those clubs two at a time. Here’s what those rankings look like at this point:
30. Atlanta Hawks
29. Sacramento Kings
28. Orlando Magic
27. Phoenix Suns
Here are the next two clubs:
26. Chicago Bulls
Last Season: 27-55 (0.329) (5th in Central Division, 13th in Eastern Conference)
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg (4th season with team, 110-136 team; 110-136 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Wendell Carter (7th pick), Chandler Hutchison (22nd pick), Jabari Parker
Major Off-season Departures: Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh
Salary Cap Info: $105.3 million ($3.4M over cap, $16.8M luxury tax space available)
Narrative: The Bulls were bad last year, and they didn’t lose much of that team, and added an oft-injured former 2nd overall pick, so you’d have to expect them to be a little better? Yet they remain, at least in these rankings, as the third-worst Eastern Conference team, exactly how they ended last season. With a weaker Eastern Conference, there is expected to be a surprise playoff team or two from the conference, and maybe the Bulls find a groove and get to 36 or 37 wins and make the playoffs as the 8th seed. I just don’t see it happening.
Fred Hoiberg is still trying to find the club to match his style. By all reports, he wants a club that will run, but having a bunch of old players last year didn’t help him in that regard. And unless Japari Parker has somehow found some bionic knees, I don’t think he will be the solution either, especially since he is defense averse. Yet Hoiberg seems secure in his job, and will probably make it through another season at the helm unless something really bad happens.
25. New York Knicks
Last Season: 29-53 (0.354) (4th in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)
Head Coach: David Fizdale (1st season with team, 0-0 team; 50-51 overall)
Major Off-season Acquisitions: Kevin Knox (9th pick), Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh
Major Off-season Departures: Kyle O’Quinn, Michael Beasley
Salary Cap Info: $110.6 million ($8.7M over cap, $13.2M luxury tax space available)
Narrative: The Knicks are probably the first team on this list, at least from the East, who have an outside chance at competing for one of those playoff spots in the conference. In their first full season since the departure of Phil Jackson (and the Triangle), and with a draft pick that seems to be the steal of the draft, the Knicks simply need to tread water for the first half of the season until Kristaps Porzingis returns from his ACL injury. Though with KP6 not expected back until February, where they are in the standings might determine how quickly they bring him back. He remains the future of the team, after all, and having him fully healthy in future years versus running him out at 85% during a lost season.
Fizdale was fired as Grizzlies coach 19 games into last season after a hotly debated 4th quarter benching of star Marc Gasol, but he still has respect around the league, primarily due to his time spent with the Miami Heat as an assistant during LeBron James’ time there. Whether or not he’s enough to keep this team afloat while awaiting the Unicorn’s return – especially if Kevin Knox doesn’t replicate his Summer League performance when real games start – remains to be seen.
Until next time…
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