2012-13 NBA Preseason Rankings

With the new NBA season starting in just six days, here’s a look at my preseason rankings for the 2012-13 season. Here’s the article covering the lower half of the NBA and here’s the article on the league’s top 15 teams.

NBA Free Agency Update – July 16

For the latest news and analysis on all the action of NBA free agency over the last few days, check out my article via Reup Sports. Today’s post includes Jeremy Lin heading to Houston, Phoenix picking up Luis Scola, the ongoing battle for Nicolas Batum and more!

Resilient Bulls Avoid Elimination

After looking like an injury-plagued team primed for a first round playoff exit, the Chicago Bulls went to battle in front of their home crowd and pulled out a 77-69 win over the 76ers yesterday to send the series back to Philadelphia. Chicago’s Game 5 victory put the series at 3-2 and helped the Bulls avoid elimination as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

In an extremely low scoring contest, no one really stood out on either side except for Luol Deng, who finally accepted his role as Chicago’s leading scorer with Derrick Rose on the sidelines. Deng led the Bulls with 24 points and eight rebounds after a few underwhelming performances that allowed Philadelphia to grab momentum and three straight wins. So even though Rose is done for the postseason and Joakim Noah sat out for the second game in a row, with Luol Deng taking the lead on offense and knocking down shots, the Bulls stayed resilient and did what they had to to win at home. Carlos Boozer chipped in 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but other than that, it was pretty balanced scoring for the Bulls. Despite tweaking his ankle, Taj Gibson was actually Chicago’s third leading scorer off the bench with just eight points. Gibson left into the locker room but returned to action soon after.

Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer led the Bulls to a huge Game 5 victory.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, it’s going to take an even more resilient effort to get a Game 6 win on the road to send the series back to Chicago for a decisive Game 7. Philadelphia has been in complete control in the two games they’ve played at home and if Luol Deng can’t knock down shots like he did in Game 5 it could be all over for Tom Thibodeau’s squad. C.J. Watson can’t shoot 2-for-10 like he did last night. Richard Hamilton has to score more than six points. Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, John Lucas and Kyle Korver all have to contribute something off the bench. In a low scoring series, every point you get from your reserves is crucial and could be the difference between extending the series and going home empty-handed. However, the good news is that Joakim Noah is hopeful for Game 6, which will almost eliminate Hawes’ production and provide an offensive boost for the Bulls in the paint.

Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 16 points while Lou Williams had 13 off the bench. Spencer Hawes, who had been dominant against the Bulls with Joakim Noah out, met tougher defense from Omer Asik and Taj Gibson and could only muster 11 points. But the biggest killer for the Sixers was Andre Iguodala, who shot an abysmal 4-of-19 from the floor to finish with 11 points. If the Sixers want to close out the series, they’ll need him to shoot the ball way less. Game 5’s disappointing performance just proved that Philadelphia is not a legitimate playoff team, which is what I’ve been saying all along. Without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Sixers were able to seize momentum and a 3-2 series lead and even with that advantage they’reĀ still not guaranteed victory here. The Bulls are resilient and have bounced back, putting some pressure on Philadelphia to close things out at home, which will be more difficult with Noah most likely taking the floor again. If the Sixers don’t take the series at home, they will face the incredibly difficult task of winning a decisive Game 7 with all the momentum going Chicago’s way in front of a rocking Bulls’ crowd. That is a nightmare scenario for the Sixers and if the series does go to a Game 7, you can almost be certain the Bulls will complete the improbable comeback and move on to the second round.

Andre Iguodala can’t shoot the ball 19 times if Philly wants to win.

A Costly Game One

The Chicago Bulls got a game one victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and everything looked like it was going according to plan. But with just over a minute left in the game and Chicago up by 12, Derrick Rose landed awkwardly on his left leg and went down immediately. It’s safe to say astronauts in outer space could hear the collective gasp from the city of Chicago as the Bulls playoff hopes may have just gone out the window.

While the extent of D-Rose’s knee injury is still unknown, the fact that he went down without any contact from a defender means it’s probably serious. Now up until this point, Tom Thibodeau has been a top candidate for the NBA Coach of the Year Award, but leaving your superstar, who has a history of injuries this season, in a game that was all but over has got to be the biggest bonehead move of his coaching career. I don’t question putting Rose back in the game with just under eight minutes to play; the Sixers had cut the lead to 15 and Chicago needed to squash any comeback hopes right away. In a seven game series, it’s critical to stomp on another team’s hopes whenever you get the chance. But leaving him in that long? The Bulls extended their lead once Rose came back in and it would have been perfectly acceptable to sub him out with four or five minutes left. This poor coaching decision might haunt the Chicago Bulls for the rest of the year.

Because now Chicago is looking at possibly playing the rest of the series, and maybe even the entire playoffs, without their star point guard. The reigning MVP is the only one capable of leading this Bulls team to the promised land. He had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists before going down with the injury, which is particularly impressive considering how little time he’s had to get back into full swing. The Bulls had a great team chemistry going: Rose was leading like they need him to, Richard Hamilton was scoring like they’ve wanted him to all season, Luol Deng and Kyle Korver were hitting shots and Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer were grabbing rebounds and displaying great interior passing. All of this makes Rose’s injury an even bigger disappointment: he went from almost dropping a triple double in an easy playoff win to potentially missing the rest of the year.

I’m not too concerned about Chicago winning the series. Philadelphia can’t score and C.J. Watson has proven himself as a capable backup point guard. But the Sixers smell blood and their odds of winning a few games just went up. But more importantly, this injury isn’t just about this series. Chicago has a real shot at winning a title with everyone healthy. Now they’re going to have to fight to get to the second round.

Chicago cannot win a championship without Derrick Rose. That’s just a fact. While they’ve proven that they can win without him, they cannot win the NBA Finals without D-Rose. Hopefully he’ll be able to return at some point this postseason, but a non-contact injury is never good and given his durability so far this season, I’m forced to make the unfortunate prediction that Derrick Rose won’t be back anytime soon. And Thibs and the Bulls will regret it for a long time.

UPDATE 4/28/12 AT 2:13 P.M.: Derrick Rose tore his ACL and MCL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs. Looks like Chicago’s title hopes will have to wait until next year. While Thibodeau made the right move putting him back in with 8 minutes to go, he singlehandedly destroyed his team’s chances of winning an NBA title by not taking him out.

UPDATE 4/28/12 AT 2:35 P.M.: NBC Miami prematurely reported that Derrick Rose had torn his ACL and MCL. The results of the MRI are still pending.

UPDATE 4/28/12 AT 3:29 P.M.: It has been confirmed that Derrick Rose has torn his ACL and is done for the rest of the season.

Chicago's title hopes now rest with Derrick Rose's latest injury.