NBA AM: Are The Bulls Hottest Team In The NBA?

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Is It Hot In Here Or Is Just The Bulls?:  There are lots of fun stats to measure teams by. Wins in conference, wins on the road or points allowed. The beauty of stats is that you can really twist them into whatever narrative you would like to. There is one stat that’s really interesting to watch, though, and that’s a team’s last ten games. While small sample sizes are often misleading, the last ten gives you a real glimpse at what’s going on with a team right now. Much like Power Rankings that try to encapsulate what’s really happening from week to week, the last ten is a good measure for that too.

Chicago  22  9  .710  8-5  14-4  Won 7  9-1
Portland  25  7  .781  14-2  11-5  Won 3  8-2
Toronto  24  7  .774  14-3  10-4  Won 2  8-2
Atlanta  22  8  .733  13-3  9-5  Won 1  8-2
Washington  22  8  .733  14-4  8-4  Won 3  8-2
Golden State  24  5  .828  11-1  13-4  Won 1  7-3
Memphis  22  8  .733  12-4  10-4  Won 1  6-4
Dallas  22  10  .688  12-5  10-5  Won 2  6-4
Phoenix  18  14  .563  7-7  11-7  Won 6  6-4
Oklahoma City  15  17  .469  8-7  7-10  Lost 1  6-4
Brooklyn  14  16  .467  8-8  6-8  Won 1  6-4
Houston  21  9  .700  10-6  11-3  Lost 2  5-5
LA Clippers  21  11  .656  13-4  8-7  Won 1  5-5
Cleveland  18  12  .600  11-6  7-6  Lost 1  5-5
Milwaukee  16  16  .500  7-6  9-10  Won 1  5-5
New Orleans  15  15  .500  9-4  6-11  Lost 1  5-5
Utah  10  21  .323  5-9  5-12  Lost 1  5-5
Miami  14  18  .438  6-12  8-6  Lost 2  4-6
Denver  13  18  .419  9-7  4-11  Lost 1  4-6
Orlando  13  21  .382  4-9  9-12  Won 2  4-6
Indiana  11  21  .344  6-9  5-12  Lost 1  4-6
Charlotte  10  22  .313  7-11  3-11  Lost 3  4-6
LA Lakers  9  22  .290  4-11  5-11  Lost 3  4-6
Detroit  7  23  .233  3-13  4-10  Won 2  4-6
San Antonio  19  13  .594  10-5  9-8  Won 1  3-7
Boston  10  18  .357  7-9  3-9  Lost 4  3-7
Philadelphia  4  25  .138  0-14  4-11  Lost 2  3-7
Sacramento  13  18  .419  8-10  5-8  Lost 1  2-8
Minnesota  5  24  .172  3-11  2-13  Lost 8  1-9
New York  5  28  .152  3-13  2-15  Lost 8  1-9

Looking through the standings as of last night’s games, no one in the NBA is hotter right now than the 22-9 Chicago Bulls. They have won seven straight games and nine of their last ten. Four teams comprise the next tier with eight wins in their last ten and that’s Portland (25-7), Toronto (24-7), Atlanta (22-8) and Washington (22-8).

The bottom of the proverbial barrel are the 5-28 New York Knicks and the 5-24 Minnesota Timberwolves; both have lost nine of their last ten games, and eight straight overall,

The 5-5 club is always interesting because that’s the middle of the pack. Through the last ten games Houston (21-9), LA Clippers (21-11), Cleveland (18-12), Milwaukee (16-16), New Orleans (15-15) and Utah (10-21) are playing .500 basketball.

With less than 50 games left to play in the regular season, the 5-5 clubs are interesting because a .500 team is who some of those teams really are, while some of the teams that have amassed a better record seem to be regressing slightly.

Last ten is hardly the end all of season snap shots, but it pretty telling of how a team is playing in an 1/8th snap shots.

Let’s Talk Clippers:  Yesterday in my weekly NBA Chat, a question surfaced about what’s going on with the Clippers. After all this is a team many pundits and experts, including myself, pegged to win the Pacific Division and challenge for Western Conference supremacy.

At 21-11 the Clippers are far from terrible; they have won 65 percent of their games, which is nothing to sneeze at, but they are also not quite the team they were expected to be for a few glaring reasons.

There is a narrative that the Clippers players don’t like each other, and while that’s easy to say, it’s only partly true. The Clippers are struggling with each other for sure, but it’s more complicated than saying they don’t like each other, because for the most part they are a very close nit group who are friendly off the court. Where the dislike and dysfunction is surfacing is on the court. This bunch is struggling with roles and pushing back on each other when things don’t go right. When they win, it’s great. When they lose there is subtle finger pointing.

Some of this is on Chris Paul.

Paul is one of the more likeable personalities in the league and his commercials have certainly created a persona that fans can relate to. Casting Paul as a villain doesn’t go over well, but Paul is not the easiest guy in the world to play with. He is demanding of his teammates. He is prone to scolding them when things don’t go right, especially in games, yet he is sort of above reproach when he makes mistakes.

Some of this is also on Blake Griffin.

The Clippers want Blake to be a star. They want him to play like an MVP every possession and they want him to be assertive and aggressive. That does not come naturally to Griffin. He gets a little self-conscious when he puts up a volume of shots and he is aware that other guys want the ball too. He is somewhat conflicted with the role his team wants him to play and the role he is comfortable playing. He has also turned into a complainer. That has not gone over well with his team, especially with Paul, who wants Blake to play a certain way all the time.

So what’s wrong with the Clippers?

The easy answer is they are not a unit game in and game out. The complex answer is that Paul wants the team to run one way, while Griffin wants the team to run another way and the rest of the guys are sort of caught in the middle of what could best be described as a big brother, little brother scenario.

The Clippers are not a bad team. They are simply a conflicted team trying to work some chemistry issues out. Some of that has to do with how Paul can be with his teammates; some of it is Griffin finding his place as a leader on a team that already has one in Paul.

Head coach Doc Rivers plays a role in this too, but this is the nature of having two number one options.

The Thunder have gone through this with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, at some point one guy has to be the alpha male and the other needs to accept being secondary. That’s not happening yet in LA. It’s also not easy to force that in a league that rewards being a star, it almost has to work itself out.

The Clippers are not broken, but they certainly have some issues to work out and that’s why they find themselves in the middle of the pack in the West.

Hawks Sale:  The Atlanta Hawks are still for sale, although you wouldn’t know it based on the pace of trying to find a buyer.

This summer when the Danny Ferry/Luol Deng scandal surfaced it seemed there were no shortage of suitors for the Hawks. The Mayor was quoted saying he’d heard from at least six would-be buyers. Team CEO Steve Koonin characterized his response the list of would-be suitors as “shocked” by the volume and seriousness of the calls. That was in early September.

The problem is outside of some groups named in the media, there does not appear to be a serious “at-the-table” buyer.

Sources close to a group pondering buying the Hawks said that while their group has done due diligence on a purchase, they were unsure of who the additional buyers would be. The source said the rumored $800 plus million asking price seemed artificial without others at the table.

The NBA is running the sale process and made it clear they were going to be thoughtful and thorough in vetting the potential new owners of the Hawks and have hired an investment bank to run the sale.

There have been reports that a group including former Hawks star Dominique Wilkins was interested. There have been more recent reports that peg former NBA star Grant Hill as having interest. There is said to be a group comprised of New York investment types that are at the table as well as a group said to include former baseball great Hank Aaron.

There is no timetable set on a deal, however, it is unclear how many suitors are really willing to meet a massive price tag, although this subject could pick up speed after the All-Star break.

There is a sense that the NBA would like to have a new owner in place once the season ends and are trying to make sure that an ownership change does not impact the current season.

It’s commonly believed that the Clippers $2 billion sales price would massively influence the Hawks’ price, which does not appear to be the case according to a source talking about buying the team. It is clear that the new TV deal the NBA just reached is having more impact on the price than the Clippers sale.

It’s believed that the Hawks will fetch somewhere between $800 million to $1 billion, depending on the seriousness of the suitors.

The problem with getting a premium on the Hawks is there is still a sense that the Brooklyn Nets could be had too, which could impact how high a buyer would go for the Hawks. If the franchise in Brooklyn is really available would that be a better place to park $1+ billion investment?

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