After parting with Wendell Carter Jr. and sacrificing two top-four protected first-round picks to acquire Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls proceeded to go 12-17, failing to finish in the top-10 in the Eastern Conference.
For his part, Vucevic played well. In 26 games with the Bulls, the two-time All-Star averaged 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per contest. But fellow All-Star Zach LaVine missed 11-straight games due to health and safety protocols, and he also dealt with a right ankle sprain. Additionally, there were too many instances where it felt like Chicago was on the verge of victory but couldn’t finish the job.
Trading for Vucevic was born out of a desire to establish a winning culture that can help revive the franchise. The Bulls made wholesale changes this past offseason. They brought in former Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas as their new executive vice president of basketball operations. Karnisovas hired former Sixers’ senior vice president of player personnel, Marc Eversley, to be their general manager. And Billy Donovan was named their new head coach.
After a disappointing end to the season, that triumvirate now has to figure out the best way for the Bulls to move forward.
“At this point in time, I cannot tell you what the plan is going to look like. But I can tell you that we’ll look at every possible way to improve the team,” Karnisovas told the media a couple of days after the conclusion of Chicago’s season.
Karnisovas went on to say: “When you have a foundation of, let’s say, two All-Stars in one place, I think it’s easier to add additional things that we need.”
Interestingly enough, one of those two All-Stars is eligible for an extension this summer. That would be LaVine, who’s coming off a season in which he produced career-highs in points (27.4), rebounds (5), and assists (4.9). The same also goes for his field goal percentage (50.7 percent). Despite taking more threes than ever (8.2), he converted them at a 41.9 percent clip; it’s the first time he’s shot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc. He also averaged 5.1 free-throw attempts per game and raised his shooting percentage from the foul line to a career-best 84.9 percent.
As a result of blossoming into a more lethal shooter and a top-10 scorer, LaVine’s effective-field goal and true-shooting percentages also rose to new heights, growing to 59.6 and 63.4 percent, respectively. The latter is the fourth-highest mark among players with a usage rate of at least 30 percent, trailing only Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Joel Embiid, per NBA.com.
At his end-of-season press conference, LaVine made it abundantly clear he’s seeking a max-contract extension, saying: “I think that’s what everybody wants to get paid, what they’re worth. When my time comes, I definitely will get that.”
There are currently more than two-dozen players on max contracts; in other words, expect LaVine’s name added to that list.
As for examining other players on Chicago’s roster, none matter more to the team’s future success than Patrick Williams. The former fourth-overall pick is coming off a rookie campaign in which he demonstrated the potential to one day earn himself a max contract.
Williams’ stat line won’t grab your attention. He averaged 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while taking 7.4 shots and making 48.3 percent of them. He also knocked down 39.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, but he only took 1.9 threes per contest. It was the glimpses of three-level scoring and getting dealt defensive assignments ranging from LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo to Zion Williamson and Donovan Mitchell that suggest Williams is capable of developing into a highly impactful two-way wing.
Then, there’s Coby White, who had an up-and-down sophomore campaign. The former seventh-overall pick averaged 15.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. Those numbers reflect his growth as a facilitator and his ability to contribute on the boards, taking advantage of being a 6-foot-5 point guard who can end the opposition’s possession when he crashes the glass. But as a score-first point guard, shooting 41.6 percent on 13.1 attempts from the field and only making 35.9 percent of his 6.6 threes per game leaves a lot to be desired.
During the season, there was a stretch where Coby White lost his job as Chicago’s starting point guard, but to his credit, when he got a second chance, he elevated his performance. In the Bulls’ final 18 games, White averaged 17.6 points, 5.9 assists, shooting 43.3 percent from the field on 14 attempts and 40.3 percent from beyond the arc while hoisting eight threes per contest, per basketball-reference.com.
Now, White has to build off that momentum this offseason. LaVine and Vucevic are going to have the ball in their hands more than anyone else on the team, lessening Chicago’s reliance on White to create points for his teammates. But if he can consistently make the correct read while working off his All-Star running mates, generating points for himself and others as he operates off the ball more than a typical point guard, he can help take the Bulls’ offense to a higher level next season.
Lauri Markkanen’s future with the Bulls is more uncertain. On the plus side, he shot 48 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from beyond the arc while taking 5.8 threes per game — both of those shooting percentages are career highs for him. However, four seasons in, and he’s yet to evolve into more than a spot-up shooter. In April, Markkanen got demoted to the second unit, remaining there until Chicago’s regular-season finale. In those 24 games, with his minutes and touches decreasing, his production dipped. Markannen averaged 9.7 points while taking 7.3 shots per contest.
Markkanen’s contract is now at a point where it’ll take a qualifying offer worth slightly more than $9 million for the Bulls to make him a restricted free agent. When speaking with the media after the season, Karnisovas had the following to say about the matter.
“I think Lauri is an essential part of our team, and we hope he is a part of what we’re building here, so I’m looking forward to free agency and talking to his representation.”
It’s one thing to speak positively about a player to the media, but it’s another to commit financially. In terms of average annual value, how far beyond that qualifying offer are the Bulls willing to extend themselves if Markkanen signs an offer sheet elsewhere?
Speaking of front-court free agents, Daniel Theis, who came over from the Boston Celtics at the trade deadline, played his way into the starting lineup. In 23 games with the Bulls, Theis averaged 10 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. For his career, Theis is a 33.5 percent three-point shooter. Ideally, Chicago finds a player who can start at the four while providing greater potency from long range and is a more athletic complement to Vucevic. With that said, Theis made $5 million last season, and if at age 29, his market doesn’t shake out favorably, there’s an obvious value to bringing him back.
Thaddeus Young isn’t a free agent, but only $6 million of his $14.2 million contract is guaranteed next season. The 14-year veteran is coming off a productive campaign in which he generated 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. 9.1 of Young’s 9.7 field-goal attempts came inside the arc, and he converted them at a 58 percent clip. There is also the immeasurable value Young adds as a team leader. It’s best to bring him back.
As the Bulls’ new regime tries to establish a winning culture and guide the Bulls back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, they must overcome the likelihood their top-four protected first-round pick goes to the Orlando Magic because of the Vucevic trade. That deal also sent Al-Farouq Aminu to Chicago. Aminu is on the books for $10.2 million next season, further shrinking the amount of cap space the Bulls have to work with this offseason.
It helps that the Bulls have an All-Star duo to build around, but for them to advance not only to the postseason play-in tournament but to the actual playoffs, they’ll need to upgrade their supporting cast.
NBA Daily: Milwaukee Bucks Face Unique Situation
Despite a successful season, Tristan Tucker looks at why the Milwaukee Bucks face uncertainty regarding their future.
Despite beating the dominant Brooklyn Nets in seven games, the Milwaukee Bucks face more uncertainty about their future than any other team in the playoffs. Last season, the Bucks accrued a 56-17 record that was good for best in the league. However, the team disappointed and saw a second-round exit at the hands of the Miami HEAT.
After that disappointing finish to a season that many believed would lead to an NBA Championship, the Bucks faced many criticisms. In response, Milwaukee rushed to fix many of those issues. Eric Bledsoe and a boatload of first-round picks were traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for defensive stalwart Jrue Holiday. The team then swapped out its bench rotation, filling it out with players like P.J. Tucker, Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes. The Bucks even got older rookies Sam Merrill and Mamadi Diakite to play quick spot minutes.
But Milwaukee’s biggest criticism was one that was left unresolved: the coaching situation. Head coach Mike Budenholzer is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year winner. Budenholzer first won the award after getting the Atlanta Hawks over 60 wins in 2014-15. Then, he did it again with the Bucks two years ago. Despite his metal, Budenholzer’s rotation decisions were met with criticism and confusion during the heartbreaking loss to Miami in 2020. Many fans around the league noticed that many stars were playing well over 40 minutes in big games and never played less than 36. Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s big names sat for extended periods of time.
For reference, Anthony Davis and LeBron James for the Los Angeles Lakers played over 36 minutes per game in the playoffs last season. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo did the same for the HEAT. Both of those teams moved on to the Finals. On the other hand, Khris Middleton led the team with 35.5 minutes per game in the playoffs while Giannis Antetokounmpo played just 30.8 minutes a night.
Despite this, Milwaukee’s brain trust kept Budenholzer into the 2020-21 season. And so far, that seems like the right decision. The Bucks came back in a big way in the playoffs, being the only team to sweep another team, Miami, in the first round. Then, the Bucks battled back into the series against the Nets, evening the series twice after falling back the same number of times before eventually overcoming the then-title favorites. The team is now matched up with the scorching-hot Hawks and has gone down 1-0 in the series.
All seems to be going relatively well for the Bucks despite the current series. Budenholzer seems to have learned his lesson, his stars are all playing over 37 minutes per game. In fact, the whole rotation seems to be clicking.
Middleton in particular put together the best postseason performance of his career in Game 6 against the Nets. The former All-Star ended that contest with 38 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, missing just five of his 16 shots. This isn’t new for Middleton, who is the face of consistency in the league. Outside of an injury-marred 2016-17 season, Middleton has averaged around 20 points per game for almost six straight years.
In each of the last two seasons, Middleton came within inches of securing a 50/40/90 season. Both seasons have seen a respectable amount of attempts from deep and the charity stripe. Middleton even became the go-to guy on offense for the Bucks. Just watch his and his teammates’ confidence in him as he buried a four-point play to ice Game 6 against Brooklyn:
It isn’t just Middleton. Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing more aggressively as of late, securing 30 points on 20 field goal attempts in Game 6 against the Nets. “The Greek Freak” followed that performance up with a 40-point showing to clinch that series, officially avenging last year. In Milwaukee’s Game 1 loss to Atlanta, Antetokounmpo put up 34 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists in 41 minutes.
Holiday hasn’t had the best playoff stint of his career, but there’s no denying how absurdly better the team’s perimeter defense is with Holiday substituting for Bledsoe and George Hill. The team’s faith in Holiday paid off with a 33-point, 10-assist showing that saw the middle Holiday brother connect on five 3-pointers.
Some of the most notable changes came from Milwaukee’s bench. Forbes and Portis in particular took the next step as players this year. Both players took one-year bets on themselves in the offseason that are sure to result in paydays this summer. Portis and Forbes ranked third and fourth in the regular season in three-point percentage, respectively. Forbes in particular became notorious for how he torched the HEAT in the first round from deep.
And yet, despite the positives, the Bucks still face one of the biggest crossroads of any team in the playoffs. And it all depends on how deep this team can go.
Despite beating the Nets, Budenholzer is still on the hot seat. While Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the series win over Brooklyn will go a long way in determining Budenholzer’s future, the two-time Coach of the Year still hasn’t made the Finals as a head coach. If Budenholzer and the Bucks lose to the Hawks, who they are much better than on paper, it could have a ripple effect on the franchise. In fact, several reports indicate that the team is already looking at potential replacements if things go south.
Rick Carlisle Connected To Head Coaching Jobs With Bucks, Pacers https://t.co/RKk6TKOO49
— RealGM (@RealGM) June 18, 2021
It’s an odd turnaround for a team that is experiencing the high of knocking off the title favorites. Middleton had a poor Game 1, and the team likely doesn’t lose that game if he is clicking. But Budenholzer’s questionable rotation decisions still plagued the team, with seldom-used Jeff Teague seeing six critical minutes against Trae Young.
Firing a head coach — especially one as successful as Budenholzer has been in the regular season — is no small task. The move would likely come with several other staff and roster changes.
Despite how great Portis and Forbes have been for the team, it’s unlikely Milwaukee can afford either moving forward. Portis and Forbes both have player options for next season, Portis at $3.8 million and Forbes at $2.4 million. There’s no way either remains on the Bucks at that price with a weak free-agent class on the horizon. And unfortunately, the Bucks don’t have the money to re-sign either to a huge number.
That path would lead to the team being extremely aggressive with what money and assets it does have. The team reportedly agreed to trade Donte DiVincenzo — who is now out with injury — for Bogdan Bogdanovic in a sign-and-trade before Bogdanovic refused to be traded there. Other players like Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton have tradeable salaries and could help bring in another impact player.
If the Bucks went the distance, Budenholzer would most likely stay and the franchise would avoid a culture reset. Forbes and Portis probably still depart, but other free agents like Tucker would likely be more inclined to re-sign for a smaller salary.
In that case, the team would be more inclined to sit back and watch internal growth. Players like Jordan Nwora, Merrill or Diakite could fill the holes left by potential Forbes or Portis departures. That isn’t to say the team wouldn’t be aggressive, but there isn’t a team left in the playoffs that would see such a huge change if they were eliminated.
Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns was a Coach of the Year finalist. The Suns have the assets for internal and external growth if eliminated. The Hawks vastly improved from the last season, and have a direct pathway to getting better through guys like De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu. And the Los Angeles Clippers will likely retain Tyronn Lue and Kawhi Leonard this offseason, even if things go awry.
Unfortunately for Budenholzer, this is a unique situation. There haven’t been many do-or-die cases involving jobs this deep into the playoffs involving contenders. For Budenholzer, winning the title secures his job. If he fails to do so, it could spell the end of his Milwaukee tenure.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game 3 predictions, picks and betting tips: Bet Home Court Dogs on Friday Night
Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals takes place at 9pm ET on Friday. Our experts have made their predictions and betting picks for the Clippers vs Suns at the Staples Center.
Cynics will tell you that L.A. is a city of a million shattered dreams, and if Deandre Ayton’s last second alleyoop slam-dunk is anything to go by, those cynics aren’t exactly wrong.
The Phoenix Suns marched into a 2-0 series lead vs. the Clippers as a result of Ayton’s heroics. The 104-103 victory meant Monty Williams team now takes a firm grasp of the Western Conference finals.
Despite being down 2-0 in the series, it appears the average American bettor hasn’t given up hope on the Clippers staging part one of a comeback in game 3. Indeed, why would they? We’ve seen way over 400 teams return from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs over the years. Plus, if Paul George (26 pts in Game 2) decides to wage war again, the Clippers do have half a chance, even without Leonard…
Besides, why wouldn’t you place a couple wagers on a mild underdog on the NBA betting lines?
Western Conference Finals – Game 3: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Moneyline Odds
Phoenix Suns: -115
Los Angeles Clippers: -107
Western Conference Finals – Game 3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Spread (DraftKings NBA Playoff Odds)
Phoenix Suns -1
Los Angeles Clippers -1
Los Angeles Clippers Preview
Other than the pain of a last second defeat, the big news coming out of the Clippers camp remains the fact that the team’s best player, Kawhi Leonard, is still out injured.
Leonard had averaged over 30.0 points per game during the playoffs until going down with a knee injury towards the end of Game 4 vs. Utah in the last round. The current prognosis is not good – he will almost certainly miss out again.
There is series-hope for Clippers fans in the form of SG Paul George, who himself is averaging 26.6 points per game in the postseason; not to mention the fact that L.A. has twice before returned from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs. But they have to get something going in Game 3 – no team has ever returned from 3-0 down in NBA playoff history.
Nevertheless, what hope is left is dangling by a thread at present. Up against a full-strength Phoenix team that’s riding high on the confidence of a last-minute win, it’s going to be tough evening’s work for George, Jackson and co. come Thursday night.
That said, L.A. does have home-court advantage and di just lose by the 1 point. So, it’s little surprise the two teams have been given similar odds – Game 3 is anyone’s game.
Phoenix Suns Preview
The Suns did what they needed to do, took advantage of being at home for games 1 and 2 and now take a lead to LA. Game 2 was on a knife edge throughout, so they’re not as dominant over the Clippers as some may have thought, but the 2-0 lead is huge. As mentioned above, they’ll be hoping that Leonard can’t make it to the court on Thursday night, but even if he does, they can rely upon the likes of Devin Booker, Cameron Payne and game 2 hero Deandre Ayton to stifle the Clippers. They’ve now won 9 straight in the playoffs and they’ll take some stopping to make it 10.
Chris Paul is expected back from a stint on COVID protocol soon. But Game 3 might come too early. Expect Paul to miss out again.
Other than that, the Suns are surely shining bright en route to Los Angeles following Ayton’s heroics in the previous clash. The Clippers have caused them problems throughout the first two games, but the Suns seem to have that little bit extra in the tank: more guile; more nous, and, even if Leonard could take to the court with the Clippers, – arguably – more talent.
Devin Booker has been in superb form in the series thus far, putting up 40 points over the course of the first two contests – look for him on the player prop market.
Overall, there’s a reason the Suns have been made favorites by the NBA oddsmakers, and there’s no reason to expect anything other than a continuation of the their dominance in Game 3…
Western Conference Finals – Game 3: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns Prediction
We’ve spent all this time waxing lyrical about Phoenix, but the Clippers deserve a result. They have pulled out all the stops in the absence of Leonard and, in our humble opinion, eventually hard work pays off.
We are vouching for the homecourt underdogs on the moneyline: Clippers to win at -107
NBA Finals Betting Odds : 2021 NBA Championship Odds Update as Conference Finals Continue
The 2021 NBA Conference Finals are now underway and so look at the updated Championships odds for the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers.
Few expected to see the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks L.A. Clippers, and Phoenix Suns make up the final four of the NBA Championship Playoffs. But each team has made it this far on merit, and the performances don’t lie – the cream always rises to the top.
In the Western Conference Final, DeAndre Ayton broke Clippers hearts last night when, with 0.5 seconds remaining in the fourth, he came up trumps with a sublime alleyoop dunk. Those 2 points put the Suns 104-103 ahead, as they took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
The Hawks are all set to travel to the Bucks for the first game of the Eastern Conference finals tonight, in a game that will see two of the NBA’s finest talents, Atlanta G Trae Young and Milwaukee PF Giannis Antetokounmpo come face to face.
2021 NBA Championship Odds
With games coming thick and fast and players bouncing into and out of form and IR in this year’s epic conference finals, it’s about time to check in and see what the sportsbooks make of all the action, as we take a look at the 2021 NBA odds for the 2021 national championship.
Clippers NBA Championship Odds Continue to Dwindle Without Kawhi Leonard
It’s hard not to feel bad for Clippers fans: without their superb small forward Kawhi Leonard, and the 25 points per game he tends to put up, life was always going to be tough vs. the Phoenix, even without the Suns having their electrifying playmaker Chris Paul out on court. And so, it has proven.
After that tough final second loss, the Clippers have seen their odds drop from +440 at the start of the playoffs to between +1500 (FanDuel). If they lose again on Thursday (June 24), expect to see the odds reach into the +infinity category, since no NBA team has EVER come back from 3-0 down in the playoffs.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue must now be thinking about just wheeling Kawhi Leonard out there in a wheelchair for one final assault. But don’t write his team off just yet: L.A came within 1point and they did that without their best player – there’s still a chance; they make it through and we’ll find out for sure come Thursday.
Los Angeles Clippers NBA Finals Odds: +1500 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
Suns’ Odds to win NBA Championship Continue to Rise
The bad news for the Clippers is that Chris Paul is expected to be back in action for the Suns quickly. The diminutive playmaker broke COVID protocol, which was stupid, but did get himself vaccinated beforehand (not so stupid) and will be available sooner rather than later as a result.
Plus, Devin Booker more than carried the mantle in Paul’s absence during last night’s second meet. Booker put up 40 points in total as the Suns asserted their dominance.
It’s the strength in depth and the team’s ability to hurt its opposition all over the court that has seen the odds on the Suns continue to shorten. Monty Williams’ team began the playoffs as massive outsiders at +2500. But their odds are now just +115.
Phoenix Suns NBA Finals Odds: +115 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
NBA Betting Lines not Favoring the Hawks
Atlanta’s incredible 4-3 series defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers is the stuff of legend and the Hawks deserve a tremendous amount of credit for pulling that result out of the bag; even if the 76ers were missing Joel Emblid for a few games.
Enough about that though. With players like G Trae Young to boast among the ranks, you’d give the Hawks a chance against anyone, including vs. the Bucks this evening.
That said, Milwaukee is a big ask for Nate McMillan’s team. During the regular season, the Bucks posted the highest field goal accuracy (91.8), the 2nd most rebounds per game, and the 5th most 3-pointers per game – they are a team that can punish you if given just half-a-chance.
Sorry Atlanta fans. But it seems likely to us that the McMillan Cinderella story ends here.
Then again… we’ve been wrong before and at +1300, it’s worth a Hail Mary for sure!
Atlanta Hawks’ NBA Finals Odds: +1300 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online
The Bucks are the Betting Favorites to be NBA Champions
The Bucks began the playoffs with NBA Vegas odds of +800 on the moneyline. If you are one of the lucky ones who picked them up on those odds, hold tight: you’re looking good right now; Milwaukee fans are dreaming of being NBA Champions for the first time in 50 years.
Greek sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo has been on fire throughout the Bucks’ postseason run, putting up 30 points in six games thus far! With Middleton and Brook Lopez, in particular, among the supporting cast, the Bucks offense puts up big numbers and rarely turns the ball over without something to show for it.
It’s not that the Hawks don’t have playmakers of their own – they do. But defensively, they don’t touch this Bucks team that features both Jrue Holiday (DPOY) and Antekounmpo (2X DPOY). That’s why the odds are so short on Milwaukee and so long on Atlanta – the sportsbooks don’t fancy the Hawks to score enough.
Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA Finals Odds: +105 – Click HERE to bet with Bovada Online