So the Denver Nuggets beat the L.A. Lakers which improved the Bulls magic number to six against L.A. I watched the game, and the Nuggets displayed a largely gritty performance against the Lakers. The Boston Celtics managed to beat the Detroit Pistons while the Miami Heat knocked off the New Jersey Nets. The Spurs eliminated the Phoenix Suns from the playoffs which may take some of the fight out of them for Tuesday's game.
Magic Number update with six games to play
S.A. 7 (to tie)
The tie breaker for San Antonio works like this. Unless the Bulls lose to the Suns or Spurs lose to the Hawks (unless they both lose) the teams will finished tied for the final tie breaker rule for home court in the finals. In that case, home court will be figured out by random draw.
The other magic numbers have the tiebreakers factored in already, as they are set in stone already (Boston owns it against us, we own it against the Lakers and Heat).
The Nuggets kind of remind me of the 04/05 Bulls at their best
They have pieces at every position, but they don't really have a star. They have plenty of depth though and a great jib and fit together. The Nuggets are probably better than those Bulls, though those Bulls were much better by the end of the season than their 47 wins. If you ignored their 4/13 start, they were on pace to win 55 games.
Anyway, I don't want to take the comparison too far, there are huge differences, and the comparison is probably insulting to Nuggets fans.
However, it got me to thinking, what the hell would you do if you ran that Nuggets team? I guess it's not our problem, but there's only so much you can talk about seeding and how Derrick Rose is going to win the MVP.
The Nuggets play like a true team. I don't know who's really important on that team and who isn't. I know you've got Nene (opt out), Kenyon Martin, Aaron Afflalo, J.R. Smith, and Wilson Chandler as free agents this summer though.
Martin probably comes back with a big pay cut if you want him. Nene probably comes back for similar salary. J.R. Smith is hard to gauge, he might demand a raise, the same salary, or cost less.
Afflalo and Chandler both will need raises from their rookie deals. Maybe you can give them enough of a raise from the money you save on Martin to basically break even and bring back everyone.
However, Danilo Galinari need a raise next year while Lawson needs one in two yaers which puts you back over the tax again, and you're left asking yourself, can this team ever really get it done. They're scrappy and talented, but they have no focal point, no obvious place they can really upgrade their talent, and seemed doomed to peak out as a team that makes it to the 1st or 2nd round each year.
Look at their depth chart:
PG: Felton, Lawson
SG: Smith, Afflalo
SF: Galinari, Chandler, Harrington
PF: Martin, Anderson
C: Nene, Mosgov
Much like a poor man's Bulls team, they have two legitimate starting five lineups together, however, very few of those guys can really swing and play multiple positions effectively. Which ones can you really afford to jettison, and the ones you'd like to (like Al Harrington) you probably can't.
Just a weird challenge, but I've been watching the Nuggets play a lot, and they're a fun team. I can't imagine how they could break up the group and end up with something better. It's almost like all the pieces they got made it harder to rebuild rather than easier, because fans won't accept being bad after seeing how good these guys are.
I'd think I'd probably let go Wilson Chandler and Aaron Afflalo from this group. I know that most people would probably let go of J.R. Smith, but I think they need Smith's ability to just launch shots with no conscience given the rest of the team's make up while Afflalo strikes me as a guy who fits better next to a legitimate star.
How does all of this affect the Bulls?
Well, presumably, Aaron Afflalo is one of the guys out there that would be highly interesting to the Bulls as a SG this summer. J.R. Smith might fill the same role for Chicago, and despite Smith's craziness, I'd be okay with the Bulls going after him too.
I think you've got room on your team for one guy who's got a few issues but a lot of talent. You can typically keep one guy in line with the rest of your locker room quality, and I think the Bulls would have a better shot at that than the Nuggets did, because I trust our locker room a bit more than theirs.
There are plenty of other candidates on the market. Don't be surprised if Courtney Lee and O.J. Mayo talks are revisited on draft day as well. I don't really see what the Bulls are going to do with their two draft picks in this draft. Unless they see a guy who's an absolute gem that's expected to fall, how do they play anyone whom they draft anyway?
They're at least nine deep next year before the season starts, and they might be ten deep already. Look for them to maybe go the European route if they can't make a trade, but they'll likely throw down offers like two 1sts + cap room for Courtney Lee or two 1sts + cap room + Keith Bogans non-guaranteed deal for O.J. Mayo.
They can't trade for Smith or Afflalo on draft night because they're free agents.
With the season winding down, there's less and less on the line for the Bulls. Hollinger's playoff odds now put them at a 96% chance to win the #1 seed the rest of the way, and quite frankly, I find it hard to see them losing out on it.
I think the Bulls win four more games regardless of what Boston does, and quite frankly, I don't give Boston very high odds of winning out (in fact, I give them a near 0% chance of this). The Heat have a better chance of catching us in record, but since they're a game further back due to tie breakers, I see no chance the Bulls lose four of their next six game.
The Bulls have only lost four of six once this season
@Lakers (no boozer)
@Denver (no Boozer/no Rose)
Orlando (pre trade, Boozer's 1st game back where his defense was eyepoppingly bad because he didn't know the scheme)
@Boston (Boozer's 2nd game back, still didn't really know the defensive scheme)
Under the circumstances those games were played, with injuries, largely on the road, each and every one of those five games is more difficult than any game left on the Bulls schedule.
Plus, the Bulls, as a team, are playing at a far higher level now than they were back then. They all understand the team defense now.
Can you really see them losing four of six against Phoenix, Boston, @Cleveland, @Orlando, @New York, New Jersey?
Phoenix just got bounced from the playoffs and is likely demoralized. Boston's had a hard time beating anyone lately, but they'll play us tough because they likely want to prove something against the good teams and probably don't want to fall behind Miami.
Cleveland's interest in the season likely ended when they beat the Heat, Orlando will be very tough on the road. Derrick Rose will take it personally against New York, because they're the only team in the league we haven't beaten, New Jersey will be out of the playoffs, in their final game on the road, how interested are they really going to be?
The race for the #1 seed is over barring something catastrophic, and if something catastrophic happens, we're probably a lot more panicked about that then losing the 1 seed.