[The blog is tanking, just doing one thread for the whole weekend -yfbb]
Friday - Atlanta - 6:30 p.m., NBC Chicago Sports Network
Sunday - Chicago - 2:30 p.m., WGN
The Hawks list star forward John Collins as questionable tonight with flu-like symptoms. The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon has turned into one of the biggest steals from the 2017 NBA draft, quietly posting a team-leading 19.5 points per game on 56.9/37.9/76.9 percent shooting splits. This season, the Hawks are 4-12 in games that he hasn’t played.
They also have a Plumlee or Zeller out injured.
Nobody new on the Bulls injury report.
Last time the two teams played was one of the lower points of the season, as the Hawks throttled the Bulls 121-101 at the United Center. It was the Bulls 11th loss in 12 games and Zach LaVine just wasn’t feeling it anymore.
Something’s obviously wrong. We weren’t losing (by) double-digits earlier in the season. We might have been losing -- and we didn’t even have a full roster. I don’t know. We’re a better team now, and we’re getting blown out. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
In a weird NBA scheduling quirk, the Bulls will have two opportunities this weekend (tonight and Sunday) to avenge that loss.
In case you live under a rock, or just aren’t interested in also-ran teams playing out the string, the Bulls are doing well right now. Chicago is 4-1 in their last five games and Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have averaged 24 and 25.8 points per game respectively in that stretch.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have found something with Trae Young, expected by many as the guy from the draft last season most at risk to turn into a bust. He’s still not the most efficient guy in the world, but he averages 17.8 points per game to go along with 7.7 assists. He’s a rookie point guard who has started all 62 of Atlanta’s games, so the Hawks have thrown him into the fire and he’s responded well.
Young obviously catalyzes this, but the Hawks are fun as they play fast and throw up shots (second in the NBA in pace and sixth in 3-point attempt rate). Naturally, the high pace has led them to have the largest turnover percentage in the association as well.
Finally, let’s talk candidly about the tankathon right now. Here’s where we stand.
Barring an out-of-the-ordinary run either way, the Bulls are going to end up with that 4th slot.
Yes, the odds are all flattened this year. Each team with a top three worst record in the NBA has a 14.0 percent chance of that coveted No. 1 pick and a 52.1 percent chance at a top three pick. The team with the fourth worse record has a 12.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 48.1 percent chance at a top three pick. Though in a draft not considered particularly deep, the difference between a 52.1 percent and a 48.1 percent chance at a top three pick seems somewhat significant for a rebuilding team in a lost season.
I will continue to root for the Bulls to lose, because losing close games in which the young core continues to make strides still seems like a best case scenario for the Bulls the rest of the season. Mess around and beat the Hawks twice this weekend and suddenly they’re back in play for moving ‘up’ to 5th slot.