NBA Pretenders and Contenders: Chicago & Portland

As All-Star Weekend in Toronto has come and gone, it is time to look forward to the second half of the NBA season.NBA color

This is the time of the year when the title contenders come ready to play for a chance to win the Larry O’ Brien Championship Trophy, while the posers fade away and fall down in the standings.

When it comes to the second half of the regular season this year, there are teams that I see fading away and teams that I see climbing up in the standings.

One team that I see fading away is the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls ended the first half of the season sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a 27-25 record.

Before the start of the season, the Bulls were said to have the best team in the NBA on paper with All-Stars such as Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol.

So far this season under rookie coach Fred Hoiberg, they have been underachieving and playing uninspired basketball.

While the team has played well at home, they haven’t played well on the road, mustering up an 11-15 record.

Injuries have also taken a heavy toll on the Bulls.

Joakim Noah, the heart and soul of the Bulls, is out for the year with a shoulder injury.

Butler, the team’s leading scorer at 22.4 points per game, will be out the next three to four weeks with a knee injury.

If the team doesn’t start playing better on the road with a schedule in the second half including teams such as Cleveland, Atlanta, Miami, San Antonio, Toronto and Indiana, they will be out of the playoffs.

Things aren’t looking good in Chicago.

A team that I see climbing up in the standings in the second half of the season is the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Trail Blazers ended the first half of its season sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference with a 27-27 record.

Coming into the season, nobody would have thought that they would even be in this position going into the break.

Portland lost four out of its five starters from last season to free agency in the offseason, including the second leading scorer in franchise history in LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Trail Blazers surged into the All-Star break winning 12 of its last 15 games. 

The back court of guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have led the Trail Blazers this season.

Lillard, the new face of the franchise, leads the team in scoring averaging 24.3 points per game.

Players such as Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe, and Mason Plumlee have also made solid contributions to the team’s success this season.

Heading into the second half of the regular season, Portland has an 18-18 record against their remaining opponents. 

The remaining schedule includes teams such as Golden State, Boston, Toronto, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.

If the Trail Blazers can continue to surprise and play the way they have been, they will be a team that won’t be an easy out in the playoffs. 

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