By Britt Robson
March 06, 2012

When you think of the Chicago Bulls, the first things that come to mind are Derrick Rose and defense. The Bulls will throttle your offense and then turn it over to the MVP to win the game, often in the fourth quarter.

Except Chicago is actually a more complete team than that. Even with all of Rose's isolation drives to the basket, the Bulls are tied for the league lead in assists. They're also in the top four in shooting percentage, three-point accuracy, offensive rebounding and points per possession.

And after they score, they unleash that suffocating defense, which is second in efficiency and on Monday held Indiana to 29 second-half points in the Bulls' 92-72 victory.

It is a formula that has produced an NBA-best 32-8 record, a seven-game winning streak and a rise to the top of this week's Power Rankings.

(All stats and records are through Monday, March 5 unless otherwise noted.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 4
The highlight of their 5-0 week was a victory at San Antonio, which was probably the best game I've seen this season in terms of depth of teamwork and cold-blooded intensity from start to finish. For all the hand-wringing over the toll that heavy minutes would take on Derrick Rose and Luol Deng (and I've been as guilty as anybody), the Bulls are now 11-2 at the tail end of back-to-backs. Rose is delivering in the clutch like he did last season, and Deng regulates the defensive flow so that opponents come to understand that resistance to the Bulls' pressure is probably futile.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 2
Monday's 95-91 win over Dallas provided a superb example of why James Harden should be a shoo-in for the Sixth Man Award. With Oklahoma City up only 68-65 entering the fourth quarter, coach Scott Brooks sent Harden out with the underwhelming quartet of Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Reggie Jackson and Royal Ivey to face crunch-time titans Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, who combined for 10 of the Mavericks' 13 points in the first four minutes. But Harden countered with a dozen of his own, drawing three fouls and making all five foul shots and all three field-goal attempts, one of them a three-pointer. The Thunder still led by two with eight minutes left, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were able to return well-rested and with Dallas close to being in the penalty. Later, OKC inbounded to Harden leading by one with 22 seconds to play. As he dribbled upcourt, three Mavs raced to hem him in before he could cross half-court in eight seconds. Harden rifled a bounce pass just inside the sideline to Durant, whom the Mavs were forced to foul. Harden's pedestrian stat line -- 16 points, two rebounds, four assists -- doesn't do justice to his role in the Thunder's eighth victory in nine games.
3 Miami Heat
Last Week: 1
Miami Heat (28-9)
Pundits have to stop overhyping the Heat. Yes, when they are firing on all cylinders, they are the best and most talented team in the NBA. But they have experienced enough hiccups in crunch time to raise concerns about whether they, or anyone, can bear up under such enormous pressure. That's why LeBron James executing a perfectly understandable pass in the final seconds of a loss at Utah engenders such controversy, or why the importance of Chris Bosh is suddenly the hot topic because he happened to miss games against the two teams, Utah and the Lakers, whose frontcourt personnel could best exploit his absence. In terms of potential, the Heat are world-beaters. In reality, they are one of a handful of teams with an abundance of resources and significant challenges as they battle to win a championship.
4 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 3
Assuming Manu Ginobili is healthy enough for regular rotation minutes the rest of the season (no sure thing, of course), the Spurs have a wealth of swingmen who not only can spread out defenses with long-range accuracy but also possess the skills and judgment to go to the hoop or feed the big men when the situation warrants. Gary Neal and Danny Green have refined their games operating in San Antonio's half-court system while Ginobili has been absent. It's not surprising that even with Ginobili missing 27 of 37 games, the Spurs rank third in assist-to-turnover ratio. Adding one of the most resourceful playmakers in NBA history to an offense that is already sixth in efficiency is a wonderful wild card as the team uses the second half to prepare for the playoffs.
5 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 6
The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and the only areas where Kobe Bryant improved on his season averages in that span are shooting percentage and steals. This isn't to suggest that Kobe's offensive dominance and overall leadership didn't sustain the Lakers throughout a tenuous first half when they were getting used to not having Phil Jackson's triangle offense or Lamar Odom's vintage versatility. But as his teammates have learned how to function without the triangle, Bryant is trusting them more. It is significant that Pau Gasol and Steve Blake, not Kobe, are the co-leaders in assists over the last 10 games. If Blake (who is slightly ahead of Derek Fisher in minutes played recently) can orchestrate in the half-court more often, and the likes of Fisher, Metta World Peace and Troy Murphy can continue their improvement and convert buckets at even a league-average rate, Bryant will have that much more juice when it matters.
6 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 8
Orlando Magic (25-14)
Where would Dwight Howard rank in the MVP conversation if his contractual status and future whereabouts weren't an issue? Granted, forward Ryan Anderson has made remarkable progress, transforming himself first into a deadeye three-point shooter (44 percent) and then a solid rebounder, corralling 78 in his last nine games. But who is the third-best player on a team, that, despite all the distractions, has the fifth-best winning percentage in the NBA? On Monday in Toronto, Raptors coach Dwane Casey gambled on mostly single coverage of Howard with Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire. Howard responded by shooting 16-of-20 en route to 36 points in Orlando's 92-88 victory. In addition, Howard, the league's leading rebounder and fourth-leading shot-blocker, had 13 boards and two rejections. No one has logged more minutes for his team this season. And as the reigning three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he remains the primary reason Orlando has allowed the second-fewest points in the paint.
7 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 5
After the Clippers beat the Rockets in overtime Sunday largely because of his heroics, point guard Chris Paul was more interested in saluting the acquisition of Kenyon Martin. "His defense is something that we needed, and it is contagious," Paul said. If the score is close in the fourth quarter, Martin is almost always on the court instead of DeAndre Jordan, providing the Clippers with better team speed and versatility on defense without losing too much rim protection because of Martin's toughness in denying position and willingness to deliver the hard foul. According to, Blake Griffin is plus-9.3 per 36 minutes when Martin is alongside him, compared to plus-4.8 overall. Paul and Martin are plus-9.6 per 36 minutes together, compared to plus-5.9 for Paul overall. Unfortunately, Martin deepens the trend of terrible foul shooting by the frontcourt. His 43.8 percentage is even less accurate than Griffin (55.4), Reggie Evans (50.0) and Jordan (47.6).
8 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 11
The Sixers' Doug Collins has rightfully been touted as a Coach of the Year candidate. But Lionel Hollins isn't getting the same type of buzz even though he's steered the Grizzlies, who have played without All-Star Zach Randolph for all but four games, to the same record (22-15) as Philadelphia through each team's first 37 games. Credit Hollins for the fundamentally sound yet aggressively predatory defense that has enabled Memphis to thrive two straight seasons despite the extended loss of a top-two scorer (last year it was Rudy Gay). Led by Tony Allen, the Grizzlies know when to rotate and when to pounce; they lead the NBA in opponents' assist-to-turnover ratio. And while Marreese Speights and Dante Cunningham have been useful stopgaps at power forward, Memphis will receive a much larger boost to its 19th-rated offense when Randolph returns than it loses from its eighth-rated defense in terms of points per possession.
9 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 15
Before Monday's game, Denver coach George Karl joked that he had no idea who would be his starters, comparing the players on his roster to pieces in a game of Scrabble. The levity was appropriate: After a rash of injuries triggered a 4-12 skid before the All-Star break, the Nuggets have won four straight and on Monday welcomed back Nene and Danilo Gallinari, two starters who had been sidelined since early February. Despite their return, Karl stuck with his hot lineup in an overtime victory against the Kings, relying on point guard Ty Lawson, also newly healthy and playing as well as earlier in the season, and swingman Arron Afflalo, who has finally kicked a season-long slump. Add in chaos-makers Kenneth Faried and Corey Brewer, the ever-steady Andre Miller, invaluable sixth man Al Harrington and Nene and Gallinari, and Karl should continue to smile through Scrabble, even as center Timofey Mozgov deals with a freshly sprained ankle and swingman Rudy Fernandez remains sidelined with a strained lower back.
10 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 10
Perhaps no one in the NBA would benefit more from having a mean streak and a hint of nastiness in his game than 7-2 center Roy Hibbert. Now in his fourth season, Hibbert earned his first All-Star bid by averaging career highs in points, rebounds and shooting percentage for a dramatically improved team in the first half. He's become much more coordinated and self-assured in his long, spindly body since his rookie season. But in a bruising matchup with the Bulls on Monday, Hibbert's docile temperament couldn't accommodate the right blend of aggression and savvy necessary to thwart Chicago's physical play. He finished 1-for-6 from the field, with seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 25 minutes. He also committed five fouls and was a game-worst minus-19 in the Pacers' 20-point loss. It is no coincidence that Indiana has two bangers -- very different in style but both irritants -- at power forward, David West and Tyler Hansbrough, to complement Hibbert's strengths and shore up his weaknesses.
11 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 13
Atlanta Hawks (22-15)
Forward Josh Smith is emblematic of his team: Whether you praise or dismiss him (or it), he'll do something to rebut it. Smith's champions were forced to watch him flail around during a 5-for-20 shooting performance that included a 2-for-11 fourth quarter in a home loss to Golden State last Wednesday. But those critical of that and other Smith games where he shoots Atlanta out of a chance to win had to button up two days later when he went off for 24 points (on 10-of-19 from the field) and 19 rebounds to keep the Hawks in the game before the subs won it in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee. And those critical of the Hawks' record against elite teams were at least temporarily silenced by Saturday's triumph over the West-leader Thunder, which featured 13 points and nine rebounds from Smith in the final eight minutes after the game was tied at 79-79. Atlanta snapped Oklahoma City's seven-game winning streak even though Joe Johnson and his backup Willie Green joined Al Horford on the sideline and Tracy McGrady limped off in the first quarter. The resilient Hawks, with Smith leading the way, now rank fifth in defensive efficiency.
12 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 7
This feels like a pivotal point in the season for the Mavs, who have dropped four of five coming out of the break and are only two games ahead of ninth-place Minnesota in the West. Dirk Nowitzki has seemed unusually chippy and aggrieved on the court; Jason Terry is in a shooting slump; Lamar Odom's saga is trying everyone's patience; and the team misses injured guard Delonte West and is hoping the sprained ankle that center Brendan Haywood sustained in Monday's loss at Oklahoma City isn't too serious. On the bright side, guard Roddy Beaubois is healthy and displaying the right mix of discipline and creative quickness, and Nowitzki has once again become a deadly shooter from most anywhere on the court.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 16
The Timberwolves grew up a little bit in the fourth quarter Saturday at Portland. The team has been vulnerable to physical play throughout the season, especially point guard Ricky Rubio. His collision with the "rookie wall" has coincided with opponents roughing him up on screens and as he penetrates, along with filling the passing lanes and daring him to shoot. On Saturday, Blazers center Joel Przybilla fouled Rubio and then walked over him with his legs straddled as Rubio sat on the court, earning a technical foul. The very next play, Kevin Love received a bounce pass from J.J. Barea and dunked over Przybilla (at the 1:49 mark here). Love then scored on a tip-in to complete an 11-0 run en route to a 42-point performance that snapped the Wolves' 16-game losing streak in Portland. The NBA's best power forward returned home Monday and had 39 points and 17 rebounds as Minnesota beat the Clippers for the second time in a week. Meanwhile, coach Rick Adelman continues to hone the rotation, increasing the minutes for rookie forward Derrick Williams and swingman Martell Webster.
14 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 9
The Rockets have yielded an average of 108.7 points in their three-game losing streak, and they've been outrebounded in 10 straight games. Their 21-17 record isn't bad considering Luis Scola's and Kevin Martin's subpar seasons, a mark that includes a 6-2 record in games by decided by four points or fewer after Sunday's 105-103 home loss to the Clippers in overtime. Houston continually went to Martin in crunch time, and his 1-for-8 shooting in the final 12:40 of the fourth quarter and overtime doomed the Rockets. By stark contrast, Courtney Lee played stellar defense on Chris Paul and nailed all three of his field goals in the fourth period and overtime, and point guard Kyle Lowry -- arguably the team's best player -- missed his only shot and had zero assists in that span. If Martin and Scola can't close out games, Houston's porous defense will become more problematic. As it is, the Rockets are 18-3 when holding opponents below 100 points.
15 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 18
Has there ever been a player who ranks in the top five at his position and has no salary or other contractual issues to resolve who has been forced to endure as many trade rumors as Rajon Rondo? Even before Rondo's monster game fueled Sunday's OT victory over the Knicks, the Celtics' unwillingness to decisively slam the door on all trade talk involving their inimitable point guard is disrespectful to a player who should be regarded as a franchise cornerstone. History will show that president Danny Ainge effectively ended the plausible-champion part of the Garnett-Pierce-Allen era with his ill-advised dealing of center Kendrick Perkins last year. How and why Ainge has been allowed to place Rondo in a constant state of distracting limbo is a sad mystery. This is a player who has just entered his prime at age 26 on a career path remarkably similar to Jason Kidd's, and who is a relative bargain at $12 million a year for the next three seasons after this one. He just posted two triple-doubles while leading the team to a 4-0 week, yet all the chatter is about whether he will still be a Celtic in two weeks. It does not speak well of the organization.
16 New York Knicks
Last Week: 14
On the plus side, the practices and decompression time that come with playing just two games in 11 days during and after the All-Star break seem to have given the Knicks a healthy attitude and unified purpose. What should now be the priority for coach Mike D'Antoni and defensive assistant Mike Woodson is establishing set roles and rotations for what has become a very deep roster. With such strong personalities and skill sets, New York can't afford to go with hunches and ride the hot hand very much if it expects the sort of reliable improvement necessary to become a factor in the playoffs. Getting a crunch-time pecking order -- Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin, Amar'e Stoudemire -- is an important step, and there are the makings of a solid, defensive-oriented second unit led by Jared Jeffries and Iman Shumpert. But the Knicks are a sub-.500 work in progress right now, and the second half of the season feels like a do-or-die trial for D'Antoni, who has what he needs to mold a dangerous team that no higher playoff seed would be eager to face.
17 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 12
Poor shooting has been primarily responsible for Philadelphia's 2-8 tumble: No player has improved his shooting percentage over the last 10 games (Andre Iguodala has stayed the same at 44.3 percent). Perhaps this was an inevitable regression for a team that ranked near the top in offensive efficiency despite a heavy reliance on the jump shot; as mentioned last week, the Sixers are 29th in shot attempts at the rim and last in free-throw attempts. The obvious antidote is more pump fakes and slashes to the hoop, and more screens and backdoor cuts. Make point guards Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams facilitate more often and provide more plays and touches for Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, who both are down significantly in their shots at the rim from a year ago.
18 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 19
Utah Jazz (18-19)
There is an interesting dynamic going on in Utah, where the Jazz are on the fringe of the playoff picture with the trade deadline set for next week. Will Utah look to move some veterans and hasten its rebuilding with a solid core of rookies and second-year players? Coming out of the break, one of those veterans, point guard Devin Harris, played with a vigor that had been missing in his disappointing first half (although the knee sprain he suffered during Monday's victory at Cleveland could complicate his resurgence). Another veteran, center Al Jefferson, took advantage of injuries to Miami's Chris Bosh and Cleveland's Anderson Varejao to lead Utah in scoring during wins over the Heat and the Cavs. And a third veteran, Josh Howard, has moved into the starting lineup for 21-year-old Gordon Hayward, who responded with a season-high-tying 23 points against the Cavs in his first game off the bench this season. Four of the Jazz's five games before the deadline are on the road, where they are 4-13.
19 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 23
Phoenix Suns (17-20)
Since arriving in a trade with Charlotte in 2008, swingman Jared Dudley has been the Suns' energy guy, the all-purpose grinder who would rotate hard on defense, scrap for loose balls and make himself available to shoot the weak-side three-pointer. This season, Dudley has adjusted his game and his role somewhat to help redress Phoenix's lack of depth and firepower. He is a regular starter for the first time but also plays frequently with the second unit. Dudley is using his career-high playing time to dole out more assists and attempt more shots in the paint, which boosts his overall field-goal percentage while his outside accuracy has declined a bit. The Suns have won three straight coming out of the break, something they failed to do in the first half, and Dudley has been the catalyst, averaging 16 points (on 54.3 percent shooting), 6.7 rebounds and three assists.
20 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 17
With a fabulously wealthy owner and underachievement that isn't directly tied to injuries for a change, the Blazers are good candidates to experience some sort of roster upheaval before the trade deadline. Statistically -- aside from wins and losses -- Portland generally appears to be above average, an impression undermined by the mixture of poor execution and bad luck that has cost the team an unusual number of close losses. An easy scapegoat is point guard Raymond Felton, who is experiencing a terrible year and has damaged the offense with poor shot selection, inaccuracy and an inability to grasp coach Nate McMillan's philosophy of striking early in transition if you have an opening but otherwise probing for a good matchup in the half-court. In any event, star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge needs a quality facilitator. He's hitting a career-high 50.5 percent from the field despite taking more shots from 16-23 feet at the expense of higher-accuracy attempts at the rim and in the paint, according to Hoopdata. And he hasn't attempted a free throw in the last three games.
21 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 20
It is good to see second-year center Ekpe Udoh finally crack the starting lineup for two games in a row. When Udoh is on the court, good things happen for the Warriors. According to Basketball Value, Golden State was 11.73 points per 100 possessions better when Udoh played compared to when he sat last season, by far the best differential on the team. This season that number through Saturday had swelled to nearly 19 points per 100 possessions, with the value neatly cleaved so that there was more than nine points of improvement on both offense and defense when Udoh was in the lineup. The Warriors were minus-4 in his 32 minutes and minus-4 in the 16 minutes he sat in Sunday's loss at Toronto. But when the Warriors exploded for a season-high 120 points in Monday's win over Washington to complete a 3-3 road trip, they were a plus-21 in Udoh's 27 minutes (during which he had 17 points and six rebounds) and minus-1 in the 21 minutes he was on the bench.
22 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 22
As long as Brandon Jennings can remain on a roll, the Bucks will be a dangerous spoiler in the second half of the season. With center Andrew Bogut limited to just 12 games, Milwaukee's once-feared defense has crumbled to 22nd in points allowed per possession after ranking in the top four the previous two years. It is odd to see the fate of a Scott Skiles team consigned to the mercurial Jennings' offense, but the third-year point guard playing at a rapid tempo is the team's best hope right now. After a February slump, he's averaging 31.3 points and seven assists in three March games, including a 33-and-7 effor in Monday's home victory over Philadelphia. It's not a formula that will get the Bucks into the playoffs, but Milwaukee is 10-10 when Jennings scores at least 20 points and 12-12 when he dishes at least five assists.
23 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 26
The Pistons gave a hot Grizzlies team all it could handle for three quarters before succumbing late at Memphis on Saturday, yet another example of Detroit's extraordinary improvement over the last five weeks. The reasons for the upgrade are more fundamental than fluke. The wide-bodied Jason Maxiell is a better fit for center Greg Monroe than Jonas Jerebko was at power forward (the Pistons are 8-7 since Maxiell became a starter). The improved health of Rodney Stuckey has enabled the 6-5 combo guard to settle in as a legitimate second scoring option to Monroe while providing familiarity and clarifying the role of rookie backcourt mate Brandon Knight at the point. And we are all again reminded that the complementary virtues of Tayshaun Prince become more apparent and valuable when, in chicken-or-egg fashion, the competence of his teammates rises.
24 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 27
The Nets began the week with Brook Lopez erupting for 38 points in an inspiring win at Dallas, and they closed it with Deron Williams' team-record and career-high 57 points in a victory at Charlotte. So why are New Jersey fans so disconsolate today? Because Lopez -- prime Dwight Howard trade bait and the formidable presence in the paint that was so glaringly absent in the 33 games he missed with a foot injury -- sprained his ankle against the Bobcats and is expected to be out three weeks. The downside of Williams' amazing performance is that, with Lopez sidelined in the third period, the Nets needed nearly every one of those 57 points to stave off a Bobcats team that was 4-30 at the time. That's a good indication of why the Nets need to acquire Howard or make another major upgrade to keep Williams from leaving as a free agent after the season.
25 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 25
The Raptors rank 29th in points per possession because many of the scorers trying to fill the void caused by Andrea Bargnani's absence are explosive but unreliable. Jerryd Bayless is a quintessential feast-or-famine player; he had 30 points against Washington last month, went 0-for-6 in 25 minutes against Golden State on Sunday and erupted for 12 points, six rebounds and three assists in the fourth quarter alone against Orlando on Monday. Linas Kleiza had consecutive games of five, 25 and two points, playing more than 20 minutes in each, in late January. Jose Calderon had a five-game stretch in which he averaged 21 points and never scored fewer than 14, but he has followed that up with a six-game period in which he's averaged 7.5 points and never scored more than 12. You know a team is in trouble when the most reliable sources of offense are Leandro Barbosa (shooting 43.3 percent) and DeMar DeRozan (41.3).
26 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 21
Small forward Omri Casspi's demotion last week after 34 straight starts was long overdue. Casspi looked slow and out of shape to start the season and never seemed to live up to his reputation as a hard-nosed defender. His replacement, Alonzo Gee, was already earning more minutes than Casspi, and is more adept at getting to the free-throw line. At 6-9, Casspi is three inches taller than Gee and provides a better complement to the small second-unit backcourt of Ramon Sessions and Daniel Gibson, who are both 6-2. Another lineup change, Ryan Hollins in for Semih Erden at center until Anderson Varejao returns from injury, is akin to the cliché about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
27 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 24
The good news is that the Kings will play 19 of their final 28 games at home, where they are 8-6, and that "home" appears set to continue to be Sacramento, thanks to a tentative deal for a new arena. (The City Council was set to vote on the plan on Tuesday.) The bad news is too many bone-headed plays, such as Marcus Thornton's last-second, three-shot foul on Arron Afflalo that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Denver on Monday. More bad news is the trade that sent Omri Casspi and a protected first-round pick to Cleveland for J.J. Hickson, a change of scenery that both floundering players would almost certainly like to reverse.
28 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 28
Monday's loss in Portland was the Hornets' fifth game in seven days and kicked off a four-game road trip before they return home for rare winnable games against the Bobcats and Wizards sandwiched around the Lakers. By then, New Orleans could be saying goodbye to center Chris Kaman, who gifted the franchise a large bump in his trade value with a series of double-doubles and energetic play over the past month. Even after stumbling against the Blazers, Kaman and fellow veteran Trevor Ariza have the woeful Hornets actually outscoring their opponents during the 399 minutes both were on the court this season, according to
29 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 29
Because of his salary ($6.4 million this season and a total of $29.8 million through 2014-15), relatively long tenure and chronic underachievement, forward Andray Blatche is probably the least popular of the young Wizards among Washington fans (at least the most loudly booed), but there are plenty of other worthy candidates. Center JaVale McGee and shooting guard Nick Young were recently benched by interim coach Randy Wittman for essentially refusing to get a clue about how to play the game. Ironically, Young's replacement was Jordan Crawford, who suffers from the same gunner's mentality that makes Young so maddening. Both jack up field goals at a rate of more than 17.5 attempts per 36 minutes, but they convert less than 41 percent and, even with decent three-point accuracy and reliable prowess from the free-throw line, are below the league average in true shooting percentage. Wittman has the right instincts but not enough long-term authority. Perhaps it is time for de facto team leader John Wall to use his leverage to raise the team's basketball IQ.
30 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 30
Watching the Bobcats, the question persists: Why is Corey Maggette being granted more than mop-up duty on this sorry team? Garbage time would be the ideal forum for Maggette, who is playing more selfishly than ever this season -- no mean feat. With numbing regularity and seemingly regardless of circumstance, he receives the ball and dribbles hard to the basket, counting on his athleticism to draw the foul. Even with all the whistles he draws, his shots-per-minute totals are the highest of his 13-year career, but he is converting just 35.1 percent, well below his career low of 43.1. His assists are a career-low 1.4 per 36 minutes, exactly half the rate of his turnovers. Throw in his customarily indifferent defense, and he is setting a toxic example for this young team while receiving $10.3 million this season with another $10.9 million on the books for next season.

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