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Around the NBA in five minutes or less: Featuring impressive work from Bulls and DeMar DeRozan

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2018 is here and the basketball is on fire.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is, quite simply, the best professional sports league in the world (yes, I checked every league on the face of the earth). Wouldn’t you know, there’s a lot to cover lately. While we’re mostly obsessed with the Detroit Pistons here, it never hurts to take a closer look at the competition.

Backup center rental?

Perhaps some noteworthy (and positive) news for those of you not too enamored with Eric Moreland and the others that already assume Jon Leuer is permanently broken — and it is that versatile center Kyle O’Quinn is expected to opt out according to the Knicks:

The center is scoring efficiently inside and from mid-range, cleaning up on the glass, protecting the rim and even distributing some (though that has come with more turnovers). Everything is coming together for him.

That leads to a question: Will O’Quinn exercise his $4,256,250 player option for next season?

Keep in mind:

If a team is using O’Quinn — who had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes in the Knicks’ 119-107 Thursday night loss to the Spursas a short-term rental, it could be willing to give up less to acquire him than a club eager to sign him long-term after he opts out.

According to sources, the Knicks are considering alleviating their center logjam to open up playing time for Willy Hernangomez, 23, who is growing more antsy after having not played in 11 of the past 12 games, including Thursday’s game against the Spurs. Of course, if the Knicks are in the thick of the race, they will need a legitimate return.

Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond

I had some fun in a question I posed on Twitter in response to the NBA Math podcast (called Hardwood Knocks) asking for questions for their recent recording. I posed the question “Do you think it bothers Joel Embiid that he’ll never be as good as Andre Drummond?“ to the Hardwood Knocks podcast hosts Andrew Bailey and Dan Favale. They answered it. If you wish, go to the podcast HERE and head to roughly the 41:50 mark to listen to their answer.

Anyway, speaking of Embiid, his 76ers host the Pistons Friday, Jan. 5. The 76ers sit at 17-19 and will play home against the Spurs Wednesday, Jan 3. The 76ers are 2-0 against the Pistons so far this season.

For now, the Chicago Bulls aren’t going away

I watched the second half of the Chicago Bulls and (Lillard-less) Portland Blazers game last night because, really, what else is there to do at the end of New Year’s Day. I have to say the Bulls are for real, relatively speaking. They are not a basement dweller like everyone thought they would be. They play hard and have an intriguing mix of talented younguns and vets. If they don’t make some subtractions to help their 2018 NBA draft tanking goal, they could end up winning between 35 and 38 games. They have lost two straight now though, as the Wizards and Trail Blazers just beat them to knock them down to 13-24. The Pistons play the Bulls for the first time this season January 13. Mark your calendars, knuckleheads.

Talking about younguns, rookie seven-footer Lauri Markkanen can put the ball on the floor and also knock down threes (struggling a bit though, shooting just 33.6-percent from the long line). He needs to get stronger and learn to work the glass smarter — and if he does he’ll be a stabilizing piece for the Bulls up front.

Second-year guard Kris Dunn is big time.

But not big time enough (yet) to get the crunch time whistle. Veteran point guard Shabazz Napier seemed to knock him on the arm.

DeRozan nets 52 for Raptors on New Year’s Day, sets franchise record

DeMar DeRozan often seems like he doesn’t exist because he’s in Toronto. Or maybe I just think that because I seldom catch any Toronto games. Either way, the Toronto Raptors could be 32-3 (they are currently 25-10) and they’d be an afterthought. People want to talk about the latest Harden flop or Lakers loss before they want to even look at the DeRozan led Raptors.

Props to this:

Isaiah Thomas finally healthy enough to help Cavs

At least it’s being said that Isaiah Thomas is healthy. Only Isaiah really knows. He’ll make his Cavaliers debut when the Cavs host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight, though Isaiah will be held to 8-to-12 minutes and will not play tomorrow at Boston. LeBron James and the Cavs are indeed in need of a jolt of sorts, as they have lost three straight (are 3.5 games in front of Detroit).

Donovan Mitchell isn’t even very good yet

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 29 in a win over the Cavs last Saturday. He’s quite a talented player with a motor that doesn’t stop. In Utah (16-21) Mitchell has to be their scoring horse so often because there are hardly any scoring options there. Once Utah forms a better team around him, expect Mitchell’s efficiency to improve.

He put up a huge December and is in some decent company for the month as a rookie:

Don’t overlook rookie big man Adebayo

Miami Heat rookie Bam Adebayo played 24.5 minutes per game in December (Hassan Whiteside was injured most of the month) and averaged 8.2 points per game and 5.5 rebounds. He doesn’t shoot a lot, yet he is pretty efficient (dunks a ton) and is certainly a harasser on defense when he’s not messing up like a rookie is prone to do. Not sure if Boban is a good match up against Bam, though don’t be surprised when we see a bit of Boban vs. Bam action Wednesday when the Pistons are in Miami. Although Bam’s range doesn’t extend out to the three-point line, his motor could cause a whiplash adventure for Detroit’s biggest man.

In time, Bam could be more than just a dunker:

The Rockets could be quite banged up against Pistons this Saturday

The James Harden led Houston Rockets — in second place in the West — have a number of injuries already, as forwards Troy Williams and Luc Mbah a Moute have been out of commission for a bit. And now having Harden out will open up more time for newly acquired Gerald Green and probably Briante Weber, too. But expect a ton of minutes from Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. Also, come Saturday, both Detroit and Houston will be on their third game in four days, so it might not be a super crisp affair at LCA, but it should be a competitive one nonetheless.