Bulls

10 days to go: The latest state of Bears draft needs

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10 days to go: The latest state of Bears draft needs

Offseasons proceed in stages, effectively beginning late in the preceding regular season and running into the draft in late April. Transactions will go down outside of that framework but the defining deals typically go down in those stages, each one affecting the next and ultimately dominoing into the draft.

So it is with the Bears.

First are in-season re-signings of in-house targets (receiver Earl Bennett, center Roberto Garza, guard Edwin Williams).

Then come re-signings before the onset of free agency (cornerback Tim Jennings) and into the early stages of the open market (tight end Kellen Davis, defensive end Israel Idonije, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Craig Steltz).

Those were preceded by a trade (wide receiver Brandon Mashall) that dramatically altered the Bears course in free agency. That was followed by others: quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Michael Bush, receivers Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, linebacker Blake Costanzo, cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden, Jonathan Wilhite).

Throw in the assorted extension (linebacker Lance Briggs) and you have an active franchise for not just the last six weeks but also the last six months.

So what does all that activity mean for draft needs, which are considerably altered from the premature analyses before the tsunami of change rolled through Halas Hall?

CSNChicago.com assesses the degree of current need for each position group in the wake of the additions.

The key:
1 = priority need; likely pick during first four rounds.
2 = moderate need; help wanted but not desperate enough for a need-based reach.
3 = low or no need; could take one but only a value surprise.

Quarterback: 3

With Jay Cutler in place, Jason Campbell in addition, Josh McCown in reserve and Nathan Enderle in question, the Bears have gone into few drafts with less pressing need for help at quarterback.

Running back: 3

Matt Forte isnt expected to be reporting anytime soon in protest over his franchise tag, although a holdout extending into the season is unlikely. Michael Bush would be competing for a starting job with multiple teams and well could be in Chicago before his four-year deal is done. Khalil Bell is a restricted free agent playing for his opp next offseason.

Wide receiver: 1

The problem is still simple numbers. Marshall and Bennett take care of two of the top three spots, and Devin Hester has enough returner help to let him focus on receiving. Devin Thomas and Eric Weems are depth and special teamers wholl put Dane Sanzenbacher in a roster vise. Johnny Knoxs return is still a significant question.

Tight end: 3

Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth are not big producers but coaches believe in both, and have prospects (Kyle Adams, Andre Smith) down the depth chart.

Offensive line: 2

The Bears had three backs with 100-yard games and 2,015 rushing yards for the season. Pass protection was a problem but Mike Tice isnt Mike Martz and Cutler isnt Caleb Hanie. The Bears believe they have potentially three serviceable tackles (Gabe Carimi, JMarcus Webb, Chris Williams), three guards (Lance Louis, Chris Spencer, Edwin Williams) and three centers (Roberto Garza, Spencer, E. Williams). Free agents have been interviewed but coaches dont see the dire situation outsiders do.

Defensive end: 1

Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije are in place along with injury prone reserve Corey Wootton. The Bears didnt land Jeremy Mincey or Mario Williams and will have trouble landing in the playoffs without more pressure off the edge.

Defensive tackle: 1

Losing Amobi Okoye to Tampa Bay was a setback but Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina are returning starters and Stephen Paea is a returning No. 2 pick. Idonije is a potential swingman with E-T experience but the Bears have drafted at least one defensive linemen within the first four rounds of all but one draft since 2000.

Linebacker: 1-2

Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are set for another year and Nick Roach has missed just three games over the last four seasons. Depth is always a concern but not enough to force a need reach.

Cornerback: 2

The Bears have four corners with starter experience (Kelvin Hayden, Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman, Jonathan Wilhite) plus nickel back D.J. Moore. They have size and depth but if a quality cover man falls within reach, theyll build for the future.

Safety: 2

Chris Conte is considered a future star at free safety and Major Wright is expected to perform better with a clear assignment at strong. Craig Steltz is insurance at strong but Conte finished the season on IR. Whether the Bears will invest another fourth-round-or-higher pick for the fourth time in five drafts isnt a given.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.