Preps Talk

Bulls Draft: Center breakdown

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Bulls Draft: Center breakdown

Joakim Noah was arguably Chicagos best performer in 2011-12, averaging 10.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 30.4 minutes. He played in 64 games, and while his numbers were slightly down from last year, it was more a product of Omer Asiks improvement than anything Noah didnt do. A sprained ankle cut his 2012 playoff run short, but Noah will need to shoulder quite the scoring load with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng out to start next season.

Asiks numbers were up from last year, averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in 14 minutes per game. The 25-year-old Asik has shown enough to apparently make him priority No. 1 this off-season for upper management, and he looks to be a significant part of the Bulls long-term future.

Bulls history: Since 2000, the Bulls have made 29 draft selections. They have spent six of those selections on centers: 2000: Chris Mihm (Texas), Dalibor Bagaric (Croatia), Jake Voskuhl (Connecticut); 2001: Eddy Curry (Thornwood H.S.); 2007: Joakim Noah (Florida), Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh)

What the Bulls need in a center

The Bulls have ranked first, second and first in rebounding the last three seasons, respectively, in large part due to progression of Noah. Asik averaged 5.3 rebounds in 14 minutes per game, so its no secret the Bulls love their rebounding bigs. Any rebounder in Chicago will need to get after it on the glass, and with Gibson, Boozer and Noah handling the scoring load in the paint, any points from another center would be an added bonus.

Top 11 2012 Draft prospects
1. Andre Drummond, Connecticut Work ethic is a real question with the 6-foot-11 freshman, but he has plenty of upside at just 19 years old that should keep him in the lottery.
2. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina The most NBA-ready center has solid range and is an above average defender that could hear his name called in the top-10, potentially paired up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
3. Meyers Leonard, Illinois Leonard will need a few years to get ready at the next level, but when hes ready he has the skills to become a very solid pro.
4. Fab Melo, Syracuse Melo did not start playing basketball until the ninth grade so hes raw, but he was an elite shot blocker in his two years at Syracuse and could be a valuable project with a solid long-term future in the NBA.
5. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt The 7-foot senior is a tough, back-to-the-basket defender who needs work on his offensive game, but could serve well as a back-up in the NBA.
6. Kyle OQuinn, Norfolk State Last Marchs NCAA Tournament hero in a win over then-No. 3 Missouri, OQuinn is strong inside and an impressive rebounder.
7. Henry Sims, Georgetown Sims was a classic Georgetown center: range to 18 feet, an excellent passer and a below-average rebounder. He could stick as a second rounder.
8. Garrett Stutz, Wichita State Stutz made significant improvement his senior season, but he doesnt have great athleticism and struggles inside at times.
9. Robert Sacre, Gonzaga The Bulldogs senior leader was a superb defender and shot blocker, but he needs work on his offensive game to make it at the next level.
10. Bernard James, Florida State At 27 years old, James would be ready to play right away but lacks upside that rightfully causes his draft stock to take a tumble.
11. Justin Hamilton, LSU Hamilton is not an elite athlete, but he is well-seasoned around the basket and could be a nice second unit scorer in the right system.

Analysis

Much of what the Bulls do or not do at the center position on Thursday will stem on how they believe Omer Asiks contract situation will play out. Management does not have the luxury of knowing what interest Asik will garner in free agency, but Gar Forman insists the team will match it.

If thats the case, center is the least of the Bulls worries on Thursday. But, again, if Forman is also insistent on taking the best player available, Melo or Ezeli could be options, depending on where the Bulls have each on their draft board. Still, it would be surprising to see the Bulls go center with the needs of an outside shooter so prevalent.

If the Bulls do trade into the lottery via a trade of Joakim Noah -- a rumor that has been floated around -- Asik would almost certainly be back. The Bulls would then have to address a back-up center position, potentially in the lottery they trade up to but more likely in free agency.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.