A perfect night for the rebuild: Lauri's shot returns, Kris Dunn stays aggressive, Bulls lose


A perfect night for the rebuild: Lauri's shot returns, Kris Dunn stays aggressive, Bulls lose

Aggressive Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn was aggressive from the jump, which wasn't all that surprising considering Zach LaVine was on the bench. Dunn finished with 23 points on 9 of 15 shooting, and his four assists were more a product of teammates missing shots than him not distributing. He was an efficient 4 of 6 on midrange shots (and made his only 3-pointer), but it was his eight attempts in the paint that made the biggest mark.

Dunn's aggressiveness isn't something new, and it'll be interesting to see how much of that carries over when LaVine is back in the lineup Tuesday. Dunn's two steals and two blocks were an added bonus, though Nets point guards had their way most of the night. It wasn't a highlight night for any Bulls defender.

Lauri's shot returns...kind of

The box score shows Markkanen shooting 8-for-18 and scoring 19 points, solid numbers considering the recent funk he was in. He went 1-for-3 from beyond the arc, but most of his damage was done inside. That's a fine recipe for a rookie who had gone 3-for-28 from deep in February, but also probably not fair to say his shooting struggles this month are vanished. He again looked comfortable with Bobby Portis when the two were paired together, and any night where Markkanen leads the team in field goal attempts is a good night.

Cam Payne and Cristiano Felicio still look lost

It's unfair to continue harping on Payne, who is clearly shaking off some rust playing in his first real action since April. But he needed a jumper in the final minute to break an 0-for-8 shooting night, and he finished 1-for-10 with two assists in 18 minutes. He was decent against the Timberwolves and had seven assists against the Sixers, but on nights where he's off...boy, is it evident.

As for Felicio, this experiment already looks to be failing. He's played 61 minutes the last two games and has a grand total of six rebounds. To put that in perspective, Cameron Payne had five rebounds in 18 minutes tonight. Noah Vonleh had seven boards in 15 minutes. Felicio also went 2-for-3 from the field, finishing with four points, three rebounds, three fouls and a game-worst -28 rating. He's going to continue getting 30+ minutes a night, and you'll see a direct result of that when the Bulls make a very early selection on draft night in June.

Good for the tank

Yes, Monday's loss was a big one as far as the ping-pong balls in May are concerned. The Bulls are now tied with the Nets in the win column, and they stay 2.5 games back of the Suns and Hawks, both of whom also lost Monday night.

The good news is the Bulls still have two games left against the Nets, a bottom feeder team but one that doesn't own its first-round pick in June so doesn't have much need to tank.

In other draft pick news, the Pelicans won their sixth straight game (beating the aforementioned Suns), so for now it looks like the Bulls won't have a second Lottery pick. Still, that pick shouldn't get much higher than, at worst, 20 or 21. The Bulls will have options wherever New Orleans winds up.

And if you're keeping tabs on Anthony Davis perhaps coming back to Chicago in free agency in a few years, the cost keeps getting higher (duh, he's worth every penny). On Monday, The Brow went for 53 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks. He's been the MVP of the league since DeMarcus Cousins went down with his Achilles injury, and he's the reason the Pelicans could get as high as No. 3 (!!) in the West.

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.