Bulls

How did Bulls' rivals fare in NBA Draft?

807484.png

How did Bulls' rivals fare in NBA Draft?

Whether youre in the camp that believes Bulls first-round draft pick Marquis Teague will make an instant impact and garner playing time as a backup point guard next season or view the former Kentucky point guard as a long-term value selection, theres no quibbling with the fact that he was arguably the best talent left on the board at No. 29 Thursday night.

Teague is unlikely to individually affect the Bulls fortunes very significantly next season, but how many rookies on upper-echelon, veteran-laden teams, typically selecting near the bottom of the first round, do?

The defending champion Heat basically took a mulligan, trading the rights to 27th overall pick Arnett Moultrie, a big man out of Mississippi State regarded as a lottery-level talent, to Philadelphia and ending up with lightly-regarded LSU center Justin Hamilton, who may be bound for Europe.

Meanwhile, Finals opponent Oklahoma City took free-falling Baylor forward Perry Jonesviewed as a top-five talent, his perceived lack of a high motor and reported knee issues prior to the draft, severely dropped his stocka big-time talent who will have little pressure on him to produce immediately and excellent role models in high-level young teammates like three-time league scoring champ Kevin Durant, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, Sixth Man of the Year James Harden and league-leading shot-blocker Serge Ibaka.

The aforementioned 76ers, though facing some tough decisions in free agency with starting center Spencer Hawes and sixth man Lou Williams, the teams leading scorer, entering free agencynot to mention rookie revelation Lavoy Allen, as well as annual trade rumors surrounding All-Star swingman Andre Iguodalaadded some young firepower to an already young and athletic team with not only Moultrie, who could challenge for a starting role, but St. Johns small forward Maurice Harkless who still needs to add polish, strength and a semblance of an outside jumper, yet could also see plenty of action as a rookie.

Boston is another Eastern Conference playoff team that had a successful draft night, as the Celtics acquired productive Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, whose bad back caused him to slip, and Syracuse center Fab Melo, giving them size and defense; team top exec Danny Ainges smart draft could have been part of the reason future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett reportedly opted to sign a three-year, 34-million deal instead of retiring, although the squad could lose sharpshooter Ray Allen in free agency.

As far as the Bulls Central Division rivals, Cleveland was bold in drafting Syracuse guard Dion Waiters fourth overall as a backcourt partner for reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, then trading for North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, while Detroit got a potential steal with Connecticuts Andre Drummond at No. 9, as the athletic center, the second-youngest player in the draft, could form a potent post duo with Greg Monroewho can move to his natural power-forward spotand while he could take years to fully realize his potential, should be able to help the Pistons as a rebounder and defensive presence.

On the other hand, Indiana made puzzling moves for a team on the verge of contending (perhaps due to the Pacers front-office shake-up), reaching for Duke big man Miles Plumlee, a middling college player if a superb athlete, with the likes of Jones and Moultrie still on the board, then trading up for UC-Santa Barbara shooting guard Orlando Johnson in the second round, while Milwaukee, which had traded down with Houston and acquired center Samuel Dalembert, added to a stable of young, defensive-minded big men by adding North Carolinas John Henson to a group that already includes Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, though Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb in the second round could be a sleeper pick.

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

Zach LaVine cleared for contact practice

The Zach LaVine comeback is one step closer as the shooting guard was cleared for contact practice after checking with his doctors in California. 

LaVine will go through a step by step process over the next few weeks and the Bulls will gauge his progress to see when the best time for his return will be. 

But, given the nine-month process from his ACL injury he suffered in February, he's right on track and there doesn't appear to be any setbacks. 

"There’s no real timeframe, I guess," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at practice Monday. "It’s really going to be on how he feels. We’ll try to do a little more every day with him. We did a little bit, got him some light contact today just to get the process started.

"He’ll be able to play a little two-on-two with not a lot of practice time these next 10 days. But we’ll throw him out there and continue to try to get him feeling better. There’s going to be a mental hurdle that he’s going to have to clear as well. I know he’s excited. His teammates are excited and the coaches are obviously excited as well."

LaVine's recovery has gone as planned since his arrival in Chicago from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night. Targeting a mid-December return seems realistic but of course, the Bulls will take every precaution to make sure he's healthy for the long term, both for LaVine and the franchise, as he's a restricted free agent this summer--and they have no plans on letting him walk. 

LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago recently that he wants to get on the floor immediately but the Bulls know they'll have to protect him from himself in the meantime. 

"He’s going to have to string together a lot of really good days, and he knows that," Hoiberg said. "He understands that. The important thing is he’s right on track from where it was said after the injury. He’s been doing a great job with his rehab. He’s on time. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him. His strength numbers are where they’re supposed to be. I’m confident he’s going to keep making progress. But we’ll absolutely monitor it daily and hopefully it’ll just continue to get better."

The Bulls aren't sure if they'll send LaVine to the G-League but it's certain they have plans on not only how to use him when he steps on the floor but also a regimen they've stuck to, to ensure there are no real setbacks. 

Hoiberg has been salivating over having a true scorer at that position since trading for him, and LaVine has been eager since his arrival to prove to the Bulls and fans that he is a franchise player. 

Prudence in the moment of progression, though, appears to be the approach taken by both sides. 

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

blakeney.jpg
USA TODAY

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal.