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Scouting NCAA: Shooting Guards, Small Forwards

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Scouting NCAA: Shooting Guards, Small Forwards

Friday, March 26, 2010
2:00PMBy Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.comAs the NCAA Tournament continues--and in typically exciting fashion; unbelievable finish to the Kansas State-Xavier double-overtime thriller, not to mention Butler's upset of Syracuse--we continue with our look at college prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, as well as players the Bulls might consider. SHOOTING GUARDSOverview: While point guard isn't a position of need for the Bulls (some guy named Rose seems to be adequate at that spot), Chicago could look into upgrading its depth at the other backcourt slot. Regarding shooting guards--in reality, players who shade more to playing off the ball on the next level or play off the ball in college, as well as true "twos"--Oklahoma State junior James Anderson (who officially declared for the draft yesterday), the Big 12 player of the year, is one of the top names and could end up being a late-lottery selection. A big-time shooter, the 6-foot-6 Anderson displayed better ability to get to the rim this season, though the source was skeptical about his ability to do so in the NBA, considering him more of a spot-up shooter with limited playmaking talents and only average athleticism, stating, "they're some holes there."After Anderson, a trio of underclassmen from the Big 12--Kansas' Xavier Henry, Oklahoma's Willie Warren and Texas' Avery Bradley (Henry and Bradley are freshmen)--are highly regarded, perhaps more for their talent and potential than any possible impact they could make as NBA rookies next season, if they indeed declare for the draft. All have been inconsistent this season, but Henry's size and shooting ability, Warren's explosiveness and ability to create offense (although his stock was higher last season, when he teamed up with 2009 No. 1 pick Blake Griffin) and Bradley's athleticism and defensive acumen each make them attractive prospects.A local product, Duke's Jon Scheyer, successfully functioned as a point guard this season and while he isnt likely to play on the ball full-time as a pro, he showed that he can be more than just a shooter on the next level, as did Syracuses Andy Rautins, another 6-foot-5 sniper who displayed much-improved passing ability and the skills to create off the dribble. Mississippis Terrico White and Michigans Manny Harrisboth 6-foot-5 combo guardsdidnt have overwhelming seasons after coming in with high expectations. Both are talented scorers, but the athletic White, only a sophomore, functions best with the ball in his hands (he played the point as a freshman, but was moved off the ball due to the return of star Chris Warren, who was injured the previous season), while opinions are split about whether Harris is a product of Michigan head coach John Beileins system or whether the system limits him from putting his entire game on display.A pair of mid-major senior wingsRiders Ryan Thompson and Sienas Edwin Ubilesare sleepers to keep an eye on. Both are athletic swingmen that can score, as Thompson (the younger brother of Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson) is seen as more versatile, while Ubiles is regarded as a more consistent shooter.Scout's take: "All those guys will be in the mix, especially in the second round. Between the second round and the D-League, it's all about situation for some of these guys, but they're all prospects."Potential lottery picks: Anderson, Henry, Warren, BradleyBulls fit: Forget the local angleScheyer also played for the brother of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber in high schoolby playing point guard this season, the Duke senior displayed that he had enough ball skills to not be a completely one-dimensional shooter as a pro. His court awareness and playmaking ability augments a lethal shooting stroke and at 6-foot-5, if he can slide over to the point even on occasion in the NBA, he becomes much more valuable. His ability to stay in front of opponents as a defender is questionable, but his intangibles make up for it. Rautins, who has a similar skill set, could also be an option.SMALL FORWARDSOverview: This position has an interesting mix of prospects with experienced underclassmen, relative neophytes, perimeter-oriented swingmen and athletic insiders all included. Starting with the elder statesmen, Texas Damion James is among the most accomplished, as he steadily developed over his four-year career, superbly blending his warrior mentality with a more polished outside game. DaSean Butler developed a well-deserved reputation for coming through in the clutch at West Virginia and while his ceiling, like James, isnt unlimited, his toughness, versatility, outside shooting and ability to create have earned him a solid reputation with pro scouts. Another pair of seniors, Connecticuts Stanley Robinson and Washingtons Quincy Pondexter, were considered enigmatic as collegians, but their athleticism and potential finally reaped dividends in their final seasons (particularly in Pondexters case) on campus, as they added more substance and consistency to their high-flying games. A number of mid-major prospects also have received some attention. Gonzaga freshman Elias Harris, a native of Germany, increasingly got more buzz as the season went on, as his physicality, high motor and pogo-stick style were admired by observers. Butlers Gordon Hayward's sweet stroke and smooth game are also the objects of next-level decision-makers affections, although like Harris, the sophomore may opt to return for another year in college. A pair of their counterparts more likely to declare are Fresno States Paul George and Nevadas Luke Babbitt, although their defense are among the holesGeorge is a shaky ballhandler, but a high-level athlete; Babbitt is willing to mix it up inside, but his explosiveness is questionablediscussed in their games. Sitting more on the fence, but perhaps quietly a more highly-regarded prospect is New Mexico junior Darrington Hobson, a junior-college transfer and versatile talent, who can do a little bit of everything and play multiple positions. Two seniorsMarquettes Lazar Hayward and Michigans DeShawn Simsare also intriguing, as their ability to step out and shoot the ball from distance mixes well with their blue-collar mentalities. Dukes Kyle Singler and West Virginias Devin Ebanks are couple of players who came into the season with lofty reputations, but even though they had subsequently disappointing seasons, they will still have the opportunity to get drafted (Singler is a junior and Ebanks is a sophomore, so they could opt to a give it another shot next year), due to their unique skillsets. Scout's take: "Definitely the position of most depth. There's a ton of guys with versatility that can two to three positions."Potential lottery picks: Turner, Johnson, AminuBulls fit: Butler, JamesButlers toughness, winning pedigree (something valued by the Bulls) and versatility would be a natural fit in Chicago, especially with the team lacking a big wing defender since trading John Salmons. The hard-nosed Butlers ability to stretch the defense with his shooting fills another hole, as he would give Derrick Rose another player to kick the ball out to off penetration. Add his ability to handle the ball, score inside (he plays everywhere from point guard to the post for West Virginia) and defend, as well as his savvy, and it would be akin to adding Taj Gibson this seasona rookie who comes in with a veterans mentality. Jamesanother experienced playershould also be under consideration, as his rebounding and versatility would help the Bulls and give them a different look. Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.