Bulls

Will Frank Kaminsky turn college success into NBA greatness?

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Will Frank Kaminsky turn college success into NBA greatness?

Frank Kaminsky was the national player of the year in college basketball, named as such by just about everyone you can think to ask.

But college is over, and now it’s time to see if Kaminsky’s success at the NCAA level can translate to success in the pros.

Being dubbed college hoops’ best player doesn’t have much correlation to NBA greatness. Yes, the last 10 years of honorees have included Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis. They’ve also included Jimmer Fredette and Tyler Hansbrough.

Kaminsky, obviously, will hope to be more like the first two guys named than the last two, and given the amazing transformation he went through during four years at Wisconsin, you shouldn’t count him out.

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Wisconsin C/F Frank Kaminsky]

Most believe that Kaminsky will be able to find NBA success thanks to a phenomenal offensive game that includes a bottomless bag of post-move tricks and an accurate 3-point shot. He shot 54.7 percent last season from the field and 41.6 percent from 3-point range. That’s a seven-footer shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range, to be precise.

“I bring a lot of different things to the table,” Kaminsky told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine. “On the offensive end, I bring a versatile skill set, I can fit in with systems, I can fit in with people. I feel like I’ve got a good personality, and I’m committed to winning. If I’ve shown anything in the last two years in college, it’s that I want to win. I have a winning attitude, and I can bring that to the table.”

His offensive game is impressive, though he might need to move down a position in the NBA because of it. Yeah, he’s seven feet tall, but NBA teams might want to use him as a power forward instead of a center, something Kaminsky mentioned at the combine.

If there’s anything that folks are concerned might not move over to the NBA, it’s his defense. Playing power forward will mean guarding smaller guys. He proved himself as part of a strong defensive Badgers team defending the low post, grabbing a ton of rebounds and ranking highly in the Big Ten in blocked shots, but how will he do when he’s guarding guys away from the basket? Kaminsky knows it’s the part of his game he’ll need to improve the most.

“I think I need to improve on the defensive end,” Kaminsky said. “It’s a whole different evil at the next level. You can get away with some deficiencies in college, but in the NBA you’ll get exposed. So I know I need to get work on my body and get better.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: Myles Turner approaching NBA with 'strictly business' attitude]

There’s plenty, though, that won’t be in question.

Kaminsky’s bringing the same confidence and attitude to the draft process that made him a national celebrity this spring. It was a Final Four run during which the Badgers seemed more like fun-loving rock stars than college kids on a basketball mission, though both of those descriptions applied.

Kaminsky was the star of that show, putting his goofiness on display for the American basketball-watching public with on-air dance moves, humorous magazine photoshoots and an interview with actor Will Ferrell for Access Hollywood.

“Your everyday interesting character,” Wisconsin teammate Sam Dekker described. “He’s quirky, he’s fun-loving and he’s very straight forward. Sometimes people might not like that, but that’s Frank. He’s not afraid of who’s around, he’s just going to be himself, but that’s the thing that makes him great. He doesn’t care who’s watching him, he’s going to be him, he’s going to play his game. … The guy you see on the court’s the guy you see off the court.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Kentucky G Andrew Harrison]

Through all the giggling during press conferences, though, Kaminsky and the Badgers made it very clear that a switch flipped when they took the court, that winning was still the most important thing. And that proved true as they mopped the floor with the Big Ten and won some NCAA tournament games in incredible comeback fashion. Wisconsin took down Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament title game, bested Arizona in an Elite Eight rematch and put a stop to Kentucky’s undefeated season in a memorable Final Four showdown.

And through it all, Kaminsky played exceptionally well. He scored 29 points against Arizona, poured in 20 against Kentucky and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the national title game loss to Duke. He averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during his senior season of college, earning national and conference player of the year honors and becoming a no-doubt first team All American.

So what’s the issue?

“Haters, man. There’s haters,” Dekker said. “When you’re good enough to put yourself in that position with the stuff he did, people are going to try to knock you down and doubt you. But the best players ever are going to go through that stuff. And I see Frank as a really, really good player. He won those awards for a reason. And he’s going to add even more to his game, and I see him doing well regardless of where he goes, he’s going to represent well and have a very long and very good career.”

That’s what Kaminsky is hoping for. He said his expectations were to be picked anywhere from No. 5 to No. 12. It’s a projection that would’ve seemed like lunacy just a few years ago, when he was an unheralded recruit out of Benet Academy who couldn’t find his way onto the court for Bo Ryan’s Badgers. But by the time he was an upperclassman, Kaminsky was leading the Badgers on deep NCAA tournament runs and winning national player of the year awards.

Time will tell how Kaminsky’s NBA career goes, but if the past is any indication, counting him out would seem a bad decision.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”