Bulls

Deep draft could yield potential sleepers

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Deep draft could yield potential sleepers

By now, the elite playersor at least whos considered to be an upper-echelon prospectin the 2012 NBA Draft are obvious. But every year, theres a player or two whos selected lower than he was initially expected to be drafted, then makes teams pay for him and another few who slips through the cracks. Then they surprise everyone with a tremendous rookie season and subsequent career.

There are some obvious candidates this year: Ohio States Jared Sullingers medical red flag threatens to have him slip out of the lottery and plummet toward the second half of the first round, while Baylors enigmatic Perry Jones, despite his tantalizing talent, could also fall out of the lottery; ironically, both players were projected to be top-five picks last summer, following their freshman seasons. But what about that second category, the players whose stock isnt quite as high as it could be, but have a chance to really make an impact in the league.

Memphis shooting guard Will Barton, whose name has come up quite a bit recently in Chicagoas reported Tuesday, Barton had a solo workout with the Bulls at the Berto Center, his second workout with the team, Wednesday; hes the only prospect believed to have worked out twice for the Bulls, as well as the lone player to work out by himselfcertainly fits that description, but hes already been discussed ad nauseum in this space. Besides Barton, here are 10 other draft prospects who could be better than expected in the NBA:

Quincy Acy, 6-foot-7 power forward, Baylor: The undersized Acy is simply a beast inside, using his power and athleticism to produce, and while hell never be a go-to scorer or even a skilled offensive option, as an energy guy and rebounder doing the dirty work, he should find a place in the league.

Kim English, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Missouri: Already equipped with an NBA skillshooting the ballEnglish is no one-trick pony, as hes capable of being a solid defender, possesses ball skills and has nice size for his position, to go along with a mature game.

Draymond Green, 6-foot-7 forward, Michigan State: Green doesnt really have a position on the next level, but his high basketball I.Q., experience and uncanny passing ability should enable him to excel in the right system.

Quincy Miller, 6-foot-9 small forward, Baylor: Acys teammate had an inconsistent freshman yearpossibly due to the effects of the ACL injury he suffered as a high school seniorbut his size and natural scoring ability indicate he could be a solid long-term risk for a patient team.

Andrew Nicholson, 6-foot-9 power forward, St. Bonaventure: A native of Canada and the Atlantic-10 Conference player of the year, Nicholson is one of the better four-year college players in the draft and should be able to immediately step into a teams rotation as a big man who can play in the pick-and-pop game.

Kyle OQuinn, 6-foot-10 power forward, Norfolk State: One the heroes of the NCAA Tournament after leading his 15th-seeded team to a first-round upset of Missouri, OQuinn is a rugged rebounder and strong defender with good size, which should translate into him being a solid role player.

Hollis Thompson, 6-foot-8 small forward, Georgetown: Thompson played in a college system that wasnt designed to showcase individual talents, but his excellent size for the wing, long-range shooting and on-court intelligence should earn him a niche as a specialist in the league.

Casper Ware, 5-foot-10 point guard, Long Beach State: Ware could very well go undrafted, but his quickness, moxie and niche as a change-of-pace backup will get him in somebodys training camp in the fall and more than likely, obtain him an NBA home.

Royce White, 6-foot-8 power forward, Iowa State: Whites anxiety issues have been well-chronicled, but even after his NCAA Tournament breakout performances against Connecticut and Kentucky, his actual skillspowerful, athletic big man with perimeter skills, rebounding acumen and unique ballhandling and passing abilityhave gone under the radar.

Tony Wroten, 6-foot-6 point guard, Washington: While Wroten certainly has weaknesses as a shooter and has a propensity to get out of control, his size for the position, remarkable court vision and youth give him a great chance to succeed.

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

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USA TODAY

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.