Dennis Smith

Where does Lauri Markkanen sit in early race for Rookie of the Year?

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USA TODAY

Where does Lauri Markkanen sit in early race for Rookie of the Year?

The NBA season is just three weeks old, but some rookies have emerged as early candidates for Rookie of the Year, including Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen.

Mark Schanowski ranked his top five rookies with the regular season just over 10 percent of the way finished. Watch the video in the embedded tweet below to see Schanowski explain his rankings and read on for more information on his top five.

5. Jayson Tatum, Boston

Key stats: 13.6 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, 51.7 percent 3-pointers

The No. 3 pick in the draft is in the top five among rookies in a number of categories and is getting plenty of playing time for a championship contender.

Schanowski: "After the Gordon Hayward injury, Tatum will be counted on to play major minutes on one of the Eastern Conference's best teams."

4. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas

Key stats: 13.3 points per game, 4.6 assists per game

Smith has proven to be a bring spot at point guard for a struggling Dallas team despite shooting below 40 percent and having 3.7 turnovers per game so far.

Schanowski: Smith is "showing future All-Star potential with his explosive drives and long-range shooting."

3. Kyle Kuzma, LA Lakers

Key stats: 15.4 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, 56.3 percent field goal shooting

Kuzma was taken all the way down at No. 27 in the draft, but he is stealing some of the thunder from fellow Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.

Schanowski: "Right now Kuzma looks like one of the steals of the draft."

2. Lauri Markkanen, Bulls

Key stats: 16.3 points per game, 9 rebounds per game, 37.9 percent 3-pointers

Markkanen is second among rookies in scoring and rebounds while proving to be the type of modern NBA big man with plenty of shooting range.

Schanowski: "Markkanen is showing a lot of versatily on offense and he's a better rebounder than advertised."

1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia

Key stats: 18 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game, 8.2 assists per game

Simmons was the No. 1 pick last year, but was out with an injury the whole season. He is making his mark as a rookie this year with two triple-doubles already and leads rookies in scoring, rebounds and assists. If he comes close to maintaining this production, he will be a lock for Rookie of the Year.

Schanowski: "Ben Simmons is definitely proving to be worth the one-year wait in Philadelphia... He's looking like a more talented version of Lamar Odom."

20 crazy (or are they...?) predictions for the NBA season

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USA TODAY

20 crazy (or are they...?) predictions for the NBA season

1. The Golden State Warriors will be better than ever this season and will repeat as NBA champions...but will have big time bumps on the road in the Western Conference.

2. Kevin Durant will be better and win his second Most Valuable Player award, even though Steph Curry is still the arbiter for Golden State’s culture.

3. LeBron James will add to his resume as being one of the top five players ever, if not higher, but won’t catch Michael Jordan for total MVPs (five)...

4. ...and Cleveland had better enjoy him this year, because come July, he’s headed out of Ohio.

5. Speaking of headed out of town, a coach will be fired after a year of leaguewide stability, for an underachieving team in the underachieving Eastern Conference...

6. ...In other words, Fred Hoiberg is safe!

7. The Eastern Conference tank-a-thon will be both ugly and necessary for a couple teams in desperate need of lottery luck, including the Bulls.

8. One of the tank-a-thon teams won’t have the stomach for the losing and will make a panic move, especially when incoming college stars Michael Porter Jr or Marvin Bagley show the slightest signs of struggling.

9. Lonzo Ball will look like a point guard in the mold of Jason Kidd, a guy everyone will flock to play with...and not even LaVar Ball can screw that up.

10. But he’ll try because he won’t shut up...and we’ll never stop listening.

10. Dennis Smith Jr. will be the best incoming rookie, but Ben Simmons will win Rookie of the Year in Philadelphia.

11. Kyrie Irving will formally enter the conversation as one of the league’s best point guards, in part because Brad Stevens will help him become a better facilitator...

12. Irving is (bear with me Chicago’s own Isiah Thomas) the greatest scorer in terms of skill set from the point guard spot in the history of the league

13. For different reasons, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will struggle with their new “helpful” teammates…But will be hell on earth in a seven-game series.

14. Remember this name: Caris Levert from the Brooklyn Nets.

15. Giannis Antetokounmpo was on my top-five MVP ballot last season…he’ll be higher this time around.

16. Jabari Parker will be traded from the Bucks this year, perhaps before he returns from injury…

17. Big names will be on the trading block from the center spot: DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond.

18. Drummond, though, will have a bounceback year in Detroit and improve from the free-throw line.

19. This year will prove the Bulls didn’t get enough in trading Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves (or TimberBulls/TimberTibs)...

20. But Zach LaVine will show he’s more than deserving of a max contract when he returns from injury.

Five takeaways from Bulls' blowout preseason loss to Mavericks

Five takeaways from Bulls' blowout preseason loss to Mavericks

The Bulls suffered an ugly loss on Wednesday night, struggling mightily on both ends of the floor. For a team widely regarded as one of the NBA's worst, this may be one of many this season. 

Here are five takeaways from the blowout: 

1. Point guard woes. It was a rough night for Kris Dunn, to put it mildly. The second-year guard, who has been largely hyped by Gar Forman and John Paxson since the Jimmy Butler blockbuster, labored offensively against the Mavericks. There's no reason to panic yet, but shooting 1-for-9 isn't exactly a promising sign given how much he floundered on that end of the floor in his rookie campaign. In the course of his 21 minutes, Dunn had only one brief stretch that inspired any hope: 

Jerian Grant didn't fare much better, scoring two points on 1-for-4 shooting. Despite what you may see from high-scoring point guards around the league, running the offense isn't all about buckets. So Dunn and Grant combining for 10 assists is at least somewhat encouraging. 

Dunn's play will be under a microscope all season long, so the Bulls are hoping it was just plainly an off night, rather than a growing lack of confidence. 

2. The Energizer Bobby. Portis' 3-point shot is still a huge question mark, but one can never doubt his energy and passion. His floor game was solid in the Bulls' loss, which is vital to a team built around shooters and youngsters. Portis racked up five boards, two blocks, one steal and one assist in his 19 minutes. His role in Fred Hoiberg's system is still undefined, but with the life he brings to the court, it's not hard to envision him logging solid minutes. Also, this is sick: 

3. Woulda, shoulda, coulda? Dennis Smith Jr. can play. If you're in the Bulls Should've Drafted Dennis Smith Jr. Camp, then Wednesday night's game probably stung. The Bulls passed on the point guard from North Carolina State in favor of Arizona's Lauri Markkanen. And while it's not at all fair to leap to judgment without seeing Markkanen get some run, Smith continued his stretch of turning heads. He finished with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting. 

"I love the kid," Hoiberg said of Smith before the game tipped off. "He's got unbelievable athleticism. He's got great pace to his game. He's a great finisher in the paint. Really was intrigued by him in college. The way that he plays the game, he's just such a forceful, downhill player."

Time will tell whether the Bulls whiffed on their possible point guard of the future. 

4. Bombs away! The Bulls are going to shoot a lot of 3-pointers, that we're fairly certain of. In attempting to adapt to the "new NBA," Hoiberg is basing his offense on pace and space. It worked on Tuesday as the Bulls went 16-for-35 from deep. Wednesday, however, they shot just 7-for-29. The roster is filled with plenty of guys who want to launch, but not a lot who have proved that they can actually make them at a clip to keep the team competitive. The Bulls were picked to be one of, if not, the worst teams in the NBA. That loss was a clear reminder of that. 

5. The defense is going to struggle PT. II. Mercifully, the Bulls didn't surrender 46 points in the first quarter again. But they did struggle on D for the second consecutive night. The Mavs shot 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep, putting the game out of reach very early into the second half. Per usual, Justin Holiday was a bright spot on that end of the floor. The others struggled to close on shooters, which showed up in the box score via the Mavs' 18 triples.