Blackhawks

With the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select...

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With the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select...

Even with Thursdays NBA Draft quickly approaching, it isnt as buzzworthy as Derrick Rose being on a video-game cover commercials featuring the Bulls point guard, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin were in heavy circulation during the recently-concluded NBA playoffs or the overblown speculation surrounding whether or not All-Star Luol Deng will be traded for a lottery pick, but the Bulls have continued to diligently make preparations to select a player with the 29th overall pick.
The organization has brought in several players to work out in preparation for the draft, as well as to contemplate potential additions for Julys summer league roster, but it is believed that the team is targeting the best available player with the choice, particularly a guard prospect.
Sure, if the likes of Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, whos been medically red-flagged because of back problems, drops that far in the first round, it would be hard to pass him up, but other than that unlikely occurrence, the Bulls will look to add shooting or a player who can create his own shot, preferably both. One player that fits that description is Memphis shooting guard Will Barton, who is scheduled for a return visit to the Berto Cente rhe worked out with a large group of prospects almost a month ago for a solo workout Wednesday morning, according to a source.
The slender swingman made great strides as an outside shooter between his freshman and sophomore seasons, but that aspect of his game, as well as adding strength to his frame, are still considered works in progress compared to the rest of his versatile skillset. However, Bartons stock is rising around the league and he may not be available when the Bulls make their selection.
Nevertheless, heres a rundown of prospects the Bulls may consider Thursday:

Will Barton, 6-foot-6 shooting guard, Memphis: The aforementioned Barton is a high-energy, jack-of-all-trades type with a penchant for attacking the basket, something the Bulls could use, especially with Rose on the shelf to begin the season.
Jared Cunningham, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Oregon State: Another slashing type, Cunningham is regarded as a combo guard and a high-level athlete, as well as a player well-regarded for his defensive acumen.
Kim English, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Missouri: A wing shooter, English played on a balanced Missouri team in college, but has distinguished himself in both the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and pre-draft workouts.
Festus Ezeli, 6-foot-10 center, Vanderbilt: Still a raw offensive talenta function of the native of Nigeria not playing much organized basketball before collegeEzeli is viewed as a rim protector on the defensive end with a pro-ready body.
Evan Fournier, 6-foot-7 shooting guard, France: Fournier, a smooth swingman who possesses both scoring and playmaking ability, is perhaps the highest-rated international prospect in the draft and is expected to play in the NBA next season, not be stashed in Europe.
Draymond Green, 6-foot-7 forward, Michigan State: Green lacks the size to play power forward and the quickness to play small forward, but his intangibles, toughness, winning mentality and uncanny passing ability intrigue a lot of teams.
John Jenkins, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Vanderbilt: Jenkins is a bit undersized for his position and lacks the athleticism and versatility to impact the game other than shooting the ball, at which he may be the best in the draft.
Orlando Johnson, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, UC-Santa Barbara: A scorer with toughness, Johnsons strong build and mature game have eliminated many doubts about the lower level of competition he played against in college.
Doron Lamb, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Kentucky: A tremendous outside shooter with a savvy game, Lamb lacks great size and athleticism, but simply knows how to play the game, as hes capable of scoring in bursts, but also playing off the ball or functioning as a playmaker.
Scott Machado, 6-foot-1 point guard, Iona: A pure point guard who might already be close to hitting his ceiling, Machados size is a question mark, but his unselfishness and passing ability could allow him to make an impact as a rookie backup.
Quincy Miller, 6-foot-9 small forward, Baylor: A North Chicago native, Miller has one of the biggest upsides in the draft, but with only a lone season of college hoops under his beltone in which he was still recovering from an ACL injury suffered during his senior year of high schoola small sample size to evaluate.
Jeff Taylor, 6-foot-7 small forward, Vanderbilt: Yet another Vanderbilt player, Taylor already has a niche as a defensive-oriented wing with nice athleticism and a continually-developing outside jumper.
Tyshawn Taylor, 6-foot-2 point guard, Kansas: Criticized as erratic throughout his four-year college career, Taylor brings good quickness and the ability to defend to the table, as well as the experience of playing in high-pressure situations.
Marquis Teague, 6-foot-2 point guard Kentucky: The brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, the younger Teague had an up-and-down freshman season, but his physical toolsnamely, his explosivenessmight be too hard to pass up.
Tony Wroten, 6-foot-6 point guard, Washington: Wroten has excellent size for his position and remarkable court vision, but hes also turnover-prone and has a shaky outside jumper, descriptions that were attributed to Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo when he was coming out of college.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

The third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."