Bears

Bulls Draft: Center breakdown

687724.png

Bulls Draft: Center breakdown

Joakim Noah was arguably Chicagos best performer in 2011-12, averaging 10.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 30.4 minutes. He played in 64 games, and while his numbers were slightly down from last year, it was more a product of Omer Asiks improvement than anything Noah didnt do. A sprained ankle cut his 2012 playoff run short, but Noah will need to shoulder quite the scoring load with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng out to start next season.

Asiks numbers were up from last year, averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in 14 minutes per game. The 25-year-old Asik has shown enough to apparently make him priority No. 1 this off-season for upper management, and he looks to be a significant part of the Bulls long-term future.

Bulls history: Since 2000, the Bulls have made 29 draft selections. They have spent six of those selections on centers: 2000: Chris Mihm (Texas), Dalibor Bagaric (Croatia), Jake Voskuhl (Connecticut); 2001: Eddy Curry (Thornwood H.S.); 2007: Joakim Noah (Florida), Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh)

What the Bulls need in a center

The Bulls have ranked first, second and first in rebounding the last three seasons, respectively, in large part due to progression of Noah. Asik averaged 5.3 rebounds in 14 minutes per game, so its no secret the Bulls love their rebounding bigs. Any rebounder in Chicago will need to get after it on the glass, and with Gibson, Boozer and Noah handling the scoring load in the paint, any points from another center would be an added bonus.

Top 11 2012 Draft prospects
1. Andre Drummond, Connecticut Work ethic is a real question with the 6-foot-11 freshman, but he has plenty of upside at just 19 years old that should keep him in the lottery.
2. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina The most NBA-ready center has solid range and is an above average defender that could hear his name called in the top-10, potentially paired up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
3. Meyers Leonard, Illinois Leonard will need a few years to get ready at the next level, but when hes ready he has the skills to become a very solid pro.
4. Fab Melo, Syracuse Melo did not start playing basketball until the ninth grade so hes raw, but he was an elite shot blocker in his two years at Syracuse and could be a valuable project with a solid long-term future in the NBA.
5. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt The 7-foot senior is a tough, back-to-the-basket defender who needs work on his offensive game, but could serve well as a back-up in the NBA.
6. Kyle OQuinn, Norfolk State Last Marchs NCAA Tournament hero in a win over then-No. 3 Missouri, OQuinn is strong inside and an impressive rebounder.
7. Henry Sims, Georgetown Sims was a classic Georgetown center: range to 18 feet, an excellent passer and a below-average rebounder. He could stick as a second rounder.
8. Garrett Stutz, Wichita State Stutz made significant improvement his senior season, but he doesnt have great athleticism and struggles inside at times.
9. Robert Sacre, Gonzaga The Bulldogs senior leader was a superb defender and shot blocker, but he needs work on his offensive game to make it at the next level.
10. Bernard James, Florida State At 27 years old, James would be ready to play right away but lacks upside that rightfully causes his draft stock to take a tumble.
11. Justin Hamilton, LSU Hamilton is not an elite athlete, but he is well-seasoned around the basket and could be a nice second unit scorer in the right system.

Analysis

Much of what the Bulls do or not do at the center position on Thursday will stem on how they believe Omer Asiks contract situation will play out. Management does not have the luxury of knowing what interest Asik will garner in free agency, but Gar Forman insists the team will match it.

If thats the case, center is the least of the Bulls worries on Thursday. But, again, if Forman is also insistent on taking the best player available, Melo or Ezeli could be options, depending on where the Bulls have each on their draft board. Still, it would be surprising to see the Bulls go center with the needs of an outside shooter so prevalent.

If the Bulls do trade into the lottery via a trade of Joakim Noah -- a rumor that has been floated around -- Asik would almost certainly be back. The Bulls would then have to address a back-up center position, potentially in the lottery they trade up to but more likely in free agency.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

tb-bro.jpg
USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

lavine-and-parker.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: