Bulls

Bulls high on Trae Young, Collin Sexton, unafraid to take point guard in draft

trae-sexton.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls high on Trae Young, Collin Sexton, unafraid to take point guard in draft

The phrase “positionless basketball” seems to apply to every spot but point guard, leaving many to believe Trae Young and Collin Sexton are unlikely choices for the Bulls.

But they have no such trepidation with taking either player, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com. The Bulls appear enamored with Young and are high on Sexton and aren’t worried about how it would affect Kris Dunn’s development in the near future.

Young was a dynamo in his lone season at Oklahoma, drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry for his shooting range and even Steve Nash for his playmaking ability. He launched triples as if they were going out of style and was must-see-TV for the better part of the college season, before struggling in the last two months.

Young averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists for Oklahoma, shooting 36 percent from 3 while taking over 10 triples per game.

Oklahoma’s struggles were largely pinned on Young, but the Bulls believe he’ll be better in a pro setting where all of the defensive attention doesn’t fall on him, that he’s best-suited with good players around him where his court vision and creativeness will be on full display.

Young’s shooting is an element the Bulls don’t have at point guard with Kris Dunn, who cemented himself as a bonafide option early in the season and never looked back. Dunn was making strides before he was shut down, shooting 38 percent in March but shot 32 percent for the season.

The scouting report on Dunn is to give him the long jumper as opposed to crowding him on the perimeter, where he can use his quickness to explode to the basket and compromise defenses.

Having Young on the floor with Dunn, or even Sexton, would give the Bulls multiple ballhandlers and shot creators while also giving Dunn the opportunity to play off the ball more.

Taking that burden from Dunn was something the Bulls were going to have to negotiate next season, as Zach LaVine has the ability to create shots on his own. If the Bulls take a guard and expect him to contribute immediately, LaVine would have to slide down and play small forward in some instances.

Sexton isn’t the shooter Young is—nobody in this draft is—but he’s plenty explosive and the Bulls appear to like that about him. Sexton is bigger than Young, at 6-foot-3, long and wiry, although it looks like he can add bulk to his 190-pound frame.

Sexton can get to the rim as quick as anyone in college basketball and had little trouble finishing once he got there. At Alabama he was more of a scorer than distributor but still possessed the ability to create for his teammates.

With Dunn and LaVine on the roster, he would be able to develop at his own pace while bringing his open-court explosiveness in Fred Hoiberg’s pace-structured offense.

The Bulls have long said they would take the best player in the draft and their lack of fear in evaluating the likes of Young and Sexton could be proof of that.

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen. 
 

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

zach-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

Mark Schanowski talks all things hoops with Indianapolis Star Pacers beat writer J.Michael. Is Victor Oladipo ready to take the next step as a legitimate MVP candidate? Can the Pacers challenge the top three teams in the East? Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the NBA? And, will the signing of Dwight Howard mean disaster in the nation’s capital? Plus, the guys make their predictions for the upcoming season.

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