Bulls

Coby White flashes playmaking prowess: Takeaways from Bulls-Magic

Coby White flashes playmaking prowess: Takeaways from Bulls-Magic

The Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic 85-73 on Saturday night, with some sloppy play and rebounding woes being the main reasons for the loss. Here are a few takeaways:

Chandler Hutchison’s rough Summer League continued on Saturday night.

In his 30-minute stint against the Magic, Hutch shot 3/10 from the field, which included going 1/2 from the 3-point line. Hutchison’s 3-point shot still has a long-way to go and it’s not just about the fact that he shot 20 percent from 3-point range over four NBA Summer League games. Hutchison has had his fair share of particularly bad misses in Vegas that are reminiscent of his rookie season in which he shot 28 percent from 3-point range.

It wasn’t all bad for Hutchison. He was aggressive on offense throughout Summer League despite his shot not falling, especially against the Magic on Saturday. Hutchison led the Bulls--by a wide margin--with 9 free throw attempts and chipped in 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. He missed rotations on defense here and there and had a few moments where he put in a weak effort in transition defense as well. But Hutchison averaged a combined 1.5 steals + blocks per game over four games in Vegas and was mostly active. 

Summer League wasn’t great for Hutchison but he is still entering a big sophomore season in which the Bulls are likely to be a much better team. He projects to be a plus defender but there is still much to be discovered about his offensive game.

Though his line of 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 blocks isn’t overwhelming, Daniel Gafford yet again he showed that he may be ready to contribute in a role that he clearly understands. Gafford has a soft touch around the rim and has been dominant in the paint throughout Summer League.

Gafford continued that on Saturday, shooting 7/8 from the field, including one back-breaking dunk that definitely sent a clear message: Gafford is always looking to finish with authority.

Gafford’s dunk even caught the eye of new teammate Thaddeus Young.

The fact that Gafford only collected 3 rebounds in just around 20 minutes is a bit concerning but he did spend most of the night with Hutchison or someone much smaller playing power forward next to him, contributing to that low figure.

Orlando was quick to double-team Gafford in the rare moments that he put the ball on the floor to make a move and he generally had multiple blue jerseys around him in the paint. He can play a bit out of control at times (6 personal fouls in 20 minutes) but doesn’t turn the ball over a ton since his shot selection consists of putbacks and dives to the rim. 

Developing a midrange jumper and improving his ability to attack of the dribble will be logical next steps for Gafford to become a more well-rounded center. But in the Bulls loss to the Magic on Saturday, Gafford yet again showed how devastating he can be as a simple shot-blocking, rim-runner.

While the dunks and blocks will get the headlines, my favorite play of the night by Gafford was a solid screen he set when the Bulls ran a nice “Horns” set. His screen freed up Walter Lemon Jr. for a nice alley-oop. 

New Bulls big man Luke Kornet figures to factor into the rotation somehow but there is a good chance we see Gafford get real minutes in the 2019-20 regular season.

The Bulls got a good look at their two 2019 draft picks over Summer League but they also got to see two-way contract player Adam Mokoka and G-League player (Windy City Bulls) Mychal Mulder. Mokoka is a 20-year old, physical wing out of France. He last played for Serbian club Mega Bemax and looks like he should at least be ready for the physicality of the NBA game.

Mulder is a 25-year old Canadian guard who played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He is a great shooter and was one of the few perimeter threats on the Bulls Summer League roster outside of Coby White. 

Mokoka and Mulder combined for 25 points and hit 5 of the Bulls 8 3-point field goals on the night. They wouldn’t have gotten those 3-pointers up without White, who is starting to look more like an NBA point guard.

White couldn’t get his 3-point shot going in Vegas, shooting a very disappointing 3-for-26 from 3-point range over Summer League. But he played like a floor general on Saturday night, racking up 8 assists and only 3 turnovers. It was perhaps his best “true point guard” game despite the fact that he only chipped in 7 points. 

White’s play has been what you should expect from a one-and-done point guard who is a score-first player.

He has been erratic at times with his decision-making but White ultimately got better with the ball in his hands as the games went on. He often blew past his man so fast that he drew multiple defenders, only to see a teammate miss the wide open 3. White will be fine as long as he continues to make those same, simple reads at the NBA level, as players like Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine will not be missing open looks. 

The biggest thing I saw from White in Saturday’s game against the Magic was his ability to get off a shot in the midrange after getting free with a snake dribble in the pick-and-roll. Since he isn’t the most explosive finisher--in terms of finishing over length--White’s ability to function at a high-level in the short midrange area will be a key development over his career and Saturday night was a step in the right direction. 

The Bulls didn’t produce a lot of wins in the 2019-20 NBA Summer League. But they were able to show that for the second summer in a row, they are adding two intriguing, young players to a steadily improving core.

Bulls VP John Paxson says Zach LaVine 'deserves' to be an All-Star

Bulls VP John Paxson says Zach LaVine 'deserves' to be an All-Star

On Thursday, Zach LaVine will find out whether he makes his first All-Star game as a coaches’ reserve selection.

“Zach deserves to be an All-Star,” executive vice president John Paxson said. “I know we don’t have as many wins as we all would like. But nobody can ignore what he has done and it would be [an oversight] if he doesn’t get recognized.”

If he doesn’t, LaVine, and the Bulls, will be disappointed. But missing out shouldn’t obscure what is becoming a special season for LaVine.

Saturday’s masterpiece of 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a road victory over the Cavaliers is just the latest example. With averages of 30 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in January, he’ll also draw strong consideration for Eastern Conference player of the month.

Each summer, LaVine tries to add something to his game. This season, his focus centered on consistency and improving defensively. The 14 straight 20-point games is a sign of the former. And while he admittedly still occasionally drifts off the ball, his 1.4 steals per game mark is a career-best.

LaVine is on a streak of 14 straight 20-point games. His fourth 40-point effort of the season came with all defensive attention on him because Lauri Markkanen missed his second game of an extended absence with a hip injury. And that’s on top of the Bulls playing without Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr.

LaVine’s eight assists highlighted the improved decision-making that is defining this breakout season. And it also allowed him to join Michael Jordan as the only Bulls in franchise history to record at least 44-10-8 in a game.

That’s not the only time LaVine is getting mentioned in the same sentence as Jordan this season. He became the second-fastest player in franchise history behind Jordan to score 3,000 points in a Bulls uniform, needing 24 more games.

And he became the first player in franchise history to sink 300 3-pointers in 132 or fewer games.  He’s on pace to set the single-season franchise record for 3-pointers this season.

LaVine is averaging career-highs in scoring at 25.3 points per game, 3-point percentage at 38.9 and rebounding at 4.9. After a slow start, LaVine has increased his free-throw attempts to 5.6 per game, just .4 off last season’s career-high. He has increased his free-throw attempts per game every season he has been in the league.

Some critics still paint LaVine’s accomplishments as empty calories. There’s another line of thought that LaVine needs to be ball-dominant — his usage rate of 31.7 ranks 10th — to be successful.

LaVine still takes the occasional heat check. But his forced shots are way down and he’s carrying such an offensive burden mostly because he has to for this Bulls team. An example of his do-whatever-it-takes mentality: He has led the Bulls in rebounding since Carter went down to his sprained ankle.

LaVine has said he'd be more likely to participate in Saturday's slam dunk contest — and the 3-point shootout if he's invited — if he lands in Sunday's real All-Star game. What a weekend it could be. But even if it doesn't happen, LaVine is focused on this goal for the right reasons. He wants the Bulls to win.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine drops 44 in Cleveland

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USA Today

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine drops 44 in Cleveland

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson discuss the Bulls win in Cleveland, create their own Bulls Royal Rumble and squash the beef with Mark Giangreco.

1:00 - Jim Boylen's best moment of the season

2:30 - Another All-Star performance from Zach LaVine

4:30 - Luke Kornet had a good game for Luke Kornet

5:45 - Reaction to some criticism of LaVine's game

8:15 - Can one game change a players All-Star chances?

9:00 - The newest edition of "Guess what D-Rose did?"

11:30 - Guys react to viewer comments

14:00 - The Chicago Bulls Royal Rumble 2020

22:30 - Guys react to more viewer comments

25:10 - The guys squash the beef with Mark Giangreco

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

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Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.