ESPN's Chris Haynes names LaVine player likely to become 1st time All-Star


ESPN's Chris Haynes names LaVine player likely to become 1st time All-Star

On ESPN program The Jump, ESPN NBA reporter Chris Haynes selected Zach LaVine as his player most likely to become a first time All-Star in the 2018-19 season. Haynes didn’t get to elaborate much, but his main reason was that LaVine would have “ample opportunities to succeed.” His point, while somewhat dismissed on the show, was an something that does give LaVine a leg up on the competition in terms of being a first time All-Star.

Among the other young players mentioned in the segment, LaVine leads in one very key indicator: usage percentage.

Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell are all players with immense amounts of star potential, who already had incredibly strong rookie seasons, including Simmons winning Rookie of the Year with the 76ers. But even with all their talent, only Mitchell was anywhere near LaVine’s rate of team plays/possessions used while on the floor. 

Usage Percentages in 2017-18:

LaVine- 29.5 percent  
Mitchell- 29.1 percent 
Tatum- 19.5 percent
Simmons- 22.3 percent 

The amount of trust the Bulls have in LaVine to be the lead dog was very apparent throughout the 24 games the high-flying guard played in. But despite having such a large share of the offense in his hands, he finished with the second-worst offensive rating of his career, mostly because of poor shooting percentages likely related to the fact he was coming off of a major injury. 

LaVine did not attempt 3-pointers at the rate he did last season, but he succeeded in getting to the free throw line at a 30.1 percent rate, easily the highest of his career. And per 36 minutes he put 22 points, more per 36 minutes than Simmons and Tatum, and the pretty much the same as Mitchell (22.1 points per 36), who was the ROY runner up.

Even with scorer Jabari Parker added to the roster, a healthy LaVine should be able to easily eclipse his point total from last season. And with the Eastern Conference having an obvious talent drop-off with LeBron James’ departure, the All-Star spots will be wide open. 

Goran Dragic made the team last year averaging 17.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, modest numbers, but more a reflection of the Miami Heat being a winning team last year. But if LaVine puts up eye-popping numbers, he could snag a spot even if the Bulls are losing at the rate they did last season. Kemba Walker is a great example of this, putting up 22.9 points per game for a Hornets team that finished as a 10-seed in the East, but it was still enough to sang Walker an All-Star spot. Injuries factored into this, but ‘17-18’ All-Stars like Kyle Lowry and Al Horford are reaching the twilight of their careers, and this is yet another factor that will provide the opportunity for a young player to make his first All-Star appearance in the East. 

Ultimately, Haynes stating LaVine as a player likely to make his first All-Star team was probably more about wanting to keep things fresh, rather than regurgitating the same players as every other basketball pundit. But with LaVine inked to a long-term deal, this upcoming season has the potential to be a huge breakout year, which is truly impressive considering we are discussing a 23-year old player who has previously averaged 18.9 points per game with a 57.6 true shooting percentage. If he can get his true shooting over 50 percent while maintaining his high usage rate, then LaVine should have a legitimate chance 2019 NBA All-Star, defensive issues aside. 

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again


Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

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.