Bulls

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

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USA TODAY

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. 
 

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

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USA TODAY

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

 

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense. 

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

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NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”