From hometown kid to bounce-back kid: Jabari Parker flashes potential against Nuggets

From hometown kid to bounce-back kid: Jabari Parker flashes potential against Nuggets

Following Jabari Parker's move to the bench, the biggest fear from Bulls fans was that Parker would become uber-dejected and let his displeasure with coming off the bench affect his play. But after Friday night's bounce-back effort, concerns about Parker playing with the 2nd unit can be shelved....for now. 

Actions speak louder than words, and Parker's play against the Nuggets was screaming:

He would finish the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, on 7-for-11 shooting from the field. Parker's free throw shooting left much to be desired (50 percent), but he shot 50 percent from the 3-point line on six attempts, easily his highest 3-point attempt rate of the preseason.

Parker's role with the second unit—according to Fred Hoiberg—is be a point-forward, capable of pushing the tempo with his ability to grab rebounds and bring the ball up the floor himself. His playmaking wasn't anything to write home about (7 turnovers and 7 assists), but he was a part of an overall group effort to try to pick up the slack on a night in which Kris Dunn struggled mightily.

Moving the ball around is certainly a good sign from Parker. He has had a tendency to let the ball stick, but has made legitimate strides in sharing possessions over the years.

While any playmaking  boost from Parker is nice, Hoiberg surely is more concerned with him getting up more 3-pointers and trying to eliminate long 2-point jump shots from his arsenal altogether, more so because he shot a career-high 38.3 percent from deep last season. Parker has started to make these adjustments, and it showed quite a bit.

In Friday's loss, Parker only took two long 2-point shots, making both of them. This is quite remarkable when you consider that long midrange shots have never made up less than 15 percent of his total offense. A simple redistribution of shot attempts (more 3-pointers, less midrange shots) could lead to the most successful offensive season of Parker's career.

If Parker is 100 percent healthy, his offensive rating would likely creep closer to topping 110 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would put him on par with Klay Thompson in terms of scoring efficiency. 

This preseason has given Hoiberg a small window to toy with lineups, a practice that will likely continue throughout the first quarter of the season until Lauri Markkanen's return. But Parker has now shown that there is a clear role for him on this team that can be beneficial to winning, and at the very least, development. Take the play below for example, where he times his cut along the baseline up perfectly with Cam Payne's drive:

The biggest thing to look out for ahead of next Thursday's regular season opener against the 76ers is if Hoiberg definitively states what his starting lineup will be.

Parker's breakout (preseason) game could be the event that leads to him being re-inserted into the starting five, or it could be exactly what Hoiberg needed to see to cement Parker's status as a key piece of the Bulls second unit.

No matter what the outcome is for Parker in terms of rotation status, the path to a successful marriage between he and the Bulls is now clear. If he keeps playing with the same energy he did against the Nuggets on Friday, he will definitely be a part of the Bulls closing lineup, something that bodes much better for his future in Chicago than whether or not he starts. 

Someone dropped a WHOLE bunch of money on a Michael Jordan basketball card


Someone dropped a WHOLE bunch of money on a Michael Jordan basketball card

Someone had some cash burning a hole in their pocket. 

On Thursday afternoon, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about how someone spent THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on a Michael Jordan basketball card. The card is, according to the piece, one of only 10 ever made. Of those 10 cards, only 3 -- including this one -- have been graded by the Professional Sports Authenticator service.

The card is apparently the most expensive MJ card yet, and the third most-expensive basketball card ever. What's even funnier is that the card was about to sell for $100,000, but a bidding flurry in the auction's final couple minutes raised the price almost 200%. 

That is a staggering amount of money to spend on a laminated, wallet-sized picture of a basketball player, but if that's what you want to drop hundreds of thousands of your dollars on, far be it from me to say otherwise. 

Otto Porter showing off a versatile skill set with Bulls: 'It's been exciting'


Otto Porter showing off a versatile skill set with Bulls: 'It's been exciting'

Sample size is important to remember in any numbers piece, especially when analyzing the addition of a player to a 12-win team and bottomed out expectations. Otto Porter was going to make the Bulls a better basketball team. On top of adding a more talented player to the core than what they sent back, Porter also filled an immediate and desperate need as a floor spacer on the wing with the true ability to guard multiple positions in multiple roles.

Still, it’s hard not to look at Porter’s four-game sample size and be excited about what the Bulls may have added to their core – and what they may have unlocked by putting him in a more prominent role than he had in Washington.

Porter is receiving 6 more frontcourt touches per game in Chicago than he did in Washington (29.3 vs. 23.1), and his dribbles per touch are up from 1.05 in Washington to 1.81 in Chicago. That may not seem significant but it’s clear Porter has been on the move more than he was as a spot-up shooter with the Wizards (something he did very well).

Case in point: Porter is averaging 5.3 drives per game in four games with the Bulls, more than double the 2.6 drives he averaged in Washington.

“His drive game is very interesting to me because he has such positional size that he can shoot over, even maybe when he’s closely guarded, he can score over the top of the defense,” Jim Boylen said Thursday after practice. “And then he has a real good feel of passing to the pocket, so I think what’s interesting for me with him is there’s a part of me that wants him off the ball cause he’s a great receiver, and there’s part of us that want him with the ball on the ball because he’s a pretty damn good creator with positional size.”

Porter will never be asked to carry the load for the Bulls because of guys like LaVine and Markkanen, but even in the early going it’s clear Boylen and the coaching staff is giving him a little more freedom within the offense.

Porter has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA over the last three seasons – 42.6 percent on 4.2 attempts per game – but there appears to be more to his game. Again, it’s just four games but the Bulls are beginning to open up more for him and he’s answering with some eye-opening numbers.

In 40 games with the Wizards he had 24 post-up possessions. In just four games with the Bulls he’s tallied six post-up possessions. Again, it’s nothing earth-shattering, and the Bulls haven’t suddenly found the second coming of Shaq on the low block, but he’s played 40 percent of his minutes at power forward and center in small-ball lineups and is being used as a mismatch perhaps more than he was in Washington.

“You don’t realize how big he was until you get on top of him. His positional size is off the charts. I didn’t know how easily he would be able to gravitate to the four like he has. I know he played some for [the Wizards], but that’s not an easy process and he’s done that really well. So that’s been, I don’t want to say surprising, but it’s been exciting.”

The word “versatility” in today’s NBA has become as cliché as “wingspan” has to analyze draft prospects. But it’s true with Porter, and it’s especially true on a Bulls team that was running out Bobby Portis at center, Chandler Hutchison at power forward and Shaq Harrison at small forward out of necessity rather than true fit.

Plus, this is only the beginning. Boylen said the Bulls have really tried to simplify the offense since Porter arrived, and the All-Star break and subsequent practices coming out of it have helped the 6-foot-8 wing with terminology, sets and chemistry. He won’t continue shooting .621/.579/.778 but the potential is there for Porter to really open up and become an all-around talent, adding to his already stellar defensive traits.

“Practice is where you can get acquainted with everybody, coaching staff, still learning names, but it’s always good to get a couple practices in with the team,” Porter said on Thursday. “Right now I’m just learning our defensive schemes, where coaches want us to be defensively. And offensively just getting accustomed to all the name calls.”

It’s still been just four games, so take it all with a grain of salt, and Porter is still playing in his Wizards colorway shoes. Lucky for him, those colors blend right in with the Bulls uniforms, and lucky for the Bulls their newest addition to the rebuild is blending in seamlessly with the rest of the core.