How Jabari Parker would work on the Bulls


How Jabari Parker would work on the Bulls

Most of the dust has settled in free agency, yet 23-year old forward Jabari Parker is still awaiting an offer.

Entering his fifth season, Parker has many factors that make it possible he won’t pan out, the biggest being injury concerns. He has torn the ACL in his left knee twice in three seasons, a truly rare happening. But in his return to action, he showed off a skill set that- in theory -could work in Chicago.

Parker played in 31 games last season for the Bucks. And while it is true that his primary position is power forward, the thought that he can’t play small forward full-time is more founded in the idea that he will never become a sufficient 3-point shooter. Which, if last year is any indication, is not necessarily true.

In his 31 games last season, Parker shot 38.3 percent from the 3-point line on 2.6 attempts per game. And he played 40 percent of his minutes at small forward and 60 percent at power forward. His 3-point percentage has increased every season in his career, and if that upwards trajectory continues he will be one of the more effortless scorers in the league. 

Of course he would have to be given ample opportunity to prove himself. Because last season he showed flashes of what he can become.

In Chicago, the presence of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn gives the team two capable ball-handlers in the starting lineup. And Denzel Valentine and Cam Payne allow the second unit to have similar dual ball-handler capabilities, but Parker has some playmaking skill of his own that would allow the Bulls to truly buy-in to head coach Fred Hoiberg’s quick-hitting offense.

The last two seasons Parker’s assist percentage has been between 13 and 14 percent, a figure that would make him one of the best passing forwards on the Bulls. And perhaps the biggest asset he would bring to the Bulls is the fact that he is quite proficient at grabbing the rebound and pushing the ball up the floor himself. So in a world where Parker does not become a better floor-spacer, the issue would be mitigated by making him the primary playmaker off the bench.

Last season Parker scored one-point per possession as the pick-and-roll ball handler, a mark that put him in the 89th percentile of pick-and-roll scorers. Interestingly enough, Milwaukee only allowed Parker to be the ball handler in pick-and-rolls 13.9 percent of their possessions, compared to the enormous over 40 percent share that both LaVine and Dunn received last season. Even Valentine was give a chance to shine in the pick-and-roll with the Bulls, acting as the PnR ball-handler just over 27 percent of the time.

The idea is, with developing stretch fours like Bobby Portis and Markkanen- both above 36 percent from 3-point range - Parker could actually play an important role in Chicago. And with all due respect to Portis, Sixth Man of the Year could be in Parker’s grasp if he could get in a full season of basketball.

Even coming off of injury, his 55 percent true shooting percentage last year would've made him one of the top-five scorers efficiency-wise on the Bulls. Parker also took 34.9 percent of his shots zero-to-three feet from the basket, a higher share of inside shots than any of the Bulls starters. His 62 percent shooting in the zero-to-three foot range was not as high as Markkanen (67.6 percent) or Lopez (72.9 percent), but he got their at a much higher rate. 

Parker’s lack of free throw attempts don’t do much to help a Bulls team that was 26th in the league in that category. But being aggressive in getting to the rim is the first step to a higher free throw rate, and Parker has at least shown the ability to do that.

Some Bulls fans were upset at the idea of matching LaVine’s four-year, $78 million offer, not exactly understanding the value of “asset retention”. And that same subsection of Bulls fans would be in hysterics should the team sign Parker,  the former No. 2 overall pick with a well-documented injury history. But the idea is the same as matching LaVine’s offer from Sacramento. 

No one is arguing that LaVine will have to prove that he is worth the four-year commitment from the Bulls. And no one is saying that Parker would be a perfect fit on the Bulls, as clearly the team would have to cater some aspects of the offense to him to maximize his potential. But the idea of nabbing a player who put up 20.1 points per game on a 56 percent true shooting percentage just two seasons ago should be an enticing one for a franchise trying to make real progress through their rebuilding years. 

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.