It's National Left-Hander's Day, so we ranked every lefty to play for the Bulls


It's National Left-Hander's Day, so we ranked every lefty to play for the Bulls

It's National Left-Hander's Day and it's also the offseason, so we decided to rank all 24 lefties that have ever suited up for the Bulls. The list comes via Basketball Reference, so yell at them if we missed anyone.

24. Willie Smith, PG, 1976-77

Bulls stats: 2 games, 11 total minutes, 1 foul, 0-1 FG

The Bulls made Smith the first pick of the second round of the 1976 NBA Draft, but he wound up appearing in just two games totaling 11 minutes. He made stops in Indiana, Portland and Cleveland in his four-year NBA career.

23. Randy Holcomb, SF, 2005-06

Bulls stats: 4 games, 11 total minutes, 2 points, 1 rebound, 2 fouls, 1-1 FG

A Chicago native, Holcomb signed a 10-day contract with the Bulls in January 2006 and appeared in four games for the Bulls. He made his only shot in a win over the Grizzlies and finished his NBA career with a perfect 1.000% field goal percentage.

22. Billy McKinney, PG, 1985-86

Bulls stats: 9 games, 9.2 minutes, 2.4 points, 1.4 assists, 0.3 steals

Another Chicago native, McKinney finished his seven-year NBA career with nine brief appearances for the Bulls. He was nicknamed The Crazed Hummingbird, which just seems like an unnecessary mouthful.

21. Lawrence Funderburke, PF, 2004-05

Bulls stats: 2 games, 10.5 minutes, 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 3-6 FG

There was a time when Achilles tears had an undefeated record – their win percentage is still pretty darn good – and Lawrence Funderburke can tell you why. The longtime Sacramento Kings backup power forward tore his Achilles in 2003 and missed the entire 2003-04 season. He attempted a comeback with the Bulls but appeared in two late April games and played sparingly in five postseason games. He retired that June.

20. Kay Felder, PG, 2017-18

Bulls stats: 14 games, 9.6 minutes, 3.9 points, 1.4 assists, 30.3% FG

Felder was part of the Bulls’ point guard carousel in 2017-18, logging solid rotational minutes in October and early November before eventually fading out and spending the majority of the year with Windy City. He was waived in December, played two games for the Pistons and never made it back to the league.

19. Mike Holton, SG, 1985-86

Bulls stats: 24 games, 18.6 minutes, 7.1 points, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 47.1% FG

Holton was signed to two 10-day contracts in February 1986 and then signed through the rest of the season, seeing big minutes off the bench and shooting a solid 47.1% from the field.

18. Shaler Halimon, SF, 1969-1971

Bulls stats: 40 games, 13.5 minutes, 6.1 points, 1.8 assists, 38.5% FG

Halimon’s paltry numbers aside, he’ll be remembered as being part of the deal that brought Chet Walker to the Bulls in 1969. That trade worked out for the Bulls, and they wound up getting a second-round pick for Halimon when they dealt him to Portland in 1971.

17. Rick Brunson, PG, 2002-2004

Bulls stats: 54 games, 11.1 minutes, 3.2 points, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 40.4% FG

Brunson had two different stints with the Bulls, first signing in Chicago to backup No. 2 pick Jay Williams and two years later coming in a trade with the Raptors for Roger Mason. Brunson was a backup behind rookie Kirk Hinrich. His son, Jalen, is now a reserve for the Dallas Mavericks after winning a college title at Villanova.

16. Adrian Griffin, PF, 2004-05, 2006-2008

Bulls stats: 145 games, 10.2 minutes, 2.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 40.9% FG

Griffin, better known for his time as a Tom Thibodeau assistant in Chicago, actually came to the Bulls in 2004 in a deal that sent Dikembe Mutombo to the Houston Rockets. Yes, Mutombo was with the Bulls from August 2004 to September 2004. Griffin signed with the Bulls as a free agent in 2006, too, and was part of the wild 3-team deal that sent Ben Wallace to the Cavaliers. How many guys can say they were involved in trades for two Hall of Fame centers?

15. Cameron Payne, PG, 2016-2019

Bulls stats: 67 games, 18.8 minutes, 6.7 points, 3.1 assists, 0.9 3-pointers, 39.7% FG

Payne unfairly became the punching bag for the Bulls in their early rebuilding years. No, he rarely contributed, but he was nowhere near the top of the list on things going wrong for the Bulls during that time. We’ll never forget his seven 3-pointer performance against the Hornets last October.

14. Walt Lemon, PG, 2018-19

Bulls stats: 6 games, 27.8 minutes, 14.3 points, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals

One of the league’s best stories last season, Lemon posted some remarkable lines in April, leading the Bulls in scoring three of the team’s last six games. He could get another shot in the NBA after his strong finish, but at the very worst will be a solid G-League contributor.

13. Travis Best, PG, 2001-02

Bulls stats: 30 games, 9.3 points, 5.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 44.1% FG

Best was the *other* guy the Bulls acquired in the deal that netted them Jalen Rose (more on that lefty later). It sent Ron Artest, Ron Mercer and Brad Miller to the Pacers, while Best posted some solid numbers in a starting role for the Bulls before hitting free agency.

12. Greg Anthony, PG, 2001-02

Bulls stats: 36 games, 26.7 minutes, 8.4 points, 5.6 assists, 1.4 steals

The Bulls sent a second-round pick to Portland for Anthony, who started 35 games for the Bulls before they waived him in March. He latched on with the Bucks four days later, appearing in 24 games for Milwaukee to finish out his 11-year NBA career.

11. Othella Harrington, PF, 2004-2006

Bulls stats: 142 games, 14.8 minutes, 6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 50.5% FG

Harrington’s numbers were never anything special, but he gets a bump here for longevity and for starting all six games of the Bulls’ 2006 playoff series against the Washington Wizards. Fun fact: He, like Griffin, was also part of the Mutombo trade, coming to the Bulls from New York.

10. Shaq Harrison, SF, 2018-19

Bulls stats: 73 games, 19.6 minutes, 6.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 43.2% FG

Harrison has only been with the Bulls for one season, but he sure made it count. He was analytically one of the best defenders in the NBA and was a reliable fixture in the rotation for a Bulls team that dealt with myriad injuries. OK, and he cracked the top-10 because this author loves him.

9. Jack Marin, SF, 1975-1977

Bulls stats: 121 games, 20.7 minutes, 6.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 43.5% FG

Marin was never the All-Star in Chicago that he was in Baltimore and Houston, but he still strung together two nice seasons in the Windy City to end a successful 11-year NBA career.

8. Bison Dele, C, 1996-97

Bulls stats: 19 games, 17.7 minutes, 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 48.1% FG

Those stats above are from Dele’s postseason with the Bulls, when he proved to be a valuable asset off the bench for the eventual champions. He arrived in Chicago in April of the regular season but hit the ground running in the postseason. He gets the bump all the way up to No. 8 because of it.

7. Stacey King, PF, 1989-1994

Bulls stats: 344 games, 17.0 minutes, 6.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 48.1% FG

Gimme the hot sauce! King spent 4.5 seasons with the Bulls after they made him the sixth overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. King played sparingly on a deep Bulls team but played a part in the franchise’s first 3-peat. He, of course, is now the color commentator for the Bulls on NBC Sports Chicago.

6. Wilbur Holland, SG, 1976-1979

Bulls stats: 243 games, 32.2 minutes, 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.9 steals

An obscure name on the list, but warranted at this spot. Holland averaged just 5.8 points as a rookie for the Atlanta Hawks and was waived at the end of the year. The fifth-round pick was signed by the Bulls and flourished, averaging 14.7 points over a three-year span.

5. Bob Weiss, SG, 1968-1974

Bulls stats: 469 games, 26.1 minutes, 9.5 points, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals

No lefty has played more games for the Bulls than Weiss, who didn’t miss a single game from 1969 to 1973. His numbers never jumped off the page but he was reliable and three different times ranked in the top-20 in assists per game.

4. Jalen Rose, SF, 2001-2004

Bulls stats: 128 games, 39.8 minutes, 21.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 3-pointers

Rose’s time in Chicago overlapped with some of the darkest days in the franchise’s history, but he was one of the lone bright spots. He has arguably the best per-game numbers this list, even if they came in just a three-year span. Plus, the Bulls dealt him to the Raptors in December 2003. Three years later Kobe gave him 81. This lefty was part of history.

3. Guy Rodgers, PG, 1966-67

Bulls stats: 85 games, 37.6 minutes, 17.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 11.0 assists

One of two Bulls All-Stars on this list, Rodgers came to Chicago for the franchise’s inaugural season and averaged 18.0 points and an NBA-best 11.2 assists. At the time, the 908 assists he handed out were an NBA record. The following year the Bulls dealt Rodgers to the Cincinnati Royals, where he played alongside Oscar Robertson. Fun fact: Rodgers had 20 assists during Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, which at the time tied an NBA record.

2. Toni Kukoc, SF, 1993-2000

Bulls stats: 436 games, 29.5 minutes, 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals

The ultimate Sixth Man and a critical piece to the Bulls’ second 3-peat, Kukoc is more than worthy of the No. 2 spot here. Kukoc’s versatility and ability to play all five positions gave Phil Jackson plenty of options on the second unit. His Sixth Man of the Year award was the first in Bulls history – Ben Gordon won it later in 2005 – and he’s the last player to win the award and an NBA championship in the same season. He’s top-10 in Bulls history in 3-pointers, assists and steals.

1.Artis Gilmore, C, 1976-1982, 1987-88

Bulls stats: 482 games, 34.8 minutes, 19.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 58.7% FG

The greatest center in Bulls history was a wrecking ball inside, averaging 19.3 points on 58.7% shooting in seven seasons. He was an All-Star four times, led the NBA in field goal percentage twice and led the Bulls to a pair of playoff appearances. He entered the Hall of Fame in 2011 and will remain the greatest lefty in Bulls history…until Zion Williamson signs in Chicago in seven years.

NBA G League continues to offer fascinating storylines

NBA G League continues to offer fascinating storylines

You never know what you might see on a given night in the G League.

Wednesday’s game at the Sears Centre offered a match-up of 7-foot-2 Bol Bol in his Windy City Bulls home debut against one time hot prospect, 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

In case you’re not familiar with Thabeet, he was the second overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA Draft after capturing the attentions of scouts and executives with his play in the high profile program at Connecticut. Thabeet was viewed as a can’t miss prospect whose size and athleticism would translate into making him a defensive force at the NBA level.

Problem is, Thabeet did miss. Questions about his low motor and work ethic surfaced and he struggled to get consistent playing time in Memphis. Stops in Houston, Portland and Oklahoma City would follow, and Thabeet found himself out of the league in 2014. He played a total of 224 NBA games, averaging 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds a game.

The native of Tanzania bounced around the G League and played in Japan for a time before returning to the U.S. looking for one more chance at the NBA. Thabeet invited teams to watch him work out last summer, but with little interest, he wound up back in the G League with Fort Wayne for the 2019-20 season.

At 32 years old, Thabeet is still an impressive looking athlete, and in Wednesday’s game against Windy City, he flashed at times with 4 blocked shots and a powerful baseline drive and dunk. But he also labored to change ends of the court, and put up a modest stat line of 6 points, 2 rebounds and 4 blocks in 18 minutes. Down the stretch, the Mad Ants decided they were better off with Travin Thibodeaux at center in a close game.

With NBA teams now looking for mobile centers with 3-point shooting range, it’s hard to imagine Thabeet getting another chance to make it to the league.

Meanwhile, Windy City unveiled it’s newest addition Bol Bol, a two-way player for the Denver Nuggets who needed a team to continue his development since the Nuggets don’t have their own G-League affiliate.

Bol only played nine games in his lone collegiate season at Oregon before suffering a foot injury that dropped his draft stock. He averaged 21 points and almost 10 rebounds a game at Oregon, showing an uncanny long range shooting touch for a 7-footer. Matter of fact, some talent evaluators viewed him as the best shooter available in the 2019 NBA Draft. But because of concerns about the foot injury and his slender build, Bol fell to the the second round, eventually selected 44th overall by Miami, then traded to Denver on draft night.

With the Nuggets featuring one of the NBA’s deepest rosters, there wouldn’t be any developmental minutes for Bol, so he was assigned to Windy City, a team that had a need for another big man.

Bol was impressive in his 20 minutes of playing time on Wednesday, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Right now, Bol is on a minutes restriction to protect him from further injury, but you can see the potential is there for him to be a contributor at the NBA level in time.

Bol has a feathery soft shooting touch, and will be comfortable spotting up at the 3-point line in drive and kick offenses and as a weak side option on pick and roll plays. He also showed more aggressiveness than I expected in attacking the offensive glass, following up his own initial miss for rebound baskets on a few occasions against Fort Wayne.

Windy City general manager Josh Kreibich has put together a very competitive roster that features another Nuggets’ two-way player, P.J. Hairston, Bulls’ two-way players Max Strus and Adam Mokoka, and former Loyola University star Milton Doyle.

The Bulls’ G League affiliate is off to a 4-1 start under first year coach Damian Cotter with hopes of making a second straight playoff appearance. Still, player development is priority number one in the G League, which means every player on the roster will get the opportunity to showcase their skills during the course of the season.

Bol’s NBA rights belong to Denver, but the fans at Sears Centre on Wednesday were thoroughly entertained watching the son of former NBA center Manute Bol show off a unique game that will almost certainly land him a spot in an NBA team’s rotation before long.

Windy City’s first two homes games brought former No. 4 overall draft pick Dragan Bender and Thabeet to Sears Centre, and on Nov. 29, 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall will be in Hoffman Estates with the Maine Red Claws. If you want to take a break from your Black Friday shopping to watch the Bol-Tacko duel, it’s a 5 p.m. tip-off.

After all, you never know what you might see at a G League game.

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Bulls' defense is trending upward, leads NBA in forcing turnovers, steals

Bulls' defense is trending upward, leads NBA in forcing turnovers, steals

Just over midway through the third quarter Wednesday night, Kris Dunn cleanly picked Derrick Rose’s pocket for a steal.

“I love getting steals. That’s been my game since high school. That’s what I do. I take pride in that,” Dunn said following Thursday’s practice at Advocate Center. “I think my teammates know, the coaches know, the other teams know defense is what I do. And I try to inspire that in others.”

With 17 Pistons’ turnovers, the Bulls have now forced 15 or more turnovers in all 15 games this season.

The last time they did this — in 1980 — nobody on the current roster was born. Jim Boylen was in high school in Grand Rapids, Mich. No NBA team has opened a season in similar fashion since the 76ers did in 2004, per Elias Sports Bureau.

The Bulls lead the NBA in overall steals and rank second behind Friday’s opponent, the Heat, in steals per game. Dunn ranks third behind league leader Jimmy Butler, in town Friday, and Ben Simmons with 2.13 steals per game.

The Bulls also lead the NBA in forced turnovers per game at 18.8 and points off turnovers.

“I think our defense is built to force turnovers, the system that we run,” Dunn said. “We’re blitzing guys, trying to get the ball out of their hands. You have to make them make a read. Our defense is built so that after we blitz, we have a triangle (of defenders) behind. If they make a mistake in the read, it often leads to a turnover. We have a lot of good defenders on this team who can create turnovers.”

Shaq Harrison’s emergency starter status now that both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are on the shelf aids in this department. He led the NBA in steals-per-minute last season and posted three versus the Pistons. Hutchison is doubtful for Friday’s game against the Heat.

“I’ve been doing that my whole life,” Harrison said of getting steals. “Every coach I’ve played for has been a defensive-minded coach and wants me to get into people. It’s been embedded into my mind to get steals and deflections and pick guys up to play hard 100 percent of the time.

“I think defense and that mentality is 90 percent toughness and heart and then 10 percent skill. Anybody can do it at this level if you truly put your mind to it.”

Despite their penchant for steals and forcing turnovers, the Bulls rank 14th in defensive rating. That’s middle-of-the-pack stuff, although it’s trending upward over the last five games. And it’s reflective of their poor defensive rebounding, occasionally poor defensive transition and inability to limit dribble penetration.

In detailing his defensive philosophy, coach Jim Boylen cited those three areas as need for improvement. That’s borne out in the Bulls allowing too many shots at the rim. What’s wild is they lead the league in offensive attempts within 5 feet but also allow the second-most in the league.

“We do not teach to steal the ball. I’m not a big out-of-position-to-steal-the-ball guy,” Boylen said. “What we have coached hard — and I guess well at times — is hand position, body position and doing your work early. I think that has put us in position sometimes to knock some balls loose or pick a couple off. But I’m not big on getting out of position to try to get a steal. It’s not who I am. It’s not who we want to be.”

Dunn said he sees “no downside” to the Bulls’ defensive’ scheme as long as it’s played with energy and communication. The Bulls have had trouble making quick and proper rotations if they don’t force a turnover, although that area too has improved over the last eight games.

The Bulls rank ninth in defensive rating over their last eight games.

“I give our guys credit,” Boylen said. “They’ve really bought into what our defense looks like now. Early, we struggled to get to the corner, to adjust and shift. I think there’s a familiarity now. There’s a learning curve in every defensive situation. I also think there’s defensive chemistry. And I think we can still grow.

“My assistant coaches have done a great job of sticking to what we believe in. We’ve coached basically the same thing since Day One. I feel we have a foundation. We need to be more consistent and play better. But we’re coaching to a system.”

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