Bulls

Kris Dunn taking command of Bulls offense with Zach LaVine out

Kris Dunn taking command of Bulls offense with Zach LaVine out

Kris Dunn isn’t on the Bulls’ leadership committee (or is it Leadership Committee?) but that hasn’t stopped him from taking full command of the Bulls’ offense since his return to the lineup.

He’s also running with his opportunity as the clear facilitator since Zach LaVine’s sprained ankle, and it’s resulted in a handful of positive outings for the 24-year-old point guard. And in the Bulls’ last two home games on Wednesday and Friday he proved that he’s capable of affecting games in different ways, which should be helpful as the offense looks for any signs of improvement.

On Wednesday he took it upon himself to attack the rim, amassing 21 shots in 34 minutes. He was aggressive against a Brooklyn backcourt that showed little resistance, as 14 of Dunn’s attempts came from 15 feet or less. On Friday he realized quickly who had the hot hand, feeding Lauri Markkanen on five of his 12 made field goals in a win over the Magic. Dunn still put up 14 shots in 36 minutes but, per NBA.com, made 56 passes, 14 more than he made on Wednesday.

“I try to get my guys going. Like I said before, I’m a pass-first point guard. It helps me with my game getting other guys going and allowing me to play my game, allowing me to be aggressive, too. It’s good to get Lauri going.”

Dunn has averaged 18.0 points, 5.8 assists and 1.8 steals in four games since LaVine went down. Though he’s made just 1 of 6 3-pointers, he’s shooting 50 percent from the field and has just 10 turnovers in 132 minutes. His usage rate is 26.8 percent, highest on the team since LaVine injured himself. He’s been effective playing different styles as Jim Boylen and the Bulls continue to slow the pace; the Bulls are 25th in pace since Boylen took over and Dunn, who has looked comfortable in halfcourt sets, is thriving.

“Whatever gets the win. If I’ve got to be aggressive on the offensive side looking at the rim a little bit more or getting my guys involved,” he said. “I’m a pass-first point guard but it’s the NBA. You’re gonna have good games, you’re gonna have bad games.

“The thing about me is I’m gonna play hard no matter what so in the games where I didn’t shoot well I made sure I got everybody in the right spots to be able to execute on the offensive side and on the defensive side do what I do best: guard my yard.”

He’s also catching the eye of his head coach. Dunn said when Boylen was hired his mentality wasn’t going to change. Still, it’s clear that Dunn is Boylen’s type of player with his work ethic, defensive prowess and poise.

He’s proving that the Bulls will still have a driving force to initiate the offense and facilitate even without their leading scorer in the lineup.

“Kris Dunn, I thought, had unbelievable poise in the pocket,” Boylen said after Friday’s win. “I thought he had command of what I want and he had great synergy and just I felt like I had a captain out there, a leader out there with him. And I’m really happy for that. That’s something we were talking about and working on.”

How does Coby White's Summer League compare to past Lottery point guards?

How does Coby White's Summer League compare to past Lottery point guards?

Summer League results are largely irrelevant. There's our disclaimer.

Whether Bulls' first-round draft pick Coby White succeeds in the NBA will have nothing to do with how he performed the last 10 days in Las Vegas. Use this tweet as a daily reminder that Summer League performance doesn't always tell the story.

That being said, it's all we've got to go on right now. But instead of analyzing White's up-and-down Summer League performance, let's compare it to other Lottery point guards in their first Summer League games. We'll begin with White.

Coby White, 2019, Bulls: 15.0 points, 4.8 assists, 33.7% FG, 10.0% 3FG, 3.8 turnovers, 30.8 minutes

White was a mixed bag in Las Vegas, showing the ability to push pace, get to the rim with a lightning-quick first step and knock down some mid-range jumpers. But he was also careless with the ball, made just 3 of 30 3-point attempts (and two of those makes came in a 20-second span) and didn't shoot above 44% in any of the five games he appeared in. He's still quite raw running the point, so the inefficiency was expected. The flashes he showed at times told much more of the story. 

Trae Young, 2018, Hawks: 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, 38.3% FG, 38.7% 3FG, 3.8 turnovers, 25.8 minutes

Many remember Young being abysmal in Salt Lake City to begin his pro career. But he was actually solid in Las Vegas, including a 24-point, 7-triple performance against the Bulls. Young was one of the biggest question marks heading into the draft, with real concerns about how his small frame would withstand the NBA game - but Young is showing all the signs of a future All-Star. In 23 games after last year's All-Star break, Young averaged 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game.

Collin Sexton, 2018, Cavaliers: 19.6 points, 3.4 assists, 42.9% FG, 23.1% 3FG, 3.3 turnovers, 28.8 minutes

Sexton was also a mixed bag in Vegas. He had a pair of explosive games, like his 25-point outing on 9 of 15 shooting against the Kings and his 27-point effort against the Lakers. But Sexton was also inefficient, didn't show much from beyond the arc (a concern of his heading into the draft) and didn't do much creating for others. He wound up excelling as a rookie, averaging 16.7 points and 3.0 assists for the Cavs. And while it only came on 3.6 attempts per game, his 40.2% from beyond the arc was a major positive after he struggled in Las Vegas.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 2018, Clippers: 19.0 points, 4.0 assists, 45.8% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 2.2 turnovers, 27.8 minutes

Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the more impressive rookies at the Las Vegas Summer League a year ago. He was efficient across the board and, in addition to the above numbers, added 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. In fact, he was the first player in Summer League history to average 19 points, 4 assists and 2 steals. That transitioned to the regular season, where SGA played an important role - albeit a smaller one - for the playoff-bound Clippers. And his 3-point field goal percentage blossomed to 36.7% in the regular season.

Lonzo Ball, 2017, Lakers: 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 38.2% FG, 23.8% 3FG, 3.8 turnovers, 32.5 minutes

All eyes were on the Big Baller in Summer League, and Ball responded with six really impressive games. His passing acumen was on full display and he was a blur in transition. His defense was as good as anyone he played with or against - he averaged 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game - and, given the hype surrounding him, his summer was a rousing success. The verdict's still out on Ball, but his defense and passing will keep him as a solid NBA contributor the next 10 seasons at the very least.

De’Aaron Fox, 2017, Kings: 11.8 points, 3.0 assists, 44.4% FG% 12.5% 3FG, 2.5 turnovers, 21.3 minutes

Fox looked overwhelmed at times during his Summer League stint. Like White, it took him some time to figure out playing at different speeds and it resulted in some inefficient lines. His best games came early in the summer, going for 18 points in his debut and adding 17 more a few days later. Fox played just 7 minutes in his final Summer League outing, which distorted his per-game numbers quite a bit (he had 0 points and 3 assists in that one). Fox was largely invisible as a rookie but finished third in the Most Improved Player voting as a sophomore. He's the real deal.

Dennis Smith Jr., 2017, Mavericks: 17.3 points, 4.2 assists, 45.7% FG, 34.6% 3FG, 2.8 turnovers, 25.9 minutes

Smith didn't have the buzz around him that Ball and Fox did, but he may have been the most impressive rookie point guard in 2017. He played above the rim, made 3-pointers and looked comfortable in pick-and-roll action. He also added 2.2 steals and got to the free throw line 7.3 times per game. He was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team, but it didn't really translate to the NBA. Smith has been incredibly inefficient, and the Mavericks dealt him halfway through his sophomore season in the Kristaps Porzingis deal.

Kris Dunn, 2016, Timberwolves: 24.0 points, 3.0 assists, 54.2% FG, 16.7% 3FG, 3.0 turnovers, 33.9 minutes

Jamal Murray, 2016, Nuggets: 19.6 points, 2.4 assists, 42.5% FG, 27.6% 3FG, 2.8 turnovers, 29.5 minutes

D’Angelo Russell, 2015, Nets: 11.8 points, 3.2 assist, 37.7% FG, 11.8% 3FG, 5.2 turnovers, 30.1 minutes

Emmanuel Mudiay, 2015, Nuggets: 12.0 points, 5.8 assists, 38.5% FG, 14.3% 3FG, 5.0 turnovers, 30.4 minutes

Cameron Payne, 2015, Thunder: 18.8 points, 4.0 assists, 43.6% FG, 28.6% 3FG, 2.5 turnovers, 30.0 minutes

Coby White flashes playmaking prowess: Takeaways from Bulls-Magic

Coby White flashes playmaking prowess: Takeaways from Bulls-Magic

The Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic 85-73 on Saturday night, with some sloppy play and rebounding woes being the main reasons for the loss. Here are a few takeaways:

Chandler Hutchison’s rough Summer League continued on Saturday night.

In his 30-minute stint against the Magic, Hutch shot 3/10 from the field, which included going 1/2 from the 3-point line. Hutchison’s 3-point shot still has a long-way to go and it’s not just about the fact that he shot 20 percent from 3-point range over four NBA Summer League games. Hutchison has had his fair share of particularly bad misses in Vegas that are reminiscent of his rookie season in which he shot 28 percent from 3-point range.

It wasn’t all bad for Hutchison. He was aggressive on offense throughout Summer League despite his shot not falling, especially against the Magic on Saturday. Hutchison led the Bulls--by a wide margin--with 9 free throw attempts and chipped in 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. He missed rotations on defense here and there and had a few moments where he put in a weak effort in transition defense as well. But Hutchison averaged a combined 1.5 steals + blocks per game over four games in Vegas and was mostly active. 

Summer League wasn’t great for Hutchison but he is still entering a big sophomore season in which the Bulls are likely to be a much better team. He projects to be a plus defender but there is still much to be discovered about his offensive game.

Though his line of 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 blocks isn’t overwhelming, Daniel Gafford yet again he showed that he may be ready to contribute in a role that he clearly understands. Gafford has a soft touch around the rim and has been dominant in the paint throughout Summer League.

Gafford continued that on Saturday, shooting 7/8 from the field, including one back-breaking dunk that definitely sent a clear message: Gafford is always looking to finish with authority.

Gafford’s dunk even caught the eye of new teammate Thaddeus Young.

The fact that Gafford only collected 3 rebounds in just around 20 minutes is a bit concerning but he did spend most of the night with Hutchison or someone much smaller playing power forward next to him, contributing to that low figure.

Orlando was quick to double-team Gafford in the rare moments that he put the ball on the floor to make a move and he generally had multiple blue jerseys around him in the paint. He can play a bit out of control at times (6 personal fouls in 20 minutes) but doesn’t turn the ball over a ton since his shot selection consists of putbacks and dives to the rim. 

Developing a midrange jumper and improving his ability to attack of the dribble will be logical next steps for Gafford to become a more well-rounded center. But in the Bulls loss to the Magic on Saturday, Gafford yet again showed how devastating he can be as a simple shot-blocking, rim-runner.

While the dunks and blocks will get the headlines, my favorite play of the night by Gafford was a solid screen he set when the Bulls ran a nice “Horns” set. His screen freed up Walter Lemon Jr. for a nice alley-oop. 

New Bulls big man Luke Kornet figures to factor into the rotation somehow but there is a good chance we see Gafford get real minutes in the 2019-20 regular season.

The Bulls got a good look at their two 2019 draft picks over Summer League but they also got to see two-way contract player Adam Mokoka and G-League player (Windy City Bulls) Mychal Mulder. Mokoka is a 20-year old, physical wing out of France. He last played for Serbian club Mega Bemax and looks like he should at least be ready for the physicality of the NBA game.

Mulder is a 25-year old Canadian guard who played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He is a great shooter and was one of the few perimeter threats on the Bulls Summer League roster outside of Coby White. 

Mokoka and Mulder combined for 25 points and hit 5 of the Bulls 8 3-point field goals on the night. They wouldn’t have gotten those 3-pointers up without White, who is starting to look more like an NBA point guard.

White couldn’t get his 3-point shot going in Vegas, shooting a very disappointing 3-for-26 from 3-point range over Summer League. But he played like a floor general on Saturday night, racking up 8 assists and only 3 turnovers. It was perhaps his best “true point guard” game despite the fact that he only chipped in 7 points. 

White’s play has been what you should expect from a one-and-done point guard who is a score-first player.

He has been erratic at times with his decision-making but White ultimately got better with the ball in his hands as the games went on. He often blew past his man so fast that he drew multiple defenders, only to see a teammate miss the wide open 3. White will be fine as long as he continues to make those same, simple reads at the NBA level, as players like Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine will not be missing open looks. 

The biggest thing I saw from White in Saturday’s game against the Magic was his ability to get off a shot in the midrange after getting free with a snake dribble in the pick-and-roll. Since he isn’t the most explosive finisher--in terms of finishing over length--White’s ability to function at a high-level in the short midrange area will be a key development over his career and Saturday night was a step in the right direction. 

The Bulls didn’t produce a lot of wins in the 2019-20 NBA Summer League. But they were able to show that for the second summer in a row, they are adding two intriguing, young players to a steadily improving core.