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NBA Draft Big Board Check In 1.0: RJ Barrett nets 4th triple double in Duke history, Ja Morant sets OVC single-season assists record

NBA Draft Big Board Check In 1.0: RJ Barrett nets 4th triple double in Duke history, Ja Morant sets OVC single-season assists record

Mark Schanowski's Big Board 5.0 had some movement, particularly around the bottom half of the top 10. We take the time to go over some of the best performances of the week from prospects on Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board. 

RJ Barrett, Duke: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 0 turnovers 

The 18-year old Canadian joined some elite Blue Devil company, netting the first triple-double since Sheldon Williams in 2006. It was also the fourth triple double all-time in Duke basketball history.

We've seen Barrett rack up nice point and rebound totals before, but we rarely see him play under control. On Saturday night, Barrett had zero turnovers in an NCAA game for this first time in his career. 

His 3-point shot wasn't falling, but Barrett went 6/6 from the free throw line and flashed the abilty to score from the midrange, a crucial part of his game, especially if it takes awhile for his 3-point jumper to fully develop. 

Despite Barrett's jumper being maddeningly inconsistent, his ability to get into the lane with allow him to thrive in the NBA. If he beats his man off the dribble—which he does with regularity—a help defender has to commit to getting his way early or else.....

Barrett (vis Basketball Reference) has the second highest assist rate on the team behind point guard Tre Jones and one of the lowest turnover rates on the team as well. If Barrett keeps taking steps forward as a playmaker, then any concerns about his inconsistent shooting or defense take a backseat to that development. 

De'Andre Hunter, Virginia: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block 

Hunter is the prototypical 3-and-D small forward prospect. He has great length, strong hands, and is capable of guarding bigger players in the post and holding his own against smaller/faster players on the perimeter. And on offense Hunter is a knockdown shooter who has improved as a playmaker as well. So far in the 2018-19 season, Hunter is shooting a hyper efficient 45.1 percent from the 3-point line and 53.3 percent from the field. In Virginia's win over Notre Dame on Saturday, Hunter came up big time with a 20-point, 10-rebound double double. 

His overall steal and block rates have dropped from his (also great) freshman season but make no mistake, he is still the best defender on one of the toughest defensive squads in the nation (that currently ranks third in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per Kenpom.com).

Whatever team takes Hunter knows what they are getting, though he obviously has tons of room for development. His feel for the game is in question, especially on offense where he can sometimes show a suprising lack of aggression for a player who scores just under 15 PPG. 

The most important thing that Hunter did in the win over Notre Dame was getting to the free throw line. Hunter went 6/7 from the charity stripe against the Fighting Irish, the most FT attempts he has had in a game since January 29.

Ja Morant, Murray State: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 14 assists, 3 steals, 1 block 

The prospect that the Bulls have been linked to most in recent weeks in none other than viral sensation Ja Morant of Murray State. John Paxson was recently spotted at a Murray State game scouting Morant, and this comes on the heels of the Bulls publicly stating that they are still evaluating what they have at point guard. In his latest game, a win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, Morant netted a 25-point, 14-assist double double.

Mmorant was explosive in getting into the teeth of the defense, finishing 5/6 from the free throw line. His turnovers aren't a huge concern, as he obviously is the main (only?) ballhandler on his team. That being said, 9 turnovers are unacceptable, and it is the fourth time this season that Morant has ended a game with 9 or more turnovers. 

On the positive side, Morant's teammates shot a combined 63.6 percent from the field in the win over Eastern Kentucky, showing just how vital Morant's 14 assists were to the Racers' offense. Those 14 dimes also helped Morant make some history on the evening.

And on the scoring side of things, he had one his most efficient shooting nights in quite some time, going 9/17 from the field, which included a solid 2/5 (40 percent) shooting from 3-point range. His 3-point percentage for the season is at 32.5 percent. That figure isn't great, but it is better than his freshman year and on a greater volume of attempts, which shows a good amount of growth from the young guard. 

https://twitter.com/Mike_Schmitz/status/1083541053351882752His jumpshot form leads me to believe that he will not become an elite off the dribble 3-point shooter at any point inthe NBA, but as we've seen throughout his NCAA career, a lack of a pull-up 3-point shot won't stop Ja from becoming a great scorer at the next level.

Zion Williamson, Duke: 32 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals

There aren't any new developments as far as Williamson's NBA Draft stock goes. He was extremely aggressive and finish with 16 field goal attempts, his third highest in a single game this season. Williamson converted on 75 percent of his shots, which again, falls in line with his absolutely ridiculous 68 percent shooting from the field on the season. 

Williamson's final stat line in the win over NC State was 32 points, 6 rebounds, an assist and 3 steals in 30 minutes of action. 

And while his dominance over NC State was on Saturday night was superb, NBA fans were already thinking about what Zion's first NBA All-Star weekened will look like.

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

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USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."