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NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.

Bulls' interest in Michael Porter Jr. promises to make draft night an eventful one--again.

Bulls' interest in Michael Porter Jr. promises to make draft night an eventful one--again.

Draft night has been accompanied by much speculation with the Bulls the last two seasons and Thursday is shaping up to fall right in line with recent history, as many believe the franchise has its eyes set on Missouri swingman Michael Porter, Jr.

According to several league sources the Bulls have inquired about moving up from the seventh spot in the draft to either the third or fourth spot, positions currently occupied by the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.

Team sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com there’s no truth to the speculation, nor would they entertain the notion of such efforts geared toward selecting Porter Jr., who only played three games this past season at Missouri, sandwiched between back surgery in mid-November.

Things haven’t quite settled with the teams above the Bulls, as most teams have been engaged in some form of trade talk as the draft is a little over 48 hours away. The Bulls were firmly engaged with teams the last two seasons as teams were interested in Jimmy Butler. The Bulls held back on trading him in 2016 before kickstarting their rebuild last June, sending him to Minnesota. 

Depending on who you believe, the Bulls are either engaging in similar conversation to move up for Porter--they were told weeks ago Porter wouldn't last to the seventh spot. But there appears to be a scenario where Porter Jr. could fall to them--a risky but not impossible proposition if Porter Jr. is truly their man. 

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton appears to be a lock for the Phoenix Suns with the first pick, and Duke big man Marvin Bagley III looks headed for Sacramento, although Bagley isn’t a shoo-in. There’s a segment of the Sacramento front office that’s enamored with Porter Jr, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com, and things could get tricky over the next couple days.

Dallas, selecting fifth, likes Porter Jr. as well but it seems unlikely it’ll pass on Real Madrid star Luka Doncic if he slips past Atlanta and Memphis. If that happens, there’s a path for the Bulls to stand pat and get a player with star potential without having to sacrifice an asset already on the roster or their second first-round pick, which they acquired in the Nikola Mirotic deal this past season.

Oklahoma point guard Trae Young has been in Chicago for a workout, along with the likes of big men Mohamed Bamba from Texas and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. Villanova’s Mikal Bridges also made a visit and each spoke to media following their workouts.

Porter Jr. has been in Chicago preparing for the draft for the last several weeks. His agent, Mark Bartlestein of Priority Sports, is based in Chicago and has a working relationship with the Bulls.

The Bulls medical staff was the lone NBA team to evaluate Porter Jr. before distributing the results to the other teams, ramping up speculation of a potential marriage between Porter Jr. and the Bulls.

Bulls executive-vice president John Paxson has said the team would look for the best player available as opposed to need, but Porter Jr.—if completely healthy—checks off multiple boxes for the franchise should the speculation have truth behind it.

The Bulls, with everything they obviously did with their lineups to finish the season to not-so-subtly position themselves to take a star, could be tempted to take Porter Jr. if he’s there, even with the question marks.

Before the college season began and his subsequent injury took him out of the conversation, Porter Jr. was mentioned as a top pick in a talent-laden draft. A swingman with a smooth stroke, it was believed he would dominate the college season before taking the next step.

The injury understandably splashed cold water on those prognostications and Porter Jr. has been careful in his rehab, even suffering a minor setback with hip spams right before a second “pro day” was to take place in Chicago last week.

“I saw him in the first workout,” a personnel man for a western conference team said. “He moved good but what he didn’t have was balance. He was dunking but didn’t explode off the floor. The second half, he shot the ball really well. Floaters, off the dribble, spot-ups, he was hitting everything. That’s when I saw what everybody was talking about. His athleticism has to come back and they say it will.”

The workout was important for Porter Jr. to establish fluidity of movement following his back injury as well as reminding those who had only seen him against prep competition or at the Adidas Nations showcase in Houston last August about his skill set.

“He’s a natural scorer,” a general manager in attendance for Porter Jr.’s showing in Houston and Chicago. “He’s not a super athlete, more long than anything. He knows how to score. He’s not KD (Kevin Durant), he’s more like (Boston Celtics forward) Jayson Tatum. Tatum got drafted into the right environment. It’s all about fit.”

Ideally, Porter Jr. could fit next to Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine as a primary scorer, giving the Bulls dynamic, versatile scorers at the toughest positions to gameplan for in the NBA.

Tatum was thrust into the spotlight for the Celtics due to Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury on opening night, and had even more responsibility after Kyrie Irving’s late-season injury, performing admirably as the Celtics advanced to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tatum is one of the finalists for the rookie of the year, which will be announced next Monday. Porter Jr. is three inches taller than Tatum, at 6-foot-11, but he’ll also have to adjust to the physicality of the league relative to his most recent consistent competition.

His back injury is still cause for pause for a few franchises, though, despite the clean bill of health.

“I don’t know if it would deter me from taking him but if anyone says it’s not a factor in your thinking is lying,” the general manager told NBCSportsChicago.com.

The personnel man agrees.

“It does (worry me), a bit,” he said. “But because he’s so big and so freaking talented, I’d consider taking him. If you can go in a situation where it isn’t career threatening, you gotta roll with him. You get a few months to get his strength back, you bring him along slowly to make sure everything’s in working order by the time the season starts.”

That’s a question the Bulls will have to answer if their affection for Porter Jr. is as real as it seems.

“At some point he becomes worth the risk, right? Chicago can’t pass him up, can they?”- the personnel man queried.

That’s the question Chicago has been trying to figure out for weeks now, and the answer will soon be revealed.

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NBA Draft

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to provide extensive, multi-platform coverage of 2018 NBA Draft

Chicago, IL (June 19, 2018) – With the Chicago Bulls holding TWO first round picks (#7 & #22 overall), NBC Sports Chicago is ready to deliver extensive multi-platform coverage of this Thursday night’s massively-anticipated 2018 NBA Draft highlighted by a special remote edition of “SportsTalk Live” from the Bulls/NBA Draft headquarters at Advocate Center, live draft pick reaction cut-ins during the network’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts, a post-draft recap edition of “In the Loop,” full-blown digital & social media coverage, and much more!  Please note NBC Sports Chicago’s multi-platform 2018 NBA Draft coverage details:

THURSDAY, JUNE 21

  • 5:30 PM -- Special NBA Draft preview edition of “SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado” with host David Kaplan (@thekapman), and featuring NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls/NBA experts Mark Schanowski (@MarkSchanowski), Kendall Gill (@KendallG13), Will Perdue (@Will_Perdue32), and Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill), along with additional Bulls/NBA Draft experts LIVE from the Bulls/NBA Draft headquarters at the Advocate Center. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app) 
  • Between 7:15-8:00 PM (time approx.) -- Live #7 pick reaction cut-ins during NBC Sports Chicago’s Cubs (airing on NBC Sports Chicago) & White Sox (airing on NBC Sports Chicago+) telecasts featuring draft pick reaction/commentary via Schanowski, Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill. (NOTE: Live stream available at NBCSportsChicago.com)
  • 10:30 PM (time approx.) -- “In the Loop presented by GMC” - Featuring Schanowski, Gill, Perdue, and Goodwill, In the Loop will dive into detailed discussion surrounding the Bulls two first round picks, along with showcasing podium moment highlights/interviews featuring the new Bulls rookies from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, an overview of every trade made throughout the evening, plus, post-draft press conference coverage featuring Bulls Executive VP/Basketball Operations John Paxson and General Manager Gar Forman. (NOTE: Live stream available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app)
  • NBCSportsChicago.com – NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill and digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman (@markstrot) will also provide fans with thorough digital coverage of the Draft from the Advocate Center on Thursday night, which will include a Draft Night overview from Goodwill, along with his write-ups on if the Bulls top pick represents the team’s patience or haste in regards to the rebuilding process, plus a preview piece on “boom or bust” candidates who will likely be available at the #7 slot.  Strotman will be delivering real-time coverage/commentary throughout the night via NBC Sports Chicago’s always-entertaining Bulls Twitter handle @NBCSBulls.  For full NBA Draft content and videos, fans are urged to visit the network’s dedicated Bulls section at NBCSportsChicago.com/Bulls.  

Additional coverage highlights leading up to and throughout Draft Night…

  • SOCIAL MEDIA:
  • Leading up to the Draft, NBC Sports Chicago has created an “On The Clock” feature on both NBCSportsChicago.com and @NBCSBulls on Twitter. “On The Clock” is a breakdown of all the top first-round prospects and features player profile analysis via Schanowski, Goodwill, and NBC Sports college basketball expert Rob Dauster
  • On Thursday night, fans are also urged to check out a special Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) segment (starting the moment the 4th pick is on the clock) featuring reaction/commentary from Schanowski, Gill, and Perdue all the way through the Bulls #7 pick in the Draft (to also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com)…which will be followed by a fan-interactive segment as the trio respond to fan quetions.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will carry a live Twitter (@NBCSChicago) Periscope look-in to the John Paxson press conference later in the evening.
  • NBA Draft/Advocate Center “Sights & Sounds” moments on Thursday night will be provided via Snapchat (‘NBCSChicago’), along with additional photos/quick video offerings from ‘NBCSChicago’ through Instagram and Instagram Stories
  • PODCASTS: Fans also can look forward to a pair of NBA Draft-specific editions of NBC Sports Chicago’s popular “BullsTalk PODCAST” this week featuring Schanowski, Gill, Strotman, and additional special guests. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.
     

NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago will announce its multi-platform Chicago Blackhawks/NHL Draft coverage details tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, June 20).