Bulls

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in De'Andre Hunter

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in De'Andre Hunter

When the Bulls went on the clock a year ago during the 2019 NBA Draft, they had three options. The first, which they chose, was to draft a potential defensive foundation piece in Wendell Carter Jr. They could have rolled the dice on a point guard in Collin Sexton but opted to see what Kris Dunn could do for one more season. They also could have drafted for positional need and grabbed 3-and-D wing Mikal Bridges.

The Bulls are certainly happy with what they got out of Carter before he suffered a thumb injury that required surgery in January. But fast forwarding a year, the Bulls now have a chance to go back and draft at a position that still needs plenty of help. Though they have Otto Porter, the need for 3-and-D help on the wing is still glaring, and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter is the kind of player who could solve those problems.

The 21-year-old sophomore (yes, he’s old for his class) was named First Team All-ACC after averaging 15.2 points on 52 percent shooting and nearly 44 percent from beyond the arc, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Remember, too, when looking at Hunter’s raw numbers that the Cavaliers played the slowest pace in Division I this season, ranking 353rd out of 353 teams with a pace of 59.4 possessions.

Where Hunter made his impact felt most was on the defensive end. He was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year as the main cog in the Cavs’ No. 5 nationally ranked defense. The 6-foot-7 forward touted a 7-foot wingspan and he used a combination of quick footwork on the perimeter and strength inside to become one of the nation’s most versatile defenders. He’ll be joining an NBA that’s switching more than ever, and his ability to do so only improves his stock.

As a scorer, Hunter was a model of efficiency. He certainly benefited from playing in the country’s second most efficient offense, but Hunter also contributed plenty to that. He shot 55 percent inside the arc, including 68.6 percent at the rim (better than both Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett and Jarrett Culver). Remember, he didn’t have the luxury of many fast breaks with the way Tony Bennett wanted to slow down the offense.

Hunter shot 43.8 percent from beyond the arc on a modest 2.8 attempts per game (again, Virginia’s pace and the Cavs’ embarrassment of riches on offense meant fewer triples). He’s got picture-perfect form (his release may be a little slow) and should have no problem continuing that at the next level. Past his 3-pointers, Hunter scored 1.099 points per possession on 182 jump shots this past season, which placed him in the 83rd percentile nationally. He’s a reliable shooter, and an efficient one at that.

He’s not going to create much on his own at the pro level but he might not have to. His value will come from his outside shooting and versatility as a defender. But that also caps his ceiling to some degree. The safe route may be the correct route for a Bulls team that has hit on its last two first round draft picks and could be looking to make immediate improvements rather than go through another rebuild. What makes Hunter an intriguing prospect are skills that will carry over beginning Day 1.

Ideally, he’d begin his career in a reserve role, acting as a complement on the wing to Chandler Hutchison and whoever the Bulls make their backup point guard (potentially Kris Dunn). Hunter could be used situationally when the Bulls needed shooting or a defensive stop. He could theoretically step in for Otto Porter in two years when the latter is off the books.

In a rather weak draft class after Zion Williamson, playing it safe isn’t the worst option. Role players are just as critical to a rebuild as the guys at the top. Hunter provides one of those pieces, improves a 28th ranked defense the last two seasons and gives the Bulls some much-needed shooting. The Bulls are able to have their cake and eat it, too, grabbing Carter last season and getting their own version of Mikal Bridges a year later.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”