Offensive execution keys Bulls' win in Sacramento

Offensive execution keys Bulls' win in Sacramento

For a team that currently ranks 28th in the league with an offensive rating of 103.4 points per 100 possessions, the Bulls did a good job of executing their half-court sets in Monday’s win over Sacramento.

They were especially effective in the first half, collecting 14 assists on 20 made field goals and shooting 50% from the field and 40% from the 3 point line in building a 55-44 lead.

Jim Boylen went to his bench early after the Kings jumped out to a 10-point lead, and the reserve group of Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford changed the flow of the game with good execution on both ends.

By the time the starters began to return to the court, the Bulls were already up 6, with all the momentum on the visitors’ side.

Snapping a three-game losing streak was obviously important, but even more encouraging was the improvement in the offensive execution. We’ve got several plays to illustrate the Bulls’ ball movement and sound decision making in the video above.

Hard to believe, but Monday’s night win marked the first time this season both Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen reached the 20-point mark in the same game. LaVine told reporters afterward that he and Markkanen actually broke off a few plays to run some of the pick-and-pop action that had been successful last season.

Markkanen played efficiently, making 6 of 12 shots from the field, and 4 of 8 from 3-point range in scoring 20 points to go along with 7 rebounds, while LaVine led all scorers with 28 points, including 5 of 7 from long distance and 9 of 11 from the free throw line.

Sure, it’s only one game, and the Bulls have a lot of work to do to get their offensive rating closer to league average, but getting LaVine and Markkanen back into a positive mindset is a huge first step.

The Bulls are also getting more consistent production from free agent addition Tomas Satoransky, who is starting to assert himself more on the offensive end after spending most of the first month passing up shots in favor of setting up teammates.

Plus, 2nd-year center Wendell Carter Jr. has been the team’s most consistent player all season long, providing solid defense and double figures in points and rebounds on most nights.

Only in the Eastern Conference could a 7-14 team actually think about being a playoff contender, but that’s the reality for the Bulls right now with winnable games coming up at home against the injury-depleted Grizzlies and Warriors.

They’ll play 6 of the next 7 at the United Center, so by the end of that stretch, we should have a pretty good idea of whether the Bulls are finally ready to play the kind of offense everyone expected to see when the season began.

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NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Workout season could be more important than ever


NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Workout season could be more important than ever

With Zion Williamson making his NBA regular season debut Wednesday night, we finally got a chance to see what a No. 1 overall draft pick is supposed to look like: an athletic and versatile skill set, with the chance to impact a franchise for years to come. 

2019 No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant also looks like a franchise-changing talent with his speed and playmaking ability, lifting Memphis into playoff contention.

So, which players will have that kind of impact in the 2020 draft?

Well, for now it’s almost impossible to say. James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 Memphis center, dropped out of school after playing just three games because of an eligibility battle with the NCAA. His size and raw tools are intriguing, but at this point his offensive game is extremely limited.

Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball’s younger brother, LaMelo is sitting out the rest of the Australian professional league season while he rehabs from a foot injury, another Australian professional, R.J. Hampton, just returned from a hip injury and North Carolina’s combo guard Cole Anthony is getting ready to return from a knee injury to finish his one and done season. 

That’s left NBA talent evaluators scrambling in trying to figure out the top of the draft, with only Georgia’s Anthony Edwards healthy and available among the players projected as the possible No. 1 overall pick. 

So, as we get closer to the end of January, here’s a look at how teams could view the available talent, with the understanding that the draft order will change dramatically as NBA scouts and GMs get a look at how players perform in the most important games of the season still to come.

2020 NBA mock draft 3.0

Kemba Walker and Trae Young being named All-Star starters could help Zach LaVine

USA Today

Kemba Walker and Trae Young being named All-Star starters could help Zach LaVine

On Thursday, the NBA revealed the East and West starters for the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago. Take a look:

Bulls fans will be honed in on the East selections given Zach LaVine's absence, though his realistic chances of starting the game have been slim-to-none since the first month of the season. In the last round of fan voting returns, LaVine was sixth among Eastern Conference backcourt players. He finished there, as well:

LaVine will get a chance to slide into a reserve slot, but the East’s starting backcourt of Kemba Walker and Trae Young leaves a crowded field to contend with. Guards competing for the seven reserve spots include Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Malcolm Brogdon and Jaylen Brown. And that's without mentioning frontcourt favorites in Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis.

But a modicum of good news did come from this announcement for those stumping for LaVine: Kyrie Irving's omission from the starting lineup. Irving, who has only played 15 games this season, had been second in fan voting at the time of last returns. Had he snuck in with the starters, LaVine would have also had Walker or Young to compete with for a reserve spot, both of whom he matches up with unfavorably. One has to figure Irving's odds of being selected by coaches as a reserve aren't high.

LaVine's chances still aren't necessarily great, but the coaches' picks for reserves will be announced on Jan. 30. If LaVine is shorted there, as well, there remains the possibility of an injury replacement down the road, which commissioner Adam Silver would select (this is probably his best shot).

Once the final pool of players is decided, they'll be drafted by team captains Giannis Antetokoumpo and LeBron James on Feb. 6.

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