Bulls

Scott Brooks 'loves' Zach LaVine, still deciding on All-Star reserve vote

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USA Today

Scott Brooks 'loves' Zach LaVine, still deciding on All-Star reserve vote

In a game between the Bulls and Wizards that will see Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal butt heads — and in Chicago, no less — it was inevitable that February's All-Star game would be a point of discussion.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks certainly saw it coming. He's always thinking a step ahead.

"I love Zach," Brooks said when pressed on the subject of LaVine's all-star case. "Tomorrow night, I'm gonna play someone in Toronto and I'm gonna say the same thing."

The Wizards face the Raptors and fellow all-star hopefuls Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry on Friday.

"I'm voting for you, Zach," Brooks finished — jokingly, of course.

But Brooks did offer some genuine insight into the thought process he'll employ in his voting. Coaches, remember, select each conference's seven reserves for the game after the fans (50 percent), media (25 percent) and players (25 percent) combine to choose the starters.

"I don't," Brooks said when asked if he subscribes to the belief that players on losing teams should be excluded from all-star consideration. "It plays a little bit of a role, but a lot of times players get put in situations that's not their fault. Whether it's injuries, the organization is in a rebuild or there's just many things.

"So I don't ever look at that, cause it's unfair. It's not the players' fault. Sometimes you get caught up in a situation that's not your fault. If you're one of the best 12 players in the conference, you should be voted in as one of the all-stars."

That sentiment will resonate with supporters of LaVine and Beal. The Bulls (14-27) and Wizards (13-26) are both well on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, but both have put together compelling all-star cases — statistically speaking, anyway.

Brooks won't be able to vote for Beal, himself, but made his position on his candidacy known.

"Oh, no doubt," Brooks said when asked if Beal is an all-star in his own eyes. "Everybody knows."

And as for LaVine (in all seriousness)?

"I mean, Zach is right there. Zach is gonna be right there as being an all-star. He puts up all-star numbers," Brooks said. "He's definitely in the mix, I don't know where I'm going with it, but he's definitely in the mix."

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NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

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USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

One thing we know for sure about the 2020 NBA Draft: no team executives will be losing sleep on the eve of the lottery hoping to land the first or second pick like a year ago when the top prizes where generational power forward Zion Williamson and point guard extraordinaire Ja Morant.

Matter of fact, teams might prefer not to land one of the top three picks so they can pay less guaranteed money to a player who may not have a huge impact,

As we get closer to the start of conference tournaments around the country, no player has really distinguished himself as the clear cut No. 1 choice. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards gets credit for being available to play all season, but his poor shooting percentages from the field and the 3-point line for a bad college team hardly scream top overall pick.

Injuries and eligibility questions have kept a few of the top prospects off the court, so NBA executives will put more emphasis than ever on the information they gather during the draft combine and individual workouts.

Here’s a snapshot at where things stand in late February with our fourth mock draft.

Bulls rule out Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and more vs. Hornets

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USA Today

Bulls rule out Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and more vs. Hornets

The Bulls' injury housekeeping continues.

After Wednesday afternoon practice, Jim Boylen ruled out Otto Porter Jr. (foot), Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle), Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) and Denzel Valentine (hamstring) for Thursday night's matchup with the Charlotte Hornets.

Porter (full) and Carter (limited) both participated in practice. Carter had repeatedly expressed a desire to return in the Bulls' first game out of the break, but it appears he's not quite there yet.

While Boylen said he hasn't decided on starters for the Hornets game yet, he made a point to add that Daniel Gafford has "got his legs back" and that his rim protection will be much-needed to remedy the team's precipitous defensive slide — in five games since Kris Dunn went down with an MCL sprain, they're dead last in the NBA in defensive rating (123.2).

Hutchison had filled in nicely for Dunn over the five games leading up to the All-Star break, but something evidently re-flared up in the shoulder that caused him to miss 17 games between November and January of this season. With 19 appearances in a row dating back to Jan. 6, Hutchison was one game away from matching his career high for consecutive games played. Alas.

"We have struggled with new guys playing and some of our experienced guys not out there. So, we will just keep hammering away at it," Boylen said of the team's recent defensive woes. "I think we all know our system is solid and been productive, but personnel is a big part of that. So, we'll just keep working on our guys in that system and keep trying to perfect it."

This news dump comes on the heels of a report from the Bulls this morning that extended Dunn's reevaluation timeline to four-to-six weeks after an MRI and reexamination on his right knee on Feb. 14. The Bulls get the benefit of three straight under-.500 opponents (Hornets, Suns, Wizards) out of the break, but if guys don't start getting back soon, matters could devolve.

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