Bulls

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

Three Takeaways: Point-Zach LaVine rounding into form

The Bulls held on to win what will perhaps go down as their weirdest win on the 2018-19 season. In a game with 23 lead changes and 17 ties, the Bulls came out on top after a series of fortunate (or unfortunate depending on where you stand on wins and losses these days) events. With the game tied at 106 all, former Bull DJ Augustin was fouled by Kris Dunn and received two free throws. Augustin--a career 86.3 percent free throw shooter--missed both free throws to give the Bulls life late in the matchup.

A clutch putback tip-in from Robin Lopez wasn’t the final nail in the coffin for the Magic, as wing Evan Fournier hit a huge 3-point shot with just over 7 seconds left in the game. This setup Markkanen’s clutch free throw attempts at the end of the game, in which he sank two of three to seal the Bulls 15th win of the season.

Lauri Legend in the making

The number one thing Bulls fans were concerned with post-Bobby Portis/Jabari Parker trade was if the departure of the two offensive-minded forwards would allow Markkanen to flourish. So far the answer is a resounding yes.

The Finnisher finished (see what we did there?) with 25 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 38 minutes of playing time. The double double was Markkanen’ 8th in his last 10 games, and his 13th double double overall on the season.

In the month of February, Markkanen is putting up All-Star numbers. Through 7 games he is averaging 25.3 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.6 APG and shooting 47 percent from the field. But just as important as the fact that he is putting up great stats is the way he is collecting those numbers. In recent weeks, we have seen a lot more from Markkanen in terms of taking his defender off the dribble, as he possesses solid speed for a big man.

So far through 36 games played in 2018-19, Markkanen’s 3-point percentage is 38.3 percent, just over a 2 percent increase from last year. And on top of that, he is actually attempting more 3-pointers as well. So with defenses frantically trying to deny him clean 3-point looks, using a--dare I say “Mirotic-esque”--pump fake to open up a driving lanes will take Markkanen’s burgeoning offensive game to the next level. In fact, a pump fake and side-step is the exact move that led to Markkanen drawing the foul on Aaron Gordon that led to the game-winning free throws.

The moment a solid NBA player becomes a superstar is when volume meets efficiency. Markkanen’s usage rate has increased from last year and his offensive rating has increased by about 4 points as well. If Markkanen’s season goes as it did last year, we can expect to see more fireworks as the Bulls closeout 2018-19. In the ‘17-’18 season, April was Markkanen’s highest scoring month.

The steadying force

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen was yet again--and rightfully so--quick to compliment Otto Porter on his play since joining Chicago.

“He’s just a steady force. He can be a receiver or a creator. Those guys are invaluable.”

Porter racked up 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. His 17 points came on an inefficient 15 field goal attempts, but he still ended up a team-high +10 from the field. Boylen was right  to call OPJ a “steady force” because whether or not he has a great shooting night, he is willing to do all the little the things to contribute to winning basketball.

You can always count on Otto-matic Otto--he of the career 40.2 percent 3-point percentage-- to hit a couple 3-pointers, but with Chicago, he has started to explore his off the dribble game. He is shooting 33.3 percent this season on pull-up 3-pointers--down from 45.2 percent last season in Washington--but he has more than doubled his pull-up 3-point attempts as a Bull.

Porter is not going to turn into Steph Curry overnight, but even at 25 years old, he can get even better at pull-up jump shooting. This part of his game being unlocked in Chicago gives Boylen another competent  ball handler to run secondary pick-and-roll actions.

Through his five games as a Bull, Porter is averaging 2.6 APG, almost a full assist better than his season average. Yet another part of his game that seems to be evolving under Boylen. And most important is the fact Porter’s sharing ways seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the roster.

LaVine the PG?

Through 7 games in February, LaVine is averaging 5.9 APG, which would be higher than any season-long assist average of his career. And this isn’t some sort of random flash in the pan, as the 2 turnovers per game he is averaging in February are the lowest of any month this season.

If LaVine--who has always been a solid passer despite his reputation--can consistently keep the turnovers down while playmaking this much, the idea of him as the Bulls long-term answer at point guard has to be taken seriously.

The main issue with the defensive-minded Dunn being the starter at point is the fact that he cannot hit an open 3-point shot, which was on display on Friday night, as he went 0/2 from 3-point range. Juxtapose this with LaVine, who absolutely made it rain from deep.

As per usual, LaVine wasn’t a major difference maker on defense, but he did a solid job all night. He was very adept at sliding his feet to stay with Augustin and though he did give up his fair share of easy drives, he defended without fouling (1 personal foul on the night).

LaVine’s 22 PTS came on a very efficient 14 shots, and this is no doubt the type of offensive performance that Boylen and co. hope to see more of over the last 23 games.

NBA Board of Governors pass new, stricter anti-tampering rules

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USA TODAY

NBA Board of Governors pass new, stricter anti-tampering rules

After much discussion over whether or not the NBA should impose harsher penalties on teams for breaking the anti-tampering rules, an official decision has been made. The NBA Board of Governors passed a much more strict set of rules that will force teams to be compliant with the anti-tampering rules.

Among the new measures, the league will be selecting five teams per year that will undergo a "random audit", the maximum amount for a fine related to tampering has been raised to $10 million and team officials are required to save communications with agents for one full year.

The league will also retain the right to take the communication devices of owners if it is deemed necessary in investigations, though it has been stated that it is not something that Adam Silver wants to rely on moving forward. 

Though concrete details have not been released, possible punishments for tampering will reportedly include taking away draft picks, the voiding of contracts and more.

This is all in an attempt to create a more "even playing field" amid the belief that small-market teams are at a disadvantage when it comes to player movement. The new rules sound great but there is already fear among NBA GMs when it comes to how their privacy will be affected with this being a clear area of focus for the league. 

Along with the new, harsher tampering penalties, the league also announced that they have changed the language regarding traveling calls to "address the uncertainty around traveling." Another new rule announced was that teams are now required to announce their starting lineups at least 30 minutes before tipoff as opposed to 10 minutes, in an effort to "increase transparency for teams, media and fans." Teams will still be allowed to change their lineups up to the last minute if a player gets hurt in pregame warmups. 

All of the new anti-tampering rules approved by the league on Friday were a response to this wild NBA offseason we just experienced. There were many deals agreed to right at the start of free agency, such as the Bulls with Thaddeus Young, and the timing of those deals had many owners wanting the league to make tampering a greater focus. To a greater extent, moves like Anthony Davis forcing his way to the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard orchestrating he and Paul George's move to the Clippers are what got this package of anti-tampering measures passed.

Adam Silver has picked up a reputation as an NBA Commissioner who is very willing to listen to new ideas and make changes, and Friday's events support that reputation as he and the league continue to look for the best ways to get NBA teams to be in compliance with the anti-tampering rules. 

Is Ryan Arcidiacono trying to become the fourth Jonas Brother?

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USA TODAY

Is Ryan Arcidiacono trying to become the fourth Jonas Brother?

The Jonas Brothers are in Chicago for concerts that are taking place on Thursday and Friday night, and they have enjoyed quite a week. This week the trio has enjoyed a nice golf outing at Village Links in Glen Ellyn, had some quality BBQ at Bub City and even got the amazing opportunity to play a touch football game at Soldier Field. But one particular Bulls guard is looking to add another fun experience to their Chicago trip.

The Bulls organization welcomed the Jonas Brothers to the city with a set of custom jerseys for the trio and their significant others and that's when Ryan Arcidiacono chimed in with his offer. 

Since the Jonas Brothers have already got to play some football on the actual Soldier Field grass, Arci figured they might as well keep the Chicago sports-themed fun going and shoot some hoops with him. 

Now, Arcidiacono didn't make it clear whether or not he was offering for the Jonas Brother to get some shots up with him at the United Center, where their shows take place on Thursday and Friday night. But, either way, his time is running out as they will be moving on to Jackson County, MO for their next stop on tour on September 21.

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