Bulls

On Tuesday night, 'The Jabari Parker experiment' took a big step in the right direction for Bulls

bari-bulls.jpg
USA TODAY

On Tuesday night, 'The Jabari Parker experiment' took a big step in the right direction for Bulls

The Jabari Parker experiment took a big step in the right direction on Tuesday night. Whether or not the experiment ends in Chicago is beside the point right now. The Bulls and Parker have had a rocky relationship to say the least, but at the moment we can all be happy for Parker, due to his recent stretch of play showing that he still has plenty left in the tank.

Parker has taken a considerable amount of blame—both fair and unfair—for the Bulls lackluster defense, especially when it comes to getting back in transition. But basketball is a team sport and everyone on the roster has played a small part in the Bulls defensive dysfunction, so as fans and critics alike start to accept that little-to-nothing will change this year’s defense, they are more people accepting the fact that Parker needs to be a part of the rotations as long as he is on the roster.

In 23 minutes of play on Tuesday night, Parker showed exactly why he can still be a great fit for this team. On a night where Lauri Markkanen’s shot wasn’t falling at an extremely high rate (6/15 from the field), Parker helped out usual offensive workhorse Zach LaVine.


The Bulls rough offensive issues start with the fact that outside of LaVine, there doesn’t appear to be another player who wants to take tough shots when the offense has stagnated. Parker certainly does not lack confidence on the offensive end, possessing the aggressiveness that the front-office would no doubt like to see from Markkanen moving forward.

Parker has been excellent from the 3-point line in the month of January, encouraging considering that 3-point shooting is the one part of his game that has consistently improved over the years. He is knocking down a paltry 32.5 percent of his 3-pointers this year, but is up to a hyper-efficient 45.5 percent on 3-pointers through 9 games this month.

And as nice as Parker’s perimeter shooting has been, his activity in the paint has been the driving force for his great month. As of late he has made sure to keep moving when he is off the ball, an issue for much of the Bulls young roster. When Parker relocates to the baseline, he still has enough bounce to finish over the top of length in the paint.

His shot selection is starting to creep back to his pre-injury norms, which is to say he is getting to the rim more and per Cleaning the Glass (which filters out garbage time) is shooting a solid 65 percent at the rim. With his shooting percentage at the rim nearing his career high (70 percent), Parker simply needs to be empowered more to see his overall numbers increase as well.

And that is why Jim Boylen giving Parker playing time (for the most part) over the last month is a big step in the right direction for the Parker, Boylen and the organization as a whole.

Boylen said he needed to see an increased effort level and attention to detail on defense from Parker, and he has responded well to the challenge.

With 31 games left in the season and a little over a week until the NBA trade deadline, now is the perfect time for Parker to be showing off his skills with all-around stat lines. He is putting up 14.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.2 APG on 47.5 percent shooting through 38 games. And in January alone, he is shooting a very efficient 57.9 percent from the field.

So whether or not people want to admit it, Parker can clearly help a Bulls team so bad at offense that we are shocked when they score over 100 points in a game. And Boylen can clearly help Parker, seeing as he is a specialist in the weakest part of Parker’s game (his defense). But the two-year, $40 million contract (with a team option in the second year) that both sides agreed upon heading into the 2018-19 season complicates things.

All signs point to Parker being traded before the trade deadline and if he isn’t, it is unlikely the Bulls would buy out his (technically) expiring contract, but you never know. Either way, the only certainty we currently have in the Parker-Bulls situation is that no one is certain how it will end.

But we can say with confidence—this far into the season—that Parker has shown that he can still be a legit NBA scorer when given the opportunity. Now that rookies Chandler Hutchison and Wendell Carter are going to miss considerable time, these last 31 games of the NBA season will provide the chance to see if Parker can become much more.

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense. 

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

michaeljordan_1920_woods.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”