Bulls

Why the Bulls should take Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell with the No. 38 pick

Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell does a ton of positive things on the court and it showed in the team’s win-loss record over his two years in Spokane. The Zags went 65-9 over Norvell’s two seasons on the roster. In his senior season of high school, he lead the Simeon Wolverines to a 30-4 record, and has consistently proven to be a winning player throughout his career.

Strengths:

Norvell’s hard-working attitude has helped him this far and he has made improvements in all facets of his game over his two seasons working with Mark Few and staff. From year one to year two at Gonzaga, his defensive rating improved from 98 to 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, his offensive rating from 120.6 to 126.7 and he improved his assist and turnover ratings despite taking on a slightly larger role on offense.

The biggest part of his appeal is ability as a floor spacer. Norvell is a skilled scorer and averaged 27.1 points per 100 possessions for his career at Gonzaga.

In the 2018-19 season he shot 37.8 percent on 2-point jumpers, 37 percent on 3-pointers (per Hoop-Math.com) and 42.1 percent on short midrange shots per The Stepien. He shot over 80 percent from the free throw line in both seasons, including a career-best 86.7 percent from the FT line in ‘18-’19. His career true shooting percentage of 59.2 percent would be above average for an NBA wing player and he figures to be a solid NBA scorer, even his 2-point shooting efficiency suffers against more athletic NBA defenders.

Despite having an average wingspan for his height, Norvell will succeed as a shooter in the league because of his ability to create separation from defenders with stepbacks and hard dribble pull ups.

Grabbing Zach Norvell in the second round would be a huge net positive for a Bulls roster that is very thin on bench scoring. His college numbers compare favorably to those of Klay Thompson. He also possesses the Thompson-esque ability to score with ease from the low post when he gets a smaller guard on him via a switch.

Norvell is not quite the shooter Thompson was in college in terms of accuracy but he was slightly ahead of college Klay in terms of volume. Norvell attempted a whopping 60.9 percent of his shots from 3-point range for his career, compared to 43.8 percent of Thompson’s shots being 3-pointers at Washington State.

This lack of diversity in Norvell’s shot profile is why he projects as a strong role player, rather than an primary initiator on offense. But Norvell is a fine player even without a spectacular dribble-drive game. He has shown the ability to shoot off the dribble, in the post and has strong flashes of developing into a crafty finisher when attacking closeouts.

He is a decent decision-maker and has a solid feel for the game. In 2018-19 he averaged 3.1 assists and 1.4 turnovers per game while functioning as the primary scoring guard on offense.

Weaknesses:

As with many prospects that will be projected to go in the second round, a lack of elite burst/athleticism lowers Norvell’s stock a bit. He has the shiftiness/handle to get past the first line of defense, but he will struggle to finish over NBA centers. Per Hoop-Math.com, Norvell actually shot worse at the rim in his sophomore year despite having more of those attempts assisted by his teammates.

Without the ability to get to the rim and finish consistently, Norvell will have to develop into a good mid range scorer to reach his ceiling. His shooting numbers indicate that he has the touch to do so. The issue for Norvell is he will be trying to develop this touch while adjusting to the speed of the NBA.

Norvell didn’t get to the free throw line much in college, averaging 2.6 free throw attempts per game over his two years in college. In the NBA he will likely get to showcase parts of his game that we didn’t see at Gonzaga, but an inability to get to the free throw line will carry over. He got to the line even less in conference play and it’s safe to say NBA defenses will be tougher to crack than those of the Western Coast Conference, even for a high-IQ player like Norvell.

Long term outlook:

If Norvell competes on the defensive end of the floor and continues to shoot the 3-point shot at a high level, he will have a spot in an NBA rotation. But if Norvell works on his floater game and finishing through contact, he could end up being an extremely valuable player at one of the league’s thinner position groups (shooting guard).

Taking a chance on Norvell at No. 38 would be extremely smart for the Bulls, and not just because of the hometown connection. As mentioned earlier in the article, the Bulls’ bench unit could use more scoring after ranking in 24th in bench points in the 2018-19 season. Norvell—who scored 1,023 points over his two year Gonzaga career—has proven to be a capable scorer. But the fact that so much of Norvell’s value comes from jump shots make him much more suited to a 6th or 7th man role. Norvell has a great step-back jumper out to 3-point range and while it isn’t a consistent weapon now, it is the type of skill move that makes him such an intriguing prospect.

If you buy that he will become an increasingly engaged defender at the NBA level, Norvell is a solid enough prospect to rise into first round territory as we inch closer to the draft. But based off of how past NBA drafts have went, it is more likely that Norvell's average measurements make him a high second round pick. 

I believe that Norvell will stick in an NBA rotation next season. Whether he is playing decent minutes or serving as a 9th or 10th man, Norvell’s shooting will shine. His rookie season should mirror something near Landry Shamet, though he doesn’t need to make All-Rookie team for the year to be considered a success.

A continued show of aggressiveness from 3-point range, attention to detail on defense and great decision making will keep Zach Norvell in the NBA for a very long time.

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How does Coby White's Summer League compare to past Lottery point guards?

How does Coby White's Summer League compare to past Lottery point guards?

Summer League results are largely irrelevant. There's our disclaimer.

Whether Bulls' first-round draft pick Coby White succeeds in the NBA will have nothing to do with how he performed the last 10 days in Las Vegas. Use this tweet as a daily reminder that Summer League performance doesn't always tell the story.

That being said, it's all we've got to go on right now. But instead of analyzing White's up-and-down Summer League performance, let's compare it to other Lottery point guards in their first Summer League games. We'll begin with White.

Coby White, 2019, Bulls: 15.0 points, 4.8 assists, 33.7% FG, 10.0% 3FG, 3.8 turnovers, 30.8 minutes

White was a mixed bag in Las Vegas, showing the ability to push pace, get to the rim with a lightning-quick first step and knock down some mid-range jumpers. But he was also careless with the ball, made just 3 of 30 3-point attempts (and two of those makes came in a 20-second span) and didn't shoot above 44% in any of the five games he appeared in. He's still quite raw running the point, so the inefficiency was expected. The flashes he showed at times told much more of the story. 

Trae Young, 2018, Hawks: 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, 38.3% FG, 38.7% 3FG, 3.8 turnovers, 25.8 minutes

Many remember Young being abysmal in Salt Lake City to begin his pro career. But he was actually solid in Las Vegas, including a 24-point, 7-triple performance against the Bulls. Young was one of the biggest question marks heading into the draft, with real concerns about how his small frame would withstand the NBA game - but Young is showing all the signs of a future All-Star. In 23 games after last year's All-Star break, Young averaged 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game.

Collin Sexton, 2018, Cavaliers: 19.6 points, 3.4 assists, 42.9% FG, 23.1% 3FG, 3.3 turnovers, 28.8 minutes

Sexton was also a mixed bag in Vegas. He had a pair of explosive games, like his 25-point outing on 9 of 15 shooting against the Kings and his 27-point effort against the Lakers. But Sexton was also inefficient, didn't show much from beyond the arc (a concern of his heading into the draft) and didn't do much creating for others. He wound up excelling as a rookie, averaging 16.7 points and 3.0 assists for the Cavs. And while it only came on 3.6 attempts per game, his 40.2% from beyond the arc was a major positive after he struggled in Las Vegas.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 2018, Clippers: 19.0 points, 4.0 assists, 45.8% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 2.2 turnovers, 27.8 minutes

Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the more impressive rookies at the Las Vegas Summer League a year ago. He was efficient across the board and, in addition to the above numbers, added 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. In fact, he was the first player in Summer League history to average 19 points, 4 assists and 2 steals. That transitioned to the regular season, where SGA played an important role - albeit a smaller one - for the playoff-bound Clippers. And his 3-point field goal percentage blossomed to 36.7% in the regular season.

Lonzo Ball, 2017, Lakers: 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 38.2% FG, 23.8% 3FG, 3.8 turnovers, 32.5 minutes

All eyes were on the Big Baller in Summer League, and Ball responded with six really impressive games. His passing acumen was on full display and he was a blur in transition. His defense was as good as anyone he played with or against - he averaged 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game - and, given the hype surrounding him, his summer was a rousing success. The verdict's still out on Ball, but his defense and passing will keep him as a solid NBA contributor the next 10 seasons at the very least.

De’Aaron Fox, 2017, Kings: 11.8 points, 3.0 assists, 44.4% FG% 12.5% 3FG, 2.5 turnovers, 21.3 minutes

Fox looked overwhelmed at times during his Summer League stint. Like White, it took him some time to figure out playing at different speeds and it resulted in some inefficient lines. His best games came early in the summer, going for 18 points in his debut and adding 17 more a few days later. Fox played just 7 minutes in his final Summer League outing, which distorted his per-game numbers quite a bit (he had 0 points and 3 assists in that one). Fox was largely invisible as a rookie but finished third in the Most Improved Player voting as a sophomore. He's the real deal.

Dennis Smith Jr., 2017, Mavericks: 17.3 points, 4.2 assists, 45.7% FG, 34.6% 3FG, 2.8 turnovers, 25.9 minutes

Smith didn't have the buzz around him that Ball and Fox did, but he may have been the most impressive rookie point guard in 2017. He played above the rim, made 3-pointers and looked comfortable in pick-and-roll action. He also added 2.2 steals and got to the free throw line 7.3 times per game. He was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team, but it didn't really translate to the NBA. Smith has been incredibly inefficient, and the Mavericks dealt him halfway through his sophomore season in the Kristaps Porzingis deal.

Kris Dunn, 2016, Timberwolves: 24.0 points, 3.0 assists, 54.2% FG, 16.7% 3FG, 3.0 turnovers, 33.9 minutes

Jamal Murray, 2016, Nuggets: 19.6 points, 2.4 assists, 42.5% FG, 27.6% 3FG, 2.8 turnovers, 29.5 minutes

D’Angelo Russell, 2015, Nets: 11.8 points, 3.2 assist, 37.7% FG, 11.8% 3FG, 5.2 turnovers, 30.1 minutes

Emmanuel Mudiay, 2015, Nuggets: 12.0 points, 5.8 assists, 38.5% FG, 14.3% 3FG, 5.0 turnovers, 30.4 minutes

Cameron Payne, 2015, Thunder: 18.8 points, 4.0 assists, 43.6% FG, 28.6% 3FG, 2.5 turnovers, 30.0 minutes

Coby White flashes playmaking prowess: Takeaways from Bulls-Magic

Coby White flashes playmaking prowess: Takeaways from Bulls-Magic

The Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic 85-73 on Saturday night, with some sloppy play and rebounding woes being the main reasons for the loss. Here are a few takeaways:

Chandler Hutchison’s rough Summer League continued on Saturday night.

In his 30-minute stint against the Magic, Hutch shot 3/10 from the field, which included going 1/2 from the 3-point line. Hutchison’s 3-point shot still has a long-way to go and it’s not just about the fact that he shot 20 percent from 3-point range over four NBA Summer League games. Hutchison has had his fair share of particularly bad misses in Vegas that are reminiscent of his rookie season in which he shot 28 percent from 3-point range.

It wasn’t all bad for Hutchison. He was aggressive on offense throughout Summer League despite his shot not falling, especially against the Magic on Saturday. Hutchison led the Bulls--by a wide margin--with 9 free throw attempts and chipped in 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. He missed rotations on defense here and there and had a few moments where he put in a weak effort in transition defense as well. But Hutchison averaged a combined 1.5 steals + blocks per game over four games in Vegas and was mostly active. 

Summer League wasn’t great for Hutchison but he is still entering a big sophomore season in which the Bulls are likely to be a much better team. He projects to be a plus defender but there is still much to be discovered about his offensive game.

Though his line of 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 blocks isn’t overwhelming, Daniel Gafford yet again he showed that he may be ready to contribute in a role that he clearly understands. Gafford has a soft touch around the rim and has been dominant in the paint throughout Summer League.

Gafford continued that on Saturday, shooting 7/8 from the field, including one back-breaking dunk that definitely sent a clear message: Gafford is always looking to finish with authority.

Gafford’s dunk even caught the eye of new teammate Thaddeus Young.

The fact that Gafford only collected 3 rebounds in just around 20 minutes is a bit concerning but he did spend most of the night with Hutchison or someone much smaller playing power forward next to him, contributing to that low figure.

Orlando was quick to double-team Gafford in the rare moments that he put the ball on the floor to make a move and he generally had multiple blue jerseys around him in the paint. He can play a bit out of control at times (6 personal fouls in 20 minutes) but doesn’t turn the ball over a ton since his shot selection consists of putbacks and dives to the rim. 

Developing a midrange jumper and improving his ability to attack of the dribble will be logical next steps for Gafford to become a more well-rounded center. But in the Bulls loss to the Magic on Saturday, Gafford yet again showed how devastating he can be as a simple shot-blocking, rim-runner.

While the dunks and blocks will get the headlines, my favorite play of the night by Gafford was a solid screen he set when the Bulls ran a nice “Horns” set. His screen freed up Walter Lemon Jr. for a nice alley-oop. 

New Bulls big man Luke Kornet figures to factor into the rotation somehow but there is a good chance we see Gafford get real minutes in the 2019-20 regular season.

The Bulls got a good look at their two 2019 draft picks over Summer League but they also got to see two-way contract player Adam Mokoka and G-League player (Windy City Bulls) Mychal Mulder. Mokoka is a 20-year old, physical wing out of France. He last played for Serbian club Mega Bemax and looks like he should at least be ready for the physicality of the NBA game.

Mulder is a 25-year old Canadian guard who played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He is a great shooter and was one of the few perimeter threats on the Bulls Summer League roster outside of Coby White. 

Mokoka and Mulder combined for 25 points and hit 5 of the Bulls 8 3-point field goals on the night. They wouldn’t have gotten those 3-pointers up without White, who is starting to look more like an NBA point guard.

White couldn’t get his 3-point shot going in Vegas, shooting a very disappointing 3-for-26 from 3-point range over Summer League. But he played like a floor general on Saturday night, racking up 8 assists and only 3 turnovers. It was perhaps his best “true point guard” game despite the fact that he only chipped in 7 points. 

White’s play has been what you should expect from a one-and-done point guard who is a score-first player.

He has been erratic at times with his decision-making but White ultimately got better with the ball in his hands as the games went on. He often blew past his man so fast that he drew multiple defenders, only to see a teammate miss the wide open 3. White will be fine as long as he continues to make those same, simple reads at the NBA level, as players like Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine will not be missing open looks. 

The biggest thing I saw from White in Saturday’s game against the Magic was his ability to get off a shot in the midrange after getting free with a snake dribble in the pick-and-roll. Since he isn’t the most explosive finisher--in terms of finishing over length--White’s ability to function at a high-level in the short midrange area will be a key development over his career and Saturday night was a step in the right direction. 

The Bulls didn’t produce a lot of wins in the 2019-20 NBA Summer League. But they were able to show that for the second summer in a row, they are adding two intriguing, young players to a steadily improving core.