Bulls

Windy City Bulls roundup: CJ Fair

Windy City Bulls roundup: CJ Fair

While the Chicago Bulls have struggled to win less than 30 percent of their games, the Windy City Bulls are the hottest team in the NBA G League, having won 8 games straight heading into their Friday night matchup with the Wisconsin Herd. And a big part of their recent success has been the play of forward CJ Fair.

Fair, a 27-year old, 6-foot 8 forward, is having the best NBA G League season of his career.

Windy City is a team without a tremendous amount of length, so they play relatively small in the frontcourt. But following the departure of JaKarr Sampson to China, Fair started to turn it up on the offensive end.

Over the six-game span since JaKarr’s departure, Fair is averaging 19.6 PPG, over six points higher than his season average of 13.3 PPG.

In college, he shot 34 percent from the 3-point line on a career 178 attempts from 3-point range. He is a career 29.9 percent 3-point shooter during his time in the G League, but his true value at this point in time comes from his ability to be protect the rim, finish inside the paint and facilitate at a high level from the post.

In his three previous G League seasons, Fair had averaged just under 2 assists per game. This season he is putting up 3.2 assists per game--on a mammoth 15.8 percent assist rate--while committing only 1.48 turnovers per game.

His passing isn’t about making flashy or incredibly difficult passes, it is more about making the right decision often. He spots open 3-point shooters--especially if he is sharing the floor with a 3-point shooting big--and always takes his time when backing down in the post, surveying the floor constantly. Fair has a jump-hook that he likes to shoot with his left hand going over his right shoulder, and it is the perfect counter when they aren’t open cutters or shooters.

While his passing is one reason he has been able to maintain an incredibly impressive 117 offensive rating, his alertness cutting off the ball is the main thing that makes helps him provide a boost to lineups without spacing the floor. He has a basic handle that allows him to beat lumbering bigs off the dribble. Fair also is adept at facing up his man in the post and driving, which opens up even more drive-and-kick opportunities.

There usually would not be much of a place on the floor for a 6-foot-8 player that can’t dribble or shoot 3-pointer, but Fair’s relatively low usage rate (17.2 percent) means that he can mesh with most lineups. His 6.9 offensive rebound rate shows his willingness to get after it on the offensive glass, especially against lazy boxouts.

His ability to score and rebound--he has 8 double doubles through 25 games this season--is great, but the reason he has a shot to make an NBA roster this year is what he has shown on the defensive end of the floor.

Through 25 games, Fair has 31 blocks. It is impressive when you consider that his average wingspan (6-foot-9) prevents him from easily blocking shots. He has to actually track his man and be in the right place at the right time. Even if he is not the same level of shot blocker in the NBA that he is in the G League (1.24 per game), the fact that he is posting such consistent block numbers showcases the effort he will put in every night on the defensive end of the floor.

Ultimately, Fair will have a hard time becoming a full-time NBA player until he can consistently hit over 30 percent from the 3-point line, even if it is on limited attempts. In the 2015-16 G League season he hit 35.5 percent from the 3-point line on 151 attempts, so the precedent for him to become a capable shooter is there. But with the considerable improvements he has made as a playmaker, finisher and shot-blocker, don’t be shocked if you see Fair signing a 10-day contract very soon.

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

According to a story by Sporting News NBA writer Sean Deveney, the Bulls may be looking for help in the form of one of the NBA’s better two-way players.

In the post, Deveney goes over the most salient points made by brand new New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. This included the fact that Griffin stated that Pels head coach Alvin Gentry will be back and that Jrue Holiday is considered “a franchise building block”.

This could be a bit of gamesmanship from Griffin, hoping to drive up the asking price for an All-Star caliber player such as Holiday.

But Deveney suggests that New Orleans may indeed be serious about their efforts to keep building with Holiday on the roster. Deveney stated, “if the Pelicans don't trade Holiday, it will set up the team for an attempt at a fast turnaround rather than a long, slogging rebuild......It will also frustrate teams looking for a versatile point guard in his prime, hoping that Holiday would be on the block.”

Phoenix was mentioned as the “top contender” for Holiday’s services should he be made available, as the Suns are one of the few teams with an obvious hole at PG. Along with the Suns, Chicago and Orlando were the other teams listed as having interest in Holiday. The Magic completed a low-risk trade during the 2018-19 season that landed them 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, so they may not be inclined to give up solid assets in a deal.

As far as the Bulls are concerned, any serious inquires on Holiday are likely to come after the May 14 NBA Draft lottery.

Depending on where the Bulls lottery pick ends up, the Pelicans could be much more inclined to make a deal with the Chicago front office. The Pelicans ended the season tied with Memphis and Dallas for the 7th spot in the draft lottery odds, and their specific organizational goals could make moving up in the draft order worth losing a valuable player like Jrue Holiday. And for the Bulls, nabbing a player like Holiday helps build onto the positive team culture that Jim Boylen wants to establish and gives the Bulls a perfect guard to pair in the backcourt with Zach LaVine.

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.