Bulls

Is this the year for Bulls to think outside the box at No. 7?

Is this the year for Bulls to think outside the box at No. 7?

With the majority of mock drafts coming out after Tuesday’s lottery having the Bulls selecting North Carolina point guard Coby White with the seventh overall pick in the June 20 NBA Draft, it had me thinking about whether this might be the year to take a chance on a high risk/high reward pick.

Yes, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has made it clear he plans to bring in a point guard to challenge incumbent starter Kris Dunn, but with so many options in free agency, are the Bulls still inclined to go in that direction with their first round pick?

Before the lottery, the odds of the Bulls being in position to select either Ja Morant or Darius Garland looked pretty favorable if they stayed in the top-5. But after dropping all the way to No. 7, it’s almost a certainty that Morant and Garland will be gone, leaving White as the highest rated point guard available. White showed tremendous speed and scoring potential in his one season at North Carolina, but he has a lot to learn about directing an offense at the NBA level and will need to get stronger.

If Dunn returns for the final season of his rookie contract, there’s a good chance he moves into a backup role behind a veteran free agent, so maybe this isn’t the year to draft a developmental point guard.

So then, what do the Bulls do at No. 7?

Maybe it’s time to take a flier on a high upside athlete, something they really haven’t done since the infamous LaMarcus Aldridge-Tyrus Thomas draft night deal in 2006. This year’s draft contains a number of players who didn’t live up to expectations in their one collegiate season, but rank high on the athletic testing charts.

I had a chance to talk with a number of players at the draft combine in Chicago, and one who impressed me is USC guard Kevin Porter Jr. Scouts love the athleticism of the 6-foot-4 Porter Jr., but he underperformed in his one collegiate season, averaging just 9.5 points on 47 percent shooting from the field in a mostly reserve role.

Porter Jr. missed seven games because of a thigh injury and also had to serve a team suspension for “personal conduct issues.” But he’s not lacking in confidence, telling me he was a top-5 prospect at the start of the season and will be able to work his way up draft boards after teams get a chance to interview him and put him through individual workouts. Porter Jr. also mentioned comparisons to last year’s NBA MVP James Harden, mostly because they’re both 6-foot-4, played at PAC 12 universities and are left-handed.

No one is predicting Porter Jr. will ever come close to the unique scoring talent Harden displays on a nightly basis, but he definitely looks the part of an NBA player with a strong upper body and impressive leaping ability. Don’t be surprised if he winds up being a top-10 pick on draft night.

Other players projected for the late lottery include Indiana shooting guard Romeo Langford, Kentucky SG/SF Keldon Johnson, North Carolina small forward Nassir Little, French forward Sekou Doumbouya and Oregon 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol.

Much like Porter Jr., Little was considered a top-5 pick at the start of the college season, but never earned Roy Williams’ complete confidence at North Carolina, and struggled to find consistent minutes and shot attempts. He shot the ball well at the combine and projects as an elite defender at the NBA level. The Bulls really aren’t in the market for another small forward with Otto Porter Jr. and 2018 first round pick Chandler Hutchison already on the roster, but the wing positions offer the most talent in this draft.

Bol is a fascinating prospect with many scouts saying he’s one of the best pure shooters in this draft as a 7-footer. Problem is Bol suffered a foot fracture early in his freshman season at Oregon, the same type of injury that cost Joel Embiid his first two NBA seasons. Any team that drafts Bol will have to understand the risk of further injury, and the likelihood he won’t be able to contribute much in the 2019-2020 season.

If the Bulls stay at No. 7, White is the most logical pick, but they could go with a player that drops unexpectedly, like Duke forward Cam Reddish or Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver. The Bulls have always been aggressive in scheduling personal workouts and interviews with all the prospects in their draft range, and this year that process will take on more importance than ever.

Remember, Donovan Mitchell was one of the most impressive athletes at the combine two years ago, but stayed on the board until the Utah Jazz worked a trade with Denver to get him at No. 13. Now Mitchell is one of the best young guards in the NBA. Kyle Kuzma also moved into the first round in 2017 with a strong combine showing and is thriving as a productive two-way player with the Lakers.

It’s up to Paxson and his staff to find which player has the most long term upside and maybe come up with their own version of Mitchell or Kuzma next month.

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Report: ‘About 75 percent’ of NBA GMs voted for play-in tournament in survey

Report: ‘About 75 percent’ of NBA GMs voted for play-in tournament in survey

The NBA recently issued a survey to general managers to measure the league’s temperature on various formats for the season to restart in, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. 

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has obtained the results of said survey. The findings are as follows:

  • Half of the league’s general managers voted to skip straight to a 16-team postseason (bye, Bulls)

  • “Just over half” of the league’s general managers voted to reseed a hypothetical 16-team postseason by record, independent of conference

  • “About 75 percent” of the league’s general managers voted for a play-in tournament that would pit fringe playoff teams against each other to decide the final seeds of a playoff (O’Connor reported the Lakers and Bucks to favor this format)

  • The remaining 25 percent of the league’s general managers voted for a playoff featuring World Cup-esque group stage first round

Of note: The Bulls currently own the 24th-best record (22-43) in the NBA. It's not specified how many teams each of the above models would involve, but if that answer ends up being less than 24 (and the remainder of the regular season ends up being skipped), the Bulls would not be going to Disney World.

What does this mean for the NBA’s larger decision on how to format a relaunch of its season? Evidently, not much. Early Thursday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Friday’s Board of Governors call will not include a vote on a plan to return to play. O’Connor echoed that sentiment in his reporting, including a quote from an unnamed GM that read: “Adam isn’t taking the results seriously… Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Instead, O’Connor posited that Silver might be using this opportunity to gauge league-wide interest in various schedule innovations moving forward. This would fit Silver’s MO. Even before the coronavirus pandemic halted the sports world, the NBA had long pondered and pushed for the idea of an in-season tournament as a way to drum up interest. In a time of financial strife for the league, interest has never been more at a premium than it is now, or will be next season.

Still, Silver and company have more immediate fish to fry, in terms of hammering down a format for finishing the 2019-20 campaign. Potential formats, timelines and so on will reportedly be discussed Friday. As of this writing, 22 of 30 teams have opened their practice facilities for limited, voluntary, individual workouts (a trend the Bulls may follow suit in come Friday), but all of them are awaiting direction on what’s to come — the players reportedly as anxiously as anyone.

 

For now, that’s all any of us can do.

RELATED: Where the Bulls stand in each of the NBA’s reported resumption plans

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Michael Jordan toy collector gives story behind the rarest of his figurines

Michael Jordan toy collector gives story behind the rarest of his figurines

The rarest Michael Jordan toy in the world you’ve probably never seen or heard of. That’s because it was never released.

Jordan Cohn and BJ Barretta of Radio.com got to the bottom of that age-old — though rarely asked about — mystery by interviewing Joshua De Vaney, the most prolific purveyor of Jordan toys in the world. 

De Vaney hails from Australia, and a perusal of his Instagram page reveals a trinket closet of staggering scale.

In the interview, De Vaney pinpointed the rarest of the bunch to be this rather unassuming batch of figurines, which were manufactured by a company called Ohio Art.

De Vaney told Radio.com they’re prototype models of a Jordan-themed H.O.R.S.E. game from 1987 that never made it to production.

“I got into contact with the Ohio Art archives department which told me… that there were only 48 of these available, and I was in possession of 33 of them at the time,” De Vaney told Cohn. “That’s when he was looking at leaving Nike. And the reason why that’s so important is because the shoe that this toy is wearing is a Nike Air Ship.”

In fact, they’re so difficult to procure that even Michael Jordan himself couldn’t get his hands on them. De Vaney told Radio.com he recently shipped one to Michael’s second-oldest son Marcus, bringing his collection from 33 to 32.

Now, as reported by Radio.com, he’s on a mission to bring his collection to the United States, and expand its platform.

“For me, it’s truly about getting my collection over to the States either to be exhibited in museums… (or) I would like to donate it to Michael,” De Vaney said in the interview. “So I’m certainly not out trying to make a dollar off of it, I would just like to give this to Michael as part of his legacy for people to enjoy.”

A noble mission, and one that will be fascinating to track, if De Vaney’s social media account is any indication of how his passion for Jordan runs.

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