Bulls

Zion, Ill.’s Admiral Schofield carving out a niche in positionless NBA

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USA TODAY

Zion, Ill.’s Admiral Schofield carving out a niche in positionless NBA

LAS VEGAS — Admiral Schofield was one of the more unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Zion, Ill. native and Zion-Benton High School product is 6-foot-4, with the size of a point guard but the skills of a wing.

Schofield was selected by the Washington Wizards with the No. 42 overall pick in the second round. He’s the kind of player who doesn’t fit into a neat box, and part the four-year Tennessee standout fell in the draft is teams’ inability to answer the question of what position he plays.

Schofield has his own answer.

“I’m a winner,” Schofield said Tuesday night, after the Wizards played a Summer League game. “That’s what position I am. I impact the game any way I can. I’m not a guy where you say, he’s a two, he’s a three, he’s a four, he’s a five. People look at me and say, he’s a linebacker.”

The lion’s share of attention on the Wizards’ Summer League team has been focused on their No. 9 overall pick, former Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese-born player ever to be picked in the draft. A sizeable throng of Japanese media made the trip out to Las Vegas for Hachimura’s Summer League debut, and a side effect has been added attention for the Wizards’ other young players, including Schofield. It took him a while to ease into the action, but he showed off his full skill set on Tuesday.

“The first two games I was really just trying to play the right way and find my way into the offense,” Schofield said. “I wasn’t being very aggressive. Now, I’ve seen a lot of mismatches and opportunities out there. I was able to use my physicality to draw fouls and shoot the three. I wanted to showcase that.”

Schofield will likely spend time in the G League his rookie year, as most second-round picks do. But he could have the opportunity to crack the rotation in Washington, with a roster filled with unproven young players. With John Wall likely missing the whole season as he recovers from a torn Achilles, the Wizards are short on proven high-level contributors outside of fellow All-Star Bradley Beal. Schofield is attempting to carve out a unique role while showcasing his talents at Summer League.

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve shown is toughness,” Schofield said. “Being able to guard multiple positions with my physicality, Being able to snag rebounds and bang with bigger guys. But the biggest thing is my ball handling and playing with a great pace. Also being confident enough with my defense that guys will rotate over.

“The biggest thing is to go out there and compete,” Schofield said. “Being athletic, showing guys I can shoot the ball, and just competing at a high level. That’s what it’s about. I want to be known as a winner.”

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

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USA TODAY

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

The 2017 NBA Draft class has started to show their true colors three seasons into their respective careers and we have a good idea of where each player stands with their franchise. The Orlando Magic have made a decent-sized commitment to 2017 No.  1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, exercising their fourth-year team option on the 21-year old guard. This keeps him under contract for the 2020-21 season for $12.3 million.

Bulls star forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted No. 7 overall in 2017, will likely have a decision made soon on his fourth-year option ($6.7 million), but his position with the Bulls was never in doubt, however, what the move by Orlando did was again bring to the forefront how impressive Markkanen has been as compared to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft class.

Among the top 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen is second in win shares (6.1) to only No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum (12.0).

Markkanen was not a household name coming off of his lone year at Arizona and had the reputation of a floor-spacer who brought little else to the floor in terms of value, he quickly dispelled those notions, going on a historic tear that resulted in one of the best rookie campaigns in Bulls history.

He was the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and before Markkanen none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.

Unlike Fultz, who suffered to find his footing with a playoff-bound Sixers team and has yet to play for his latest team in Orlando, Markkanen's career was aided by the fact that the Bulls were thin on frontcourt depth right at the start of the 2017-18 season. Markkanen has not looked back since given an opportunity to be the Bulls starting power forward and has averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

Markkanen has become better in every aspect of his game and will need a similar sort of leap if the Bulls hope to turn things around in 2020. The Magic reaffirming their belief in Fultz is in no way shocking, but it should serve as a reminder to Bulls fans that the franchise made out quite well by selecting the Finnish big man back in 2017 amid the uncertainty surrounding the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls.

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Zach LaVine excited for Year 2 of Wendell Carter Jr. after injury limited his rookie season

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine excited for Year 2 of Wendell Carter Jr. after injury limited his rookie season

Zach LaVine is one of the faces of the Bulls and also isn’t shy about sharing his opinion.

LaVine did the rounds for a number of interviews for a promotion with CarMax and dished on several things Bulls related. One of the eye-catching quotes in an interview with FanSided was about Wendell Carter Jr.

“He was starting to get into a groove when he got injured man, that’s one of the worst things in all of sports,” LaVine said of Carter. ”He’s been in the gym working all year. He has great defensive intangibles as a rookie, especially for a big guy as a rookie. I feel like it’s always tougher for them, but he’s shown different little flashes to where he’s seemed above his experience level, so I’m really excited for him.”

LaVine himself has gone through a solid year-by-year progression in his career, with the exception of his injury-limited first season with the Bulls in 2017-18. If he thinks Carter can make the same type of progress, the Bulls will have a solid player soon enough.

Carter averaged 10.3 points and 7 rebounds per game before missing the second half of the season due to injury in mid-January. LaVine noted Carter’s defense, which was what impressed people most about Carter as a rookie. The next step will be improving his offensive game.

Carter is fully expected to start at center, especially considering he started all 44 games he played in as a rookie. Robin Lopez is gone, but Luke Kornet and rookie Daniel Gafford have joined Cristiano Felicio on the big man depth chart for the Bulls.

For more on Carter, check out our player preview for him as we lead up to the start of the Bulls season.