Bulls

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Vincent Goodwill projects the first round

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Vincent Goodwill projects the first round

1. 76ERS - Ben Simmons, F (LSU)

Whether it’s a two-superstar draft or not, the 76ers could take the guy billed as the first pick for months in Simmons, a versatile and unselfish wing to jumpstart the path back to relevancy.

2. LAKERS - Brandon Ingram, F (Duke) 

Word has it the Lakers love being in this spot after keeping their pick, and Ingram would be a matchup nightmare with his long wingspan and ability to play three positions. But is he special?

3. CELTICS - Dragan Bender, F (Croatia)

This is where it gets uncertain as the Celtics could try to flip this pick for a veteran in win-now mode. But Bender has high upside, even if there’s question as to how long it’ll take him to get there.

4. SUNS - Jaylen Brown, G-F (California) 

One of the more intriguing prospects, Brown wants to work out against Simmons and Ingram for first two slots. Confident and young, can join Devin Booker on the wings as building block for future.

5. TIMBERWOLVES - Kris Dunn, G (Providence)

For Tom Thibodeau’s first draft pick, passing up a guard with defensive instincts could be too much to resist. His offense and shooting has progressed but Thibodeau will likely salivate at what Dunn can do for a defense.

6. PELICANS - Jamal Murray, G (Kentucky)

The Pelicans had injuries across the board but especially in the backcourt, so Murray will be able to play both positions and get a chance to compete immediately as a scorer off the ball.

7. NUGGETS - Buddy Hield, G (Oklahoma)

An explosive shooter, Hield maxed out at the college level as a four-year player. And as a professional, has good size for a shooting guard as he’ll play more off the ball as opposed to creating on his own.

8. KINGS - Skal Labissiere, F/C (Kentucky)

We all know the Kings’ owner loves picking up John Calipari players and this athletic big could join DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein in the frontcourt rotation.

9. RAPTORS - Marquese Chriss, F (Washington)

If Raps truly believe they can win now, perhaps they’ll package pick in trade for a veteran. But if they keep it, Chriss has one of the bigger upsides because he’s long, athletic and hasn’t played basketball long.

10. BUCKS - Jakob Poeltl, C (Utah) 

Back to the basket scorer, Poeltl could join an athletic and rangy Bucks team without having to fit the usual profile. How he performs defensively protecting the basket could be his greatest value down the line.

[RELATED: Mark Strotman's 2016 NBA Mock Draft]

11. MAGIC - Deyonta Davis, F (Michigan State) 

Prime candidate for a trade since the Magic have to start winning, but Davis has a legit upside although he has some question marks. Could play a big three or small-ball center with his athleticism.

12. JAZZ - Domantas Sabonis, PF/C (Gonzaga) 

The Jazz love stockpiling bigs who can protect the rim and score inside and Sabonis is this year’s man of mystery, an intriguing prospect.

13. SUNS - Henry Ellenson, C/F (Marquette) 

With Tyson Chandler aging and if they take a wing at four, they could go big here with Ellenson, a skilled big who could learn behind Chandler and develop at his own pace.

14. BULLS - Denzel Valentine, G-F (Michigan State) 

Since the Bulls passed on Draymond Green, they might go Green-lite with Valentine. The Bulls clearly need help on the wings and in the backcourt with depth, and Valentine could check all the boxes with his versatility.

15. NUGGETS - Taurean Prince, F (Baylor) 

With Wilson Chandler’s health in doubt, the Nuggets could draft Prince as an insurance policy. Prince is mature (22 years old), and fits the profile of a 3-and-D guy.

16. CELTICS - Timothe Luwawu, F (France) 

A guy the Celtics can stash overseas if need be, if the Celtics don’t package it. Luwawu is a good athlete who finishes in traffic and can be an elite defender in time.

17. GRIZZLIES - Demetrius Jackson, G (Notre Dame) 

Who knows if Jackson actually sticks around this long but with Mike Conley facing free agency, Jackson could be new coach David Fizdale’s hand-picked point guard who could develop in this slowdown system.

18. PISTONS - Wade Baldwin IV, G (Vanderbilt)

Don’t be shocked if the Pistons trade this pick for a veteran but they’re in need of a backup point guard in the worst way. Baldwin wouldn’t be a bad selection to play behind Reggie Jackson.

19. NUGGETS - Malik Beasley, G (Florida State)

He’s young (19), with room to grow but can score at the college level. Expect them to nab two wings with their trio of first-rounders.

20. PACERS - Tyler Ulis, G (Kentucky) 

The Pacers want to play fast, and there’s no better training ground than the dribble drive system in Kentucky. Ulis plays with pace and is a great distributor in the open floor.

[RELATED: Mark Schanowski's 2016 NBA Mock Draft]

21. HAWKS - Furkan Korkmaz, G (International)

Fluid scorer and outstanding shooter, according to accounts as Hawks need depth on the wings with Kent Bazemore entering free agency and Kyle Korver aging.

22. HORNETS - Damian Jones, C (Vanderbilt) 

Will take some time to develop but it’s easy to see the Hornets taking a big who can finish around the rim and knows where to get his shots. Seems to be a low-maintenance type.

23. CELTICS - Zhou Qi, C (International)

With size that’s scary in a good and bad way (7-foot-2), Qi has potential as a shot-blocking center who can cover a lot of space in little time.

24. 76ERS - DeAndre Bembry, F (St. Joseph’s)

Taking a local product in Bembry could help replenish the weakest point of the 76er roster—the wings, which has been historically bad in the Sam Hinkie era.
    
25. CLIPPERS - Caris LeVert, G-F (Michigan)

Before he got hurt, he was thought to be a sure-fire lottery pick with his skill set and versatility. If his medicals check out, will Doc Rivers roll the dice?

26. 76ERS - Dejounte Murray, G (Washington)

Murray can play both spots and has good size but is inconsistent. The 76ers will have to hope he can develop into a decent jump shooter.

27. RAPTORS - Cheick Diallo, PF/C (Kansas)

The Raptors aren’t afraid of taking big man projects and letting them develop, and with Jonas Valanciunas, they can let him learn at his own pace.

28. SUNS - Malachi Richardson, G/F (Syracuse) 

Richardson could be a mid-round pick or even slip early to the second as a potential shot maker and creator.

29. SPURS - Brice Johnson, F (North Carolina) 

Opinions on Johnson are mixed given his career at Carolina, but here’s thinking the Spurs won’t pass on his production as they’ll need frontcourt help and length.

30. WARRIORS - Juan Hernangomez, F (International) 

Fast-paced player who can make quick decisions in the Warriors’ system. But honestly, he’s a down the line option the franchise can stash away for the future and not take up cap space.

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

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USA TODAY

New-look Mavs looking to make big jump this season

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban conceded his team was playing for draft lottery position last season, but insisted it would be a one year only strategy.

Dallas finished tied for the league’s third worst record, but fell to fifth after the lottery.

So, Cuban and the Mavs’ front office decided to make a bold move on draft night, trading their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta to move up two spots for a chance to select international sensation Luka Doncic.

Early in the season, Doncic has more than lived up to the hype, showing the creativity and flair that made him such a fan favorite on the European professional circuit. Through the Mavs’ first two games, Doncic is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while giving Rick Carlisle’s team a much-needed boost in transition.

Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. will give opposing teams nightmares in the open court all season long. They led the offensive onslaught in the Mavs’ 140-136 win over Minnesota Saturday night, combining for 45 points. Doncic finished with 26 points, while Smith scored 10 of his 19 in the 4th quarter, including a tie-breaking three-point play with six seconds left.

Veteran swing-man Wesley Matthews added 19 against the Timberwolves, and his 3 point shooting helps the Mavs maintain floor balance in half-court sets.

The Mavs also strengthened their front court in the off-season, signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Dallas was overmatched in the middle last season, with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell giving up size in the post, but Jordan will provide rim protection and an alley-oop threat when Doncic, Smith Jr. or veteran point guard J.J. Barea drive to the basket. Jordan had a big game in the home opening win over Minnesota, scoring 22 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

Nowitzki, starting small forward Harrison Barnes and backup guard Devin Harris all missed Saturday’s game because of injuries, but Barnes and Harris are considered game-time decisions against the Bulls.

Here’s what the Bulls will need to do to get their first victory of the season Monday night.

1. GET BACK ON DEFENSE! Doncic and Smith Jr. are deadly in the open court, capable of making spectacular plays to bring the home crowd to life. The Bulls’ players have to sprint back on defense after missed shots to cut off transition opportunities, or it’s going to be a long night. The Mavs are averaging 128 points through the first two games.

2. CLOSE OUT ON 3-POINT SHOOTERS This will be a familiar theme in my keys until the Bulls start doing a better job of matching up in transition and closing out on three point threats. Detroit’s win at the United Center on Saturday came down to the Pistons’ 18-40 shooting from three-point range, and Dallas has even more players capable of doing damage from beyond the arc.

3. LET DUNN DO IT Getting Kris Dunn back from paternity leave should make a big difference on both ends of the court. Dunn has the athleticism and physicality to match up with either Doncic or Smith Jr., and his defensive skills will be critical in keeping the Mavs from turning this game into a track meet.

On the offensive end, Dunn need to be patient and get the ball into the hands of the Bulls’ top scorers, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. Even though Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play at a fast pace, they’ll need to pick their spots on when to run against the explosive Mavs.

As always, turn to NBC Sports Chicago for the very best pre and post-game coverage. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue join me for Bulls Pregame Live at 7 p.m/, and we’ll have expanded post-game analysis when the action goes final in Dallas. You can also stream the shows live on the brand new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”