Bulls

Bulls come up short again against Heat, and this time it's costly

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Bulls come up short again against Heat, and this time it's costly

Some observations on the Bulls’ close-but-no-cigar 106-98 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night, which all but ended their playoff chances:

Urgency: It was there from the jump, and present for the most part. The Bulls’ energy ebbed and flowed all throughout the year, waning for some of the lesser teams and rising for the best competition. They came in focused and seemed well-aware of matters facing them. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler tried to find a rhythm early, and Fred Hoiberg reversed a season-long trend by keeping at least one of the two out there with the second unit when subs began swapping out on both teams.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

It led to a balance in the first two quarters that hadn’t been seen for much of the season. Where was this urgency against Memphis, or the Knicks (twice), or the Magic (twice) or (insert team here)? It should be excruciating to think for some of the players who openly talked about being the playoffs, the fact they couldn’t bring it for a handful of these games.

It could’ve turned the team’s fortunes and had them in a different cluster—the one with Miami, Boston, Atlanta and Cleveland, jockeying for position in the middle of the playoff order.

Instead, they’re on the outside looking in.

Heat Wave: Although the Bulls took a one-point lead with 4:43 left, you felt like it was a matter of time before one of the Heat shot makers stepped up and put the Bulls out of their misery.

From there, it seemed like the Bulls knew what was coming and they did contest a few of the next several possessions at the rim. The result? Back to back three-point plays fro Dwyane Wade and then Hassan Whiteside, turning the tide and after a Jimmy Butler turnover, Luol Deng’s layup made it a seven-point game. All in the blink of an eye, seemingly.

The offense couldn’t get a good shot when it needed to, and the defense was nowhere near dependable as the Heat exploited every opening the Bulls offered—especially you, Josh Richardson.

Disappearing acts: The Bulls’ defense disappeared in the second half, as it was wont to do all season long, giving up 66 points to a Heat team that played as desperately as the Bulls should have after the half.

Butler struggled tracking Wade, and Derrick Rose had his issues with Goran Dragic, who had 16 points and 12 assists.

But with their defense being an issue all year, their shooters had nothing to give. Nikola Mirotic was on a milk carton, as his up and down play will likely continue to the end, as well as Doug McDermott, as the questions will now revolve around their futures in Chicago, their roles going forward.

McDermott scored six and Mirotic fouled out in 27 minutes, scoring four. They were supposed to be the featured in Hoiberg’s offense but again couldn’t be counted on. And Mike Dunleavy looked to be laboring all over the floor as his shot has abandoned him in the last few weeks, adding more question marks as everyone should be evaluated with a critical eye come offseason.

What’s next? The lottery! Well, before that, three games remain before the players depart for the offseason, starting with Cleveland on national TV Saturday night. In other words, 144 more minutes of this misery. Enjoy.

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. 

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

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NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”