Bulls

Bulls could add two perimeter players

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Bulls could add two perimeter players

So, are you caught up in the speculation over which wing scorer the Bulls will be able to acquire for the upcoming season? Dont be surprised if they wind up making more than one move before the opener against the Lakers on Christmas Day.

As first reported on Hoopsworld, free agent guard Jamal Crawfords preference would be a second tour of duty with the Bulls through a sign and trade deal with Atlanta. According to the report, the Bulls would offer Ronnie Brewer and an unnamed second player (most likely Kyle Korver) to match a first year salary in the 8 to 9 million range for Crawford.

Now, why would Tom Thibodeau want a guy who my studio partner, Kendall Gill, calls the worst defensive player hes ever seen? Well, its pretty simple. Thibodeau has supreme confidence in his team defense concepts, and believes he can make anyone (including Crawford) a better defensive player. And, Jamal can provide instant offense as well as any shooting guard thats currently available.

Crawford was the Sixth Man of the Year for the 2009-2010 season when he averaged 18 points a game off the bench for the Hawks. Last season, his numbers dipped to 14.2 ppg on 42 shooting from the field, but as we saw in the playoff series against the Bulls, hes still got a lot of bounce in those legs, and can create a shot off the dribble, something the Bulls were sorely lacking outside of Derrick Rose in that playoff loss to Miami.

Adding Crawford would also allow Rose to play off the ball at times, and put his newly honed low-post skills to work. Lets face it, the Bulls asked Rose to do everything last season, and he responded by winning the MVP award. But all parties agree the Bulls would be more efficient, and Rose would have more energy in reserve for the playoffs, if he wasnt asked to carry the offense in each and every game.

Okay, so I mentioned the possibility of adding two new wing players. How is that possible? Well, if the Bulls match salaries in a trade for Crawford, they would still have their full mid-level exception to go after a solid veteran to back-up Luol Deng and also get minutes at the shooting guard spot. Maybe a veteran like Caron Butler, Josh Howard, Shane Battier, Tayshaun Prince or Grant Hill. All of those players would be great additions to the roster, more than making up for the loss of Brewer andor Korver in a trade for Crawford.

Right now, the Miami Heat are targeting Battier as their new sixth man, but maybe the Bulls could make a pitch to steal him away, citing better team chemistry with a no-nonsense, defense first coach. Hill is nearing the end of his career, but still is able to contribute on both ends of the floor. Butler or Howard would give the Bulls another scoring option, who could compete with Crawford for the starting spot opposite Rose. And, Prince would be an ideal defender for the Bulls system, who could even play some power forward at times, which would give the front office even more flexibility in considering future moves.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.