Bulls

Bulls look to fend off surprise Warriors on CSN

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Bulls look to fend off surprise Warriors on CSN

When the Bulls glanced at their 2012-'13 schedule, a Jan. 26 meeting against the Warriors at home likely was nothing more than an afterthought. Golden State had gone just 23-43 in the strike-shortened season under first year head coach Marc Jackson the year before, and a roster without much overturn was not expected to do much damage in the deep Western Conference.

But here the Warriors stand at 26-15, fifth in the conference and 4.5 games back of the No. 2 seed Clippers in the Pacific Division, ready to keep their hot streak alive when they square off against the Bulls tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.

Arguably the biggest surprise in the NBA began the year 7-6 but won 10 of 12 during a stretch through the end of November and beginning of December to move to 17-8. The Warriors are 9-7 since Dec. 18, when the streak ended, but are playing their best basketball after home wins against the top two teams in the West -- a Monday win over the Clippers and a Wednesday win over the Thunder -- entering tonight's game.

The Warriors have been led by Stephen Curry, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after being perhaps the biggest snub from this year's All-Star game roster. The fourth-year combo guard is enjoying his best statistical season, averaging 20.9 points, 6.6 assists and a league-best 3.2 3-pointers per game, but was passed over on the All-Star roster for guards Tony Parker and James Harden and "wildcards" Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. Seeing as Curry is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to average 3.0 3-pointers per game and 6.0 assists, combined with the Warriors resurgence this year, made him a likely candidate for the roster.

But the Warriors won't be unrepresented on All-Star weekend, as power forward David Lee was named to his second All-Star appearance when the reserves were announced Thursday evening on TNT. His numbers are close to career-highs -- his 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds this year are close to his 20.2 point- and 11.7 rebound-averages in 2009-'10 when he was first named an All-Star -- but the Warriors' improved record and rebounding numbers are both indicative of Lee's impressive season.

While Lee has been impressive inside and Curry -- shooting better than 45 percent from beyond the arc -- has been as good as anyone from beyond the arc, the third part of the triple-headed monster is sophomore shooting guard Klay Thompson. The 6-foot-7 Thompson was considered the best shooter in the 2011 NBA Draft and didn't disappoint when he shot 41 percent from 3 after Golden State made him the No. 11 pick. While his percentages are slightly down in his second season, his 2.7 made 3-pointers per game are third in the league. Thompson's game hasn't fully rounded out -- he averages just 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game -- but he is a perfect complement to Curry and has made the Warriors' backcourt one of the most lethal in the West. Interesting to note, Thompson has made 49 of his last 51 free throws (96.1 percent).

Two different styles will clash tonight at the United Center -- Golden State is 8th in the NBA in 3-pointers per game (7.8) and second in percentage (39 percent) and are averaging 100.7 points per game; the Bulls are last in the NBA at 4.7 mad 3-pointers and 11th in percentage, averaging 93.6 points per game -- and the Bulls are looking to win their season-best third game in a row at home. Tune into Comcast SportsNet tonight for all your Bulls' coverage.

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

0:00- Will Perdue drops by to talk hoops. What will the Bulls do this summer to address their point guard need?

7:00- The Bulls need a point guard. Derrick Rose is a free agent. Should they bring him back home?

11:30- Carman says the Bulls should consider trading for Lonzo Ball. Kap yells at him.

16:30- Will talks about this year's playoffs and if anybody will be the Warriors?

20:00- The Bears Top 100 list continues to dominate discussion. Chris makes the case for Jay Cutler to be higher. He gets yelled at.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: