Bulls

Bulls need to start fine-tuning for the playoffs

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Bulls need to start fine-tuning for the playoffs

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 10:01 a.m.
By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com
With less than a month left in the NBAs regular season, the competition is heating up for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It might come down to the Bulls-Celtics game at the United Center on April 7th, but then again, Boston coach Doc Rivers has already said he wont push his veteran starters just to get the number one seed. The Celtics have been to the NBA Finals in two of the last three seasons, and Rivers is confident they can win any series, even without home court advantage.

The Bulls, on the other hand, will go all out to get the top spot so they can avoid playing either Boston or Miami in the Conference semi-finals. Finishing 1st means an opening round match-up against a team with a losing record (either Indiana, Charlotte or Milwaukee), and a semi-final series against either Orlando or Atlanta. And, if the Bulls are fortunate enough to advance to the Conference finals, playing a potential Game 7 at home against either Boston or Miami would be extremely valuable.

READ: Bulls playoff tickets go on sale Friday

So, aside from finishing with the best record, what other goals should Tom Thibodeau and his staff have for the rest of the regular season? First off, getting some rest for Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. Those two players lead the team in minutes played, and theyre always on the court in crunch time. Knowing Thibodeaus desire to win every possession, its hard to picture him changing his rotation, unless the Bulls find a way to wrap up home court advantage before the final week. But any time off Rose and Deng can get down the stretch will certainly help them heading into the playoffs.

Secondly, the Bulls need to re-establish Carlos Boozer in the low post. Even before Boozer suffered that ankle sprain earlier this month, his offensive numbers had dropped significantly. The Bulls struggled to get the ball to Boozer on the block, and more and more of his shots became fallaway jumpers. With the emphasis on half-court execution in the playoffs, the Bulls need Boozer playing at peak efficiency again, so its important to use the final weeks of the regular season to get Carlos more touches so he can feel confident about his game going into the post-season. Over his career, Boozer has increased his production in the playoffs, which is a very encouraging sign for Bulls fans.

WATCH: Rose on Bulls' 41-point 2nd quarter in win over Hawks

Finally, we know Rose will play at an MVP level in the playoffs, but with opposing defenses geared to keeping him out of the paint, the Bulls need their perimeter shooters to play at a high level as well. Thibodeau is committed to Keith Bogans as his starting shooting guard, so forget about Rasual Butler becoming part of the rotation. That means the Bulls need to get more minutes for Kyle Korver, and more options for Deng to spot up at the three-point line. Ultimately, the Bulls prospects to advance in the playoffs will rest on their outstanding defense and their ability to knock down open shots created by Roses penetration.

So, what do you think? Is a number one seed crucial to the Bulls playoff prospects? Is Boozers low post offense another key to post-season success? And, are you confident Bogans will be able to knock down those wide-open 3s in the playoffs?

Feel free to post your comments in the section below. Were looking forward to a great stretch run with the Bulls, Celtics and Heat all chasing 60 wins, with the hope of earning home court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: