Bulls

Bulls: Noah '50-50' to return Saturday as Hoiberg's lineup shuffling continues

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Bulls: Noah '50-50' to return Saturday as Hoiberg's lineup shuffling continues

Joakim Noah was going through extra shooting after the Bulls’ morning shootaround, and it seems to appear likely he’ll return next week from his shoulder strain that’s caused him to miss the last seven games.

Noah will miss Thursday night’s game against the Boston Celtics, but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is optimistic that when the schedule gets more strenuous over the next couple of weeks, he’ll have Noah ready.

“He’s out tonight and then Saturday, right now, he’s 50-50 at best I’d say,” said Hoiberg, referring to Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks. “Hopefully, we’ll get him for next week for sure, back for that four-in-five-nights stretch.”

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Starting next Monday, the Bulls have a four-game in five-night stretch and later, starting Jan. 20 with a home game against the Golden State Warriors, starts a three-game in four-night stretch that ends in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

And when Noah returns, it leaves Hoiberg with the same quandary he started the season with: finding minutes for rookie Bobby Portis. But in this instance, Portis won’t be going back to the bench, as he’s earned his increased playing time.

“Obviously, Bobby is still going to play. There’s no doubt about that,” Hoiberg said. “He’s too important for us right now to go back to the way it was. A big part of that is getting Niko (Mirotic) some experience at the small forward spot. He looks pretty good with that lineup. So we’ll stick with that starting group.”

[SPORTSTALK LIVE: Red-hot Bulls have won five straight]

Hoiberg will go back to mixing and matching with the second group, as one wonders how much time will be available for the likes of Mirotic, who’s now starting, along with Tony Snell and Doug McDermott—each of whom have had his moments in this impressive five-game stretch.

But keeping the energetic Portis on the floor along with a defensive force and offensive initiator like Noah gives Hoiberg comfort, and plenty of options.

“Pretty good. Jo with his role as a playmaker with that second group, being our second leading assist player, you can run things through Jo,” Hoiberg said. “Bobby is versatile enough where he can score from the outside if Jo gets by his man, even dribble-handoff type actions.

“It’s just a little different dynamic when Jo is out there because he’s such a unique player because you can put the ball in his hands.”

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He’s had to fiddle with his rotation all season based on matchups, and hasn’t had to worry much about players griping—with the rotation, at least. Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore can have big roles in wins one night, and sit the next game with the understanding their time will come again.

“It’s just being ready. I talked to them. They understand,” Hoiberg said. “They’re ready to go when their name is called upon. I almost put Cam (Bairstow) in the game when I took Taj (Gibson) out early and Pau (Gasol) picked up his second. I’m confident if Cam is called upon, he’s going to go to do a good job for us. It’s the reality of the situation with our group. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill discuss the NBA Draft and what happened at the NBA combine that shifted most experts mock drafts.

Kendall also explains why a "promise" to draft a player isn’t guaranteed. He also shares his experience on getting drafted by the Hornets and why he initially felt they were the wrong team for him.

North Carolina "News and Observer" Duke basketball beat writer Jonathan Alexander gives us his opinion on Wendell Carter and the other Duke draft prospects including why he thinks Carter will be a future all-star. Also includes an interview with Carter from the draft combine.

Listen to the full Bulls Talk Podcast right here:

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.