Bulls

Bulls notes: Birthday boy Thibodeau happy to be back in Boston

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Bulls notes: Birthday boy Thibodeau happy to be back in Boston

BOSTON -- Tom Thibodeau spent his 55th birthday Thursday in a city that means a lot to him: Boston.
He indicated that his usual custom of going out for dinner with his former boss, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers continued, and the Maywood, Ill., native had to pick up the tab, a running joke between the pair that Thibodeau is aware Rivers will give him a hard time about through the media.
Of course Rivers informed the media that he paid for the coaches meal! Thibodeau quipped. He had to, too.
Birthday aside, the former Harvard University assistant coach his last stop before embarking on a 20-year NBA odyssey prior to landing the Chicago job talked about the special meaning Boston has for him, specifically winning the 2009 NBA title as a Celtics assistant.
I was very fortunate to be here. Its a great organization. To be part of a championship team, I think its a special place, so I always respect that, he said before the Bulls morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I look forward to seeing these guys after we play, but I also know their spirit. Its a very competitive group. When the ball goes up, I want to beat them just as badly as they want to beat me, so I know whats at stake here.
Celtics Bradley impresses Thibodeau
Thibodeau discussed the impact of Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley, a defensive specialist who returned from a shoulder injury suffered in last year's playoffs. Since Bradley came back to the lineup Jan. 2, Boston has been a different team, as hes taken some pressure of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on the defensive end of the court, as well as given the Celtics, who added several newcomers in the offseason, a dose of athleticism and added some familiar chemistry.
Hes huge. Sometimes guys like that and he proved it last year, too statistically, you cant measure their impact. But his energy, his toughness, his ability to slow people down, I think that brings a lot to the team, Thibodeau said of Bradley. With the Celtics, the core of that team is still Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, and so, those guys have been through a lot of wars together, and you throw Doc Rivers into it, theyre going to always figure things out and theres a lot of toughness there. Theyve got a lot of new faces, so theyre sort of figuring that out, but the core of the team is intact.
Bulls collective effort working in Roses absence
While theres been some uneven play at times during the campaign, like last season, the Bulls have seemingly found a formula for success without the star power of the sidelined Derrick Rose in the lineup. Thibodeau is far from satisfied, but acknowledged that the Bulls team approach has been effective at times.
The big thing for us was you can never replace Derrick individually and we knew that from the start, so for us, it was to do it collectively. Everyone would have to step up, do their job and put a lot into it. Thats our only chance and for the most part, weve done that, he explained. You cant replace a guy like Derrick individually, so we understand it has to be done with our defense and our rebounding, and sharing the ball and everybody being ready to step up.
You always feel like you can do better and there have been stretches where weve played well, the coach continued. For the most part, I think the attitude and the approach have been very good.

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: