Bulls will have plenty of options in 2017 NBA Draft

Bulls will have plenty of options in 2017 NBA Draft

Owning homecourt advantage at this week's NBA Draft Combine, the Bulls have one of the league's largest contingents for the testing and games at Quest Multisport, including their analytics experts and head of international scouting Ivica Dukan.

Picking in the middle of the first round (16th overall), you can expect the Bulls to go with the "best athlete available" formula, with extra emphasis on finding a young wing player to develop behind Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.

So, assuming the Bulls stay at No. 16, which players might still be on the board when they're on the clock? Let's start with a pair of athletic wings' OG Anunoby (Indiana) and Terrance Ferguson (currently playing professionally in France).

Anunoby would have probably been a lottery pick if he had not suffered a knee injury that ended his sophomore season with the Hoosiers. At 6-foot-8, with a 7'2 1/4" inch wingspan, Anunoby should be a plus defender immediately. With the Bulls, he could provide valuable rest for Butler and also spare the three-time All-Star the responsibility of guarding the opposing team's best scorer for long stretches.

Anunoby only averaged 11.1 points during his shortened sophomore year at Indiana, but he has the athleticism to run the floor for easy baskets, and since he still hasn't turned 20, he has plenty of time to develop his offensive game.

Similar story with Ferguson, who grew up in Tulsa but decided to play overseas rather than spend a year in college. He's only averaging 4.6 points for French team Adelaide, but scouts are intrigued by his physical skills and potential as a 6-foot-7 shooting guard.

Some other players to watch in the middle of the first round include power forwards' Ivan Rabb (California) and John Collins (Wake Forest). Rabb was projected as a likely lottery pick last season, but decided to return to Cal for his sophomore year.

Facing double teams most of the season, Rabb didn't show the improvement in his numbers (14 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game) that a lot of NBA scouts expected. Still, the 6-foot-10 lefty continues to draw comparisons to long-time Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat star Chris Bosh, and is a polished low post scorer.

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Rabb can hit consistently from mid-range, but if the Bosh comparisons are going to hold up, he'll need to stretch his shooting skills out to the 3-point line.

I asked Rabb about the possibility of being drafted by the Bulls.

"One of my friends, Bobby Portis, he's a real good player," Rabb said. "He played pretty well in the playoffs and throughout the season. I know they traded Taj Gibson, they have (Nikola) Mirotic, so I'm not really sure what they plan on doing. I feel that's a great destination from me, too."

The Bulls needs at power forward depend heavily on whether they re-sign Mirotic, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1. Rabb could be a good fit as an athletic, rangy 4 who can replace some of the skills the Bulls lost with the Gibson trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Similar story with Collins, who averaged 19.2 points at Wake Forest last season. The 6-foot-10 Collins is known for his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim, but he understands how important it is to show scouts he can be a threat from the 3-point line.

"I think I can shoot it a lot better than I've shown, or had the ability to show," Collins said. "Definitely going to be working on that, and keep on expanding on that, so when the time is necessary for me to shoot it, I'm going to look good doing it."

When it comes to self-confidence, it will be tough for any of the prospects to top Creighton center Justin Patton. The 7-foot Patton averaged 12.9 points per game last season, playing for Doug McDermott's dad Greg McDermott at Creighton. Patton shot over 68 percent on 2-point attempts and is a powerful finisher on alley-oop passes.

When asked about his ability to be a "stretch 5" in the league like Al Horford or Karl-Anthony Towns, Patton said, "If they're looking for a stretch-5, they come to me, and find the right person. My skills translate perfectly. I can put the ball on the floor, I can shoot the ball with range, and I'm a willing passer, and a great passer too, and I have a high IQ."

Okay, then. Patton says he's already met with the Bulls and will be ready to play immediately with any team that drafts him. At this point, it seems unlikely the Bulls would draft a center at No. 16, but anything is possible considering Cristiano Felicio and Joffrey Lauvergne are both restricted free agents.

Other names to watch during the middle part of round one include power forwards' T.J. Leaf (UCLA) and Kyle Kuzma, Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard, Syracuse small forward Tyler Lydon and point guard Jawun Evans.

And, there's always the possibility the Bulls could be involved in a trade to move up into the Top 10. That would bring a whole different level of prospects into play. But for now, the front office is looking for athletes and shooters to add quality depth to a roster that figures to be very similar to the one we watched last season.

Michael Jordan played the numbers game during Bulls' sweep of Magic

Michael Jordan played the numbers game during Bulls' sweep of Magic

Michael Jordan swore he didn’t miss his final two free throws on purpose.

Nevertheless, there’s no denying this fact: No. 23 finished with 45 points.

“Sometimes, things are very ironic,” Jordan said that May 27, 1996 night after the Bulls swept the Magic out of the Eastern Conference finals.

One year and nine days after the Magic celebrated on the United Center floor after bouncing the Bulls from the playoffs, Jordan had his revenge.

Back then, fresh from coming out of his baseball-driven retirement, Jordan wore No. 45. This time, Superman wore the right cape.

Jordan capped a dominating series with his 45-point performance, finishing with averages of 29.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals. The rematch wasn’t much of one.

Jordan projected an aura unlike any athlete I’ve covered. Granted, covering him at age 28 and on my first big professional break at the Chicago Tribune, plays into any memory of that dynamic. But between his immaculate postgame wardrobes and the contemplative manner in which he’d consider postgame questions, every press conference felt like an event with a capital “E.”

On this night, Jordan mostly steered clear of any revenge talk. But for a man who slashed and burned his way through a Hall of Fame acceptance speech many years later, to pretend he didn’t remember Nick Anderson saying “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to” the previous year is foolish.

Jordan mostly concentrated his postgame remarks on the wide swath of the roster set to make their first NBA Finals appearance. Ron Harper. Steve Kerr. Jud Buechler. Bill Wennington. Toni Kukoc. Luc Longley. Randy Brown.

This depth proved essential to the Bulls winning an NBA-record 72 games and stampeding to an 11-1 mark through three rounds of the postseason. But as usual, Jordan’s sublime skill and cutthroat competitiveness burned brightest.

“Quite honestly, I don’t think Michael is going to be denied,” Magic coach Brian Hill said that night. “I think this is all about a testament to his will and his excellence as a basketball player.”

Indeed, Jordan scored 45 points as the other four starters combined for 35. Unlike uniform numbers, some things never change.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Picking four faces for Bulls' Mount Rushmore is harder than it appears

USA Today

Picking four faces for Bulls' Mount Rushmore is harder than it appears

Who is on the Bulls’ Mount Rushmore?

The assignment isn’t as easy as one might think.

Sure, you start with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They’re two first-ballot Hall of Famers who served as linchpins for one of the greatest dynasties in the history of professional sports.

But then who?

Along with Jordan and Pippen, Jerry Sloan and Bob Love are the two other retired numbers in franchise history. Phil Jackson coached six championship teams. Johnny “Red” Kerr is an integral and identifiable organizational fixture. Derrick Rose became the youngest most valuable player in NBA history and was on a Hall of Fame trajectory until knee injuries plagued him.

There are emotional arguments for heart-and-soul guys like Norm Van Lier and Joakim Noah. And this doesn’t even account for people like Chet Walker, Artis Gilmore and Jerry Krause.

Like we said, it’s hard. But here’s a stab:

Picking four faces for a Bulls all-time Mount Rushmore

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