Bulls

Deng another game-time decision

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Deng another game-time decision

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesnt have any plans to rush back Luol Deng from a nagging hamstring injury, even if it means the All-Star reserve misses his own bobblehead night.
I didnt realize that, Thibodeau said laughing when told of Dengs bobblehead. Yeah, thats why were bringing him back.
Thibodeau did, however, seem more optimistic about Dengs chances to play tonight at home against the Bobcats, calling him a true game-time decision. Deng, who was named an All-Star last Thursday, has missed the last five games and the Bulls have taken a cautious approach to his return.
Thibodeau said Deng participated a little bit more in this mornings team shoot-around that the Berto Center, and that hes gotten better every day since aggravating the injury Jan. 18 in Boston.
Swingman Jimmy Butler may have hinted at a potential return tonight for Deng.
I feel great. Glad to have Luol back. Were just gonna keep rolling, same role coming off the bench and just try to keep winning games, he said. I hope he does (play) because hes a big part of our team and we want him out there.
When Deng does make his eventual return to the lineup, Butler knows it will relegate him back to the bench. But the second-year forward said he will continue to have an effect on games, and that his recent stretch in the starting lineup has helped his confidence moving forward.
I feel like when an opportunity presents itself you have to take it, Butler said. (Starting) gave me a lot more confidence in knowing what I can do and having my teammates believe in me more on both ends of the floor. So I feel like it was a definite confidence boost.
Butler has put together the best stretch of his career in the last 10 days, averaging 14.2 points 8.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in more than 45 minutes the last five contests. The Bulls are 3-2 in that span, and Butlers emergence as a capable scorer and stout defender has helped the Bulls replace the league leader in minutes per game.
Like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli before him Robinson has started five games in place of Kirk Hinrich; Belinelli started 12 games in Rip Hamiltons absence the Chicago reserves are proving to Thibodeau they can step up when their name is called.
We always do whats best for the team. You guys make it sound like its a new revelation. Jimmys played well and its what we expect of our bench, Thibodeau said, and when you look at it deeper, when Marco stepped in he did a great job. So we feel very good about our bench and when someone is out we expect that next person to step up.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.


Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.


But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 


Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.

 

For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 


Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal. 

Bulls need to develop a secondary playmaker

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USA TODAY

Bulls need to develop a secondary playmaker

These are the career points per 36 minutes numbers for the three players who figure to get majority of the field goal attempts on the 2018-19 Bulls:

Zach LaVine: 17.6 
Lauri Markkanen: 18.4 
Jabari Parker: 17.9

There is no debating that this current Bulls roster has multiple players who can flat-out put the ball in the basket. The the biggest questions come into play when you try to imagine how these players will keep each other involved, assuming they take the lion's share of the field goal attempts.

Kris Dunn finished just outside the top 10 in the league in assist percentage (33.3 percent), a higer mark than Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry or Stephen Curry. And though he is a talented passer, what this figure really shows is that the Bulls severely lack a secondary playmaker to take pressure off of Dunn to create shots for others.

Per Ben Falk's site Cleaning The Glass, Markkanen was not able to create for others with his offense, but shockingly, Parker and LaVine did an OK job in the play-making department, considering their reputation as shoot-first players.

Assist rate is a great way to see how much a player is distributing when they are on the floor. And usage rate is perhaps the best way to get an idea of how many possessions a player uses on offense. So naturally, assist to usage ratio is one of the best tools to use to assess a player's ability and willingness to create opportunities for others on offense. What the statistic boils down to is: how often did a player get an assist given how much they had the ball. 

Parker finished last season in the 67th percentile in assist to usage ratio, and LaVine finished in the 58th percentile. These numbers show that both players are capable passers and clearly have the potential to be great setup men.

This is crucial because Markkanen’s development will heavily depend on if he can expand his scoring repertoire, something that looks increasingly difficult with Parker and LaVine, who have averaged a combined 29.5 field goal attempts per 36 minutes for their careers. 

Many times throughout the offseason you likely heard about how the Bulls have many mouths to feed in the locker room. But this doesn’t pertain to just shots, ball-control will be a major concern as well. With incumbent point guard Kris Dunn still a relatively weak floor-spacer (32 percent from 3-point range last season), Fred Hoiberg will need to get creative with his rotations to keep the offense running efficiently. Backup point guard Cam Payne shot 38 percent from the 3-point line last season, and when inserting him into the game for Dunn, Parker would flourish as a point-forward (possibly) surrounded by four competent shooters. Parker could derail the Bulls offense because he is not an elite 3-point shooter, but that issue is mitigated when you put the ball in his hands to let him create.


Parker was fourth in the pecking order in Milwaukee last season, and so it comes as no surprise that his free throw attempts, points and field goal percentage dropped from his 2017 numbers. If you look at the 2017 season (Parker’s breakout season) you see that Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo pretty much split the No. 1 options duties on offense. They each took about 16 shots apiece and combined for 8.2 assists per game. This is a best case scenario for the Parker-LaVine wing duo. 


LaVine has the benefit of coming into the league as a point guard, and he has still retained the ability to make the right pass when it presents itself. And last season, he had an impressive turnover percentage that was just below 10 percent. However, the reason for this was that he averaged 4.34 seconds per touch, a very long time in an NBA possession, usually looking to score and nothing else. It’s easy to avoid turnovers when you aren’t looking to pass.


LaVine usually makes the obvious play if it is one pass away, but he does not move the ball around to prevent the offense from becoming stagnant.


Both LaVine and Parker will have their struggles on defense (understatement of the year), but much more important to their development is understanding that if you give the ball up on offense, it will find its way back to you. This is perhaps the only way a Bulls team that ranked 28th last season in offensive rating, can make a big enough leap in scoring efficiency to make their way back to the postseason.