Bulls

Dwyane Wade ready to balance minutes, substitution patterns with Bulls

Dwyane Wade ready to balance minutes, substitution patterns with Bulls

Dwyane Wade’s minutes per game have decreased in each of the last four seasons, and he’s missed a combined 102 since the start of the 2011-12 season. Those facts are hardly surprising for a 14-year veteran who will turn 35 before this year’s All-Star break, and one who has dealt with knee injuries much of his career and has logged nearly 37,000 minutes between the regular season and postseason.

Wade still has plenty left in the tank, as witnessed by his impressive performance in last year’s postseason and the fact that he played in 74 regular-season games, the most since 2010 when LeBron James and Chris Bosh first joined him in Miami. The Bulls showed this summer they believe Wade has something to offer when they gave him a two-year, $47.5 million deal to return home.

Wade averaged 22.3 minutes per game in six preseason games, playing between 24 and 27 minutes in the five games after he logged 12 minutes in the preseason opener. He also sat the second of a back-to-back in Milwaukee. It’ll be up to Wade, head coach Fred Hoiberg and the coaching staff to come up with a plan to keep Wade as fresh as possible over the course of the next five-plus months while also allowing putting the Bulls in the best position to win each night.

“(Hoiberg) hasn’t said, ‘You’re going to play 30 minutes exactly,’” Wade said at Thursday’s shootaround. “A lot of it is just, looking at preseason, I think I’m going to be around 30-32 minutes just by the substitution patterns that (Hoiberg) is thinking about for me. I’m good with it. We haven’t had a (direct) conversation, but we’re both cool with it.”

Wade said that those substitution patterns will be more important than the total number of minutes he logs each night. He joked that in a perfect world the Bulls would have a big enough lead where he could sit the entire fourth quarter. How the game plays out will dictate the number of minutes Wade plays, but both he and Hoiberg will do their best to keep Wade fresh by timing when he subs out and returns to the game over a 48-minute span.

“I’m not a kind of guy that wants to stay out for 10-12 minutes on the clock because I’m gonna get a little stiff. I’m also not a kind of guy that wants to go for 12 minutes straight, so I think (Hoiberg) is learning me, and we stay in constant communication about when I’ve got a little break and I’m ready to go again.

“I don’t need to be out there the whole quarter neither. Take me out when you need to, I’ll get a break and I’m ready to go again. So it’s all about figuring it out and we’re doing a good job of it.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

When the Heat got off to a 15-9 start last season Wade played fewer than 30 minutes in 11 of the 23 games he appeared in, and five of the first eight contests to begin the year. So while he may take some time to get his legs underneath him, Hoiberg noted that on multiple occasions in the preseason Wade asked to return to the game in the second half to build up a rhythm for the regular season.

“A lot of it will depend on how he’s feeling. We have an idea about where we want him with his minutes, we’ve talked about that with him,” Hoiberg said. “But if he’s feeling great, maybe one game he’s not feeling so good, we’ll go away from it. But we’ve got an idea of where we want him with his minutes and we’ll try to stick to it.”

Wade said he doesn’t have a particular goal in mind for the number of games he’d like to play this season. But after 13 years in the league he has found the best way for him to attack the game each night while also keeping an eye toward the bigger picture, when the Bulls will need him down the stretch in April and potentially into the postseason.

“I want to take advantage of every moment and opportunity as I can and help get my team a chance to win,” he said. “So it’s my job to try to take care of my body away from the game of basketball, and then when I’m on the court I pray and knock on wood that I don’t get injured and can stay out there.”

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

Bleacher Report named Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season. The list included five players whose expectations have exceeded what author Grant Hughes, felt is realistic for this upcoming season. It is not entirely shocking for LaVine to make this list, and his defense was the main reason he was included. But the potential for his offensive output to get even better was somewhat overlooked. 

Per Hughes:

In 2016-17, he ranked 441st out of 468 players in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus metric. Last year, he was 490th out of 521. According to Basketball Reference, he's never posted a defensive box plus-minus in positive territory. He topped out at minus-2.0 in his abbreviated 2017-18 season.....It's hard to justify rotation minutes for a player like that, let alone $78 million.

Hughes’ critique is harsh, but based off of statistics that are hard to argue with. LaVine has indeed been one of the worst defenders in the league for the entirety of his NBA career, and his netting of the $78 million falls hand-in-hand with Jabari Parker’s comments on players not being paid to play defense. But for the Bulls to take the leap from lottery-to-playoff contender, at least a league-average D will have to be cobbled together. But that responsibility will not fall solely on his shoulders, and that is why I am skeptical on the idea of LaVine being “overhyped”. 

The post goes on to elaborate that even if LaVine was to recapture the magic of his solid 2016-17 season, he still would be a player who gives up more points on defense than he gets his team on offense. That is a strong possibility, but with the addition of Wendell Carter Jr. as another rim protector, capable of at least providing a hard hedge (if not an outright switch), there is a possibility that LaVine becomes a more aggressive defender out on the perimeter. But that is unlikely, and a much more realistic outcome is LaVine’s offensive value surpassing what is expected.

LaVine’s strength last season was his ability to get to the free throw line. Despite coming off a major ACL injury, he was able to get 4.5 free throw attempts per game, a mark that would’ve had him sandwiched between players like Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo had he qualified (LaVine only played in 24 games). It was the highest free throw attempt rate of his career, and assuming he expands on that in a year where he should be completely healthy, he will be one of the best in the league at getting to the line. 

His efficiency will be helped by players like Parker and Lauri Markkanen, who will draw attention off of him. LaVine’s 3-point percentage last season was 34 percent, a number that was more of a reflection of that fact that he was still working his way back into game shape. That 3-point percentage will soon trend more towards the 38 percent mark he shot the previous two seasons. And his 3-point attempts were also down, another mark that is sure to trend upwards, especially with Parker’s inclusion as a scorer who does most of his half-court work in the mid-post area. 

The way the 2018-19 Bulls are built, there is little behind Kris Dunn in the way of a reliable backup point guard, though there is belief internally that Cam Payne can develop into that player. But there is a strong possibility that LaVine will be used as a backup point guard to free up minutes for one of Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine or Chandler Hutchison. And in his rookie year, playing point guard, LaVine had an assist rate of 24 percent, but also an incredibly high turnover percentage. Since making the full-time switch to shooting guard, he has not posted a turnover rate above 10 percent. So, if he can adjust to the fact that there are other players capable of scoring 20 points on the floor—like he did in Minnesota—it is entirely possible for LaVine to be a player capable of getting you 20 points and five assists per game while scoring efficiently and avoiding turnovers. Even if his defense continues to be dreadful, a player who can keep the offense running well from either guard spot is definitely valuable in today’s league. 

In his last season with Minnesota, LaVine had a usage rate of 21.7 percent, a number much lower than his extremely high 29.5 usage rate last season with the Bulls. And while many think of LaVine as a high-volume shooter, his usage rate last year was likely a result of him forcing the issue to try to prove he was worth a significant investment. With his shiny, new contract in tow, LaVine should be focused on making the team better, and get one step closer to his Timberwolves self. On that squad, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each scored 20+ points per game, while LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game. And the team finished in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive rating.

It is not crazy to think the Bulls could have their own high-scoring trio in LaVine, Markkanen and Parker. And if that is the case, then the expectation is for LaVine to be a efficient scorer who can occasionally spot the open man. Hyped? Yes. But overhyped? No one is banking on him being an All-Star, though it remains in the realm of possibility. The idea that he is overhyped is based on the fact his new contract is $78 million and he is poor at defense, but this is overlooking the fact that LaVine has proven he is a player capable of having a large role on a top-10 offense. September 30 can’t get here fast enough.  

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.