Bulls

Dwyane Wade's 'perfect storm' makes his debut a dramatic one in Bulls' win

Dwyane Wade's 'perfect storm' makes his debut a dramatic one in Bulls' win

The dream opening was turning into a nightmare as the ball rolled out to Dwyane Wade in the corner with the shot clock headed toward danger zone and the Bulls already living there for the last several minutes.

Three seconds later, Wade was signaling to the United Center crowd that it was okay to exhale after a contested, step-back triple over Avery Bradley with 26.3 seconds left, giving the Bulls a five-point lead in their season-opening 105-99 win over the Boston Celtics Thursday night.

“I saw Jimmy (Butler) going to the basket, I saw he was gonna make the pass but they stripped it and it rolled right to me,” Wade said. “It was like the perfect storm.”

After the clinching thunder clap, Wade strutted up the floor and gave a throat-slashing sign that will likely earn him a trip to the Principal’s office—but he’ll take the fine as long as it comes with the result.

“When I released it, I ain’t gonna say I knew it was going in because anything can happen but I felt very good about the shot,” Wade said. “It was a moment where a lot of emotion ran through me.

“I was excited, man. It’s opening night. It’s my first game back home and to be able to make a shot like that to help us get that win, yes I was very excited.”

Moments later, he trailed Gerald Green down the sideline before the ensuing inbounds pass, telling the Celtic some things he certainly didn’t want to hear before stripping Green of his 3-point attempt and knocking it off Green’s hands to stymie Boston’s last best chance at keeping itself in the game.

It was a small reminder that just in case the Chicago Cubs need some help in the ninth inning Friday night, The Closer can step into the phone booth and save the day as Wade the defensive play capped off his night with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“Gerald, that’s my guy, we played together in Miami last year,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com after the win. “Rondo and Butler wanted me to help off and he knew it, so he started talking back after I said something. I told him he wasn’t gonna get that shot off.”

Green proved Wade’s words to be prophetic as he performed yet another magical act in 32 minutes of run, on a night that began with him on his knees as he was introduced to the crowd for the first time in a game that mattered—in front of his parents, family and friends, an event three decades in the making.

“I took that moment in the introduction, I’ve been waiting on that moment for a long time,” Wade said. “It was special for my family. They’ve been waiting just as long. I took the opportunity to thank God to be here. To have this career that I have, to make this decision on my own. I just took in a moment and then, it was game time.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Wasting no time, Wade hit three triples in the first half—nearly halfway to last year’s season total (seven)—as the Bulls jumped out to a 15-point lead.

“Just tweaking a couple things and not redoing (his shot),” said Bulls coach and de-facto shot doctor Fred Hoiberg. “He’s bought into it. And for a guy that’s been in the league as long as he has, that says a lot about him that he’s willing to work and add an element to his game.”

Wade, Butler and Rondo were a big reason why the Bulls shot a surprising 44 percent from long range, which masked their overall bad shooting night of 39 percent compared to the Celtics making half of their 76 attempts.

Butler led the Bulls with 24 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes, as the night began with a bang but nearly fizzled after the Bulls blew a 15-point lead—with the Celtics threatening to ruin a festive and hopeful atmosphere.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas lived up to his namesake, nearly becoming a Bulls’ killer with 25 points on just 15 shots, carrying the Celtics’ offense as it rallied to take advantage of a stagnant Bulls’ showing before Wade saved the night.

The Celtics methodically got themselves together in the third quarter, as Thomas’ triple gave them a 69-68 lead with less than five minutes to play. Bradley scored 16 and Jae Crowder scored 14 for the Celtics, as they held Al Horford to just 11 with seven rebounds in 30 minutes.

Taj Gibson and Michael Carter-Williams took turns charging up the Bulls’ offense, particularly Gibson with his 18 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.

The Bulls had an outsized rebounding advantage, 55-36 with seven players grabbing six rebounds or more to help Gibson and Robin Lopez, with the 18 offensive rebounds leading to more margins for error.

“We know in order for us to make the game so much easier, everybody has to touch the ball, everybody has to have that chance of being guarded,” Butler said. “As long as you move it, it’s probably gonna end up coming to you for a better shot.”

Butler wished the statistician would’ve awarded him with his fourth assist on Wade’s big jumper but isn’t complaining too much.

“He’s done it his entire career, this is just another year for him. I’m just happy he’s doing it for the Chicago Bulls.”

And for the first time, Chicago can cheer its hometown son without conflict.

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: