Experience the name of the game for Utah's Delon Wright


Experience the name of the game for Utah's Delon Wright

Front offices searching for experience in the NBA Draft need to look no further than Delon Wright.

At 23 he's one of the oldest players in this year's class, and he's had the unique experience of being around the NBA scene while watching his brother, Dorell, come up through the league as an 11-year role player. It's that experience of already knowing what to expect once he hears his name called on June 25, as well as his four seasons of collegiate basketball that make him believe he'll be able to step in right away and contribute to an NBA team.

As collegiate prospects became starstruck at last night's NBA Draft Combine working out in front of and interviewing with the likes of Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Pat Riley and others, it was something Wright was already accustomed to. His brother began his career in Miami, playing with future Hall of Famers Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, while also making stops in Golden State, Philadelphia and currently Portland.

"My brother has been in the league 11 years, so I’ve seen all these guys within that 11 years," he said at the combine. "So I’ve seen Pat Riley for 6 years straight. I’m accustomed to it."

[NBA DRAFT PROFILE: Utah G Delon Wright]

Delon grew up and played high school basketball in Los Angeles while his brother played in Miami, but he attended City College of San Francisco when Dorell signed with the Warriors in 2011. And though the two haven't been around each other as much with Delon heading to Salt Lake City to play with the Utes the past two years, Dorell has been a guiding presence for his younger brother as he prepares to join him in the NBA.

"He’s been around and he’s able to tell me things some of these players wouldn’t know because he’s on the inside," he admitted. "So he’s been helping me with that. Little things. Telling me to stay hungry."

Dorell and Delon aren't entirely the same. Dorell entered the NBA straight out of high school, so his pre-draft experience was different from the one Delon is currently going through.

Second, Dorell made his mark as an outside shooter. At 6-foot-7, Dorell has made 36.5 percent of his triples since entering the league in 2004. He even led the NBA with 194 3-pointers made in 2010-11 in his first season with the Warriors.

It's an area Delon will have to improve at the next level. A 6-foot-5 point guard who won the Bob Cousy Award in 2015 after averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 assists per game for the Utes, he showed marked improvement from the outside - improving from 22 percent from deep as a freshman to 35.6 percent as a sophomore - but still needs to prove it was more than a one-year outlier. It wasn't a big part of his game, either, as he made just 26 triples in 35 games.

"That’s my main focus," he said of his outside shooting. "Getting a lot of reps, we’re shooting a lot of NBA 3’s, even further behind the line. We’re just putting up shots and getting my confidence (up)."

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If Wright can improve that outside shot, he stands to become a quality role player. At 6-foot-5 he has excellent length and quickness for the position, averaging 2.3 steals per game in his two seasons with the Utes while also earning All-Pac 12 Defensive Team honors. His playmaking was a boon for Utah, which advanced to the Elite Eight behind stellar performances from their senior point guard. He rebounds well for his position - 5.8 boards per game in two seasons - and was one of five guards in the country to average at least two steals and one block per game.

The experienced Wright knows what to expect coming in, and as a fringe first-round prospect he could find himself on a contender looking for length and playmaking on the second unit.

"I’ll be ready to play right away. For a team that drafts me I hopefully won’t be one of those project players. I think that’s one thing I can offer right now."

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is fed up with being underestimated and he’s going to do something about it. The Bulls guard has been having a strong pre-season so far but is looking to improve his skills as a two-way player.

“I’m just tired of people talking shit about my defense,” LaVine said. “I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that on the defensive end.”

“I’m taking more pride in it,” he continued. “I’m pretty sure it’ll show. I’ll make sure of that.”

If you think LaVine sounds confident, he has good reason to be. Last season LaVine was one of only ten players to average at least 23 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, making him stand out as an elite player in the company of MVPs and All-Stars. LaVine’s personal triumphs, however, were overshadowed by the Bulls abysmal 22-60 record last season.

So far, this preseason LaVine has been looking better on defense, averaging 1.3 steals per game through three preseason games. Any improvements on defense will greatly help LaVine’s All-Star case.

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3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. Sunday confirmed this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Kris Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-of-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob," Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what he is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished Sunday's win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and Co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine, besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team, is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season, too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.