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Five Things to Watch: Bulls return home to face struggling Raptors on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls return home to face struggling Raptors on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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1. Home, sweet home. Yes, the Bulls' road trip didn't go according to plan thanks to a handful of injuries. But the good news is they have returned home where they're 15-11. True, they've won just four of their last eight at the United Center, but one of those was a thrilling overtime victory over these Raptors.

2. Catching the Raptors at the right time. The Raptors are a very good basketball team, let's get that out of the way. But if there was ever a good chance to host them, it's right now. Since they were 28-13 on Jan. 17 and nipping at the Cavs' heels for first in the East, Dwane Casey's squad has gone just 4-10 and fallen back to fourth in the conference. Those losses include four of their last six, with three coming against teams currently below .500. 

3. Dominance against Toronto. For as good ast the Raptors have been the last three seasons, the Bulls have absolutely had their number. Chicago has incredibly won the last 10 meetings against Toronto, with the Raptors last topping the Bulls on Dec. 31, 2013! One has to wonder if there's some sort of mental block going on at this point with Toronto, but for whatever reason the Bulls have owned this matchup. Will it continue Tuesday?

4. Jimmy Butler's fellow All-Star starter. DeMar DeRozan is back after missing seven of eight games, and he's gotten back to his usual stellar scoring ways. In three games since returning he's averaging 29.0 points on 49 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He's showed no rust, playing nearly 38 minutes per night in those games. He'll need to do the same against Jimmy Butler if the Bulls' All-Star plays.

5. Will trade talks bother the Bulls? Reports surfaced on Monday night that the Bulls were reportedly shopping Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez in exchange for a first-round pick. This comes after Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson trade rumors, and one has to wonder how much this will start affecting the team with just 10 days until the deadline. Of note, the Raptors are one team that make plenty of sense as a destination for Gibson.

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2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

It’s felt pre-ordained for months now. Now, it appears it’s decided.

No, the Bulls didn’t draw the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (yet). But The Athletic’s Shams Charania did report Monday afternoon that the lottery scheduled for Aug. 20 will take place virtually. All 14 teams ‘in attendance’ will be allowed to ‘send’ remote representatives. The event will presumably be televised, but details haven’t emerged on that front yet.

It’s a logical gameplan given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing nature, and the acclaim received by virtual draft showcases broadcast by the WNBA and NFL while live sports in the United States were effectively paused.

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The news also sends a few ripples in Bulls world. For one, who will rep the team, in this, its third consecutive lottery appearance? Michael Reinsdorf and Horace Grant manned the post in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But for this year? Benny the Bull would be sure to bring the energy. On the heels of the summer of “The Last Dance,” perhaps a dynasty-era contributor could get the call. Or maybe a newly-minted front office face instead? Time will tell.

And, as our K.C. Johnson pointed out on Twitter, this development also marks the end of a two-year streak of Chicago hosting the lottery in 2018 and 2019. The city has long housed the combine.

Here’s what Adam Silver told NBC Sports Chicago in February when asked his impressions of Chicago as a host-city for the lottery:

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

Silver made that comment before All-Star weekend in Chicago, but all of the above virtues translated. Though Bulls representation was limited, no one would deny Chicago played a splendid host for the festivities.

The Bulls enter this year’s lottery locked into the seventh-best odds (7.5%) at nabbing the No. 1 pick, and a 32% chance of vaulting into the top four. 

Slots No. 1 through No. 8 in the lottery standings are set with the teams excluded from the NBA’s restart. Slots No. 9 through 14 will populate at the end of the play-in round, when postseason seeding is officially set. Teams that started the restart as a top-eight seed in either conference can fall into the lottery if they miss the playoffs, but the ultimate order of the lottery odds will be decided by pre-hiatus record (meaning, for example, that if the current standings hold and the Phoenix Suns finish with a better record than the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but miss the postseason, the Suns would own better lottery odds than the Pels and Kings by virtues of each team’s pre-hiatus record).

All of which is to say, clear your calendars for next Thursday. After that, rumor and speculation are sure to swirl until the draft itself, which, as of right now, is reportedly scheduled for Oct. 16. The status of the combine remains up in the air, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported July 23 that the league is polling teams on which players should be invited to the combine if one takes place.

For the Bulls, helmed by a new front office regime and facing a moment of reckoning in the current rebuild, this year’s draft process is an especially crucial one.

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Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

NBC Sports Chicago is counting down the top 10 Bulls at each position in franchise history.

We've hit the point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. And last, but certainly not least, the men in the middle. The centers.

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Defensive anchors, multi-skilled hubs and blue-collar tenacity abound in these rankings. And plenty of hardware — both of the championship and individual variety.

We hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Without further adieu...

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

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