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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Wizards on CSN

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Wizards on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Wizards on Friday night on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Beat another good team? The Bulls have nearly identical records against teams above .500 and below .500. Entering Friday's game in D.C., the Bulls are 15-17 against teams with winning records and 17-19 against teams with losing records. The Wizards are 41-26 so that means... nothing?

2. Life without Wade. Dwyane Wade has already missed games this season, but now the Bulls know he won't be back for the rest of the regular season. Wade's absence is a blow to the Bulls' flickering playoff hopes. Knowing the future Hall of Famer won't be in the lineup means there could be more minutes for the likes of Denzel Valentine.

3. Final meeting with the Wizards. The Bulls won the first meeting with the Wizards this season, a 106-95 win in November at the United Center. Jimmy Butler scored 37 points in that one. The Wizards won the next two, a 107-97 road win in December and a 101-99 home win in January when Butler and Wade both sat out.

4. Time to turn things around. Since winning five out of six, a run which featured wins against Toronto, Boston, Cleveland and Golden State, to bring their record to 31-30, the Bulls have slumped badly. The Bulls have lost six of seven to cancel out the good run. Playing at a team which is currently third in the Eastern Conference isn't exactly a recipe for a slump buster, but the Bulls need wins to get back in the playoff hunt.

5. Surging Wizards. Since a slow start to the season the Wizards have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Wizards were 16-18, but won 23 of the next 29 games to rise up the conference standings. Heading into Friday's game, however, the Wizards have lost two in a row. It's just the third time in 2017 the Wizards have lost consecutive games. The Wizards haven't lose three in a row since November, a streak that included a loss to the Bulls.

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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.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

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USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.