Bulls

Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls

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Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls

One game can make all the difference in the world between a lesson you needed to learn and one that was totally unnecessary and damn near alarming.

As much as the Bulls needed to be pushed in Game 3 of their series against the Milwaukee Bucks, they needed to push back and put the Bucks to sleep so they could get some rest.

Instead, Derrick Rose fell asleep for a split second, and of course he’ll be blamed for that mistake as the Bulls got what they deserved in their Game 4 loss to the Bucks.

But there were plenty of fingerprints on this loss, from the players on down.

All those turnovers, the mistakes, the luck it took to get them back in a game they had no business being close in—it was seemingly poetic justice. Why? Because the Bucks seem to be learning on the job better than the Bulls, getting closer and closer every game.

You could almost make the case they've figured out the Bulls, and the ugly 28 turnovers are merely a manifestation of chickens coming home to roost. From being overwhelmed to competing to causing a scare to finally, breaking through by picking at an old Bulls' wound.

“We have to do a much better job of taking care of the ball, individually and collectively,” said one of the Bulls’ invisible men, Pau Gasol. “That was the key tonight. 28 turnovers. 28 (fewer) shots that we gave away. In a two-point game, it’s a big difference, right? It’s unfortunate we didn’t close it out tonight.”

The Bucks are certainly taking calculated chances with personnel and scheme, and it paid dividends Saturday night. Jimmy Butler continues to get loose, but they've centered everything on stopping Gasol this series, believing the most consistent Bull is the one they can’t afford to give any leverage to.

Jason Kidd is mixing and matching with what he has, using smaller lineups to combat the Bulls’ size. And in a game where the Bulls shot 49 percent from the field and 56 from 3-point range and still lose, it tells you the Bucks are playing a game of chicken that paid off for one night.

 “I feel bad more for my teammates than myself,” said Rose, who committed eight turnovers. “Learning experience for me, like I said. Yeah, just gotta learn from it. It’s a hard one. 27 (actually 28) turnovers, I feel like I had 20 of them. Felt like 20. Only thing I can do now is learn from it, watch film and come ready next game.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans!]

You wonder if this is just a blip on the screen or a sign the Bulls won’t have everything in their favor when they need it most. They won’t need it now, but they could have sent a message to the Cleveland Cavaliers of their intentions with a resounding, but tested, sweep.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau yelled in a loud arena for a timeout before the Bulls’ final offensive possession but they couldn’t hear him, spreading the floor for Rose before he turned the ball over.

Then the Bucks heard their coach bark for a timeout, setting up the final possession. In a series between a veteran team and young one, that scenario should be reversed.

“We gotta be ready and bounce back Monday and make sure we set the tone, to be the aggressor,” Gasol said. “We gotta take that commanding position because we’re letting them be too proactive and dictate a lot of what’s happening.”

Gasol’s words—likely birthed from the frustration not being involved in the offense as the Bucks have gotten more and more physical with him as the series has progressed—shouldn’t ring hollow.

He’s a championship player who came here for that very reason and the Bulls can adjust to put this thing away Monday night. But the Bucks’ inability to fear should have been the perfect primer.

“They’re active, they scramble,” Gasol said. “They’re aggressive to the ball so they force you to move the ball and find the open guy on the weak side. That’s what we have to be willing to do, get the ball, move it and find the open guy. And crash the glass, we only have five offensive rebounds. We had the bigger lineup the whole game. We should try to be aggressive on the boards. It didn’t quite happen and they spread us out with shooters. Mayo and Dudley did with threes.”

Using perspective, it won’t cost the Bulls this series. The Bucks will be formidable down the road but aren’t going to pull off some improbable comeback, nor will the Bulls collapse at the seams—they’re too battle tested, with their foundation built on too solid of ground for something historic to happen.

And they’ll probably blow out the Bucks at home before the inevitable happens.

“I'm not thinking about Cleveland and Boston,” Thibodeau said. “I'm thinking about us and what we have to do to improve and correct and just think about the next game. We're going to have to do a lot better and get it done quickly.”

Because Cleveland is waiting.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.

Jabari Parker channels his inner Uncle Drew: This game is about getting buckets

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker channels his inner Uncle Drew: This game is about getting buckets

The Bulls gave Jabari Parker a two-year, $40 million deal for good reason.

One, the Bulls had the salary cap space to get the deal done and had just about filled out their roster. The money wasn't going to be used elsewhere. Also, the second year of the deal is a team option which gives the Bulls some security should Parker not be able to stay healthy or play up to the standards such a salary commands.

Parker was given that money for multiple reasons. One of those reasons was not for his defense.

But, according to Parker, no one gets paid for their defense.

Speaking on 670 The Score on Wednesday, Parker was asked about whether he felt he had the ability and effort to defend in the NBA, something he hasn't done particularly well in four seasons.

"I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense," Parker said. "There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.

"If you know the game, you also know that everyone’s a pro, right? And you know that certain guys have an average. No matter what you do, they still get that average. They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them."

Parker's right in one sense, that players are usually paid for their offensive output. There are also more tangible, easily read statistics on the offensive end than there are defensively. Heck, the Bulls gave $80 million to Zach LaVine and he was the team's worst defender last season.

But then again, defense matters. A whole lot, especially at a time when offenses are better than ever (thus making defenders more valuable). The final four teams in last year's playoffs were ranked 1st, 6th, 9th and LeBron James (29th) in defensive efficiency.

A day after Parker's comments the Celtics gave Marcus Smart a four-year, $52 million contract. He's a career 37 percent shooter and has made 29 percenet of his 3-pointers in four seasons.

So while Parker, a below-average defender, might not be entirely accurate, at least he's owning who he is. And if he scores like he did in Year 3, averaging 20 points before re-tearing his ACL, no one will care how he defends.