Bulls

How did Bulls' rivals fare in NBA Draft?

807484.png

How did Bulls' rivals fare in NBA Draft?

Whether youre in the camp that believes Bulls first-round draft pick Marquis Teague will make an instant impact and garner playing time as a backup point guard next season or view the former Kentucky point guard as a long-term value selection, theres no quibbling with the fact that he was arguably the best talent left on the board at No. 29 Thursday night.

Teague is unlikely to individually affect the Bulls fortunes very significantly next season, but how many rookies on upper-echelon, veteran-laden teams, typically selecting near the bottom of the first round, do?

The defending champion Heat basically took a mulligan, trading the rights to 27th overall pick Arnett Moultrie, a big man out of Mississippi State regarded as a lottery-level talent, to Philadelphia and ending up with lightly-regarded LSU center Justin Hamilton, who may be bound for Europe.

Meanwhile, Finals opponent Oklahoma City took free-falling Baylor forward Perry Jonesviewed as a top-five talent, his perceived lack of a high motor and reported knee issues prior to the draft, severely dropped his stocka big-time talent who will have little pressure on him to produce immediately and excellent role models in high-level young teammates like three-time league scoring champ Kevin Durant, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, Sixth Man of the Year James Harden and league-leading shot-blocker Serge Ibaka.

The aforementioned 76ers, though facing some tough decisions in free agency with starting center Spencer Hawes and sixth man Lou Williams, the teams leading scorer, entering free agencynot to mention rookie revelation Lavoy Allen, as well as annual trade rumors surrounding All-Star swingman Andre Iguodalaadded some young firepower to an already young and athletic team with not only Moultrie, who could challenge for a starting role, but St. Johns small forward Maurice Harkless who still needs to add polish, strength and a semblance of an outside jumper, yet could also see plenty of action as a rookie.

Boston is another Eastern Conference playoff team that had a successful draft night, as the Celtics acquired productive Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, whose bad back caused him to slip, and Syracuse center Fab Melo, giving them size and defense; team top exec Danny Ainges smart draft could have been part of the reason future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett reportedly opted to sign a three-year, 34-million deal instead of retiring, although the squad could lose sharpshooter Ray Allen in free agency.

As far as the Bulls Central Division rivals, Cleveland was bold in drafting Syracuse guard Dion Waiters fourth overall as a backcourt partner for reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, then trading for North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, while Detroit got a potential steal with Connecticuts Andre Drummond at No. 9, as the athletic center, the second-youngest player in the draft, could form a potent post duo with Greg Monroewho can move to his natural power-forward spotand while he could take years to fully realize his potential, should be able to help the Pistons as a rebounder and defensive presence.

On the other hand, Indiana made puzzling moves for a team on the verge of contending (perhaps due to the Pacers front-office shake-up), reaching for Duke big man Miles Plumlee, a middling college player if a superb athlete, with the likes of Jones and Moultrie still on the board, then trading up for UC-Santa Barbara shooting guard Orlando Johnson in the second round, while Milwaukee, which had traded down with Houston and acquired center Samuel Dalembert, added to a stable of young, defensive-minded big men by adding North Carolinas John Henson to a group that already includes Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, though Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb in the second round could be a sleeper pick.

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

44180526_256489331737477_4756493297533321216_n.jpg
USA TODAY

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."

Bulls, Bobby Portis value each other greatly despite no deal getting done

44298379_315080225985989_7466543461454315520_n.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls, Bobby Portis value each other greatly despite no deal getting done

Monday's deadline came and went with expected results: Bobby Portis and the Bulls being unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

Some 19 hours later all parties involved said the right things, that they value one another and hope to be working together long-term.

But all that will be shelved until July 1, when Portis enters restricted free agency at this coming season's end. The two sides found themselves in position to wait out on an extension.

For Portis, he's improved his game each of his first three seasons in the league posted per-36 numbers on par with some of the game's best big men. Expected to start while Lauri Markkanen recovers from a sprained elbow - and then act as the team's Sixth Man after that - Portis is in line to post career numbers once again.

For the Bulls, nearly all their front office decisions the past three seasons have been with an eye toward the 2019 offseason and having as much cap space as possible. Waiting on a Portis contract allows them to see if any of the top free agents in the class are interested in Chicago, while also having the ability to match any deal Portis gets on the open market.

It's similar to how the Bulls played out the rookie scale contracts of both Jimmy Butler and Zach LaVine.

John Paxson spoke during Tuesday's practice at the Advocate Center and reiterated how much the Bulls value Portis and the work he's put in since they drafted him 22nd overall in 2015.

Portis also spoke with reporters after practice. And what would normally be considered posturing from any other player, Portis' blue-collar mentality was present in his comments.

"I couldn’t see myself in no other jersey. Obviously, I got Bulls DNA," he said. "Me and the city have a love connection somewhere. At the same time, I just enjoy playing for the Bulls.

"I play this game because I love it. Obviously, you want to make as much money as possible to help your family. But I started playing basketball because it’s fun to me and I loved it. I still have that same passion, that same heart every night I go out there."

Still, the opportunity will be there for Portis to make himself significant money in the coming six months. After averaging a modest 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in Year 3, Portis will be called upon to shoulder a scoring load in the absence of Markkanen. And with Jabari Parker's Bulls career off to a shaky start, Portis will be the go-to guy on the second unit once Markkanen is back in the lineup.

"Bobby is a guy that is very confident in himself. He’s confident in his ability. That’s what we love about him," Fred Hoiberg said. "And like I said, he’s going to go out there and play the same way every time he steps on the floor, whether it’s practice, whether it’s a pick-up game in the summer or once we get started on Thursday. He’s a warrior, and he’s just going to go out there and play the right way with great effort.’’

The Bulls will need that with the start of the regular season just two days away. They open on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that went 30-11 at home last season.

Portis will play a significant role in slowing down one of the NBA's best frontcourts. Whether or not this is his last season doing so in Chicago, he knows what the Bulls think of him and won't let the impending negotiations distract him.

"I know how much I’m valued. They tell me a lot. Give it all I got. Kind of the leader of the bunch. Blue-collar worker," he said. "Everybody respects me because I come in every day with a chip on my shoulder, try to push my guys to get better each day. That makes me go."