Bulls

Jimmy Butler practices, questionable for Bulls-Suns

Jimmy Butler practices, questionable for Bulls-Suns

Drenched in sweat as opposed to being in a sweat suit, Jimmy Butler went through Thursday’s practice after missing three games with a right heel contusion — a long and spirited practice that went longer than the usual hourlong sessions they often have.

Still listed as questionable for Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, it was likely he wouldn’t have been able to help much in the trashing laid down by the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night.

He still isn’t supremely confident in his ability to plant and cut just yet, but he’s feeling better than before.

“A little guarded but that’s okay,” Butler said following the team’s practice at the Warriors’ practice facility in Oakland. “I don’t want to do too much on one leg over the other. Hopefully, I’ll respond. I was able to move pretty well out there. I think I’m in pretty decent conditioning shape, still.”

Going on the exercise bike the past few days, Butler’s on the mend while seemingly the rest of the roster is on the M*A*S*H unit, with Dwyane Wade battling the illness that caught Butler and others a couple weeks ago, along with Paul Zipser and Isaiah Canaan sustaining injuries against the Warriors.

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“He looked great today,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “As the practice went on, he loosened up more and more. It was good to see him back on the floor with guys. A very energetic practice, a lot of that had to do with Jimmy.”

All, including Butler, are officially listed as questionable on the Bulls’ injury report. Butler has to battle the balance between going out there because the Bulls need him and taking care of himself and his health as he goes into the All-Star break.

The last time Butler had a right heel contusion, he didn’t play as well for a handful of games but still played heavy minutes in the first month of last season.

This time, he’s altering his approach ever-so-slightly.

“You gotta be careful,” Butler said. “I hope I’m ready to go, I’m tired of missing games. I wanna go out there and compete.”

While the Bulls have generally played well in his absence, they’ve still missed his playmaking and defense on top perimeter guys, notably their loss to Houston last Friday when James Harden ran wild for 40-plus.

He hopes his presence would make the game easier for those thrust into roles they aren’t quite ready for.

“I wanna be out there. I would hope I would make a lot of guys’ jobs easier,” Butler said. “Then everything’s back to normal. Ball in my hands, everybody back to somewhat of the same role.”

Why the Bulls should take Carsen Edwards with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Carsen Edwards with the No. 38 pick

 

Carsen Edwards figures to be one of the more polarizing prospects in the late-first round to second round range of the 2019 NBA Draft. Generously listed at 6-foot-1 and (a much more accurate) 200 lbs., the diminutive guard burst onto the national scene after his super-hot scoring stretch during the NCAA Tournament.

He is an extremely talented scoring guard and his track record is impressive. He averaged double-digit scoring figures all three years of his NCAA career and helped Purdue rack up an 83-25 win-loss record over that same span.

Strengths:

Edwards is an elite volume scorer. He maintained a huge usage rate over three years at Purdue, including a 37.3 percent mark for the 2018-19 season. Matt Painter entrusted Edwards with the lion’s share of the Boilermakers’ offense every season of his career, and he stepped up to the challenge.

His finished his career with a 109.8 offensive rating, scoring 35.6 points per 100 possessions. The ability to score efficiently with high volume is the true mark of someone capable of being a star on offense.

The shooting is first thing that jumps off the page with Edwards. He has career averages of 7.1 3-point attempts per game on 36.8 percent. He would be a huge upgrade for a Bulls team that was 27th in 3-point attempts and dead-last in 3-point makes in the 2018-19 season.

If you watch film of Edwards, the high-degree of difficulty on his shots stand out. He can get downhill and draw attention at the rim, opening up shooters on the perimeter. Edwards’ confidence in his pull-up 3-point shot helped Purdue finish with one of the best offenses in the nation and also made the Boilermakers must-see TV.

Purdue was a good defensive team over Edwards’ three years there and while he wasn’t the best defender, he finished his career with 2.3 steals per 100 possessions. He gives great effort when trying to deny passes and has enough strength to hold his ground long enough to allow the help defense to come over.

Most of Edwards value in the NBA will come from his immense scoring ability. But his playmaking potential is intriguing because he became a better passer each year at Purdue, while having a bigger burden placed on him than he will in the NBA.

We know Edwards is very confident and competitive, he can shoot the 3-ball, and he is gradually improving as a playmaker. Any lineups containing Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Edwards would likely struggle on defense, but also would be full of effective 3-point shooters, a rarity for any Bulls lineup this season.

Weaknesses:

Though strong for his position, Edwards is 6-feet tall without shoes and is not going to be able to excel in a switching defense. And when his team is playing traditional defense, Edwards will need to do a lot work on fighting through screens.

NBA offenses will hunt for Edwards when he is on the floor. And a player who will need to be hid on defense will obviously cause issues for a Bulls teams without a lot of places to hide.

Though this is the weaknesses section, I would be remiss not to mention that Edwards should be able to not be awful on defense as long as he gives absolute, maximum effort. But we’ve seen what can happen to small guards on defense with today’s screen-happy game, and those flaws would be exposed even more in the postseason, which is one of the primary goals of the 2019-20 Bulls.

The Bulls do need a guard, but they need a point guard who can effective run the offense and generate great looks for others. Meanwhile, Edwards is more a shoot-first, undersized shooting guard than he is a point. In the 2018-19 season he finished with 104 assists and 113 turnovers.

He and fellow Purdue guard Ryan Cline actually shared playmaking duties during the 2018-19 season. Despite playing 52 more minutes than Cline on the season, Edwards finished with 16 less total assists.

The fact that Edwards carried the offense on his back means that a high-turnover rate isn’t the worst thing in the world. But his assist to turnover ratio is worrisome for a player who relies so much on of the dribble scoring. Edwards is a smart player who is confident and talented enough to takeover games with his offense, but that same confidence is what results in Edwards occasionally shooting his team out of games.

Long term outlook:

As a three-year NCAA veteran, Edwards is capable of being a solid backup PG in the NBA right now. His explosive display of offense during the NCAA Tournament could result in him rising into the bottom half of the first round, as there are always teams looking to add shooting. But most NBA front offices and their scouts don’t fall victim to recency bias.

So while the NCAA Tournament run helped his stock, his size and lack of defensive upside make him an excellent second round prospect, with the potential to develop into a steal if drafted in that range. If he slips to No. 38 in the draft, the Bulls would likely be more than happy to add Edwards 3-point shooting and high-scoring ability in to their backcourt mix.

Bulls Talk Podcast: How will the Bulls fill their PG need? Options in draft and free agency

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How will the Bulls fill their PG need? Options in draft and free agency

Mark Schanowski, Mark Strotman and Kendall Gill discuss myriad topics, including where Otto Porter Jr.’s role stands heading into next season, how the Bulls may improve at the point guard position this summer and who they could potentially target in the NBA Draft.

4:15 – Analyzing where Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter can improve next season

11:40 – Potential Bulls’ free agent PG targets

16:36 – Draft analysis and Darius Garland’s and Coby White’s potential fit in Chicago

23:04 Other targets for the Bulls in the first round such as Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver

25:34 – Damian Lillard/NBA Playoffs discussion