Bulls

Jimmy Butler wakes up Bulls in time for win over shorthanded Wizards

Jimmy Butler wakes up Bulls in time for win over shorthanded Wizards

Taj Gibson put his head into his hands in frustration, as a simple pass to Doug McDermott went into the hands of the expensive season-ticket holders, another unforced turnover.

A couple possessions earlier, Robin Lopez and Jimmy Butler couldn’t connect on a simple no-pressure connection, giving the appearance the Bulls just weren’t take the night seriously.

That was the case for the better part of 24 minutes. The next 12 minutes of hard work or perhaps competence pushed the Bulls to a 106-95 win over the shorthanded Washington Wizards Saturday night.

Even though a game is 48 minutes, 12 efficient ones from the Bulls sufficed to give them their second straight victory, pushing their record to 6-4 before heading out west.

They held the Wizards to 24 percent shooting and gave up just 14 points after allowing nearly 60 in one half of basketball.

“That’s the one thing we need to keep building on,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we fell out of our defense a little bit, but then we got it back.”

“The third quarter defense is what won us the game. We came out with a great mentality and got some stops.”

Butler, a viewer of this Bulls’ horror movie more times than he’d care to admit over the last year, games where his team had inexcusable losses against teams who had no business being in the same gym as them, changed the narrative for a night.

He was perfect from the field in the third, scoring 14 of his game-high 37 points to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. For a period in the second half, he was buzzing on defense, getting deflections against Wizards guard Trey Burke on his way to three steals.

“If he has it going on, we find a way to put the ball in his hands,” Hoiberg said.

And when the fourth quarter saw the Bulls get a little bit tight, Butler re-entered at the 8:23 mark and a once 15-point lead was whittled to seven.

So Butler went to work with a three-point play, a steal and then another bucket in a one-minute span to help give the Bulls necessary breathing room.

“He is leading us,” said Dwyane Wade, who scored 14 on 5 of 17 shooting, as the Bulls shot 40 percent. “He’s doing what me and (Rajon) Rondo came for him to do, to really turn him into a premier player in this league. He really guides us.”

The Wizards were without John Wall and Bradley Beal, their starting backcourt, putting unknowns in their place named Sheldon McClellan and Tomas Satoransky, who barely had 10 minutes of playing experience between them, let alone anything else.

Satoransky helped the Wizards get off to a good start and helped Markieff Morris get off, as the Bulls couldn’t contain him for the first half. Morris scored 24 with 15 boards as Satoransky scored 12 with nine assists, with a team-high plus-13.

The stage was set for a Bulls letdown and they nearly lived up to it, in their last game before their six-game circus trip begins next week in Portland.

Marcin Gortat began moving Robin Lopez around and scoring inside, finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds on nine of 12 shooting.

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler jersey]

The Wizards actually led 56-46 with a minute to go in the first half before a quick Butler surge pulled the Bulls to within three, with him hitting a buzzer-beating jumper to give him 21.

Nikola Mirotic, someone who needed a game in the worst way, came up big with 17 points and 11 rebounds, hitting three triples and in the absence of Doug McDermott, who left in the third due to entering concussion protocol, will be needed even more for the foreseeable future.

“You can see the stress in his face,” Hoiberg said. “I told him to just go out there and have gun. He did that, he hit a big three for us.”

No matter if it was a team looked like it was playing three games in four nights, the Bulls looked like the bunch that gave away games it shouldn’t have with a sluggish performance last year, and barely shot over 40 percent for the night.

Without Wall and Beal the Wizards were missing 38 percent of their scoring, and considering the Wizards are 25th in that department, one would think it meant good news for the Bulls.

But they allowed Morris to run wild on them early, hitting six of his first seven shots before their bench gave up the lead.

The Bulls came out like a determined team in the third, outscoring the Wizards 28-14 and kept pace for the final 12 to give themselves some good enough vibes before heading out west for the next two weeks.

Bulls Mailbag: Heading into a crucial offseason

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USA TODAY

Bulls Mailbag: Heading into a crucial offseason

 

Chicago sports fans are known for their knowledge and passion, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to Bulls Twitter. Every day I receive questions and comments about what’s going on with the roster, coaching staff and front office. So, here’s a look at some of the issues on the minds of fans in our initial Bulls mailbag. We’ll be answering some of the questions in this format on a weekly basis leading up to the NBA Draft on June 20th.

Brandon Moss @BrandonMoss587

What are your thoughts on us drafting Cam Reddish?

I have to admit, I wasn’t too high on Reddish after a disappointing freshman season at Duke which included just 33% shooting from the college 3 point line. But with the Bulls falling to 7th in the lottery, Reddish might be the best player available. He measured 6’8” with shoes at the combine, which means the Bulls could potentially use him at 3 positions, including power forward when they play Lauri Markkanen at center in small ball line-ups. Reddish has all the physical traits to be an excellent NBA player, and since the top 3 point guards will probably be off the board when the Bulls pick at 7, they can’t be worried about trying to fill a positional need. Reddish could wind up climbing during individual team workouts, so there’s a chance Cleveland could take him at 5, but if he’s still available at 7 that would be my pick.

 

Gustavo Vega @iamvega1982

Trade the 7th pick for a veteran or draft a player?

Given that this is such a top-heavy draft, there probably won’t be a ton of interest in the 7th pick, since there isn’t a big difference in the quality of player available in the 4-14 range. If the Bulls want to pursue a quality starter like Mike Conley or Jrue Holiday, that 7th pick could be a piece in a larger deal, but the pick by itself won’t bring you the caliber of point guard the Bulls are hoping to find. So, unless it’s part of a larger trade, I would keep the pick at 7 and look for a guy that might develop into a star like Reddish.

 

PatTheDesigner @PatTheDesigner

Reports says the Bulls are looking to trade the 7th pick for Lonzo Ball. Do you feel this is a good deal or would it be better to draft at 7 and try to develop within?

I’m not a big fan of Lonzo Ball even though he’s a good passer and defender. The Bulls need a point guard who can be a spot-up shooting threat playing alongside Zach LaVine and that’s not Lonzo (or Kris Dunn). Also, the Lakers drafted Ball 2nd overall in 2017 so I don’t think they’re ready to give up on him yet, unless he’s a key piece in a trade to acquire Anthony Davis from New Orleans. The 7th pick isn’t ideal, but the Bulls’ bench definitely needs an upgrade, and a player like Reddish, De’Andre Hunter or Kevin Porter Jr. could provide some much-needed scoring for the 2nd  unit.

 

hyper pony @cronebender

Now that we are four deep with a core that, at the very least, plans to get big minutes—and may add a PG vet—then isn’t it basically indefensible to not search for high ceiling payoff with the #7 pick? Draft is now the only path to superstars & some still playing went 7 or lower?

That is the hope for all the teams that weren’t lucky in last week’s lottery, finding players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who all went 7th or lower in the draft. Reddish was one of the top rated players coming out of high school, while USC’s  Kevin Porter Jr., North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Oregon’s Bol Bol and Indiana’s Romeo Langford were all considered potential top 5 picks at the start of the college season.

The Bulls will have to trust their scouts and make their selection based on long term potential over expected production as a rookie. As you mention, they already have a young core in place, now it’s time to swing for the fences.

 

Deion “d3” Garcia @deiongarcia

Is it time for the Bulls to push for a playoff run now? Or wait ‘till 2021?

No reason why these ideas have to be mutually exclusive. As my colleague Mark Strotman wrote for NBC Sports Chicago, the next great free agent class will come in the summer of 2021, so the Bulls have to make sure they keep their salary cap situation in good order to have money to spend when Otto Porter Jr.’s contract comes off the books in 2021. But they still have to be competitive in order to get meetings with the top players.

Brooklyn’s unexpected playoff run this past season puts the Nets in position to at least have discussions with some of the elite free agents, while the Bulls made the Porter trade because they knew their rebuild hadn’t advanced far enough to generate any interest from players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson. The next challenge is showing that the young core of Markkanen, LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. can be competitive in the East and strong enough to reach contending status with the right free agent addition.

 

Joe @JoeZo88

Is the Lakers’ pick key to what the Bulls do at 7? If they take Garland, White probably goes 6 to Phoenix? That leaves either Culver or Hunter to the Bulls at 7. Thoughts?

I think you’re reading the board correctly at this date in late May, but there’s a long way to go until draft night on June 20th. Teams are just starting the process of bringing players to their facility for individual workouts and interviews, and I saw an item from ESPN’s draft analyst Mike Schmitz saying Reddish was far and away the best player on the court during a group workout put on by his agency. Some mock drafts have Reddish as low as 10 because of his poor shooting at Duke, but based on long range potential, he could easily move up to 4 or 5.

Darius Garland left the combine last week with a promise from a lottery team, believed to be the Lakers at No. 4 by many. Will new coach Frank Vogel want to play Garland and Ball together? Or is it possible they change course and draft a more traditional shooting guard like Jarrett Culver? Right now, it appears the Lakers are leaning towards Garland and the point guard-needy Suns will almost certainly take White at 6. That means Cleveland will probably choose between either Culver, Hunter or Reddish, with two of those wing players being available to the Bulls at 7.

 

elias photography chicago @elias_Zi

There’s over 200 FA’s this off-season. Do you think it’s better to wait and see what happens with first signings, or try to get your wish list and hope they’ll bite? Do you see many FA’s waiting for a good deal being left out in the cold?

The biggest decision for the Bulls’ front office will be deciding whether to extend an offer sheet to a restricted free agent point guard like Malcolm Brogdon or Terry Rozier. They would have to use most of their approximately $20 million dollars in cap space to try to steal one of those players away, and their money would be tied up for three days while either the Bucks or Celtics decide whether to match the offer. Plus, is either one of those players worth a huge contract, especially on a rebuilding team hoping to add an elite free agent down the road?

If the Bulls decide to go right to the unrestricted market, starting caliber players like Ricky Rubio and Darren Collison will command big offers, with Chicago natives Derrick Rose and Patrick Beverley on a lower level, along with career reserves like Cory Joseph and Ish Smith. Point guard figures to be the number one priority for the Bulls in free agency, but they’d also like to add an experienced big man like Taj Gibson, Ed Davis, Kevon Looney, Kenneth Faried or Mike Scott, and maybe a lower priced 3-point threat like Wayne Ellington, Seth Curry or Reggie Bullock.

With so many free agents available, there will probably be 25 or more players still looking for a contract when training camps open in September, so teams that are patient might find some excellent bargains later in the summer.

 

Matt Peck @Bulls_Peck

Which Bulls Outsider is his favorite?

Actually Matt, it’s a tie for 3rd, but John Sabine wins because he brought in donuts more often than you and Big Dave! Obviously, just kidding. I’m sure all of our Bulls Talk followers enjoyed the great work from the Bulls Outsiders throughout the past season. They have tremendous chemistry on air and off. Kendall, Will and I had a blast watching games with the guys in the green room. They’re passionate fans with great personalities, and their energy and sense of humor helped us get through a very difficult season. Okay, that should be good enough for them to bring in pizza on opening night!

Thanks to everyone for your questions and comments. It’s always fun to hear from our great fans on Bulls social media. We’ll be doing another mailbag next week, so feel free to ask questions about the NBA playoffs, free agency or anything that’s going on in the world of basketball.

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Countdown to the NBA Draft: The best all-time selection at picks 1-30

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USA TODAY

Countdown to the NBA Draft: The best all-time selection at picks 1-30

We're counting down the days until the NBA Draft by looking at the best players selected at No. 30, 29, 28 all the way down to No. 1. Check back every day leading up to June 20th for a new player and a new all-time best pick.

No. 30: Jimmy Butler

No. 29: 5/23
No. 28: 5/24
No. 27: 5/25
No. 26: 5/26
No. 25: 5/27
No. 24: 5/28
No. 23: 5/29
No. 22: 5/30
No. 21: 5/31
No. 20: 6/1
No. 19: 6/2
No. 18: 6/3
No. 17: 6/4
No. 16: 6/5
No. 15: 6/6
No. 14: 6/7
No. 13: 6/8
No. 12: 6/9
No. 11: 6/10
No. 10: 6/11
No. 9: 6/12
No. 8: 6/13
No. 7: 6/14
No. 6: 6/15
No. 5: 6/16
No. 4: 6/17
No. 3: 6/18
No. 2: 6/19
No. 1: 6/20