Bulls

Justin Anderson looks to bring Virginia's defense to the NBA

justin-anderson-nba-virginia-defense-slide.png

Justin Anderson looks to bring Virginia's defense to the NBA

Defense. Defense. Defense.

There's been just one word associated with the Virginia Cavaliers in recent seasons. And that word is defense.

Virginia has won 30 games in each of the past two seasons, reaching the top three in the AP poll and earning a No. 1 and No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now it's looking to send another one of its own to the NBA.

Justin Anderson is planning on carrying the traditions that have transformed Virginia into an ACC power to the professional level. And whether that's playing hard-nosed defense, doing everything on the basketball court or just plain knowing how to win, Anderson's going to bring it with hopes of getting his name called by the commissioner.

“I have a track record of being a part of a program that has great tradition, and I’m all about winning," Anderson said at last month's NBA Draft Combine. "At every level I’ve won a championship. I want to try to bring that team aspect. I want to be able to be that guy that does it all. There’s a new wave of players we’re seeing that’s doing it at a high level: Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kawhai Leonard. I like to compare myself to Danny Green. It’s a new wave of those guys who can guard multiple positions but also knock down open jumpers and get better at the offensive game as their years go on in the NBA.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Virginia F Justin Anderson]

Anderson's numbers don't leap off the page at you. He only played in 26 games last season due to an injury. He only averaged 12.2 points per game, just four rebounds a game. But he was part of a team that routinely shut opponents down night after night. The Cavaliers allowed an average of just 51.5 points per game, the best mark in the country. They were regularly made fun of for their lack of offense — their 65.3 points per game ranked 225th in the land — but make no mistake, even with low scoring outputs they were dominating the competition. Virginia lost just four times all season, twice to Final Four bound teams in Duke and Michigan State. The other two defeats came against top-20 opponents Louisville and North Carolina.

Defense is the star of the show for Tony Bennett's Virginia team. And he's drilled it into his players. That's surely one thing that Anderson will bring with him to the professional level.

“If I had the time I could probably get you all the details," Anderson said when asked what makes a great defense. "Simply put, it’d just be discipline and help, unselfish play. Unselfish in a sense of, ‘Are you going to be unselfish enough to work hard for your teammates to try to make the defense efficient, special, different?’ That makes it hard for teams on a daily basis. It’s tough to explain the principles in a short amount of time.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: Kentucky's Devin Booker could be hidden gem]

And Anderson was right in the thick of that. In an NBA that's always been dominated by the superstar, there's something to be said for the teams. The Spurs turned team basketball into a dynasty, something that at least to some was cool again. No wonder, then, Anderson mentioned Leonard and Green, a pair of Spurs, on his list of players he admires.

Sixty wins in two seasons? Surely an NBA team will find something to like about that.

“I think first and foremost it’s about being a great teammate. To me it’s no coincidence that the same teams are playing at the same time of year every single season," Anderson said. "I think it goes more than talent. This league is full of talent, and I think it’s the little fine details that I think that I can bring. I’ve got the discipline from Montrose Christian (High School). I understood better the discipline under coach Tony Bennett and discipline under coach Boo Williams in AAU. I had three great coaches, and hopefully I can bring that aspect.”

Being a team guy and defensively oriented doesn't mean, though, that Anderson has no skills. He's projected to be a first-round pick. He was talked about as one of the top players in the ACC last season. He can shoot the ball well, and he touted his improved 3-point shooting at the Combine, too.

But defense, as they say, wins championships. And an NBA team looking to win is likely going to be adding Anderson because of it.

“I’m both a 2 and a 3, but I think defensively is where my value will come when it comes to position because I think I can guard the point guard through the 4 guy," he said. "I can use my strength in the low post maybe, or I could also use my length, my quickness, my athleticism on a smaller guard. I think defensively, that’s my position.”

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

nba_power_rankings.jpg
USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.