Bulls

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

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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.”

Brotherly love: Justin and Jrue Holiday will walk NBA prospect Aaron cross stage at draft

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USA TODAY

Brotherly love: Justin and Jrue Holiday will walk NBA prospect Aaron cross stage at draft

Here's a cool story to get your week started off right.

Per Yahoo's Shams Charania, the NBA for the first time will have its green room invitees walk across the stage with two family members prior to the draft.

For UCLA guard Aaron Holiday, his brothers will accompany him.

Aaron, a 6-foot-1 guard, is projected to go off the board sometime late in the first round. It's pretty neat that his brothers will be in attendance, both Justin of the Bulls and Jrue of the Pelicans.

And there's a chance Aaron gets to play with Justin. The Bulls hold the 22nd pick in the first round (ironically from Jrue and the Pelicans) and Scott Phillips has Aaron as one of the five players the Bulls should look at with the 22nd pick.

Writes Phillips:

Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA: This potential pick would already have ties to the Bulls as Aaron's older brother, Justin, is currently on the roster. After three stellar seasons with the Bruins, Aaron is now hoping to become the third Holiday brother in the NBA (brother Jrue is with the Pelicans).

Smaller than his older brothers at 6-foot-1, Aaron makes up for his smaller size at the point with an absurd 6-foot-7.5 wingspan that enables him to play bigger on the defensive end. A talented perimeter shooter who never shot below 41 percent from 3-point range during his three years in Westwood, Holiday has shown that he can run a team on the ball or play as a shooter off of the ball. It should also be pointed out that Holiday was a selfless teammates at UCLA. Opting to come off the bench his sophomore season so Lonzo Ball could start, Holiday was great as both a starter and a sixth man during his college career.

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

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USA TODAY

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard.

Let's get that out of the way before continuing on.

At this stage in their rebuild the Bulls are interested in acquiring pieces - they dealt a Kawhi-like Jimmy Butler 12 months ago for three core parts - and have two picks in next week's NBA Draft.

The Spurs will have myriad options on where to send Leonard, the two-time All-Star and 2014 Finals MVP, and offers will pour in from everywhere. Leonard could also dictate where he plays next season, as he has one year remaining on his deal and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Certainly a team giving up the assets required to get Leonard would want to know their All-Pro intends on staying.

So that's why. Whichever team deals for Leonard (assuming he is dealt) will be able to put together a more enticing package than the Bulls could (think Boston, the Lakers, Philadelphia). Leonard also reportedly prefers to play in Los Angeles or New York. No mention of Chicago.

But! It's Friday afternoon and we can only churn out so much draft content before our own heads begin spinning. So we figured we would put together the best deal the Bulls could offer for Leonard.

First off, the Bulls would need a gaurantee from Leonard that he intended to re-sign. Like Butler, Leonard wouldn't be able for the supermax extension if he leaves the Spurs. Instead, Leonard could sign a five-year, $188 million max deal with the Bulls, averaging $37.6 million per year.

The Bulls would get a 26-year-old All-Pro just about to enter the prime of his career. Make no mistake about it: Kawhi Leonard is a superstar. It's easy to forget because he played in just nine games last year, but Leonard is just a year removed from a season in which he averaged 25.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 33.4 minutes. Oh, and he's won two Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016.

The Bulls would have Leonard through his age 31 season and would give the Bulls a souped-up version of Jimmy Butler, and perhaps one that could get them closer to contention in an Eastern Conference that may be without LeBron James.

The price would be steep. All-Rookie Lauri Markkanen would be the centerpiece of any deal. The Spurs have utilized versatile, small-ball lineups well in the past and adding Markkanen would be like a cheat code for Gregg Popovich. He'd slot in well next to LaMarcus Aldridge, who played 62 percent of his minutes at center last year, according to Basketball Reference. That was the most minutes he had played at center since his rookie season.

The Bulls would also have to include the 7th and 22nd picks in next week's draft, which only makes the deal more unlikely (from 0.01 percent to 0.005 percent). San Antonio could pursue a wing like Mikal Bridges or Kevin Knox and add him to a core that would include Dejounte Murray, Markkanen and Aldridge. The Spurs also have the 18th pick, so they could conceivably have five core players (Markkanen, Murray, 7, 18, 22) 21 years or younger to complement the 32-year-old Aldridge, who bounced back in a big way last season (ironically without Leonard).

Adding Justin Holiday's $4.615 million salary to the deal makes the money work and gives the Spurs another perimeter shooter.

What would the Bulls look like? Well, needless to say they would have found their wing.

Building around Leonard would include Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. With Markkanen gone, Portis would be in line for a significant contract extension and a much larger role in the offense; his per-36 numbers were on par with Kevin Love's and Joel Embiid's a year ago.

PG: Kris Dunn
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Bobby Portis
C: Robin Lopez

Alas, this deal is not happening. We can only hope to have angered some of you at this hypothetical, fun mock trade.