Bulls

Minus turnovers, Bulls feel they're in good shape vs. Bucks

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Minus turnovers, Bulls feel they're in good shape vs. Bucks

Mike Dunleavy opened his arms and jokingly looked to the heavens when the suggestion about solving the Milwaukee Bucks’ aggressive defense was presented in simple form at Sunday afternoon’s practice.

Take the double-team, move the ball twice and open shots will be plentiful.

“Ahhh, yes. Brilliant,” Dunleavy said. “That, in theory is what we're trying to do. Make that ball move, get it out of the double team and take advantage of 4-on-3 on the weak side.”

[MORE: Goodwill: Bucks' improvement through series should alarm Bulls]

Dunleavy is clearly a recipient of crisp ball movement, as he’s shooting a torrid 57 percent from three in the four games this series, only making two two-pointers.

But getting those open shots is clearly easier said than done, as evidence by the Bulls’ comedy of errors, turning the ball over 28 times in their 92-90 Game 4 loss to the Bucks, where a win could’ve enabled the Bulls to get some much-needed rest before the second round.

Trying to force their individual offense led to a lot of the turnovers, as the Bucks want the Bulls to shoot perimeter jumpers, and have the long athletic wings to cover a lot of ground after double-teams.

“Well, in general, we looked at all our turnovers and some were their defense and some were not making the right read,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Usually, if you hold onto it too long or dance with the ball or try a risky pass, it will lead to a problem. Hit the first open man. Be sound with the ball. When we did that, we got good shots.”

How rare are 28 turnovers in a playoff game? It’s the third-highest amount in a playoff game in the last 25 years, trumped only by Indiana’s 33 in 1995 and Miami’s 32 in 1997 — the latter coming against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

If you didn’t cry about it, well, you sort of had to laugh. There was probably no snickering in the Bulls’ film session, where Thibodeau put every turnover on display for his team to see, but Dunleavy recognized how comical it could appear.

“When you turn it over 28 times, there's some pretty amazing ways to do it,” he said. “At some point you start becoming creative. It was pretty amazing the way we turned it over. Hopefully we fix it.”

When asked what he saw, Dunleavy voiced what everyone watching on TV witnessed as the Bulls struggled with the fundamental attribute of setting up their offense for good shots.

“Just a little of everything,” Dunleavy said. “One, let's say we want to get it in the post. We've had trouble getting it in there, had turnovers there. Then making that first pass out, had issues there. Then lastly when we get it out are we making the next pass or dribble into the paint and get caught in traffic? That sums it up.”

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The Bulls certainly take their turnover issue seriously, as the Bucks’ high-risk, high-reward style of defense leaves plenty of holes for the Bulls to be effective. When you shoot 49 percent from the field and 56 from 3-point range, it usually births a sense of optimism that if they clean that up, they’ll be fine in Game 5.

After all, before Derrick Rose’s final turnover on the Bulls’ last possession, they were in position to win the game despite the errors. Rose had eight turnovers, while the Bucks have taken Pau Gasol (five turnovers, five field goals in Game 4) out of the series essentially from an offensive standpoint, not allowing the Bulls to run offense through him.

“I thought overall we've rebounded the ball well,” Dunleavy said. “When you turn it over 28 times you won't miss the shots to hit the glass. Our possessions it's either a good look, we're shooting close to 50 percent or it's a turnover. Hopefully like I said we can take care of the ball.”

They know the solution, it’s just up to them to implement their game plan to move onto the next round.

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

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Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.