NBA Draft: Looney's rebounding could prove useful to Bulls


NBA Draft: Looney's rebounding could prove useful to Bulls

Of the 24 five-star recruits in the Rivals' Class of 2014, 10 were power forwards or centers. Two of those players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, are expected to be the first two names Adam Silver calls on June 25 at the NBA Draft. Two others, Trey Lyles and Myles Turner, should be gone by the end of the lottery.

And yet, perhaps the best one-and-done rebounder from that class may be UCLA's Kevon Looney.

The 6-foot-9 forward's 15 double-doubles were most in the country among freshmen - the next closest was Duke's Jahlil Okafor, who tallied 11 - and fourth most among all players in power conferences. He led all freshman in rebounding (9.2 per game) and complemented his prowess on the glass with stellar defensive work, averaging 1.3 steals and nearly a block per game.

His defensive rating (97.0) and Defensive Win Shares (2.0) were team-bests and ranked top-15 in the Pac-12. Looney certainly has a knack for finding missed shots, though he's also helped greatly by his 7-foot-4 wingspan, which measured fourth longest at last month's combine.

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It was a trait he believed he'd excel in, averaging nearly 13 rebounds per game in his final high school season in Milwaukee. A five-star McDonald's All-American, Looney was ranked No. 10 in the Rivals class and arrived in Los Angeles with high expectations that he by in-large met, thanks to his rebounding and defensive acumen.

"I rebounded really good," Looney said of his lone season at UCLA. "Coming out of high school I played against guys that were smaller so it was like, ‘Can he do that against bigger guys?’ And I did that, so I proved I can do that and can take it to another level."

Now he'll be tasked with doing it at the final level. He's undersized at 210 pounds with a broad-shouldered frame that certainly can - and will - put on weight. The Bruins' roster necessitated Looney playing inside, though he's shown tendencies and natural ability to play on the perimeter. What he lacks for in sheer quickness for a player his size he makes up for with his length and basketball IQ. His offensive numbers - 11.6 points on 47 percent shooting - were helped by his 3.3 offensive rebounds per game, and adding to his offensive arsenal in a more free-flowing NBA offense should help him greatly.

All Looney's traits and potential upside fit with what the Bulls will be looking for this offseason. For all the offensive imperfections that surfaced late in the year, one of Chicago's most critical shortcomings came on the defensive glass. Their fifth-best rebound differential (+2.3) was a bit misleading, as they ranked 19th in defensive rebound percentage in the regular season - Thibodeau's worst mark in five seasons with the Bulls - and were worst among playoff teams that advanced past the first round.

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Pau Gasol led the NBA in double-doubles, Nikola Mirotic's defensive rebounding rate was solid for a player of his skill set, and Taj Gibson was still a plus-defender despite battling through various ankle injuries. But Joakim Noah's status with the Bulls past next year could leave an open spot in the frontcourt, and the Bulls' current wings - specifically Tony Snell and Doug McDermott - are more offensive, perimeter-oriented threats that don't offer much defensive worth, and even less value on the glass.

Looney could be an option for the Bulls at No. 22 if he's still available - Rotoworld's most recent mock draft had Looney going No. 17 to Milwaukee, while Draft Express has him pegged at No. 20 to the Raptors  - despite Fred Hoiberg having more glaring offseason needs, notably backup point guard and center.

Considering the vast differences in skill sets currently in the Bulls' frontcourt, Looney would have three solid veterans to learn from and guide him, as he's still a project offensively and will need to add weight before logging serious minutes in the paint. Still, in Hoiberg's expected up-tempo offense having a player such as Looney who can, at times, handle the ball, pass well (1.4 assists per game) and run the floor would make him a solid fit in Chicago.

Above all, his rebounding can't be overlooked. 

"I have a knack for getting the ball. It comes naturally to me so that’s something I take pride in," he said. "I think I’ll be able to do it on the next level. I don’t know if I’ll do it at the same level I did at UCLA right away, but I think over time I’ll definitely be one of the best rebounders."

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.

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

Chicago, IL (October 15, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – has announced it will launch Bulls Outsiders, a brand new, live, multi-platform, fan-interactive Bulls program that will provide a fresh take on that evening’s game and much more from three non-conventional sports show hosts.  Bulls Outsiders will make its network debut after the Bulls 2018-19 road/season opener this Thursday, October 18 (approx. 10:00 PM CT) immediately following Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois on NBC Sports Chicago+, via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, and -- on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). NOTE: Bulls Outsiders will also re-air on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel on this night at 11:00 PM; the majority of airings will also air live on the main channel location.

Hosted by three, die-hard Bulls enthusiasts – Matt Peck (@Bulls_Peck), David Watson (@bawlsports), and John Sabine (@jsabine214) – Bulls Outsiders will provide viewers with the hottest takes, insightful analysis, and spirited commentary from the fans' perspective. This new half-hour program will immediately follow the network’s dedicated, season-long presentation of Bulls Postgame Live for all 82 Bulls games this season.  

In addition to the lively post-game discussion with the show’s hosts, Bulls Outsiders will also emphasize heavy viewer interaction via fan engagement on a number of the network’s social media platforms including Twitter (@NBCSBulls; fans urged to utilize the Twitter hashtag #BullsOutsiders in their posts) and Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), which will enable Bulls fans to directly interact with the show’s hosts via comments and questions pertaining to that particular evening’s game, the key topics presented to them that night, or anything else they want to discuss from a league-wide NBA perspective. 

“Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue,” said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago. 

In preparation for the hiring of the program’s three primary hosts, NBC Sports Chicago reached out to a number of notable local (and vocal) die-hard Bulls fans who stood out among the vast Bulls social media community. Candidates who responded back with interest were simply asked to shoot a one-minute video on their phone and offer up their take on Chicago native/Simeon Career Academy H.S. grad Jabari Parker joining the Bulls via free agency.  From there, the initial two dozen candidates were narrowed down to eight, who were then all brought in for in-studio auditions. Following the lengthy on-camera process, Cross, along with Bulls content producer Kevin Anderson, finalized their decision and welcomed Peck, Watson, and Sabine to the NBC Sports Chicago family.  

“It was an intricate process in choosing our hosts, but there’s no doubt Matt, David, and John have a great chemistry and solid individual strengths,” added Cross. “I’m also excited about how Bulls Outsiders will take fan interactivity to a brand new level and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be able to deliver this show to the passionate and undeniably-dedicated Bulls fan base.”

Please note the following Bulls Outsiders host bios:

Matt Peck - Podcast host/writer for ‘Locked On Bulls’

Age: 31

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, IL

Favorite Bull of all time: “MJ, obviously…but Rodman is a very close second.” 

Favorite Current Bull: Lauri Markkanen 

Favorite Bulls moments: 

1st place – “1997 NBA Finals Game 1. MJ hits the game-winner at the buzzer after Karl Malone misses 2 FTs...Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays."

2nd place – “2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1…Bulls blow out the ‘Heatles.’ Taj destroys Dwyane Wade's soul. And has a FILTHY put back dunk late with the route on. The Madhouse goes insane. We all leave that night thinking we were about to win the title.” 

David Watson - Bulls writer/podcast host for BawlSports.com

Age: 39

Hometown: Chicago, IL                            

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: Michael Jordan

Favorite current Bulls player: Lauri Markkanen

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan Flu Game in ‘97…Noah dunk on Paul Pierce in ’09 first round Game 6 Triple OT…oh, and that Pippen dunk on Ewing in the ’94 playoffs.”

John Sabine - Actor, copywriter, and improviser…he has performed with The Second City IO and The Improvised Shakespeare Company.

Age: 34

Hometown: Originally from Dallas, TX…has lived in Chicago for the last 11 years

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: “Pippen or Rodman, it's probably Rodman. Is it weird it's Rodman?”

Favorite current Bulls player: “Lauri Markkanen, but really Bobby Portis. I want to be friends with Bobby Portis.” 

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan's return from baseball. As a kid I couldn't understand, I said "wait ...he just decided to not play and now he decided to play, but like he has a new number and he's still awesome...what?!’ or…either 2013 Round 1 Game 4 against the Nets 3OT, Nate Robinson. It was a Marvel Movie.” 

REMINDER: NBC Sports Chicago will carry the 2018-19 Bulls HOME OPENER on Saturday, October 20 (Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light at 6:00 PM; Bulls vs. Pistons tip-off at 7:00 PM; Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois at approx. 9:30 PM, which will immediately be followed by Bulls Outsiders at approx. 10:00 PM).