The Point Game Podcast: Amin Elhassan


The Point Game Podcast: Amin Elhassan

There's a lot of questions about where the Bulls stand in the hierarchy of the East, according to ESPN Insider and former front office executive Amin Elhassan.

In the latest episode of the "Point Game Podcast" with CSN Chicago's Vincent Goodwill and Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News, Elhassan isn't sure the Bulls will be the team to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for a shot at the NBA Finals, and doesn't believe the Bulls should depend on Derrick Rose's availability long-term given his recent health situations.

"There’s a lot of question marks with Chicago," Elhassan said. "I’ve moved past Derrick Rose being what Chicago basketball is all about. He’s just a dude. If he shows up and can play, great. If he can’t, fine, we gotta move on without him. We have, as a Bulls organization, we can’t be thinking, Derrick is the missing piece. That’s not a knock on him. That’s just reality."

"When I look at Chicago, what’s the future of the Chicago Bulls? Jimmy Butler,a pretty good young player. Niko Mirotic, a pretty good player, a strong rookie year. Then beyond that. Are you a Doug McDermott guy? So far we haven’t seen much, he’s shown signs this preseason. Bobby Portis, he’s shown some flashes. That’s the Chicago Bulls. Everybody else is old or as good as they’re gonna be or worse.

"Washington is young and getting better. Miami is revamped and getting better. Atlanta is still above where Chicago was. Cleveland is Cleveland."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season, Bulls fans!]

Elhassan said there's a few warning signs of slippage for the Bulls' defense, which has been a concern in the preseason, asking, "How good is this team defensively, a question we’ve never had to ask before?" But he also believes new coach Fred Hoiberg will bring an added dimension on the offensive end.

"I don’t think he’s an unknown," said Elhassan of Hoiberg. "Fred’s a guy that we have a playbook to judge him off of based on Iowa State. Fred’s an NBA guy. He took a couple years to go coach college. He’s not Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City head coach), a college man who has to prove himself on this level. He never left, he just took a vacation."

He also made the natural comparison between Hoiberg and former coach Tom Thibodeau.

"Fred’s gonna keep guys fresher and have a more entertaining offense and potent offense," Elhassan said. "Defensively I don’t know if he has what Thibs has. This preseason, it definitely doesn’t look like they’re that good defensively when their feet aren’t being held to the fire by a taskmaster. He’s gonna bring different positives to the table and different negatives to the table."

The trio also reminisce on the Brandon Knight-DeAndre Jordan play from a few seasons ago, Jimmer Fredette’s release from the San Antonio Spurs and of course, debating Stringer Bell’s intelligence on “The Wire”.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again


Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:

Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.