Bulls

Schanowski: Good Start to Long Western Trip

68638.jpg

Schanowski: Good Start to Long Western Trip

Wednesday, November 18th

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Okay, maybe beating Sacramento doesn't qualify as a breakthrough win, but then again, the Bulls hadn't won the first game on the annual Circus trip since way back in 1996. That means Michael, Scottie and the guys lost the first game in 1997 and 1998, years they went on to win an NBA championship! Everything is relative in sports, so I guess we should be glad the Bulls topped the 100 point mark for the first time this season, and held off a late run by the Kings.

John Salmons looked good in his return to Sacramento, scoring a team-high 23 points, and Joakim Noah had another monster all-around game with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Is it too soon to start talking about a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for Noah? I think not......even though the NBA office neglected to put him on the ballot! I'm sure the conference coaches know who he is. And if he continues to lead the league in rebounding, why couldn't he earn a back-up spot behind Dwight Howard?

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Bulls have some brutally tough games coming up on the trip, including the Lakers, Nuggets, Trail Blazers and Jazz, and they'll need to be at their best to finish the 6 game trip with a 3-3 record. Right now, one of the biggest concerns is the play of Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose. Sure, he's still rounding into shape after an ankle injury that caused him to miss most of training camp. But Rose looks like an ordinary point guard right now, with spotty shooting and way too many turnovers. Until Derrick gets back to top form (and I'm sure he will before long), the Bulls will struggle against the elite teams in the league, which means hanging around the .500 mark for the foreseeable future. The Bulls still need a go-to 4th quarter scorer to emerge for all the close games they'll be playing, and so far, that hasn't happened. But they've only played 10 games so far. Plenty of time for some of these issues to sort themselves out.

I wanted to take some time to answer some of the e-mails you sent in. Thanks to one and all. Keep them coming.......I love to hear your opinions on the Bulls and the rest of the NBA.

Name: Dusan B.
City, State: Toronto, Ontario
Question: This is in response to your T-Mac article. I always felt that the Bulls should have signed Von Wafer in the offseason, he would still be a great addition if the Bulls were able to sign him (if his European contract allows it). Another possibility is Nick Young, a great player who's getting no playing time for the Wizards. Monta Ellis is available if you offer Hinrich, and surprisingly James Harden is also. He's fallen somewhat out of favor with the Thunder and now would be the perfect time to snatch him up. When you have time let me know what you think.
MS: Thanks for the questions all the way from Toronto. Too bad you didn't have a trade proposal to bring Chris Bosh to Chicago! Maybe it will happen next summer in free agency. Von Wafer had some good games in the playoffs for Houston last season, but I'm sure he's locked in to his European team for the rest of the season. Nick Young could be a guy to provide scoring off the bench, but not a fourth quarter difference maker. You're right about his playing time...he can barely get on the floor now that Gilbert Arenas is back. Monta Ellis is definitely intriguing, and I'm hearing Golden State might be looking to move him. Trading Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas for Ellis and Anthony Randolph might be a deal that helps both teams. We'll have to send that one to Pax and Gar Forman. Finally, I don't think OKC is going to give up on Harden so quickly. He had a big game off the bench the other night, and he'll probably take the starting two guard job from ex-Bull Thabo Sefolosha before too long.

Name: Ron
City, State: Rogers Park
Question: How much is D-Roses ankle still bothering him? It doesnt look like hes the same player as last season.
MS: Hi Ron, I addressed your question in the body of the story. You're right, he doesn't look like the same player as last season, and until he does, the Bulls can't come close to reaching their potential. I'm not TOO worried though. Derrick works too hard to accept anything less than his best possible performance. My partner, Kendall Gill, says it takes a long time to come back from the ankle injury Rose suffered, so he's looking for Derrick to breakout in December.

Name: Keith (Lifetime Southsider and Chicagoan)
City, State: Chicago IL
Question: Why is it that nobody will call Kirk out for bricking it up??? Folks want to put MORE pressure on Rose. Kirk makes 10 million and is the sole reason we don't have Gordon. Call HIM OUT!!!

MS: You're right Keith. Hinrich is a 41 percent career shooter, and he's been missing all kinds of open jumpers so far this season. The Bulls have been looking to him to hit big shots in the closing stages of close games and he hasn't delivered. I would like to see them explore a trade for a guy who can at least get to the free throw line down the stretch, like Tracy McGrady or Monta Ellis as Dusan suggested above.
Name: Rob H
City, State: Homewood, Illinois
Question: I know you get asked this all the time, but what are the chances we will see Dwayne Wade in a Bulls uniform next season?
MS: I would say very poor. D-Wade loves his life in South Beach, and the Heat can give him more money and more years on a new contract than any other team. Plus, since Miami is so far under the salary cap for next season, there's an excellent chance Pat Riley will bring in either LeBron, Bosh or Amare Stoudemire to team up with D-Wade next season. That could leave the Bulls settling for Carlos Boozer or someone of that caliber, because I don't really see Joe Johnson leaving a good Hawks team, either.
Name: Macio King
City, State: Chicago
Question: Should the Bulls go after Allen Iverson?
MS: Not if I'm the GM. Iverson has already wrecked enough teams, and his skills aren't what they used to be. He doesn't want to come off the bench, and there's no way he would start on the Bulls. Sounds like his best option is the Knicks. They don't even care about winning games this season, so they would probably be glad to get A.I. to keep some interest going until free agency next summer.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

NBA Draft: Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's a total package

NBA Draft: Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's a total package

It's never easy being the third wheel. Ask Chris Bosh and Kevin Love, or more currently Klay Thompson. When Cam Reddish signed his Letter of Intent to play for Coach K at Duke, he was joined by a class that included RJ. Barrett and Cam Reddish. He and Barrett were expected to take on the scoring load and lead a freshman-driven Blue Devils team.

But two months after Reddish, Barrett and Jones signed on officially, Zion Williamson committed to Duke and turned everything on its head. On paper, it made the Blue Devils the No. 1 team in the country. It gave them a fourth five-star prospect and arguably the best player in the country. We all know what happened with Williamson; he turned in one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history and will be selected first overall by the Pelicans in a month. Barrett was excellent, too. The oft-criticized wing was an All-American, led the Blue Devils in scoring and cemented his status as a top-3 pick.

Reddish's freshman campaign couldn't have gone more differently. He was inconsistent throughout, finishing his lone season in Durham averaging 13.5 points on 35.6% shooting and just 33.3% from beyond the arc. Even his 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists were a far cry from what was expected of a recruit many had ranked ahead of Williamson when the season began. He showed flashes, to be sure, like his 22-point effort against Kentucky, his game-winner at Florida State and his 27-point outing against North Carolina in the infamous Zion-shoe-blowout game. But those flashes weren't enough to save a subpar season that saw his draft stock tumble throughout the fall and winter.

Then again, Reddish was the third option behind two of the most profilic scorers in the country. Barrett had a 32.2% usage rate - 25th highest in the country - and Williamson was a focal point every night he stepped on the floor. In a sense that should have created more open looks for Reddish as defenses keyed in on those two, but in reality it limited his opportunities and made it difficult for him to project at how he would be used on game-by-game basis.

Reddit wasn't making any excuses for his poor season when he spoke to the media on Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine. But he did say he's looking forward to opportunities in the pre-draft process to show off his entire arsenal that made him a top-5 prospect and a potential top NBA pick coming out of high school.

"I feel like I can do everything. I feel like I was more of a shooter this year (at Duke). I don’t really want to think of myself as a shooter," he said. "So I feel like if I just go out there and play my game, I can do a variety of things."

Two key statistics back up Reddish's claim. First, he was excellent on off-the-dribble jump shots, averaging 0.903 points per possession on 62 attempts. That ranked in the 71st percentile nationally. He also dominated in the small sample size of pick-and-roll actions he induced, averaging 1.114 points per possession (91st percentile nationally). It lends credibility to the notion that Reddish is capable with the ball in his hands. Reddish's usage rate was 15th in the ACC, so it's not as though he never touched the ball. But between the Williamson/Barrett combination and the lead point guard in Jones, he was rarely the main (or second) option.

Playing off the ball was certainly new to Reddish, who like so many NBA prospects deal with a new role in not being the go-to scorer once they arrive in the Association. Reddish got a dose of that as a college freshman and struggled to adjust. He was unguarded on 45 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts and yet ranked in just the 27th percentile nationally at 0.847 points per possession. Worse, he was in the 33rd percentile on spot-up jumpers on 193 possessions. The looks were there. He rarely knocked them down. He also shot just 51 percent at the rim, a troubling number, and that statistic includes freebies in transition that Duke thrived on during the season.

On talent and potential alone, Reddish is still a top-10 pick. He told reporters Thursday that he's hearing he'll fall somewhere in the 3 to 10 range, which sounds about right (though it'd be a shock to see him go before Barrett at No. 3). He still has prototypical NBA wing size - he measured 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-0.5 wingspan - and is an above average ball handler. But there's no denying his good traits combined with his poor showing at Duke make him a swing-for-the-fences, boom-or-bust pick.

For the Bulls, it might be time to pull the trigger on that kind of player. Both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. fell into their laps at No. 7 the previous two seasons - that's not to say they shouldn't be applauded for the picks, just that they were expected. But in this year's draft class, players in the 4-14 range all fall into a similar tier. In the Lottery, there will be safe routes to take (De'Andre Hunter, Rui Hachimura), selections for need (Darius Garland, Coby White) and there will be high-risk, high-reward options (Reddish, Sekou Doumbouya, Jarrett Culver).

But the Bulls could do worse than coming out of this year's draft with a player who 7 shorts months ago was a potential pick to go No. 1. He'd have lower expectations playing on a second unit and could spread his wings a little behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter. Having that freedom on a second unit could be what unlocks that untapped potential that was missing at Duke a year ago.

Is this the year for Bulls to think outside the box at No. 7?

Is this the year for Bulls to think outside the box at No. 7?

With the majority of mock drafts coming out after Tuesday’s lottery having the Bulls selecting North Carolina point guard Coby White with the seventh overall pick in the June 20 NBA Draft, it had me thinking about whether this might be the year to take a chance on a high risk/high reward pick.

Yes, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has made it clear he plans to bring in a point guard to challenge incumbent starter Kris Dunn, but with so many options in free agency, are the Bulls still inclined to go in that direction with their first round pick?

Before the lottery, the odds of the Bulls being in position to select either Ja Morant or Darius Garland looked pretty favorable if they stayed in the top-5. But after dropping all the way to No. 7, it’s almost a certainty that Morant and Garland will be gone, leaving White as the highest rated point guard available. White showed tremendous speed and scoring potential in his one season at North Carolina, but he has a lot to learn about directing an offense at the NBA level and will need to get stronger.

If Dunn returns for the final season of his rookie contract, there’s a good chance he moves into a backup role behind a veteran free agent, so maybe this isn’t the year to draft a developmental point guard.

So then, what do the Bulls do at No. 7?

Maybe it’s time to take a flier on a high upside athlete, something they really haven’t done since the infamous LaMarcus Aldridge-Tyrus Thomas draft night deal in 2006. This year’s draft contains a number of players who didn’t live up to expectations in their one collegiate season, but rank high on the athletic testing charts.

I had a chance to talk with a number of players at the draft combine in Chicago, and one who impressed me is USC guard Kevin Porter Jr. Scouts love the athleticism of the 6-foot-4 Porter Jr., but he underperformed in his one collegiate season, averaging just 9.5 points on 47 percent shooting from the field in a mostly reserve role.

Porter Jr. missed seven games because of a thigh injury and also had to serve a team suspension for “personal conduct issues.” But he’s not lacking in confidence, telling me he was a top-5 prospect at the start of the season and will be able to work his way up draft boards after teams get a chance to interview him and put him through individual workouts. Porter Jr. also mentioned comparisons to last year’s NBA MVP James Harden, mostly because they’re both 6-foot-4, played at PAC 12 universities and are left-handed.

No one is predicting Porter Jr. will ever come close to the unique scoring talent Harden displays on a nightly basis, but he definitely looks the part of an NBA player with a strong upper body and impressive leaping ability. Don’t be surprised if he winds up being a top-10 pick on draft night.

Other players projected for the late lottery include Indiana shooting guard Romeo Langford, Kentucky SG/SF Keldon Johnson, North Carolina small forward Nassir Little, French forward Sekou Doumbouya and Oregon 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol.

Much like Porter Jr., Little was considered a top-5 pick at the start of the college season, but never earned Roy Williams’ complete confidence at North Carolina, and struggled to find consistent minutes and shot attempts. He shot the ball well at the combine and projects as an elite defender at the NBA level. The Bulls really aren’t in the market for another small forward with Otto Porter Jr. and 2018 first round pick Chandler Hutchison already on the roster, but the wing positions offer the most talent in this draft.

Bol is a fascinating prospect with many scouts saying he’s one of the best pure shooters in this draft as a 7-footer. Problem is Bol suffered a foot fracture early in his freshman season at Oregon, the same type of injury that cost Joel Embiid his first two NBA seasons. Any team that drafts Bol will have to understand the risk of further injury, and the likelihood he won’t be able to contribute much in the 2019-2020 season.

If the Bulls stay at No. 7, White is the most logical pick, but they could go with a player that drops unexpectedly, like Duke forward Cam Reddish or Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver. The Bulls have always been aggressive in scheduling personal workouts and interviews with all the prospects in their draft range, and this year that process will take on more importance than ever.

Remember, Donovan Mitchell was one of the most impressive athletes at the combine two years ago, but stayed on the board until the Utah Jazz worked a trade with Denver to get him at No. 13. Now Mitchell is one of the best young guards in the NBA. Kyle Kuzma also moved into the first round in 2017 with a strong combine showing and is thriving as a productive two-way player with the Lakers.

It’s up to Paxson and his staff to find which player has the most long term upside and maybe come up with their own version of Mitchell or Kuzma next month.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.