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Scouting NCAA: Shooting Guards, Small Forwards

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Scouting NCAA: Shooting Guards, Small Forwards

Friday, March 26, 2010
2:00PMBy Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.comAs the NCAA Tournament continues--and in typically exciting fashion; unbelievable finish to the Kansas State-Xavier double-overtime thriller, not to mention Butler's upset of Syracuse--we continue with our look at college prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, as well as players the Bulls might consider. SHOOTING GUARDSOverview: While point guard isn't a position of need for the Bulls (some guy named Rose seems to be adequate at that spot), Chicago could look into upgrading its depth at the other backcourt slot. Regarding shooting guards--in reality, players who shade more to playing off the ball on the next level or play off the ball in college, as well as true "twos"--Oklahoma State junior James Anderson (who officially declared for the draft yesterday), the Big 12 player of the year, is one of the top names and could end up being a late-lottery selection. A big-time shooter, the 6-foot-6 Anderson displayed better ability to get to the rim this season, though the source was skeptical about his ability to do so in the NBA, considering him more of a spot-up shooter with limited playmaking talents and only average athleticism, stating, "they're some holes there."After Anderson, a trio of underclassmen from the Big 12--Kansas' Xavier Henry, Oklahoma's Willie Warren and Texas' Avery Bradley (Henry and Bradley are freshmen)--are highly regarded, perhaps more for their talent and potential than any possible impact they could make as NBA rookies next season, if they indeed declare for the draft. All have been inconsistent this season, but Henry's size and shooting ability, Warren's explosiveness and ability to create offense (although his stock was higher last season, when he teamed up with 2009 No. 1 pick Blake Griffin) and Bradley's athleticism and defensive acumen each make them attractive prospects.A local product, Duke's Jon Scheyer, successfully functioned as a point guard this season and while he isnt likely to play on the ball full-time as a pro, he showed that he can be more than just a shooter on the next level, as did Syracuses Andy Rautins, another 6-foot-5 sniper who displayed much-improved passing ability and the skills to create off the dribble. Mississippis Terrico White and Michigans Manny Harrisboth 6-foot-5 combo guardsdidnt have overwhelming seasons after coming in with high expectations. Both are talented scorers, but the athletic White, only a sophomore, functions best with the ball in his hands (he played the point as a freshman, but was moved off the ball due to the return of star Chris Warren, who was injured the previous season), while opinions are split about whether Harris is a product of Michigan head coach John Beileins system or whether the system limits him from putting his entire game on display.A pair of mid-major senior wingsRiders Ryan Thompson and Sienas Edwin Ubilesare sleepers to keep an eye on. Both are athletic swingmen that can score, as Thompson (the younger brother of Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson) is seen as more versatile, while Ubiles is regarded as a more consistent shooter.Scout's take: "All those guys will be in the mix, especially in the second round. Between the second round and the D-League, it's all about situation for some of these guys, but they're all prospects."Potential lottery picks: Anderson, Henry, Warren, BradleyBulls fit: Forget the local angleScheyer also played for the brother of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber in high schoolby playing point guard this season, the Duke senior displayed that he had enough ball skills to not be a completely one-dimensional shooter as a pro. His court awareness and playmaking ability augments a lethal shooting stroke and at 6-foot-5, if he can slide over to the point even on occasion in the NBA, he becomes much more valuable. His ability to stay in front of opponents as a defender is questionable, but his intangibles make up for it. Rautins, who has a similar skill set, could also be an option.SMALL FORWARDSOverview: This position has an interesting mix of prospects with experienced underclassmen, relative neophytes, perimeter-oriented swingmen and athletic insiders all included. Starting with the elder statesmen, Texas Damion James is among the most accomplished, as he steadily developed over his four-year career, superbly blending his warrior mentality with a more polished outside game. DaSean Butler developed a well-deserved reputation for coming through in the clutch at West Virginia and while his ceiling, like James, isnt unlimited, his toughness, versatility, outside shooting and ability to create have earned him a solid reputation with pro scouts. Another pair of seniors, Connecticuts Stanley Robinson and Washingtons Quincy Pondexter, were considered enigmatic as collegians, but their athleticism and potential finally reaped dividends in their final seasons (particularly in Pondexters case) on campus, as they added more substance and consistency to their high-flying games. A number of mid-major prospects also have received some attention. Gonzaga freshman Elias Harris, a native of Germany, increasingly got more buzz as the season went on, as his physicality, high motor and pogo-stick style were admired by observers. Butlers Gordon Hayward's sweet stroke and smooth game are also the objects of next-level decision-makers affections, although like Harris, the sophomore may opt to return for another year in college. A pair of their counterparts more likely to declare are Fresno States Paul George and Nevadas Luke Babbitt, although their defense are among the holesGeorge is a shaky ballhandler, but a high-level athlete; Babbitt is willing to mix it up inside, but his explosiveness is questionablediscussed in their games. Sitting more on the fence, but perhaps quietly a more highly-regarded prospect is New Mexico junior Darrington Hobson, a junior-college transfer and versatile talent, who can do a little bit of everything and play multiple positions. Two seniorsMarquettes Lazar Hayward and Michigans DeShawn Simsare also intriguing, as their ability to step out and shoot the ball from distance mixes well with their blue-collar mentalities. Dukes Kyle Singler and West Virginias Devin Ebanks are couple of players who came into the season with lofty reputations, but even though they had subsequently disappointing seasons, they will still have the opportunity to get drafted (Singler is a junior and Ebanks is a sophomore, so they could opt to a give it another shot next year), due to their unique skillsets. Scout's take: "Definitely the position of most depth. There's a ton of guys with versatility that can two to three positions."Potential lottery picks: Turner, Johnson, AminuBulls fit: Butler, JamesButlers toughness, winning pedigree (something valued by the Bulls) and versatility would be a natural fit in Chicago, especially with the team lacking a big wing defender since trading John Salmons. The hard-nosed Butlers ability to stretch the defense with his shooting fills another hole, as he would give Derrick Rose another player to kick the ball out to off penetration. Add his ability to handle the ball, score inside (he plays everywhere from point guard to the post for West Virginia) and defend, as well as his savvy, and it would be akin to adding Taj Gibson this seasona rookie who comes in with a veterans mentality. Jamesanother experienced playershould also be under consideration, as his rebounding and versatility would help the Bulls and give them a different look. Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

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USA TODAY

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”