Bulls

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.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.