Bulls

Terps' Dez Wells looking to do 'something special' in NBA

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Terps' Dez Wells looking to do 'something special' in NBA

Dez Wells might not be at the top of many draft boards, but he's still looking to make an impact in the NBA.

Wells just wrapped a sensational senior season at Maryland, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors after serving as the most valuable player on a Terps team that finished second in the Big Ten and made the program's first NCAA tournament in five years.

Though Wells might not elicit "oohs" and "ahs" with his size, his measurements or his projectability, there's something to be said for coming through in the clutch. Look back at the do-it-all player who put the Terps on his back time after time after time during last season. Maryland was one of the best teams in the country for much of the year, and it had Wells' big performances in the biggest moments to thank for that.

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Maryland G Dez Wells]

Dec. 30. After missing seven non-conference games with a hand injury, Wells was playing in just his second game back: Maryland's Big Ten opener at Michigan State. That's no easy opponent — the Spartans, you might recall, went to the Final Four — in no easy venue. But it was Wells' star that shone brightest that day. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime. He knocked down a pair of foul shots to tie the game again and send things into a second overtime. He hit a go-ahead free throw and delivered a dagger of a fastbreak dunk to send the Terps to an incredible win in the program's Big Ten debut.

“You have to give Dez Wells credit,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said after that game. “He missed a month. I don't know what he did, but it was a hand injury. You have to give him a lot of credit. I love guys that are warriors. He's diving on the floor with a broken wrist. A broken wrist on his right hand, and he makes the big 3. My hat goes off to him. I was really impressed by how hard he played, how much he played, and he's got some dog in him. That's as good a compliment as I can give a guy.”

Jan. 25. Wells scored 17 points against Northwestern, but it was how that game finished that tells you what you need to know about Wells. The Wildcats had a 14-point second-half lead, a lead still at 11 with a little more than four minutes to play. Wells figured huge in a remarkable Terps comeback, scoring eight of his team's final 18 points. Wells made the play of the game, too, following up Melo Trimble's failed game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer with an offensive rebound and putback to give the Terps an improbable comeback win before the horn sounded.

[MORE NBA DRAFT: Can Hawkeyes' Aaron White translate his game to the next level?]

Feb. 24. Wells saved his best performance for Maryland's biggest win of the season, a takedown of fifth-ranked Wisconsin in College Park. Wells scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out four assists and did just about everything to power the Terps to an incredible win over the Badgers, who ended up reaching the national title game and figure to see a pair of players picked in the top half of the draft's first round. Wells broke a 47-all second-half tie with four straight free throws and a big-time dunk and helped secure the upset with a big block. Wells showed what type of play he can turn in not only when he's firing on all cylinders but when he's playing with ultimate intensity.

"I think I can come in and provide great energy, be a great defender and be somebody that's a great team player who can be an efficient scorer and can just be one of those guys that has a lot of grit and plays hard nosed each and every game," Wells said at the NBA Draft Combine when asked what he can bring to an NBA team.

When next season rolls around, Wells won't be there to once again lead the Terps to the top of the college basketball mountain. His eligibility has been exhausted. Many believe the Terps will get there without him, though, as Wells' co-stars Trimble and Jake Layman have pledged their returns for another season and Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon and five-star recruit Diamond Stone have joined the ranks.

But Wells still has sage advice for his now former teammates.

[MORE NBA DRAFT: Will Frank Kaminsky turn college success into NBA greatness?]

"They have to get their chemistry right first before they can consider themselves a top team," Wells said. "That's just all potential, what they think they can do. So once they come in and build a relationship with each other, go through the grinf with each other ... then I think that they'll be special."

Wells did more than enough to establish himself as one of the Big Ten's best last season. That, of course, doesn't mean he gets his ticket to the NBA punched. Many think he won't hear his name called on draft night.

But that's not stopping him from doing what he did during his senior season: giving it his all. Wells is out to prove that he belongs at the next level. He did a good deal of that in a Terps uniform. Now he's out to do some more.

"I just have to go out there and compete each and every day while I'm here and at all of the workouts," Wells said. "I think I have a great chance of doing something special."

 

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is “tired of people talking sh*t about my defense” and working towards becoming an NBA All-Star

Zach LaVine is fed up with being underestimated and he’s going to do something about it. The Bulls guard has been having a strong pre-season so far but is looking to improve his skills as a two-way player.

“I’m just tired of people talking shit about my defense,” LaVine said. “I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that on the defensive end.”

“I’m taking more pride in it,” he continued. “I’m pretty sure it’ll show. I’ll make sure of that.”

If you think LaVine sounds confident, he has good reason to be. Last season LaVine was one of only ten players to average at least 23 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, making him stand out as an elite player in the company of MVPs and All-Stars. LaVine’s personal triumphs, however, were overshadowed by the Bulls abysmal 22-60 record last season.

So far, this preseason LaVine has been looking better on defense, averaging 1.3 steals per game through three preseason games. Any improvements on defense will greatly help LaVine’s All-Star case.

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3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. Sunday confirmed this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Kris Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-of-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob," Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what he is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished Sunday's win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and Co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine, besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team, is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season, too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.