There's talent at 22, but Bulls should take note of sketchy history


There's talent at 22, but Bulls should take note of sketchy history

Much of the attention in the upcoming NBA Draft will be based around the hopes placed on Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, with the chances for the Bulls to find a significant contributor less likely than the needy teams at the top of the board.

And at 22, while recent history suggests the Bulls won’t find a gem at that particular spot, there will be gems all around waiting to be selected —making it a dangerous proposition when revisionist history starts coming into play a few years from now.

After all, who would’ve thought the Bulls would’ve selected this year’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year at the 23rd spot, or a probable-max player in waiting with the last pick of the first round or a frontcourt mainstay at the 26th spot?

Here’s looking at you, Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, respectively, as the Bulls have done a great job scouting through the years and finding players to fit into their long-held culture.

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Many scouts and executives believe the draft’s depth is between the mid-first round and late first round, right where the Bulls are slated to pick unless something changes between now and then.

Despite the constant controversy surrounding the Bulls’ coaching situation, workouts are being held at the Advocate Center daily in preparation for the draft, business as usual — with the Bulls looking to disassociate themselves from the underwhelming history of players selected 22nd.

In the last 10 years, only Kenneth Faried has played well above his head being drafted at that spot, with some real duds and a handful of players who are contributors if not household names.

Jarrett Jack (2005) has been valuable, while Jared Dudley (2007) and Courtney Lee (2008) have been consistent pieces through their careers. Swingman Wilson Chandler and guard Arron Afflalo came not too far after Dudley, while Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City) and Nic Batum (Portland) went 24th and 25th after Lee.

Mason Plumlee (2013) is certainly starting to make a name for himself with the Brooklyn Nets.

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But make no mistake, there are some guys that make you go, “Wow, what happened to him?” or “Who?” Some real head-scratchers in hindsight.

Guard Elliot Williams (2010) has barely played 100 games, getting two 10-day contracts with the New Orleans Pelicans, a part of an empty back end of Round 1 that year, while Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley went 18th and 19th, respectively.

Victor Claver (2009) has played 80 games, while the Bulls found Gibson four picks later and Hawks swingman DeMarre Carroll went one pick after Gibson.

Marcus Williams (2006) was out of the league after four years, and the Connecticut point guard was taken two spots before All Star Kyle Lowry. Jordan Adams (2014) has played 30 games for Memphis this season, which is plenty more than the time Fab Melo (2012) received during his ill-fated stint.

Melo played in six games before signing with a team in Brazil last summer.

In other words, with the vast outcomes and seemingly hidden talent around the busts, due diligence must be exercised by the Bulls before making a selection in a few weeks.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games


Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East


Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.