Bulls

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

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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.

[MORE BULLS: Jimmy Butler earns NBA All-Defensive second team honors]

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.

Surprise team in the East?: Bobby Portis compares Bulls to '17-'18 Pacers

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USA TODAY

Surprise team in the East?: Bobby Portis compares Bulls to '17-'18 Pacers

The Bulls haven't garnered much respect in the national media. And on top of that, Las Vegas definitely has already counted the Bulls out, pegging them for 27.5 wins. But when it comes to doubting the Bulls, count Bobby Portis out. 

In an appearance on the Locked on Bulls Podcast last week, Portis stated that the Bulls would benefit from defined roles and was very confident in the team's outlook.

He went on to say that the Bulls will be "really good" and that the reason the team didn't win was because they "never got a chance to gel as one cohesive unit".

Portis compared this current Bulls team to an upstart Eastern Conference squad from last season.

He said, "There's always a surprise team, I feel like last year the Pacers were the, surprise team in the East, y'know? Maybe that can be us this year."

Portis is correct in the assessment that more practice time together as a whole unit will have a positive effect on the team. LaVine especially, should be able to hit the ground running after playing 24 games with the Bulls last year and now having a full training camp and preseason under his belt as well. And Portis himself, no longer worried about competing for a starting job, should continue to bring high-energy, scoring and rebounding to lead the bench unit. 

But his comparison of this year's Bulls team to the '17-'18 Pacers is perhaps the most intriguing.

The Pacers surprise season last year was spurred on by the excellent play of Victor Oladipo, the 2018 NBA Most Improved Player. If one of LaVine, Jabari Parker, Markkanen, Dunn or even Portis himself, can make a jump of this nature into (or near) All-Star status, then of course the sky's the limit for the '18-'19 Bulls. 

Near the end of the Portis interview on Locked on Bulls, Portis is asked to finish the sentence "The Chicago Bulls are going to win BLANK games this season." Portis responded that the Bulls are going to "win as many games as we can and we gonna make the playoffs."

Hopefully the rest of the Bulls are as confident as Portis. It could be just the attitude the team needs to get off to a fast start. 

28 Days to Opening Night: Las Vegas' over-under win total for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

28 Days to Opening Night: Las Vegas' over-under win total for the Bulls

 

Las Vegas apparently doesn’t think much of the Bulls this season.

Despite winning 27 games a year ago Sin City has the Bulls booked for just 27.5 victories this season. That coming despite the fact that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn missed a combined 102 games and the team was trying to lose by resting veterans.

We’ve written it multiple times, but it is worth saying again: The Bulls are easily going to win more games than they did a year ago.

This total will go over fairly easily.

And if it doesn't, we’re not liable for the money you might lose.