Bulls

Thibodeau balances end of regular season, playoff preparation

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Thibodeau balances end of regular season, playoff preparation

CHARLOTTE With five regular-season games left until the playoffs begin and his team in position to have the leagues best overall record and thus, home-court advantage throughout the postseason one might expect Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to feel at ease. However, after a shocking home loss to the lowly Washington Wizards and his two All-Stars, ironman Luol Deng and reigning league MVP Derrick Rose, both ailing, there is also reason for him to be concerned.

But in true Thibodeau fashion, the second-year NBA head coach and frontrunner for unprecedented back-to-back league top-coaching honors, put things in perspective.

Its a compilation of things. One, your health is critical and you want to be playing well. This will be unique this year. Its different. We end on the 26th and we begin on the 28th for the playoffs, so basically, its a continuation of the regular season. Youre trying to tie all those things together, explained the coach, who left unspoken another issue, the fact that not only does he not have control of whether Rose or Deng suits up, hes sometimes in the dark about whether or not theyll play up until close to game time, as was the case Monday, according to a source familiar with the situation. But health is a priority. Playing well is a priority. Youd like to have a set rotation, where guys are comfortable knowing when theyre going into a game and things of that nature, so all of the above and youre trying to shore things up and improve as you go along.

Ideally, you try to put as many things in your favor as possible, so is home-court advantage a must? I always think if you can get it, you get it and if not, whatever your circumstances are, you make the best of those circumstances. Were young and I want us to continue to improve, learn how to win. Last year I thought home court helped us a lot, but if you dont have home court, you dont and you have to win more on the road, Thibodeau went on to say prior to the Bulls Wednesday-morning shootaround at Time Warner Cable Arena. Last year was a lot different. Last year we won our last nine going in, so I thought we hit the ground running. This year its a different season entirely. You dont have nearly as much practice time, not nearly as much rest and youre not going to have nearly as much time to prepare when you go into the playoffs. Basically, its one day and youre playing, and were going to have to be ready when it comes.

While Thibodeau has an eye on the playoffs whether or not he admits it he also would like to see his team play with more urgency in the present, despite knowing pulling off occasional miracles, playing short-handed and the squads focused, defensive-oriented and intense style has worn on them during the lockout-shortened season, something that was clear in Mondays contest.

You learn from every situation, hopefully we have. I believe we were up 11 with 10:43 to go in the game. Your fourth quarter, you want that to be your best quarter and it wasnt. We were outscored 30-21. We gave up 11 points in basically a little over a minute. We allowed three three-point plays, two threes and one conventional three-point play. During that time, I also believe we had three turnovers, said Thibodeau, who delivered some of his more pointed comments during his postgame press conference. In a minute, a game can change and we have to understand that.

Still, it would be foolhardy to think the ultra-prepared coach isnt already simultaneously managing current concerns with future plans.

The advance guys are preparing now. You have to, especially with the way the playoffs are structured this year. Youre only going to have one day between the end of the season and the playoffs. They know what their job is. Theyll have everything ready. For us, I just want them focused on the next game, he said recently. Where you are in the season, too, right now youre going head to head with a lot of the teams youre going to be facing or you have the possibility of facing. That helps in some ways, too.

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls possibly interested in adding Jrue Holiday?

According to a story by Sporting News NBA writer Sean Deveney, the Bulls may be looking for help in the form of one of the NBA’s better two-way players.

In the post, Deveney goes over the most salient points made by brand new New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. This included the fact that Griffin stated that Pels head coach Alvin Gentry will be back and that Jrue Holiday is considered “a franchise building block”.

This could be a bit of gamesmanship from Griffin, hoping to drive up the asking price for an All-Star caliber player such as Holiday.

But Deveney suggests that New Orleans may indeed be serious about their efforts to keep building with Holiday on the roster. Deveney stated, “if the Pelicans don't trade Holiday, it will set up the team for an attempt at a fast turnaround rather than a long, slogging rebuild......It will also frustrate teams looking for a versatile point guard in his prime, hoping that Holiday would be on the block.”

Phoenix was mentioned as the “top contender” for Holiday’s services should he be made available, as the Suns are one of the few teams with an obvious hole at PG. Along with the Suns, Chicago and Orlando were the other teams listed as having interest in Holiday. The Magic completed a low-risk trade during the 2018-19 season that landed them 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, so they may not be inclined to give up solid assets in a deal.

As far as the Bulls are concerned, any serious inquires on Holiday are likely to come after the May 14 NBA Draft lottery.

Depending on where the Bulls lottery pick ends up, the Pelicans could be much more inclined to make a deal with the Chicago front office. The Pelicans ended the season tied with Memphis and Dallas for the 7th spot in the draft lottery odds, and their specific organizational goals could make moving up in the draft order worth losing a valuable player like Jrue Holiday. And for the Bulls, nabbing a player like Holiday helps build onto the positive team culture that Jim Boylen wants to establish and gives the Bulls a perfect guard to pair in the backcourt with Zach LaVine.

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Charles Bassey with the No. 38 pick

This is the first entry in our "8 for 38" series, where will be looking at eight different under-the-radar NBA prospects that the Bulls could snag with their No. 38 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Charles Bassey/ 6’11’’/ 275 lbs./ Freshman/ Western Kentucky  

Bassey is a a well-regarded five-star recruit from Nigeria, who played his college ball at Western Kentucky University. He is a physical force on the court but definitely is a raw prospect at this stage of his development.

Bassey came into the season as an assumed first round talent, however, his stock has dropped after his impressive freshman season still revealed holes in his game that will definitely be exploited at the NBA level. All that being said, he was quite the prospect at WKU.

Strengths:

In his lone season at WKU, Bassey averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 62.7 percent shooting from the field. His impressive double double average was built on his insane dominance inside the paint.

He shot an astounding 77.4 percent on shots at the rim and that number is even higher on non-post up shots around the basket. Bassey has a rudimentary hook shot that he can hit over his left shoulder but his postgame isn’t the hub of his offense. He generates most of his points by finishing on pick-and-rolls and using his faceup game.

Bassey’s physicality leads to him setting hard screens, and when he doesn’t set a hard screen, he slips to the basket quickly where he takes advantage with his soft touch when looking to score. It is tough for help defenders to knock Bassey off his path when he is rolling to the rim, as his immense lower body strength allows him to displace smaller players.

When Bassey faces up from 15-feet and in, he uses the aforementioned soft touch to convert on 40.8 percent of his 2-PT jump shots per Hoop-Math.com. On top of that, he generally has the speed to blow by most big men.

Bassey’s biggest strength from day one in the NBA will be his motor. He clearly gets fired up for big matchups, as he showcased when he dominated Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who ended up winning the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the country’s best center. In their late December matchup, Bassey helped hold Happ to a very inefficient 20 points on 23 shots.

In that same game Bassey finished with 19 points (7/8 FG, 5/5 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks. He has arguably had better games, but the all-around versatility showcased in the stat line above is outstanding.

Bassey has flashed the ability to make nice passes before:

Since Bassey’s NBA offense will be centered around pick-and-roll plays, further developing his decision making on the short-roll will be a boon to whatever team drafts him.

On defense, Bassey already shows the ability to be an asset in the right system. When he is allowed to play in a traditional defensive system that has the center dropping back in pick-and-roll coverage, he swallows up shots with his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Weaknesses:

The gigantic weakness Bassey showcased this season was an inability to function as a switch defender. He was great when it comes to protecting the rim--he averaged 2.4 blocks per game-- but he was consistently beat off the dribble by guards.

Of course it is rare to find any center--let alone a young one--that has the legitimate ability to function at a high-level when it comes to switching on to smaller, faster players. But that is precisely what makes Bassey the exact type of center you can find easily.

This is why a player of his talent level can slip into the second round.

Another big issue for Bassey is hands, or more specifically, the inability to hold on to passes when diving to the rim. As mentioned above, pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop basketball is how Bassey will carve out a niche in the league. But he occasionally struggled to hold on to the ball on throws that many would not even consider to be “tough passes”.

In the above strengths section it is mentioned how Bassey has some untapped potential as a passer, but he will never cash in on that potential if simply possessing the ball is a difficulty for him. He isn’t as explosive as usual if there are multiple defenders crowding him and raking at the ball, which happens often.

Over 1,067 minutes Basey amassed 24 assists as compared to a whopping 97 turnovers.

Long term outlook:

I believe Bassey will have a long NBA career due to his finishing in the paint and ability to block shots.

Bassey ran roughshod over his mostly Conference USA opposition on the season.

His 62.7 percent shooting from the field and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes were a few of the many things that showed that Bassey is at least ready for the physicality of the NBA.

But to become much more than a solid journeyman center, Bassey will have to hone his perimeter jump shot to the point that he can become a solid 3-point threat. He shot 45 percent on a very limited 20 attempts from 3-point range and converted on 76.9 percent of his free throws, an enticing set of numbers that show the type of player he could be in the future.

Whether or not Robin Lopez stays, the Bulls will be short on center depth next season.  After Wendell Carter Jr. went down for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, we saw the Bulls play ultra-small lineups that got beat up on the glass often as Jim Boylen was still reluctant to play Felicio more than 15 minutes per game.

Adding a high-upside prospect like Bassey helps Boylen and co. avoid over-using lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center, which helps keep Markkanen fresh and theoretically improves the overall team defense.