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Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

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Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

BOSTON Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isnt one to play favorites usually, but its an open secret in team circles that hes a huge fan of Luol Dengs approach to the game, work ethic and consistency.
That why it was no surprise that when Thibodeau was asked about which Bulls have a chance to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve Jan. 24, when the coaches votes are in, Deng was the first name out of his mouth.
Deng, certainly. To me, hes shown he should almost be a lock, in my eyes, based on the way hes played from the start of the season to the finish, Thibodeau said after the teams morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I thought two years ago, Luol deserved to make and didnt make it. Then, he ended up making it last year, so sometimes it takes some time to build up and to finally be recognized because people will tend to look at the entire season also.
Deng, a first-time All-Star last season, downplayed the significance of the honor.
I think, as a player, you always want to be an All-Star. I think it just says a lot about your career, it says a lot about your team, people respecting your team with the record that you have and what youve done, so its something that you want to have, he explained. If youre not an All-Star, its not the end of the world, as long as you know youre having a good season, people appreciate what you do, your teammates appreciate what you do. You want to be an All-Star, but if youre not, you still could have a great season without being an All-Star.
Thibodeau also made cases for his other two frontcourt starters, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
I think Joakim started off great, sort of tailed off a little bit with the flu, but is picking it up again. Carlos has been steadily getting better from the start of the season, to where hes playing great right now, he said. I think all three deserve consideration, but those things are so political. As I said, you can make a case for all of them and I think when you win it helps, and winning is the most important thing.
After Thursdays announcement of the All-Star Game starters, there are only seven spots left to go around on each conferences squad, so the competition is stiff. Although the Bulls fourth-place record in the East and the appreciation observers have for how the team has performed without Derrick Rose is considerable, its tough to see two, let alone three players getting the nod to play in Houston next month.
At the end of the day, none of us got voted in. Voting is fans and thats what they think, so thats what it is. But other than that, after that, whoever makes it, its what the other coaches think. Someone whos been playing well against them or someone that they see has had a good season, and as a player, all of us have got to respect that, Deng said. If were all in it, were all in it. But everybody deserves it. If none of us are in it, we know that were still playing well enough to be considered or for some people to think we should be in it.
Thibodeau believes that his coaching peers will take winning into account, which could help his players of the teams currently above the Bulls in the standings, Miamis Chris Bosh, New Yorks Tyson Chandler and Indianas Paul George have good chances to be named as reserves which could help his frontcourt stars be named ahead of players with better statistics, but worse team records.
I think most coaches do and I think coaches will look at what a guy brings to the team overall, have they done it consistently and then, some guys, its a build-up, too, he observed. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and theres certainly a lot of guys that are playing well, and are also deserving, and not just our three.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: