Bulls

Wednesday meeting raises NBA lockout hopes

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Wednesday meeting raises NBA lockout hopes

We've been down this road before. Sure, the situation is different every time -- the players are willing to take an equal split of basketball-related income, NBA commissioner David Stern has the power to tweak the owners' proposal in order to make a deal. According to Yahoo!, a meeting, now in progress, was agreed to before Wednesday afternoon's deadline for the union to take the current offer.

Compared to recent events in sports, like the death of boxing legend Joe Frazier, the awful Penn State scandal, Stevie Williams' racist remarks about Tiger Woods and the aftermath of the epic LSU-Alabama clash (or for the musically-inclined, the passing of Heavy D), the latest developments in the saga of the NBA lockout don't amount to much. But in this sensationalized society, even the comments of lawyers make headlines, as witnessed when union attorney Jeffrey Kessler brought race into his characterization of Stern -- the commissioner defended himself, unlike he did when Bryant Gumbel hurled similar words his way -- before apologizing.

Indeed, the subplots of this drama have alternately enhanced and subtracted from the issues. Being that negotiations take place in New York, at times this feels like the "Gangs of New York," with all of the different factions -- players for union decertification, the so-called NBA middle-class wanting to take the deal, pro-Derek Fisher players, international players urging the players' association to make an agreement, hard-line stars and even powerful agents working behind the scenes to influence union strategy; the two main groups for owners seem to be small-market teams and major markets, or is it "hawks" and "doves," or Michael Jordan and Paul Allen vs. Micky Arison? -- pushing their agendas.

Regardless of all the distractions present, the small groups on both sides in the room Wednesday (doesn't it seem as if small groups have been more effective throughout this process) seemingly have some clarity going into these discussions, even after the players' association Tuesday rejected the deal on the table. The union has continuously conceded on various points of contention, most obviously the revenue split, and now what remains are must-have -- at least for the players -- system issues that won't restrict player movement, such as teams that pay the luxury tax not being prevented from making sign-and-trades or being otherwise discouraged from going over the tax threshold, like not receiving a full mid-level exception.

With so many other points of contention now agreed upon, surely the two parties can swallow their pride and instead of the next announcement being that games are canceled through Christmas, a less frustrating, more positive message will be heard, jamming Twitter, leading local and national news broadcasts and allowing players, employees, fans and media alike to rejoice? It's possible, but even as leaks from the discussions provide third-party insights of any progress, don't get your hopes up just yet.

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

0:00- Will Perdue drops by to talk hoops. What will the Bulls do this summer to address their point guard need?

7:00- The Bulls need a point guard. Derrick Rose is a free agent. Should they bring him back home?

11:30- Carman says the Bulls should consider trading for Lonzo Ball. Kap yells at him.

16:30- Will talks about this year's playoffs and if anybody will be the Warriors?

20:00- The Bears Top 100 list continues to dominate discussion. Chris makes the case for Jay Cutler to be higher. He gets yelled at.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: