Bulls

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

The Bulls got more than a good dancer when they traded Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson for Cameron Payne and two others at Thursday's trade deadline. Though the 6-foot-3 point guard has been known more for his pregame dance routines with Russell Westbrook than his play on the court through two seasons, he’s still a 22-year-old two years removed from being a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Payne was a relative unknown to the casual NBA fan coming out of Murray State in 2015. Payne won the Ohio Valley Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 20.2 points, 6.0 assists and 1.9 steals, and ultimately became the lone mid-major selected in the lottery that year. He said at the 2015 Combine in Chicago that he wanted to be the next Steph Curry, going from an unknown at a mid-major to NBA stardom.

The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Payne that June over fellow point guards Terry Rozier, Delon Wright, Tys Jones and Jerian Grant, the last of whom the Bulls traded for this past offseason.

Payne’s biggest struggle in the NBA through two seasons backing up Westbrook has been his shooting. Though he shot nearly 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep as a college sophomore, Payne has been among the worst shooters in the league this season. In fact, among 295 players averaging at least 16 minutes per game, Payne’s 40.2 true shooting percentage is second worst in the league, in front of only Justise Winslow (39.7 percent).

Part of his lackluster shooting may be attributed to rust, as Payne missed the first 37 games of the season while recovering from a broken foot suffered in the preseason. He’s appeared in each of the Thunder’s last 20 games running the second unit, but with Westbrook putting up historic numbers there hasn’t been much of a need for him – he and Westbrook have shared the court for just 59 minutes this season.

The Thunder bench has produced the eighth worst net rating in the NBA this season, which could be part of the reason general manager Sam Presti made the move to acquire Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson. Payne’s shooting woes have attributed to that, as the Thunder are more than 8 points per 100 possessions worse offensively with him on the floor.

But Payne has provided value on the other end of the court; he has a positive net rating and his defensive RPM is 20th among point guards. Put in layman’s terms, Payne has been a solid defender, which has allowed him playing time despite his shooting.

He hasn’t shown a knack for being a great passer, as his assist ratio (Thunder possessions that end in a Payne assist) of 21.3 percent is 67th among 96 qualified point guards. He has improved on taking care of the ball, with his turnover ratio shrinking this season despite a slight uptick in minutes from his rookie season. It’s not uncommon to see a reserve point guard take a backseat, so the verdict is still out on how good a passer he can become.

Where he fits into the Bulls’ equation is another story. Fred Hoiberg’s group now touts five point guards, with Grant the only real player who can move off the ball – Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, and Payne are strictly point guards, and Isaiah Canaan is simply an end-of-the-bench option.

The Bulls liked Grant enough to include him in last summer’s trade for Derrick Rose, and he’s under contract for two more seasons. Rondo and Carter-Williams are likely playing their final seasons in Chicago, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gar Forman and John Paxson go after a floor general in a loaded point guard draft class.

All told, Payne projects as a nice second unit guard capable of playing solid defense. He’s under contract for two more seasons on a rookie deal and, given that he was playing behind Ironman in Westbrook, still has room to grow. He and Grant will challenge each other in practice and only be better for it, but the long-term solution at the point is not currently on the team’s roster.

Receiving Payne – as well as Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne – wasn’t a terrible haul given Gibson’s impending free agency and Doug McDermott’s defensive limitations. But the trade certainly wasn’t the splash Bulls fans were hoping to see at the trade deadline, either.

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.


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Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time

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Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: