Zach LaVine

Bill Simmons says Bulls would be his 'lock' to give up 70 points to a player

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USA TODAY

Bill Simmons says Bulls would be his 'lock' to give up 70 points to a player

On Thursday’s episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons went over his NBA over/under bets for the year. When discussing the Bulls, he stated that the sportsbook he was using had set the line on the Bulls at 29.5 wins for the year and that it was -125 odds to bet the over. This means that a majority of bettors have been going with the Bulls over.

Simmons found that curious, given how awful he expects the defense to be next year:

If somebody scores 70 [points in game] this year, this would be my No. 1 candidate to be the other team in the game...., I would lock that.

He went on to say they he believes Chicago would be “a -300 favorite for ‘who is going to give up a 70-point game’ to an NBA player.” While mostly discussing how bad the Bulls defense would be, Simmons went on to be effusive in his praise of Wendell Carter Jr. He said that the 2018 NBA Draft will go on to be a “really memorable draft 15 years from now,” and also called him one of his favorite players from that draft.

Carter’s immense size, maturity and the possibility of him adding more muscle to his frame was enough for Simmons to call him a “home run pick” for Chicago. Those same traits are what make Carter a strong candidate for heavy rotation minutes and a starting spot. His addition to the team, along with their Bulls focusing on switching more on defense, are two factors that should--fingers crossed--help the Bulls avoid giving up 70 points to a player this season.

The last team to give up 70 points in a game was actually Simmons’ beloved Boston Celtics, who gave up 70 points to Devin Booker in a win over the Phoenix Suns in the 2016-17 season.


In the ‘16-’17 season, the Celtics had the 13th-best defensive rating in the league. If history is any indicator, a much more likely scenario would be Zach LaVine putting up 70 points in a Bulls loss to Boston this season. At the least, Bulls fans would settle for the defense finishing outside of the bottom-five in defensive efficiency. And a reasonable jump in defensive rating is more than possible with Kris Dunn, Carter, Lauri Markkanen's added muscle and LaVine’s improved defense.

Bulls young core gets some love from this year's NBA GM Survey

Bulls young core gets some love from this year's NBA GM Survey

The NBA released the 17th annual GM Survey on Wednesday and while there aren't any major surprises in terms of the Bulls, they still got some love.

Many of the major awards and predictions went to the familiar teams. Golden State only got 87 percent of GMs to predict they would win the NBA Finals. The Warriors got 93 percent last year. Cracks in the dynasty, clearly.

As for the Bulls, they were still included in enough categories to give fans reason for optimism about the future. Lauri Markkanen tied for fourth in the category "Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2018-19?" He got seven percent of the vote (two votes), which was tied for fourth. Denver's Jamal Murray won that, followed by Brandon Ingram of the Lakers and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics. Markkanen was tied with Kyle Kuzma (Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (Raptors), Dejounte Murray (Spurs) and Ben Simmons (76ers).

So there you have it, Lauri Markkanen and Kawhi Leonard have something in common. Forget questioning what a breakout season from a two-time First Team All-NBA player and former MVP runner-up like Leonard would look like.

 

Wendell Carter Jr. was all over the survey in the rookie category. The center tied for second in Rookie of the Year predictions. Luka Doncic, who went four picks ahead of Carter, got 43 percent of the vote. Carter and Marvin Bagley III each received five votes (17 percent). For reference, Lonzo Ball got 62 percent of the vote last survey and finished outside the top five in actual Rookie of the Year voting.

Carter also received three votes (10 percent) for biggest steal in the draft. He tied for third in the category with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Suns) running away with the vote with 27 percent. Interestingly, Michael Porter Jr. only received three votes, so NBA GMs still don't seem to be buying into his talent due to his considerable injury risk.

Carter also has a secret admirer who thinks he will be the best player from the draft in five years. DeAndre Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. tied for the most votes in that category.

The pro-Jabari Parker crowd has some allies in NBA front offices, at least three of them. Parker was second for most underrated player acquisition. He received 10 percent of the vote, coming only behind Indiana's Tyreke Evans (13 percent). He was tied with DeMar DeRozan (Spurs), Julius Randle (Pelicans) and Dennis Schroder (Oklahoma City).

 

One GM thought the Bulls will be the most improved team in 2018-19. That was a tough category considering the Lakers signed LeBron James. The Lakers got 80 percent of the vote, 24 of the 30 GMs.

Zach LaVine also got a vote for most athletic player in the league.

 

So that's four Bulls (Markkanen, Parker, Carter, LaVine) represented on the survey in some fashion. That leads to the Bulls getting a pair of votes for "most promising young core." The Bulls tied with Phoenix on that list, sitting behind the 76ers and Celtics.

In one category, GMs were asked to rank the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls didn't receive any votes, which may not be a surprise. However, seven teams did, which could be a sign that GMs believe the Bulls are fighting for the eighth playoff spot, at best.

And in former Bulls news, Jimmy Butler's trade request was fourth under most surprising move of the offseason.

A healthy, bouncy Zach LaVine passes first test with Lauri-less Bulls: 'I'm here to be a leader'

A healthy, bouncy Zach LaVine passes first test with Lauri-less Bulls: 'I'm here to be a leader'

Zach LaVine spent this past summer on a basketball court instead of a trainer’s table. Exactly one year earlier he was still months away from beginning any sort of on-court basketball work as he rehabbed back from ACL surgery.

But Sunday night a healthy, bouncy LaVine showed why his second year in Chicago should be markedly different than his first. It was only a preseason game, but LaVine couldn’t have begun his 2018-19 campaign any better than he did Sunday night.

The final tallies were 21 points on 8 of 13 shooting, but it was the way in which LaVine scored that acted as the biggest takeaway of the Bulls’ preseason opener. The $78 million man was fluid on offense, quick off the first step and willing to attack, leading to five free throw attempts and 10 of his 13 attempts coming 15 feet and in.

“He has been terrific ever since he’s been back,” Fred Hoiberg said after the 128-116 win. “He had a great summer and got himself back in shape. He is really trying to take the next step. Zach has been awesome.”

There wasn’t a question as to whether LaVine was going to score. It was the efficiency that needed to improve. And while it’s the smallest of sample sizes, it was a great start for a player who shot 38 percent from the field in 24 games a year ago.

On this night LaVine attacked, scoring the first two field goals of the Bulls season on a pull-up jumper at the foul line and and a driving layup. He hit five of his first seven shots, one of which came after he cut off a passing lane and poked the ball free for a transition dunk. He missed both 3-point attempts – the Bulls were 4 of 18 from deep despite scoring 128 points – but wound up making 8 of 13 shots; the 61.5 percent shooting tied his best shooting performance from a year ago.

He’ll be asked to do more of that, not only because of his brand new contract but because the Bulls will need it with Lauri Markkanen out. Again, it was just one game but LaVine looked more than willing to be the go-to guy. Jabari Parker (15 points) and Bobby Portis (21 points in 19 minutes) will see an uptick in shots, and Hoiberg said the scoring load will be by committee, but LaVine knows it’s his job to be that player on most nights.

“That’s what I do. I score the ball,” he said. “We have so many scorers, though, so if any of us have an off day I think we’ll be able to pick up the slack really easily. I know I’m here to be a leader and put the ball in the hoop and become a complete player.”

Part of that completion will come on the other end of the floor. LaVine said at Media Day earlier this month that he’s always been a good on-ball defender but needed work off it. He looked engaged, had the two steals and, despite the Pelicans’ big offensive night, did show growth.

“I’ve been reading the ball well, trying to focus up on that end,” LaVine said of his defense. “I feel like I can be really good on that end, so just got to lock in. It’s a focus thing.”

As will be the case with LaVine in the early going, the most important part of his outing is that he came away healthy. No longer rehabbing and wearing a suit on the sidelines, a healthy LaVine is making good use of his healthy preseason as he takes on an even bigger load for the Bulls.

“It feels good to go out there, get a win obviously,” he said. “But (we’ll) evaluate after to see what we can do better.”