Deep draft could yield potential sleepers


Deep draft could yield potential sleepers

By now, the elite playersor at least whos considered to be an upper-echelon prospectin the 2012 NBA Draft are obvious. But every year, theres a player or two whos selected lower than he was initially expected to be drafted, then makes teams pay for him and another few who slips through the cracks. Then they surprise everyone with a tremendous rookie season and subsequent career.

There are some obvious candidates this year: Ohio States Jared Sullingers medical red flag threatens to have him slip out of the lottery and plummet toward the second half of the first round, while Baylors enigmatic Perry Jones, despite his tantalizing talent, could also fall out of the lottery; ironically, both players were projected to be top-five picks last summer, following their freshman seasons. But what about that second category, the players whose stock isnt quite as high as it could be, but have a chance to really make an impact in the league.

Memphis shooting guard Will Barton, whose name has come up quite a bit recently in Chicagoas reported Tuesday, Barton had a solo workout with the Bulls at the Berto Center, his second workout with the team, Wednesday; hes the only prospect believed to have worked out twice for the Bulls, as well as the lone player to work out by himselfcertainly fits that description, but hes already been discussed ad nauseum in this space. Besides Barton, here are 10 other draft prospects who could be better than expected in the NBA:

Quincy Acy, 6-foot-7 power forward, Baylor: The undersized Acy is simply a beast inside, using his power and athleticism to produce, and while hell never be a go-to scorer or even a skilled offensive option, as an energy guy and rebounder doing the dirty work, he should find a place in the league.

Kim English, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Missouri: Already equipped with an NBA skillshooting the ballEnglish is no one-trick pony, as hes capable of being a solid defender, possesses ball skills and has nice size for his position, to go along with a mature game.

Draymond Green, 6-foot-7 forward, Michigan State: Green doesnt really have a position on the next level, but his high basketball I.Q., experience and uncanny passing ability should enable him to excel in the right system.

Quincy Miller, 6-foot-9 small forward, Baylor: Acys teammate had an inconsistent freshman yearpossibly due to the effects of the ACL injury he suffered as a high school seniorbut his size and natural scoring ability indicate he could be a solid long-term risk for a patient team.

Andrew Nicholson, 6-foot-9 power forward, St. Bonaventure: A native of Canada and the Atlantic-10 Conference player of the year, Nicholson is one of the better four-year college players in the draft and should be able to immediately step into a teams rotation as a big man who can play in the pick-and-pop game.

Kyle OQuinn, 6-foot-10 power forward, Norfolk State: One the heroes of the NCAA Tournament after leading his 15th-seeded team to a first-round upset of Missouri, OQuinn is a rugged rebounder and strong defender with good size, which should translate into him being a solid role player.

Hollis Thompson, 6-foot-8 small forward, Georgetown: Thompson played in a college system that wasnt designed to showcase individual talents, but his excellent size for the wing, long-range shooting and on-court intelligence should earn him a niche as a specialist in the league.

Casper Ware, 5-foot-10 point guard, Long Beach State: Ware could very well go undrafted, but his quickness, moxie and niche as a change-of-pace backup will get him in somebodys training camp in the fall and more than likely, obtain him an NBA home.

Royce White, 6-foot-8 power forward, Iowa State: Whites anxiety issues have been well-chronicled, but even after his NCAA Tournament breakout performances against Connecticut and Kentucky, his actual skillspowerful, athletic big man with perimeter skills, rebounding acumen and unique ballhandling and passing abilityhave gone under the radar.

Tony Wroten, 6-foot-6 point guard, Washington: While Wroten certainly has weaknesses as a shooter and has a propensity to get out of control, his size for the position, remarkable court vision and youth give him a great chance to succeed.

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."