Blackhawks

Draft needs of Bulls' Central division rivals

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Draft needs of Bulls' Central division rivals

For the past two seasons, the Bulls have dominated the Central Division, though the gap closed a bit with the resurgence of the Pacers last year. Still, even with the Bulls entering a season with lowered expectations due to Derrick Roses recovery from an ACL injury, the rest of the division is playing catch-up.
While Indiana, the other team in the division to qualify for the postseason, has a fairly complete roster, the other teams in the Central have relatively young rosters with holes to fill.
Heres a look at what the Bulls division rivals may look to address in Thursdays NBA Draft:

Cleveland Cavaliers: Nos. 4, 24, 33, 34
After winning the lottery last year and drafting Kyrie Irving, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, the Cavs have two first-round picks, as well as two early second-round choices. Expect Cleveland to continue to bolster its perimeter attack, giving Irving a wing playmate.
Its a foregone conclusion that Anthony Davis will go first overall to New Orleans and if Charlotte keeps the second pick, many believe Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson will be drafted by the Bobcats. The three players who round out the consensus top-five prospects are all wings: North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Since the Cavs need help at both perimeter positions, all of those names are supposedly in play. What complicates matters is the fact that Washington, selecting third overall, has similar needs. So if the Wizards take Clevelands preferred choice after a trade with the Hornets that brought in veterans Emeka Okafor and Trever Ariza, the latter being a starting-caliber small forward; speculation has the Wizards drafting Beal theyll have to settle for the next-best player on their board.
Kidd-Gilchrist was Irvings high school teammate in New Jersey and is regarded as the best defender of the bunch, though outside shooting is his biggest weakness, while Barnes is a better shooter, despite experiencing an up-and-down two-year college career. Beal has garnered some Ray Allen comparisons for his shooting stroke, but showed in college that despite his pedestrian size for an NBA shooting guard, he was a physical player on both ends of the floor.
With the 24th pick in a deep draft, Cleveland could also find a valuable player. The likes of Iowa States Royce White, a playmaking power forward, Syracuse Fab Melo, a true center who would address the teams size issues or Baylors Quincy Miller, a skilled forward with a lot of long-term potential, could all be in the mix. The likes of Vanderbilt small forward Jeff Taylor or Michigan State forward Draymond Green would provide the Cavs with experienced, four-year college players. Clevelands early second-round selections could also yield either a developing young prospect or a solid role player, but dont be shocked if the Cavs are open to dealing those picks, as well as their second first-round choice.

Detroit Pistons: Nos. 9, 39, 44
The rapid progress of big man Greg Monroe and Brandon Knights solid rookie season, as well as veterans Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey on the perimeter gives the Pistons a foundation to build upon. However, for all of Monroes talent, hes not an explosive athlete or a dominant shot-blocking presence, which has made Detroits front office emphasize bringing in an athletic, defensive-oriented post player to complement his game.
In an ideal world, Connecticut center Andre Drummond would slip to the Pistons and while his stock is reportedly dropping, its unlikely he lasts until the ninth pick. Therefore, Detroit is focused on the next tier of big men, including the North Carolina duo of John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Illinois center Meyers Leonard and Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie.
Henson is slender and his offense needs development, but he should be able to make an immediate impact as a defender, and his teammate Zeller is more polished on offense, has the size to be a true center and has a mature enough game to be a contributor as a rookie. Leonard, as many fans in Illinois know, has tremendous potential, but has yet to fully harness it, while Moultrie offers size, versatility, athleticism and the ability to stretch the defense with his shooting.
Even if they end up reaching a bit, the pick will probably come down to who the Pistons feel best meshes with Monroe, the future of the franchise. In the second round, a big wing to back up the aging Prince could be the move, though trading either pick certainly is an option.

Indiana Pacers: No. 26
As previously mentioned, the Pacers have one of the more complete rosters around, with depth at almost every position except a true backup center, the position All-Star free agent Roy Hibbert plays. Indianas depth could also allow the Pacers to trade a player on the current roster point guard Darren Collison is rumored to be available, as Indianapolis native George Hill, a free agent, usurped his starting role toward the end of the regular season and use the draft to find a replacement.
That said, if the roster remains intact, a backup for Hibbert looks like the obvious choice. The aforementioned Melo, whose offense remains unpolished, but brings a shot-blocking presence to the table, would be an obvious fit, as would Vanderbilts Ezeli, who has a bit more mobility.
If Collison is indeed on the trading block, perhaps bringing Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague like Hill, an Indianapolis native, as well as the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague home is the way to go. Perimeter players like Baylors Miller or French swingmen Evan Fournier could also be in play as offensive-minded long-term projects who would eventually supplant veteran wing Dahntay Jones in the Pacers rotation.
Milwaukee Bucks: Nos. 12, 42
After acquiring scorer Monta Ellis via trade last season, and pairing him with like-minded point guard Brandon Jennings for a high-octane backcourt, one thing Milwaukee doesnt need is more guards, at least not one worthy of the 12th overall pick. However, since the Bucks gave up upper-echelon center Andrew Bogut, a former No. 1 overall pick, in that trade, they could certainly use some frontcourt assistance.
No one player could effectively replace Bogut with the 12th pick and while the combination of Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova, a free agent, ended the season in strong fashion, neither that duo nor a wing group headed by veterans Luc-Richard Mbah-a-Moute, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Delfino isnt exactly the most formidable bunch. Thus, expect the Bucks to target the best-available frontcourt prospect, preferably one with some size.
Illinois Leonard, Mississippi States Moultrie and the North Carolina tandem of Henson and Zeller are possibilities for Milwaukee, as are Baylors Perry Jones and Kentuckys Terrence Jones. Baylors Jones is an enigmatic sort, with remarkable tools and potential, yet oddly passive play throughout his college career, while the motor of Kentuckys Jones, a versatile scorer, has also been questioned, though winning the NCAA Championship has quelled inquiries about whether hes a selfish player.
Prior to last week, Ohio States Jared Sullinger would have been in the mix, but after being medically red-flagged because of back issues, his stock has reportedly been dropping as evidenced by the news that the NBA didnt invite him to the draft, something reserved for players regarded as lottery picks though his low-post scoring and rebounding ability are attributes the Bucks could use. With their second-round pick, Milwaukee could opt for a bigger wing to complement their diminutive starting backcourt.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

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

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

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USA TODAY

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

Bill Belichick had plenty of good things to say about Matt Nagy and the 2018 Bears during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Some of the highlights:

 

On the Bears’ season as a whole:

 

“The Bears have lost two games, one on a game when they were in control of the game and another one they lost in overtime. This really looks like a 5-0 team to me, if you change one or two plays. You can say that about a lot of teams, but that’s the league we’re in.”

 

On Mitch Trubisky:

 

“I think he’s done a good job of getting ball to the players that are open or in space and letting them be playmakers. He has a lot of them. That’s the quarterback’s job is to deliver the ball to the playmakers and let them go. I think he’s done a good job of that. He’s a tough kid, which I respect. That’s what we would ask our quarterbacks to do, to make plays to help our team win, to get the ball to the players that are open and in space. It’s not about stats. It’s about doing what you need to do to win.”

 

On Tarik Cohen’s usage:

 

“He plays about a little bit less than 50 percent of the time and he’s in a lot of different places, he’s hard to find. He’s a dynamic player that can run, catch, really threaten every yard of the field from sideline to sideline, up the middle, deep. You can throw it to him, you can hand it to him and he’s elusive with the ball and he’s elusive to be able to get open so the quarterback can get him the ball. Those are great skills to have. Any one of those is good and he’s got several of them.

 

“He’s very hard to tackle. But they do a great job mixing him, not just putting him in the game but who he’s in the game with, what the combinations are and then where they locate him and so forth. There are a lot of multiples. It’s hard. Coach Nagy does a good job with that and he’s a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.”

 

On Trubisky’s 54-yard bomb to Taylor Gabriel on Sunday:

 

“That’s about as good a throw and catch as I’ve seen all year. The execution on that was like 99 out of 100. It was a great, great throw, great route, great catch. There was like a few inches to get the ball in there 50 yards downfield and that’s where it was.”

 

On Akiem Hicks’ impact, who played for the Patriots in 2015:

 

“He’s hard to block. It doesn’t make any difference what the play is, you can run to him and he’s hard to block. You can run away from him, and he makes tackles for loss on the back side. He’s quick and can get around those blocks when there’s more space back there because everybody is going to the front side. He can power rush. He can rush the edges with his quickness. He’s a very, very disruptive player. He’s hard to block on everything.

 

“I appreciate all of the plays he makes. He makes plays on all three downs, against all types of plays, whether it’s reading screen passes or power rushing the pocket to help the ends, to help (Leonard) Floyd and Mack and (Aaron) Lynch rush on the edge. He’s a powerful, disruptive guy. (Eddie) Goldman has done a good job of that. (Bilal) Nichols has done a good job of that too. They have some really powerful guys inside that are hard to block, and they change the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. It really creates a problem, frees up the linebackers in the running game and helps the ends because the quarterback can’t step up in the pocket in the passing game.”

 

On Matt Nagy:

 

“Obviously he's done a great job, as has Ryan with building the team. They have a lot of good players. They have a really experienced staff and they do a great job in all three areas of the game. They're good in the kicking game, they're good on defense they're good on offense. They have highly-skilled players in all three areas.

 

“It's a well-balanced football team that does a lot of things well. Run the ball. Stop the run. Throw the ball. Rush the passer. Intercept passes. Return kicks. Cover kicks. Cover punts. They're at the top of the league in all those categories. Turnovers. Points off turnovers. It doesn't really matter what area you want to talk about, they're pretty good at all of them. That's why they're a good football team.

 

“Coach Nagy and his staff certainly deserve a lot of credit. It's not a one-man band. They're all doing a good job. It's a good football team. I'm sure there will be a lot of energy in the stadium this week. It will be a great test for us to go into Chicago and be competitive against them.”

 

While listening to Belichick rave about the Bears, this missive from former Patriots general manager Michael Lombardi stands out:

 

“Whenever Belichick tells the media on Mondays or Tuesdays that he has already moved on to the next game, trust me, he’s not lying. I worked with Bill for five years in Cleveland, and then during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in New England. Belichick treats every game like a Super Bowl; no detail is too small, no possible scenario or situation goes overlooked. I have heard Belichick break down a bumbling Jaguars team as if it was the reigning two-time Super Bowl winner and treat Blake Bortles like he’s the second coming of Aaron Rodgers. Belichick does it with tape to back up his claims, only showing his team the opponent’s greatest strengths. (With Bortles, I swear, he must have used George Lucas to doctor the video.) No Patriots opponent is underestimated or taken lightly — EVER.”

 

One of the myriad things that make Belichick the best coach in the NFL — and maybe the best coach in NFL history — is how he never takes an opponent lightly, and then how he’s so successful at scheming against what an opponent does best.

 

The Bears are undoubtedly better in 2018 than they were in the John Fox era, or when these two teams last met in 2014 (when New England waxed a moribund Marc Trestman side, 51-23). And a lot of Belichick’s points are valid – that throw Trubisky made to Gabriel was outstanding, for example.

 

But Belichick talks this way about every team he faces. And that, again, is part of what makes him the best at what he does.