Bulls

Finally at full strength, Bulls making progress

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Finally at full strength, Bulls making progress

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.Now that the Bulls are finally at full strength, its almost as if observersfans and media alikeexpect more from them. Granted, excluding the Easter Sunday overtime loss to the Knicks, after which Derrick Rose missed the home rematch with a sprained right ankle, theres only been a two-game sample size to evaluate.

At the same time, as theyve done all season long, the Bulls are simply finding ways to win, whether its a role player like C.J. Watson coming up big in a high-profile affair like Thursday nights win over the Heat or on the backnot literally, as thats still a sore (again, not literally) subjectof the reigning league MVP against the inferior-caliber Pistons Sunday.

On top of that, theyre starting to jell as a cohesive unit, with Rose back in his scoring and playmaking alpha-dog role and his supporting cast knowing exactly where they fit in, with the added confidence of knowing they can do even more if called upon, due to having enhanced roles during his various absences.

Im not sure how we won that game. Ill be honest with you. Every night, its someone else. C.J. hits it the other night, Derrick hits it tonight obviously. Lots of guys have hit big shots and made big plays for us. That says a lot about our team, but we dont want to keep putting ourselves in this position. The odds arent really in your favor to keep pulling out the wins, said Kyle Korver. Were taking advantage of the opportunities that are given to us, but weve got to play a better 48-minute game.

I dont think were there yet, but I think were getting better. I think were going to need these last two games. A lot of teams are probably going to start resting some guys when their positions are locked in and I dont think thatll really happen with us. Maybe a little bit, but just because weve had so many guys out this year, we kind of need these last few games. I think were getting there, were getting better. I thought out start tonight in the first quarter was great. we havent had a great first quarter in a while. I thought that was a really good sign, he continued.

Its like a walk in the park now. Four in five nights is nothing. Its the nine in 12. Those are tough. Weve got a deep team. Were going to use everybody. It is a tough stretch, but we know that weve got days off coming up, too. So, lets focus in, lock in, take care of these four games in five nights and then weve got a good four or five days before our last back-to-back, and then the playoffs start. I think the beginning of our season was really tough, really a grind, but its been good this last month. Had a few more off days.

Indeed, the fact the Bulls have faced so much adversity between injuries and scheduling this season, yet have still thrived en route to having the leagues best record speaks volumes. Thats why, although they didnt have a great overall performance against Detroit, theyll take the win and move on.

Were coming along good. Kind of rusty a little bit, but trying to smooth out everything, the wrinkles. Passing the ballthats the one thing, the passesthrowing where guys are, where they should go. Just give it to them in the right place, so they can make the right play, said Rose. Its coming along quick. Im not worried about that. Ive got amnesia. This game is done already. Im on to Washington.

Added Joakim Noah: Theyre all tough. We know that we didnt play our best basketball. We gave up a pretty big lead going into the fourth and we know we have to play better, but at this point of the year, every win is important and when Derrick hit that three, that just gave our team new life and we just handled our business in the overtime.

Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who examines even blowout victories with a fine-tooth comb, was relatively satisfied with his teams progress.

We struggled most of the game and then in the end, just found a way to win it. I thought Joakim was unbelievable with his activity, offensive rebounding. Derrick, huge shot. We were a step behind on everything, but I thought the defense was pretty good. The rebounding was outstanding. Offensively, we werent as sharp as wed like to be. The turnovers are really hurting us, so weve got to shore that up, he explained.

We know we have to continue to improve and we want to be playing well down the stretch. We want to be healthy and weve had a number of guys that have been out for a good chunk of the season, so were trying to get those guys in rhythm. Thats a priority, but more importantly, having our team play well is something we want to get done.

Bulls Talk Podcast: 2018 NBA Draft primer (and some Kawhi talk)

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AP

Bulls Talk Podcast: 2018 NBA Draft primer (and some Kawhi talk)

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Strotman and Scott Phillips get you set for the 2018 NBA Draft. They put together their own mock draft, analyzing each of the first seven picks, analyze a handful of options the Bulls should look at at No. 22, and answer questions from Twitter. They also discuss the Kawhi Leonard trade rumors and whether the Bulls could put together a package that would entice San Antonio.

Predicting the value of Roquan Smith's rookie contract with Bears

Predicting the value of Roquan Smith's rookie contract with Bears

Chicago Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned, a situation that prior to the rookie wage scale would've been cause for concern. With contracts now based on slotting, or where a first-round pick is selected, there's little reason or room for agents to haggle over terms. A holdout isn't expected.

There have been some exceptions to this general principle, however. Joey Bosa, who was selected with the third pick by the Chargers in 2016, held out until August 29 over offset language and his signing bonus. So, while a holdout for Smith is unlikely, it's not impossible.

Assuming he agrees to a contract on time, here's what the terms of his deal should look like, according to CBS Sports:

2018 Cap Number: $3,349,485
Signing Bonus: $11,517,940
Four-year value: $18,477,168

If the numbers are correct, Smith will have the 17th-highest cap hit for the Bears in 2018, according to Spotrac. By comparison, Danny Trevathan has a $7.15 million cap hit this season.

Drafting well is critical for long-term success. If a general manager misses on first-round picks, the cap consequences mount over time. Consider Kevin White, the seventh-overall pick in 2015. He has zero touchdowns in his pro career but has a $5.27 million cap hit this year. Leonard Floyd, the team's first-rounder in 2016, has a $4.30 million cap hit and Mitch Trubisky, last year's second pick overall, is $6.59 million. Pace's four first-round picks, when counting Smith's expected deal, are four of the top-17 paid players on the payroll even though none of them have the production to back it up.

Smith, however, is as close to a bust-free prospect as the Bears have drafted in Pace's tenure. He was considered one of the best pure football players in the entire 2018 draft class and will start immediately alongside Trevathan as a rookie, assuming he's under contract in time to contribute in Week 1.