Bulls

Melton's pass rush shows promise and concern

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Melton's pass rush shows promise and concern

The Bears have typically taken care of extending contracts for players deemed key in their future. Henry Melton is entering a contract year and has not gotten a new deal yet despite playing perhaps the most pivotal position in the Bears defensive scheme.

It could yet happen but Melton has an idea why it hasnt, and hes not frustrated. Yet.

No, not yet, Melton said. I still have a lot to prove for this defense, and I do want to show that I am the guy of the future for this defense.

He hasnt necessarily shown that yet. Flashes, yes. But the guy? Not yet.

The reasons why the Bears were and are so high on Melton as an impact three-technique were apparent in his seven sacks for 2011, his first year as a starter.

The reasons why coach Lovie Smith publicly called him out a bit during the season are apparent as well.

Melton fares reasonably well on ProFootballFocus.coms analysis of pass-rush performances by interior defensive tackles for the past three years. He ranks 16th in PFFs list of most productive interior rushmen, based on his sacks, hits and hurries for his 678 pass-rush snaps, most of those last year in his first as a starter.

PFF counts hits and hurries as three-quarters of a sack as a way to look at total pressure brought, not just sacks themselves. Those are eventually divided into the number of pass-rush snaps and multiplied by 100 to produce a ranking number.

What makes Meltons work interesting is that it represents promise but also a concern.

Melton moved from running back to defensive end at Texas and from end to tackle with the Bears. His play in 2011 was streaky and that is not good enough for what his position demands in the Bears scheme.

Meltons combined 56 pressures equate to one every 12.1 snaps less than one per six-play possession, for example. By comparison, San Franciscos Justin Smith registers one impact every 8.5 snaps. Geno Atkins posts one every 9.1 snaps for Cincinnati.

Not simply because of these players, obviously, but San Francisco was the No. 4 yardage defense last season. Cincinnati was No. 7. Antonio Smith was No. 3; his Houston defense was No. 2 in yardage defense. Philadelphia, where Cullen Jenkins ranked No. 4 on PFFs list, was No. 8.

The Bears were No. 17.

One curiosity: Detroits Ndamukong Suh ranked nowhere on the list.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.