Mixed results for teams in NBA Draft


Mixed results for teams in NBA Draft

Chicago native Anthony Davis, as expected, was drafted first overall Thursday night by the New Orleans Hornets in the 2012 NBA Draft, becoming the fifth Windy City product to be earn that distinction. Then, things got strange.

The flurry of trades that was expected didnt occur, though a handful of draft-day trades were consummated. However, with a much-anticipated free-agency period set to begin following a lockout-shortened season, its understandable that many teams were waiting to improve their rosters through acquiring veteran help.

That said, several organizations selected youngsters that could pay off both in the short term and down the road, due to either bold draft strategies or prospects unexpectedly dropping. Conversely, some front offices made some questionable decisions notably Indiana reaching for Duke big man Miles Plumlee, Dallas drafting Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham, a player who could have been available in the second round, Milwaukee adding North Carolina shot-blocker John Henson to an already defensive-oriented group of big men and Toronto opting for Washington swingman Terrence Ross, a similar player to Raptors leading scorer DeMar DeRozan annual occurrences in the draft.

But enough teams made a positive impact through the draft that its not worth it to pan what seems like bad decisions, at least on paper. Clearly, New Orleans has the most potential to improve based on next seasons rookies, with Davis, the lone prospect regarded as having franchise-changing ability, joining Duke scoring guard Austin Rivers the pair share a Chicago connection, as the son of the Celtics coach can trace his roots back to powerhouse high-school program Proviso East in west suburban Maywood, Ill. and the sixth and last of Davis Kentucky teammates to be drafted, swingman Darius Miller in the second round.

For teams that acquitted themselves well Thursday, there are a few different categories. Some teams didnt follow the script and got steals, others simply resisted temptation to do the right thing, a handful of teams just got lucky and some organizations reached, in decisions that like the rest of these moves, that will be better evaluated with time.

Among the bold:

Cleveland, which chose Syracuses Dion Waiters a sixth man in college, but perhaps the guard with the most NBA scoring potential in the draft with the fourth pick, giving the Cavaliers another playmaker and shot-creator in the backcourt with reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, in addition to trading up to acquire North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, whose experience should complement raw and athletic power forward Tristan Thompson; Philadelphia, which went for potential in drafting young St. Johns small forward Maurice Harkless, then making a swap with Miami to acquire Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie, who was regarded as having lottery talent; Boston, which had Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, he of the bad back and good production, drop into its lap, then getting Syracuse center Fab Melo to provide the Celtics with size and defense before getting his college teammate, versatile swingman Kris Joseph, in the second round; and Oklahoma City, which could afford to take a gamble on Baylors Perry Jones, an enigmatic talent who will have no pressure on him, yet no excuse not to develop alongside the Thunders young core.

In the group that did the right thing:

Charlotte, which went with the player who combined the most long-term potential and winning intangibles in Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist proving reports that team owner Michael Jordan wasn't enamored with his game to possibly have been a smokescreen who wont be a scoring sensation right away, but along with second-round pick Jeff Taylor of Vanderbilt, augments the Bobcats defensive and sheer will; Washingtons selection of Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal also makes sense, as he potentially adds a deep threat next to point guard John Wall and frontcourt that now has some veteran leadership; and Orlando, which is at least making preparations for the eventual departure of All-Star center Dwight Howard by taking St. Bonaventure power forward Andrew Nicholson (a move that could make Ryan Anderson, the leagues Most Improved Player, expendable) and in the second round, defensive-oriented big man Kyle OQuinn of Norfolk State.

Teams that got lucky, by virtue of a player that filled a need falling to them, include:

Sacramento, which was saved from having to decide between small forwards Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolinas Harrison Barnes when Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, expected by many observers to be the No. 2 pick, slipped into its hands, giving the Kings a promising post duo with emerging center DeMarcus Cousins; Golden State, which snatched up Barnes to fill its own small-forward void and added Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli at the end of the first round to give the Warriors more of a defensive presence; and Detroit, which grabbed free-falling Connecticut center Andre Drummond, who will have the benefit of playing next to Greg Monroe who will move to his natural power-forward position and with his passing skills, should set up the potential-laden Drummond, whose athleticism and shot-blocking is expected to be a tremendous complementary piece, for easy opportunities and swingmen Khris Middleton of Texas A&M and Kim English of Missouri, adding shooting off the bench.

Finally, there were the reaches:

Portland drafted Weber State point guard Damien Lillard, the consensus top point guard in the draft, with its first lottery pick, which was acceptable, and got good value in Memphis swingman Will Barton in the second round, but sandwiched between those selections was Illinois center Meyers Leonard at No. 11 when the likes of the aforementioned Zeller was still on the board and while his potential is huge, hes certainly a project, which is reflected in the Blazers pursuit of Bulls free agent Omer Asik; Phoenixs pick of North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall makes sense on paper, with future Hall of Famer Steve Nash strongly considering signing elsewhere as a free agent, but although Marshall was the best pure passer in the draft, hes still a rookie, has deficiencies (quickness, outside shooting, defense) and will join a Suns team that doesnt have a ton of athleticism or scorers; and lastly, Houston, which certainly got three great value prospects in power forwards Royce White of Iowa State and Terrence Jones, as well as Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, but unfortunately had a logjam of veterans at both positions before the draft and will now have to find multiple deals to clear space for the rookies to develop.

The NBAs summer leagues in Orlando and Las Vegas later this month will surely yield more opinions on teams various draft classes, but for now, on-paper prognosticating will have to do. Still, no firm evaluations can truly be made until the actual season starts and in some cases, it will take two or three years to make long-term judgment calls on how everybody fared.

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

3 takeaways from the Bulls' win over a limited Raptors squad in Toronto

The Bulls recorded their first win of the preseason with Sunday night’s 105-91 win over the Raptors. Here are three takeaways:

We got a peek at Jim Boylen's regular-season rotation

We had a clue that Boylen was going to go with Tomas Satoransky as his starter after he chose to sit him with the starters in the Bulls third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers, and tonight helped further confirm this idea. Boylen stated before the game that he would be starting to roll out his regular season rotations, and we saw "Sato" start next to the regular Bulls starting group of Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and the returning Wendell Carter Jr.

On top of seeing the starting group, we got to see Thaddeus Young in his probable role as the sixth man, coming in for Carter to provide the Bulls with more of a small look where Markkanen acts as the center.

Markkanen was particularly effective on the glass against the smaller Raptors frontline sans Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam. Lauri collected a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including 4 offensive rebounds. 

Giving an even greater effort on the glass will push Markkanen closer to All-Star status and it is not out of the question as we have seen him raise his rebounding average every season. Games like Sunday night's show that all of the muscle Markkanen added this offseason is going to pay dividends in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and beyond, which will allow the Bulls to play smaller more often to get dynamic scorers like Coby White on the floor.

White came in as a substitute for Porter, giving the Bulls another small-ball lineup in which LaVine acts as the small forward next to him and Satoransky.

Satoransky was great, finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers in 21 minutes. Sato pushed the pace but also could sense the right time to pull the ball back out and run a play in the halfcourt.

In general, the Bulls trotted out more three-guard lineups in this game, and the size of big guards like Satoransky and Dunn help the Bulls blur the lines between wing and guard, mitigating some of the risks involved with not having a traditional wing on the floor.

On the flip side, the perimeter skills of a big man like Young allow the Bulls to play bigger lineups in which Young plays small forward next to two big men. In Sunday night's win over the Raptors, Young finished the game second on the Bulls in rebounds (7) and assists (3), while being in the right spot more times than not on D. 

With stretch-five Luke Kornet (2-7 from 3-point line vs Raptors), the gritty, playmaking Ryan Arcidiacono (3 assists, no turnovers), and rookie Daniel Gafford rounding out the rest of the new Bulls' Bench Mob", Boylen will have the ability to play many different ways, affording us a fair chance to see what Boylen is made of as an NBA head coach. He is already passing his first test of showing that he is open to change, with the Bulls shooting 49 3-pointers on Sunday night, keeping their promise of being more aggressive from deep.

The Zach LaVine All-Star push starts now 

Overall, Zach LaVine has not been shy about already being at an All-Star level of play, you just have to ask him.

LaVine came into Sunday night's game sixth in the league in preseason scoring, averaging 22.0 points per game through two contests, and he kept up that scoring onslaught in a big way. He finished the Bulls win over the Raptors with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in just 24 minutes of action. He finished the night with four turnovers as well, and while you would like to see the assist-to-turnover ratio improve, high turnover totals are just the name of the game for high-usage stars.

Besides, Boylen and co. likely would rather see LaVine collect some turnovers trying to make the extra pass—something the Bulls have committed to hard this preseason—rather than trying to iso and make a play for himself.

Notably, the LaVine-Markkanen pick-and-roll that figures to be a staple of the Bulls offense for a long time again made an appearance in this game, looking crisp at moments as defenses struggle with scrambling to Markkanen at the 3-point line or worrying more about LaVine's oftentimes dominant drives to the rim.

While it is encouraging to see LaVine score effortlessly, that is not a new development for Bulls fans. The true mark of improvement for LaVine will be his defense and playmaking, both of which looked good on Sunday night.

LaVine racked up two steals and showed an improved awareness and aggressiveness when prowling the passing lanes. What makes defense so huge for LaVine besides the fact that his effort-level sets the tone for the team is that he so often turns opponent turnovers into points in transition for Chicago.

The Bulls had 14 fastbreak points and 17 points off of turnovers in their win over the Raptors, with LaVine's efforts playing a large hand in the win. 

Coby White continues to score in bunches 

It has been stated many times how Coby White was more of a shooting guard in high school and only transitioned into being more a lead guard at North Carolina. And those natural scoring instincts have shown up time and time again in the NBA preseason, especially in transition. 

If you get White going towards the rim with a head of steam in transition, he will make it to the basket before the 24-second shot clock hits the 19-second mark, a remarkable display of his blazing speed.

Of course, everything is to be taken with a grain of salt in the NBA preseason, as we are often seeing White (and others) face off against a team's backups or even worse, players that won't even make an NBA roster. But what White has done well should play in the regular season too. He scored 18 points on 37.5% shooting from the field, including hitting 4 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. White was 2-2 from the free throw line and finished with one assist and no turnovers. 

It looks like it will be a while before we see Coby White look like an NBA-level floor general but he is already playing like an uber-confident, spark plug shooting guard.

The Bulls can utilize White's scoring in the regular season knowing that even if his court vision isn't where they want it to be, his shoot-first mentality and propensity to keep the ball moving should result in lower turnover totals than your usual score-first point guard.