Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck


Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

The 2017 NBA Draft class has started to show their true colors three seasons into their respective careers and we have a good idea of where each player stands with their franchise. The Orlando Magic have made a decent-sized commitment to 2017 No.  1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, exercising their fourth-year team option on the 21-year old guard. This keeps him under contract for the 2020-21 season for $12.3 million.

Bulls star forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted No. 7 overall in 2017, will likely have a decision made soon on his fourth-year option ($6.7 million), but his position with the Bulls was never in doubt, however, what the move by Orlando did was again bring to the forefront how impressive Markkanen has been as compared to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft class.

Among the top 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen is second in win shares (6.1) to only No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum (12.0).

Markkanen was not a household name coming off of his lone year at Arizona and had the reputation of a floor-spacer who brought little else to the floor in terms of value, he quickly dispelled those notions, going on a historic tear that resulted in one of the best rookie campaigns in Bulls history.

He was the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and before Markkanen none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.

Unlike Fultz, who suffered to find his footing with a playoff-bound Sixers team and has yet to play for his latest team in Orlando, Markkanen's career was aided by the fact that the Bulls were thin on frontcourt depth right at the start of the 2017-18 season. Markkanen has not looked back since given an opportunity to be the Bulls starting power forward and has averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

Markkanen has become better in every aspect of his game and will need a similar sort of leap if the Bulls hope to turn things around in 2020. The Magic reaffirming their belief in Fultz is in no way shocking, but it should serve as a reminder to Bulls fans that the franchise made out quite well by selecting the Finnish big man back in 2017 amid the uncertainty surrounding the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls.

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Could Markelle Fultz rediscover his college success with the Bulls?


Could Markelle Fultz rediscover his college success with the Bulls?

On the latest episode of the Bill Simmons Podcast, the media personality suggested what many had up to this point, second-year player Markelle Fultz would benefit from a fresh start with a new franchise. Simmons’ suggested trade assumed it will be hard to extract first round value for the young guard and his proposed deal was Antonio Blakeney and a second round pick for Fultz.

Rather than guess what players would be included in a hypothetical deal, a better question is: could the Bulls—and Fred Hoiberg—pull the best out of Fultz?

Obviously, any conversation about Fultz bouncing back starts with the idea that he will at some point be 100 percent healthy and ready to play. Looking at strictly his basketball fit, it is clear that Chicago would certainly give him the best opportunity outside of Orlando and Phoenix in terms of a path to lots of playing time.

In college Fultz was a dynamic lead guard with a very high 31 percent usage rate. His team (Washington) went 2-16 in conference play despite his stellar play.

His rookie year in the NBA came on a Sixers team that won 52 games. The pressure of joining one of the rising teams in the league combined with his injury woes made for a terrible amount of pressure to start his career. His struggles shooting are well-documented and will likely continue in the short-term. But the fact that the Bulls sit well below .500 means that Fultz would be stepping into a low-pressure situation where he could work his way back into form slowly.

The combination of Kris Dunn and Fultz in the rotation would help improve the Bulls perimeter defense. For all of Ryan Arcidiacono’s shooting and playmaking ability, he doesn’t possess the physical tools that allow Fultz to make plays like this:

Fultz’s defensive rating is a solid 108 over his small 33-game, 680 minute-sized career sample. His 6-foot-10 wingspan is the main asset that still gives him a chance to develop into a solid guard. The fact that he won’t shoot 3-pointers would more concerning if his jump shot form was consistent. But as long as he is rebuilding his jump shot form, sticking to his other strengths is fine for the time being. Per Basketball-Reference, Fultz made 65 percent of his shots at the rim over the last two seasons. He has the makings of a player who can become a great finisher. Fultz has a better chance of becoming an elite inside scorer if paired with quality, floor-spacing big men, of which Chicago has at least two.

Fred Hoiberg likes to get his guards going “downhill” with handoffs and pick-and-rolls. In 2018-19, LaVine and Blakeney are both averaging well over a point per possession as pick-and-roll ball handlers. Under the tutelage of Hoiberg, it is very unlikely but not impossible to imagine Fultz making a leap as a mid range shooter. He would be able to build up his confidence in countless pick-and-rolls. After a historically bad shooting year in his rookie season, Dunn turned into a 46 percent shooter from long 2-point range with the Bulls.

The addition of Fultz would also take a number of possessions out of LaVine’s hands, allowing him more catch-and-shoot opportunities. His 3-point shooting is all the way down to 30 percent, but he is still shooting a solid 38 percent on catch-and-shot 3-pointers. Fultz’s playmaking -- 5.9 assists per 36 minutes for his career-- means a less strenuous workload for LaVine. It also provides Hoiberg with another player capable of getting the ball to Markkanen and Carter.

Chicago has the 29th ranked offense in the league and the addition of Fultz wouldn’t change that. But with the return of Markkanen, Dunn and Bobby Portis eminent, the Bulls have enough offensive firepower on the way. The defensive side is where Fultz would help more and the Bulls are playing better on that end as of late, up to 22nd in terms of defensive rating.

A big part of that is the month of November, where the Bulls have ranked 12th in the league in defensive efficiency. Fultz would add a wrinkle that could allow the defense to reach league average marks. As a switch defender able to contend with small forwards in certain matchups, he could be the bridge between Hoiberg's big and small lineups. If his shooting improves, he becomes more valuable on offense as well. If Fultz’s jump shot doesn’t improve, he would still be a solid backup point guard capable of doing damage when surrounded by shooters.

Philadelphia expected Fultz to be a polished inside-out scorer, one of the final pieces of a championship-caliber core. But in Chicago he would be expected to be an effective slashing guard, who gives an incredibly high effort on defense and on the glass.

The Bulls hit the “reset button” on June 22, 2017 in hopes of collecting young talent.

Adding Fultz to the group of Markkanen, LaVine, Dunn, Carter and Parker would give the Bulls six former lottery picks who still have plenty of time to develop.

The uncertainty surrounding him is going to make for a very volatile trade market, one in which Chicago would be wise to stay far away from if first round picks are involved. But in the event that Philadelphia is willing to let go of Fultz at a reasonable price, the Bulls would be wise to at least reach out.

NBA free agency is unpredictable and besides, the Bulls need free agents who line up with the career arcs of their players, meaning 2019 isn’t the offseason to go all-in on a signing, barring the unlikely event of Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard showing interest. There should be no worry of his contract cutting into the Bulls cap space considering the amount of teams gearing up for big spending offseasons.

Fultz would hit restricted free agency in the 2022 offseason but has a team-option in his contract for the 2021 offseason, the same offseason that Chicago-native Anthony Davis could headline what is shaping up to be a spectacular free agent class. Theoretically, the Bulls could give Fultz an opportunity to flourish and make their young core more attractive for free agents now. Then in 2021 they could decline Fultz’s team-option, get a big-name free agent and re-sign Fultz to a back-loaded contract that keeps him in the long-term plans.

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How did Twitter react to reported trade of Jimmy Butler to 76ers?


How did Twitter react to reported trade of Jimmy Butler to 76ers?

Jimmy Butler's wish for the Timberwolves to trade him was finally granted on Sunday, with Minnesota agreeing to send the All-Star guard to the 76ers.

The deal concludes what has been a turbulent chapter in the Timberwolves' season. Between the trade request itself, head coach Tom Thibodeau's reluctancy to trade Butler and Butler going nuclear at Timberwolves practice, Minnesota's 2018-19 season has gotten off to a...unique...start.

Naturally, Twitter had a field-day when reports on the trade happening came out. First, the reports themselves from The Athletic and ESPN:

But then, the fun started. 

For reference regarding the next two tweets, Butler reportedly targeted Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins during his profanity-filled practice tirade in early October.

And then there are the tweets that come at the expense of the 76ers.

Butler and Timberwolves third-stringers reportedly beat the team's starters in the same practice as his tirade.

Simmons, the 76ers' 6-foot-10 point guard, has not attempted a three-point shot this season. Fultz (30.8 percent) has not shot the three at a successful rate and missed much of last season with "the yips."

It looks like Butler has some competition for the face of Philadelphia professional sports, too.

In the end, though, the Warriors are still 10-2 and hold one of the best rosters in the NBA, even with the Butler trade.

Twitter never seems to disappoint, huh?