Michael Porter

Here's why the Bulls didn't take Michael Porter Jr. last night

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USA TODAY

Here's why the Bulls didn't take Michael Porter Jr. last night

There was angst and anger among the Bulls fan base following the team's selection of Wendell Carter in Thursday's NBA Draft. Though the team had been linked to Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. - and he was far and away the biggest fan favorite - the Bulls passed on the former No. 1 prospect, opting to play it safe and find a complement to Lauri Markkanen on the frontline.

Porter fell farther than just past the Bulls at No. 7. Cleveland opted for Collin Sexton. The Knicks and Sixers went with wings similar to Porter in Kevin Knox and Mikal Bridges.

Porter didn't hear his name called until the very last selection of the Lottery, with the Nuggets grabbing the 6-foot-10 scorer. It's a dice roll for Denver, but one it can afford after it won 47 games and was Game No. 82 away from making the postseason. They're a team on the rise that doesn't need an immediate contribution from a rookie. And that's good, because Porter might not be contributing at all in his rookie season.

Gar Forman and John Paxson were asked about whether Porter was in consideration at No. 7, and if his medicals played any part in the decision to pass.

And while Forman wouldn't address medical situations, he did say the Bulls were in contact with Porter throughout the draft process.

"We spent time with Mike, he’s a great young man," Paxson said. "We’re not gonna talk about medical things. We go through a diligent process every single year.

"This year we probably had more debate and dialogue as a staff. Varying degrees of opinion were really strong. We wish him the best out in Denver."

Paxson didn't say that "debate and dialogue" necessarily included Porter, but multiple reports said the Bulls weren't interested in Porter when it came down to choosing at No. 7.

And it makes sense. The Bulls are in a position where they're beginning to move along in their rebuild. They needed a contributor, and someone who could play right away. Porter wasn't that player, and he wasn't going to be a great fit with Markkanen and Zach LaVIne anyway.

It'll always be fun to think about what could have been, but the injury risk was simply too high for the Bulls to consider using an important 7th pick on a guy who might not play for 16 months.

NCAA Tournament watch guide of Bulls' NBA Draft prospects

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USA TODAY

NCAA Tournament watch guide of Bulls' NBA Draft prospects

March Madness is upon us, and unless your boss is really breathing down your neck you'll be paying attention to the first round games on Thursday and Friday. And for Bulls fans, that means getting a look at potential pieces of the franchise's rebuild.

And with the Bulls owning the Pelicans' first-round pick, there are even more players to keep your eye on as you watch the games (and watch your bracket implode by Thursday mid-day). Here's a chronological list of games that include first-round picks the Bulls might be interested in, from Thursday at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday.

Thursday: 11:15 a.m. - No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Rhode Island

Who we're watching on Oklahoma: No. 11 Trae Young (PG)

Why Young? Because when he's on his game he's the most electric player in college basketball. His Sooners went into a tailspin in the final two months of the season after being ranked as high as No. 4 in the country. Young is an outstanding shooter, distributor and decision maker who became the first player to lead college hoops in points per game (27.4) and assists per game (8.8). The Bulls have Kris Dunn, but Young's game was built for the NBA. He's an option with their own pick.

Thursday: 1:45 p.m. - No. 15 Iona vs. No. 2 Duke

Who we're watching on Duke: No. 1 Tre Duval (PG), No. 3 Grayson Allen (SG), No. 34 Wendell Carter Jr. (C), No. 35 Marvin Bagley III (PF)

Why Duval? Duke and their point guards. The latest of the crop is Duval, a super-athletic guard who has admittedly struggled but has potential. While he defers as a scorer, he is averaging 5.5 assists and has contributed as an on-ball defender (1.5 steals). Duval may come back to Durham for a second season, especially with the talent Coach K is bringing in, but he'll be in consideration as a first-rounder on talent alone if he does declare.

Why Allen? Everyone's got an opinion on the kid, but they all agree on one thing: he can shoot with the best of them. Allen is shooting nearly 38 percent on 7.2 3-pointers per game, and he continues to show a little more ever year in the passing department, averaging 4.5 assists this season. There's a belief that his game is better suited in the free-flowing NBA, meaning he could be a consideration for the Bulls' late first-rounder. They could use an upgrade on ball-handlers who can shoot, and his ability to play off the ball - his more natural fit - makes him valuable.

Why Carter? While everyone's talking about Marvin Bagley (below), Carter has arguably been just as good. He's isn't as quick or versatile as Bagley, and doesn't have quite the same perimeter game, but his 260-pound frame allows him to bang inside (9.3 rebounds) and defend at a high clip (2.2 blocks). He has been one of the anchors of Duke's zone defense this season, and he's also shooting 56 percent from the field on the other end. He'll certainly be in consideration for the Bulls when they select in the Lottery.

Why Bagley? On a Duke team loaded with talent, Bagley shines brightest. His 6-foot-11 frame is long and athletic, and he always seems to be in the right spot on the floor. He's averaged 21.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and shot 37 percent on a limited number of 3-pointers. But he plays so well around the rim, has a solid mid-range game and is explosive in transition. He's a superb talent and only just turned 19 years old. He'll continue to expand his game and will have All-Star potential from Day 1 as a pro, but the Bulls will need Lottery luck to have a chance at drafting him.

Thursday, 2:10 p.m. - No. 11 Loyola vs. No. 6 Miami (Fla.)

Who we're watching on Miami: No. 4 Lonnie Walker IV (SG)

Why Walker? Though you'll have to root against the Chicago team in this year's NCAA Tournament, Walker is one of the most fun players in March. He's a combo guard who plays above the rim and with plenty of energy as a defender. That versatility would fit well in Chicago, where the Bulls are still trying to figure out how to utilize their talent off the ball. Walker fits that mold, and if you're looking for him he'll be the blur in transition, the guy scraping for a loose ball or going up top for a dunk.

Thursday, 5:50 p.m. - No. 16 Radford vs. No. 1 Villanova

Who we're watching on Villanova: No. 25 Mikal Bridges (SG)

Why Bridges? The term "two-play player" is overused these days, but it fits for Bridges. He's arguably the best wing defender in the draft, and he expanded his offensive game as a junior, averaging 18.0 points on 52 percent shooting (and 43 percent from deep). He's the No. 2 option on the Wildcats' top-ranked offense, and he can guard four positions (1.1 blocks, 1.6 steals). He's "old" as a junior, but that may be why such a talented player is available for the Bulls late in the top-10.

Thursday, 6:10 p.m. - No. 12 Davidson vs. No. 5 Kentucky

Who we're watching on Kentucky: No. 3 Hamidou Diallo (SG), No. 5 Kevin Knox (SF), No. 22 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (PG)

Why Diallo? If teams were drafting on potential alone he'd be a top-10 pick. But the freshman shooting guard is still incredibly raw and is more of an athlete than a basketbal player at this point. That means he's been fantastic in transition and can get to the rim at will. But he also shot below 34 percent from deep, committed more turnovers than he had assists and doesn't play terriffic defense. But again: potential is critical in the NBA, and GMs love it. Diallo could be an option when the Bulls use their Pelicans pick.

Why Knox? He's your prototypical combo forward in today's NBA. Knox has really come on strong in the second half of the season (like all Cal Kentucky teams), and his inside-out game from a 6-foot-9 scorer has NBA teams salivating. He's a bit rough around the edges and doesn't offer much in the way of defense, but he's capable of going off for 30 on any given night and that will have him in the mix for a top-10 selection.

Why Gilgeous-Alexander? There's something to be said for a 6-foot-6 point guard. Gilgeous-Alexander has really improved his stock in the last month or so, averaging 18.4 points and 6.1 assists over his last eight games. He's also a versatile defender, which has him moving his way up draft boards. The Bulls could use versatility and a stout defender in their backcourt to match what Kris Dunn does. He'll be in play when the Bulls make their first pick of the first round.

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. - No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 8 Virginia Tech

Who we're watching on Alabama: No. 2 Collin Sexton (PG)

Why Sexton? In a league domianted by point guards, Sexton may be the best in this year's class. His numbers will tell you he's a shoot-first point guard, as he's averaging 19.0 points on 44 percent shooting and just 3.5 assists. But more than that, Sexton is a playmakers. He's a smart player, is lightning quick in transition and plays good defense. He's a lot like De'Aaron Fox, who went 5th overall in last year's draft. The Bulls will give Sexton a hard look on draft night. He'd be an excellent fit next to Kris Dunn as the Bulls search for more ball handlers.

Thursday, 8:40 p.m. - No. 13 Buffalo vs. No. 4 Arizona

Who we're watching on Arizona: No. 13 Deandre Ayton, (C)

Why Ayton? Because you want to see a grown man play against a bunch of kids. Apologies to Buffalo, but Ayton is that special. He averaged 20.3 points on 61.6 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in the regular season, and not even those numbers tell the story. He's 7-foot-1 with an NBA-ready body, is a force around the rim yet still made 12 3-pointers, and improved as a defender as the season went on. He'll be the No. 1 pick in June, barring something unforeseen. Pray for Buffalo the same way you pray for the Bulls' Lottery chances.

Thursday, 8:50 p.m. - No. 14 Montana vs. No. 3 Michigan

Who we're watching on Michigan: No. 13 Moritz Wagner (PF)

Why Wagner? Much like D.J. Wilson did a year ago, Wagner is seeing his stock improve as the Wolverines dominate down the stretch. Wagner tested the NBA waters after his freshman season and wound up returning to Ann Arbor. It was a good call, as he's averaged 14.5 points on 53 percent shooting and 7.1 rebounds in a larger role. He's got stretch-forward potential, making 40 percent of his 134 3-pointers this season, and has a built 245-pound frame that could make him playable right away. His defense needs work, but the Bulls could fall in love with his versatility late in the first.

Friday, 11:15 a.m. - No. 10 Providence vs. No. 7 Texas A&M

Who we're watching on Texas A&M: No. 44 Robert Williams (PF)

Why Williams? When he's engaged there are few players who possess the kind of talent Williams has. He can score in a variety of ways and has elite athleticism that's helped him become of the one better rebounders in the conference. The Bulls have remade the power forward position, and Bobby Ports' emergence in Year 4 has made it less of a priority. Still, Williams is someone who could have a huge March and pre-draft process to cement his status as a mid-to-late first-rounder.

Friday, 2:10 p.m. - No. 10 Butler vs. No. 7 Arkansas

Who we're watching on Arkansas: No. 10 Daniel Gafford (C)

Why Gafford? Fred Hoiberg wants to play small, and for the most part the Bulls have done this all year. Still, there's value in the NBA for a center who can run the floor, block shots and pound the glass. That's Gafford's game. The 6-foot-11 freshman is averaging 11.9 points on 62 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He's only scratching the surface of his potential, so while he may make you scratch your head with a silly play he's also going to wow you a few times every game.

Friday, 3:30 p.m. - No. 10 Texas vs. No. 7 Nevada

Who we're watching on Texas: No. 4 Mo Bamba (C)

Why Bamba? Have you ever seen an 8-foot wingspan? Bamba looks like something out of Space Jam, and he plays with the dominance of a Monstar, too. He was second in the country in blocks per game (3.7) and averaged a double-double (12.9 points, 10.4 rebounds). He's still raw, but one quick look at him and you realize his potential as a defensive star. Once his offensive game fills out he'll be unstoppable. The Bulls will need some Lottery luck to have a chance at drafting this Unicorn of a prospect.

Friday, 5:50 p.m. - No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 8 Creighton

Who we're watching on Creighton: No. 2 Khyri Thomas (SG)

Why Thomas? The Bulls have improved offensively, thanks to Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and - at times - Zach LaVine. The defense, however, has been borderline unwatchable at times. Enter Khyri Thomas, the 6-foot-3 guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan who is an absolute hound on that end of the floor. He's got All-NBA Defensive Team potential, and he's not too shabby as a shooter - he's made between 39 and 41 percent of his 3-point attempts in three seasons with the Bluejays. He'll almost certainly be in the mix with the Bulls' second first-rounder. For as improved as the Bulls are on the wing offensively, the defense has taken a major hit.

Friday, 6:10 p.m. - No. 14 Bucknell vs. No. 3 Michigan State

Who we're watching on Michigan State: No. 22 Miles Bridges (SF) No. 2 Jaren Jackson Jr. (PF)

Why Bridges? As far as the college game goes, there are few better than Bridges. He's averaging nearly 17 points on 46 percent shooting, and contributes in just about every facet of the game. As an NBA pick, his lack of size (6-foot-7) and outside shooting (36.9 percent shooter from deep) may hurt him. Then again, far less athletic players have made it on skill alone. Bridges could be in that camp, especially if he falls on draft night and the Bulls scoop him up late in the first round. He's a good defender and plays above the rim when attacking the basket. There's a spot in the league for that.

Why Jackson? He's the perfect build for a future NBA power forward. Jackson is raw as a freshman, but he rebounds incredibly well (5.8 per game), is a nightmare at the rim (3.2 blocks per game) and has shown serious capability to make outside shots (40 percent on 96 3-point attempts; he made five in one game). He's made for the NBA, and while he hasn't received the same kind of attention as the Aytons, Bagleys and Mambas of this class, he's incredibly valued because of that skill set. It would surprise no one if he's taken in the top-5 on draft night.

Friday, 8:50 p.m. - No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 8 Missouri

Who we're watching on Missouri: No. 13 Michael Porter Jr.

Why Porter? Because we haven't seen much of him at all this year. Twenty-five minutes, to be exact. A back injury limited him to just two minutes in the regular season, and he wasn't great in his lone SEC Tournament appearance (5-for-17 shooting in a loss to Georgia). But there was a reason he was considered by many as the top prospect in this class. He's 6-foot-10, has an incredible feel for the game and can score from anywhere. The Bulls will need some Lottery luck to have a chance at drafting him, unless the back injury scares off teams.

NBA Buzz: It's never too early for a mock draft

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USA TODAY

NBA Buzz: It's never too early for a mock draft

The majority of the NBA universe is speculating about which players will be traded before the Feb. 8 deadline — but we already did that a couple days ago.

So, with the college basketball season past its halfway point, how about an early projection of what the 14 lottery teams might do with their first-round selections?

It's never too early for a mock draft.

1. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke. The Kings have been whiffing on lottery picks for most of the last decade, but taking Bagley would be a no-brainer. Sacramento is pretty thin up front after the DeMarcus Cousins trade last season, and Bagley looks like a multiple-time All Star with a variety of post moves and shooting range out to the 3-point line.

2. Atlanta Hawks: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona. The Hawks have completely torn down the roster just a few short years after finishing with the best record in the East. They could use help at every position, but as we saw when the Bulls visited on Jan. 20, the Hawks have absolutely zero rim protection. Enter Ayton, an athletic seven-footer with an NBA-ready frame who should be able to anchor the Atlanta defense for years to come.

3. Orlando Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma. The Magic are another team in major need of a roster makeover, and after watching Elfrid Payton struggle for four seasons at the most important position in the modern game, isn't it time for an upgrade at the point guard position? Young leads the nation in both scoring and assists with Steph Curry-like shooting range. He would definitely be a big-gate attraction in the Magic Kingdom.

4. Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia. After riding international star Dirk Nowitzki to their only NBA title in 2011, how about bringing in the best player currently competing in Europe? Mark Cuban has never been afraid to take chances with personnel moves, and the highly skilled Doncic could turn out to be the best perimeter player in the draft. At the age of 18, his shooting and passing ability have drawn rave reviews from NBA scouts.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: Michael Porter, SF/PF, Missouri. Porter only played two minutes for the Tigers before leaving his first college game with what turned out to be a season-ending back injury. Still, scouts love his potential to play both forward spots at 6-foot-10, and if Porter decides to apply for the draft, it's hard to see him falling beyond this point.

6. Phoenix Suns: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama. The Suns used to be drowning in point guards, but after trading Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe in recent years, their starter is now 5-foot-9 Chicago native Tyler Ulis. Sexton has tremendous scoring and ball-handling skills, showing up on the national radar after almost single-handedly beating Minnesota in a Thanksgiving tournament game when Alabama was forced to play with only three players for a good portion of the second half because of injuries and ejections.

7. Boston Celtics: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas. The Celtics continue to stock up on young talent by virtue of all the great trades made by general manager Danny Ainge in recent years. Boston has just about every position but center covered, and now they get a chance to add a defensive anchor with a 7-foot-9 wingspan. The Celtics are poised for a long run as the beasts of the East.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State. Power forward really isn't the Cavs' biggest position of need, but if LeBron James leaves in free agency, Cleveland could be heading into rebuild mode. Jackson has a soft shooting touch from 3-point range and is quick off his feet as a shot blocker. He could team up with Kevin Love on a new-look Cavs team post-LeBron.

9. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova. With four starting positions already covered (assuming Robin Lopez remains on the roster), the Bulls would have the luxury to add another shot creator on the wing. Bridges is tall enough to play the small forward spot and has a lightning-quick first step to get to the rim. He also is shooting 44 percent from the 3-point line and 50 percent overall. Adding Bridges to a lineup that features Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn would give the Bulls a young and versatile unit capable of playing with tremendous pace.

10. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky. The Hornets could be ready to push the reset button after watching their veteran-laden team underachieve this season. Charlotte will be looking to trade the big contracts of Nic Batum, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which means they could be in need of a versatile frontcourt player with high-end scoring potential.

11. Utah Jazz: Wendell Carter, PF, Duke. With Derrick Favors likely to leave in free agency, the Jazz could definitely use a young power forward with Carter's ability to score inside. Carter has played in Bagley's massive shadow at Duke, but he figures to get more touches and shot attempts in an NBA offense. The Jazz have had pretty good luck drafting power forwards in the past with Karl Malone and Paul Millsap.

12. New York Knicks: Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State. Bridges surprised a lot of NBA executives with his decision to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season considering he was a likely lottery pick last year. Bridges has become much more than just a spectacular dunker, adding a more consistent 3-point shot to his offensive arsenal. He could be an excellent fit in New York alongside Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter.

13. Detroit Pistons: Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky. Diallo hasn't really stood out on a young Kentucky team, but his physical tools are off the charts. He's a great finisher at the rim but needs more consistency with his outside shot. The Pistons could be in need of a shooting guard with Avery Bradley heading to free agency.

14. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky. Another talented young athlete who gets kind of lost in a somewhat dysfunctional Kentucky offense. The Nuggets are ready to move on from the Emmanuel Mudiay experiment, though Gilgeous-Alexander offers similar concerns as a raw, underdeveloped prospect.

Around the Association

The big news this week involves the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to fire head coach Jason Kidd, who originally came to Milwaukee because of his longstanding friendship with Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry. Kidd signed a contract extension in 2016 and has a good relationship with All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

So why the change? Clearly, Kidd and his staff have not done the best job of developing the talent on the roster. The Bucks made an early season trade with the Suns to acquire point guard Eric Bledsoe, giving them another shot creator to go along with the Greek Freak. They've also loaded up on long athletes over the years, drafting frontcourt players John Henson, Thon Maker and D.J. Wilson, while also adding point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who was the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year. And the Bucks starting lineup features a third proven scorer in swingman Khris Middleton, with Chicago native Jabari Parker expected back next month after completing his second ACL rehab.

With the Bucks scheduled to move into their new downtown arena next season, ownership is clearly not satisfied with a team hovering around .500 and in danger of missing the playoffs. Assistant coach Joe Prunty will take over for now, but the names of David Fizdale and Monty Williams have already surfaced as leading candidates to replace Kidd.

The San Antonio Spurs have long been held in high regard as the NBA's model organization. But now ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright are reporting there's a growing disconnect with star forward Kawhi Leonard over the handling of his rehab from a quad injury. Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season because of the injury, and according to the report, he wasn't always on the same page with how the rehab process was done. Leonard is currently sidelined again because of the same injury, and the Spurs aren't sure when he'll be ready to play again.

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford denies there is any problem between the organization and its star player, but it's definitely a situation to watch considering Leonard can opt out of his current contract following the 2018-19 season. If the Bulls decided not be active in this summer's free-agent market, is there a chance they could make a run at one the NBA's top 10 players with a max offer in 2019?

While the Bucks have been one of the league's most disappointing teams this season, the Washington Wizards aren't far behind. Washington currently holds the fifth seed in the East, but that has more to do with the quality of the conference rather than the Wizards' outstanding play. Washington players recently decided to hold a clear-the-air meeting, but things didn't go exactly as planned.

According to the Washington Post, the meeting actually had a negative impact on team morale. John Wall said, "We had our team meeting. A couple guys took it the negative way, and it hurt our team. Instead of taking it a positive way like we did in the past and using it to build our team up, it kind of set us back a little bit."

Wizards leading scorer Bradley Beal added, "Honestly, it was probably — I won't say pointless, but we didn't accomplish what we needed to accomplish in that meeting. We just need to win ballgames. Like I told the guys, it doesn't matter how many meetings we have. We can have a meeting after every game, but if we're not mentally prepared for each game, we're going to lose again."

And that's exactly what happened. In the next game after the meeting, the Wizards got pounded by the Hornets, 133-109. Clearly, there's a lot of work to do before Washington can be considered a legitimate threat in the East.

Speaking of bad team meetings, how about Wojnarowski reporting the embattled Cavs got together before practice on Monday and actually questioned the legitimacy of Kevin Love's illness after he only played three minutes in a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder? According to the report, Love had to explain to his teammates why he left the arena before the game was over and then missed practice the following day. The Cavs might eventually get their act together before the playoffs, but it sure doesn't look good now.

Quote of the Week

Former Cavs coach David Blatt felt blindsided when he was fired and replaced by Ty Lue midway through the team's 2015-16 championship season. Blatt eventually went back to Europe to resume his coaching career, and he directed one of the teams in a Turkish BSL All-Star Game on Sunday.

When asked about his goals for the game, Blatt offered this classic that resonated on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean: "I hope we don't give up as many points as the Cavaliers gave up last night."

Very funny line after the Cavs were torched for 148 points in that loss to the Thunder, which matched a franchise record. Problem is, Blatt's All-Star squad gave up 151 in losing their game. You know what they say about karma.