Posts tagged Lauri Markkanen
When it comes to trading for Russell Westbrook, Bulls fans need to make up their minds: is it Oochie Wally or One Mic?
Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

This isn’t a post advocating for, or against, the Chicago Bulls trading for Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook. You’ll certainly see plenty of articles predicting where the 30-year-old MVP will wind up between now and the time he is traded, whether that comes now or at some point during the season. Let’s be frank: those are fun Bleacher Report stories to sift through while you sit on the Red Line hoping that discolored stream trickling down your train cart is actually some high schoolers’ spilled Mango Mania Mystic and not some homeless guy’s piss. However, they’re dry as hell and one of 1,000 that will be typed up by nerdy white dudes with ‘-NBA” on the end of their Twitter handle. Nobody needs more of those.

No, this article is addressed to Bulls fans, some of the most passionate supporters in the world. We have been there for our Bulls through the euphoric highs (three-peat X2, the Derrick Rose-led Bench Mob-by Bulls of 2011) and the dark, depressing lows (the Baby Bulls, Rose’s recurring knee injuries, The Three Alphas). One could argue that more than any team in the NBA, Bulls fans ride for their squad in thin times, evident by the Bulls’ second-place finish in average attendance in 2018-19, another year at-or-near the top of the league for a team that’s led the league in attendance 13 times since their last championship in 1998.

These are very much lean times for the Bulls, entering their third year of a long-overdue rebuild, the first full year of head coach Jim Boylen’s tenure after replacing the out-of-his-league Fred Hoiberg mid-season and limping towards a 22-60 record. Who knows when the Bulls will be competitive in the East again, or how long a fan base already restless for the return of a winning franchise will continue to wait patiently until heads finally roll.

Still, there’s much for Bulls fans to be excited about next season. Lauri Markkanen enters his third year in the league, and despite missing 30 games last season with a sprained elbow and health issues, has flashed glimpses of a future All-Star. Zach Lavine exploded in 2019, finishing in the top 20 in scoring in the NBA. Wendell Carter Jr. started 44 games before a thumb injury ended his season, and the Otto Porter Jr. trade at the deadline brought over a capable three-and-D option on the wing.

Chicago, shockingly, even made good moves in the offseason to improve the club, adding point guard Coby White and big Daniel Gafford in the draft, while signing vets Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky in free agency. The Bulls aren’t back yet, but the hope around Chicago is they’re well on their way.

But while the Bulls were busy resetting the ballclub, something happened across the NBA. The league we once knew got flipped on its ass, and all of a sudden the powers that were are no longer. The Western Conference has balanced out after the Raptors ended the Warriors run this June, with Kevin Durant leaving for the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson set to miss a good chunk of next season with a torn ACL. Now, more teams are gearing up for a run at the Larry O’Brien in 2020. The Clippers - say it with me again - are challenging the Lakers’ big two of LeBron James and Anthony Davis with one of their own, signing Kawhi Leonard away from Toronto and swinging a massive deal with the Thunder for Paul George. Brooklyn will try to make it work without KD next season, while Boston hopes for better returns from Kemba Walker than what the newest Net Kyrie Irving gave them, and the Sixers load up by re-signing Tobias Harris and adding Al Horford. The Heat are trying to build around Jimmy Butler, while the Jazz hope Mike Conley fits perfectly next to Donovan Mitchell. Not to mention the Bucks and reigning MVP Giannis Antetekoumpo, rising squads in Denver and Indy, and established powers in Houston and Golden State.

LOL and the Knicks doing whatever the Knicks are doing.

That brings us back to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, who according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, are receptive to trade offers for the eight-time All-Star. It’s not often that a superstar of Westbrook’s caliber - a former MVP coming off his third-consecutive season averaging a triple-double - is available via trade. Speculation has already begun with clubs like the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons reportedly the frontrunners, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst named Chicago as a destination that makes sense.

There’s pros and cons to the Westsiders pivoting in the middle of a rebuild to acquire an aging star like Westbrook, and we’ve heard each and every one of them to death on social media since the Paul George to LA trade was announced early Saturday morning. Cries of Westbrook’s alleged poor shooting ability, IQ, attitude, age, and most importantly, the massive contract he signed to stay in OKC that includes a player option of $47,063,478 in 2022-23, have run rampant online. All of those fears are understandable, especially given the time spent to acquire the young pieces the Bulls have over the last few years. However, something doesn’t seem right.

Just a week ago, Bulls fans and media members in the city looked down on the Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky acquisitions, either because they weren’t sexy, or because the Bulls made no effort to attract a superstar this summer or leading up to it. Now, the same ones are writing think pieces and making podcasts about why it would be idiotic for the Bulls to move for a superstar to try and compete in a thin Eastern Conference in 2020.

So what is it, Bulls fans? Is it Oochie Wally or is it One Mic? You decide, but be aware: the clock is ticking.

You can’t clown the Bulls front office for having a plan since the February trade for Porter and sticking with it this summer, then run it back and criticize fans who would be open to trading for one of the ten best players in the game right now. You can’t go on a tweet-storm about Chicago not being an attractive destination for free agents, then say the Bulls would be stupid to add a star that moves them not just a step closer to a title, but closer to attracting top talent in free agency, because it theoretically takes them out of the running for Giannis once he reaches the open market. Bulls fans have not been consistent at all with what they want out of the club, and it’s honestly more frustrating than watching the product on the court.

Do I want the Bulls to engage OKC in conversations for Russ? Hell yeah. He’s in his prime, playing the best basketball of his career, and he will be the same age Chris Paul is now when his contract is up. If he can bring the same level of production at 34 that CP3 has, there’s no reason to worry about his age. He immediately vaults the Bulls into playoff contention, but more importantly the pieces left behind after the trade - almost certainly Markkanen and one of Lavine/Carter Jr. - will elevate their game alongside Westbrook. Coby White would become a casualty of the deal, either going the other way to OKC or coming off the bench for Westbrook, but are we really worried that trading for a future Hall of Famer is going to greatly affect the future of Coby White?

If Gar Forman and John Paxson stick to their guns and avoid a move for Westbrook, I’m fine with that too. Sure the Bulls might be unbearable as hell next season, and maybe the season after that as well, but I won’t lose sleep. Chicago will wait their turn to strike on Giannis or A.D. or some other disgruntled superstar who could boost the club’s chances of winning. Russ definitely speeds up the timeline, but missing out on him doesn’t hurt it either.

But God help me, Bulls fans, pick a lane and stay firmly there. If you bitched and complained about the lack of a push for a star last week, be open to a deal for one the next week. If you demand more from the men in charge, don’t huff and puff and throw a hissy fit online when other fans do the same when they see one of the premier players in the league available. Sometimes it feels like Bulls fans have no idea what they want; they just want a return to the glory days of Bulls basketball, and I get it. 21 years is a mighty long time to be wishing and praying on a come up. But you can’t come up in the NBA if you don’t take chances. See: 2019 Toronto Raptors, 2008 Boston Celtics, and 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Or, yanow, keep whining like the apathetic losers you are. Won’t change how I feel about the Bulls one bit.

The Third Pick - Season Preview
The Third Pick EP 12 - Blame Mariano
The Third Pick Podcast Ep.8: "Season 15 Tho!"

The guys @Scott_CEOofSUH & @Mariannoo are back & this week on #TheThirdPick they discuss the Bulls horrible job at tanking, why Lauri isn't resting the final games, Kyrie injury, Scott goes on a full blown rant about the MJ/LBJ debate plus much more

The Bulls find themselves mired in a close tank race for the top picks in the draft
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Hello Bulls fans,

It’s become abundantly clear these last few weeks of the season what the set plan was for the franchise. Fred Hoiberg has been instructed to play the younger guys more than vets to see what they can offer the team in the future. Winning hasn’t been the idea because the better players including the big 3 of Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine have been held out for “minor” injuries. I’m sure there is a percentage of this that is factual, but I believe the prize in mind is a higher lottery pick for the franchise to jumpstart the rebuild this offseason.

We have yet to see what Zach LaVine will be because he is still coming back into form from his 2017 ACL injury. It is typically the second year that the player fully recovers from the injury and get their confidence back. He is only 23 years old so there is a lot more that can be added to his game. Zach LaVine still looks like he isn’t being acclimated into the offense. There were a lot of moments when he looks like he’s forcing shots up and not getting open looks. I believe once he gets a full offseason in this offense, which is must different than what the Minnesota Timberwolves run he will be okay.

I mention Zach LaVine just to say that he is an important piece to this rebuild, and him playing not as well as expected isn’t that bad of a thing. He needed to knock that rust off in order to fully come back from the ACL injury. It was a bonus benefit that they are failing to win games

The Chicago Bulls have lost six straight games and are sitting at 8th overall in the pick selection, and can possibly move up to the 5th or 6th overall selection before it’s all said and done. If Chicago can do that and get some lottery luck, they will have a chance to pick Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr, Luka Doncic, or Mohamed Bamba.

The Nets draft pick belongs to the Cavaliers via the Celtics trade with Kyrie Irving, so Brooklyn doesn’t have any motive to try and purposely tank and lose out. Dallas' win over the Kings gives the Bulls a very strong chance at least finishing with a tie for the 4th seed if they can lose their remaining eight games, although it's highly unlikely they go on a 14-game losing streak to finish the season.

If they are as serious about tanking as the player personnel that is deployed every night shows, then I have no doubt they can get in the top 5. Also, keep in mind that the Bulls own the New Orleans Pelicans first round pick as well. This should be a very interesting close to the season.

Free agent moves the Bulls should consider this summer
K.C. Johnson/Chicago Tribune

K.C. Johnson/Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bulls have made some good moves recently to bring in young talent and draft picks for this upcoming season. The plan seems to be coming clearer that we will be bringing in players that fit Fred Hoiberg’s system. The Chicago Bulls have not been a franchise to make a huge splash during the NBA free agency period. The most notable free agents we’ve signed this decade were Carlos Boozer and a declining Pau Gasol. The Bulls spent most of Derrick Rose’s healthy career trying to pair him with a backcourt mate and out of desperation brought in Rip Hamilton. I personally will never understand how as an organization, we believed bringing in Carlos Boozer was the move to help get us over the hill.

The chemistry between Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine has not been there since LaVine returned from his ACL injury. Kris Dunn has been the better player of the two and it’s not even close. I believe the cause of this subpar play from Zach LaVine is rusty from coming off injury and not being able to be acclimated into Fred Hoiberg’s system. I am hopeful that Zach LaVine is retained and able to learn from a healthy offseason in Fred Hoiberg’s system. He needs to learn how to co-exist with Kris Dunn. These two gelling is of the most important because it’ll determine where the team goes in the next couple of off-seasons.

The moves that happen this offseason can shape which direction this team is heading in the next couple of years. It’s very important that we hit in the draft but also add some talent in free agency. There are some guys that can be brought in to help in a position that isn’t addressed in the draft.

We know that center and small forward are positions of need. We need viable pieces that fit with our young talent added on. I like the idea of trying to throw money at DeMarcus Cousins to be our starting center. I think he would be a good piece because he’s not a ball dominant player. Kris Dunn can control the ball and have a hell of a frontcourt in Lauri Markkanen and Cousins. He’s shown he can co-exist with Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Having good young players gives you a better chance of reeling in free agent talent, and the Chicago Bulls have some nice pieces in place.

Jabari Parker would be a good player to add to the small forward room. He’s an athletic and long player who runs the floor pretty well. I think it’s enticing to him because he is from Chicago so bring him home. If we go Center in the 2018 NBA draft this move makes a lot of sense.

I am hoping that we are able to secure a top 5 draft pick and it’s looking like management it’s trying to trend towards this as well. Benching Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen makes it clear the goal in mind. If we get one of the big men in this draft then the idea for Cousins becomes illogical. The rest of March is critical to see how this offseason will go.

Who will be the Bulls' top dog?

Hello Bulls fans,

We have enjoyed the growth and development of young players this whole season despite being hurt that Jimmy Butler was traded to the Timberwolves. When Jimmy Butler was here he was unquestionably the number one option on offense. Dwyane Wade even said that he would defer to Jimmy Butler, rightfully so because he was the best player on the team with the most longevity. With the implementation of all young new players there is no established “top dog” for the other players to differ to. In order for a team to have sustained success in the long run there must be a player that others differ to in crunch time. If you need a bucket then you go to this guy to either make a shot or go to the basket.

A lot of fans were under the conception with the trade that Zach LaVine will automatically be the go-to guy for the Chicago Bulls when he got healthy. What we didn’t count on was Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn developing into very serviceable starters who are still ascending. Yes the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves as good for that franchise because they lacked a leader, and these three players being brought in was good for Chicago as well but a leader is still needed. The offense appears all over the place in important situations sometimes because one guy hasn’t stepped up yet.

I am under the believe that because of his aggressive nature and willingness to compete hard on both ends of the floor, I truly believe that Kris Dunn will be the one to force himself into that position. Lauri Markkanen is the player with the highest upside out of the three offensively. Lauri doesn’t have the aggressive personality to demand the basketball or put other players in their place when they make mistakes. Zach LaVine was who we all thought would be the immediate best player in the trade. We knew he would be out until January, but we didn’t count on the emergence of Lauri and Kris. I personally project that Kris Dunn will continue to ascend play wise and as the leader of the Chicago Bulls. The point guard is the ball dominant position of basketball, and you don’t want a guy who isn’t confident handling those duties. Earlier in the season Kris Dunn hit a game winner and the first thing that comes out of his mouth is “F$#% Him!”. I think that was the moment when he put the league on notice.The Chicago Bulls will rise again and it will be sooner than a lot of people think. Empires don’t rise without a great leader to lead the charge. The next couple weeks will be telling if Kris Dunn is in fact the alpha of this young Chicago Bulls roster.

The Third Pick Ep.5: Get Lauri More Shots

This week on the pod Mariano & Scott talk Black Panther, the lack of shots Lauri is getting/lack of chemistry from the Baby Big 3, Rockets/Warriors beef brewing & much more

Niko Mirotic is gone from the Bulls, so what's next?

Hello Bulls fans,

The All-Star break is officially over and it’s time to focus back on finishing this season strong. The core of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen are back together after Dunn’s extended absence from a concussion. A lot of people are still aboard the tank express train for this young team but as of now it’s not looking good for a top 5 pick. I’m here to tell you that there are some really talented guys in this draft that can be had even if we aren’t at the top half of the first ten picks.

Since the last time we spoke the Chicago Bulls made the move most of us were hoping for in order to help with the tank this season. A trade with the New Orleans Pelicans was completed to send Nikola Mirotic to NOLA for a package that includes a conditional 2018 first round pick. The conditions on the draft pick is that it’s top 5 protected this season, which means if they somehow end up in the top 5 this draft they keep their pick. As of right now the Pelicans own the 16th pick of the NBA draft and we can all hope for a losing streak on their end. They currently hold the 8th seed in the West and if they miss the playoffs the Bulls will hold two lottery picks.

A lot of us were hoping for Marvin Bagley III, Deandre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr, or Luka Doncic in the 2018 Draft. There are some pretty viable options for us if we don’t magically have a Derrick Rose-esque miracle and we win the lottery with like .8% chance of it happening. The players I like outside of the top guys are Jaren Jackson Jr, Mohamed Bamba, and Mikal Bridges. There is a fourth option but I’ll discuss that option in a little bit.

Jaren Jackson Jr is a 6’10 power forward at Michigan State University. He’s very fluid running the floor and can finish above the rim with ease. There is some untapped athletic potential from him that can be brought out through the NBA training and conditioning he will receive. I’ve seen him guard some centers but he can guard power forwards very efficiently. There’s room to grow offensively that’s for sure, but that’s the reason why he’s not a higher draft selection choice. He has a quick first step and a fairly decent amount of post moves. I would be okay if we aren’t top 6 or 7 and select Jaren with our first selection this year.

The center position is a huge need for the Chicago Bulls in this rebuild. Robin Lopez has been a pretty good player for us but it’s time to get younger and more athletic. Lauri Markkanen needs a frontcourt partner to pair up with and unfortunately Deandre Ayton will either go number one or two overall. The second most intriguing big man prospect that has also been trending up all season is Mohamed Bamba out of Texas. Mohamed is very light on his feet, a good defender, and an excellent rebounder. He’s also super athletic with long arms and can get down the court quite efficiently. As of right now he’s averaging 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks a game. The two things I’ve found interesting about his game is that he can step out and shoot the 3 and he’s a good free throw shooter as well. The Chicago Bulls would find themselves fortunate to secure a talented ascending young player like Mohamed Bamba to anchor the Center position.

The other position the Bulls need to fill in the starting lineup is small forward. Last summer a lot of us had dreams of Michael Porter Jr. but it’s likely he would be selected before us if we continue this trend of winning games. Enter Mikal Bridges, a junior from Villanova who would come in with winning experience to fill the roster void. Bridges is an excellent 3-point shooter who would immediately fit in this offense and make things much easier for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. The part about his game that goes unnoticed is that he’s an excellent perimeter defender. He has the quick feet to stick with guards, the timing and mentality to fight bigger, stronger frontcourt players and the length to smother anyone. Some people believe that because he is 22 years of age he doesn’t have much upside, which I think is silly. This guy would immediately be an upgrade at the small forward position and could help expedite this rebuild.

The last option that would be on the table for the Chicago Bulls is to trade up and grab the guy they feel like is the necessary piece for the franchise. Let’s say the Pelicans miss the playoffs that would give us the draft capital to move up in the lottery. Some of the general managers from the other teams would be willing to trade a lottery pick for two-lottery picks right? This is just a scenario that can happen if there is conviction about a certain player that can come in and immediately make an impact for the franchise.

The Third Pick Ep.2: Lauri > Tatum

In episode 2 Scott and Marianno go over the week of the Bulls, break down the rookie numbers of Lauri & Jayson Tatum, plus discuss All Star snubs & do their own mock all star draft

The Third Pick Ep.1

In the first episode of The Third Pick Scott & Mariano go over how the Jimmy Butler trade benefits both teams through the first half of the season, they also go over the last week for the Bulls, Niko's trade value, Zach LaVine's debut & just how high is the ceiling for the baby big 3?

How this year's Bulls differ from last year's team
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Hello Bulls fans,

It’s been an interesting year for our beloved Chicago Bulls to say the least. A lot of people believed this team wouldn’t win more than 20 games this season once they traded Jimmy Butler. The move signified the franchise was moving in the direction of a long and tedious rebuild. If this is the case, then how does a team in year one of a rebuild have a better record than the Lakers - a team in year 4 of their rebuild?

After the summer 2016 trade of Derrick Rose to the NY Knicks, the assumption was the Bulls were in rebuild mode.  The moves that followed - signing Rajon Rondo, and then Dwyane Wade - was a little confusing to the Bulls fan base. The idea was that the three "alphas" in Butler, Rondo and Wade would make the Bulls a playoff team and surprise contender.

But Fred Hoiberg was way over his head and didn’t have the players necessary to run his offensive system, or that respected him as a head coach. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler were both used to Tom Thibodeau's system. Rondo and Wade both won championships so they had little to no respect for a young head coach like Hoiberg. The product on the court showed that these players were not willing to buy in on what was being sold from the staff. Hoiberg’s system requires guards that can consistently shoot the three, and he didn’t have that in Rondo and Wade. The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls somehow squeezed into the east playoffs as the 8th seed. The team overachieved and went up 2-0 against the Boston Celtics but proceeded to lose 4 in a row once Rondo went down with an injury.

The following off-season bore the changes that were believed to be necessary the year prior. The Bulls sent Butler and their first round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 7th overall pick in that year's draft, which they used to pick Lauri Markkanen. Bulls fans unfairly criticized Gar Forman and John Paxson for the move, but I personally loved it, and the direction the team should’ve elected to go in a while ago. The Bulls were stuck in the perpetual cycle of not being good enough to win, but not being bad enough to get a top lottery pick. In this instance the patience to make the deal yielded a bigger haul for GarPax. It was believed that draft night 2016 the Bulls were willing to trade Butler to Minnesota for the 5th overall pick to take Dunn to make him the point guard of the future. The patience allowed us to not only bring in Dunn but also Lauri Markkanen who has shown the ability to play at a high level at just 20 years old.

The 2017 Chicago Bulls started off a bit rocky. A skirmish between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis led to Niko being hospitalized and Bobby being suspended by the organization. The silver lining of this event is that it allowed Hoiberg to start Markkanen at power forward to get a good look at the rookie under the lights. Markkanen didn’t disappoint, setting a record for most 3-pointers made in a rookie’s first six games in the NBA. With a quick release and the confidence to shoot without hesitation, Lauri is a lethal weapon in the pick and pop game.

Dunn was thrusted into a starting role because of the inept play of Jerian Grant. The playing time he has received has caused him to not only develop better as an pro point guard, but also allowed him to gain confidence. I knew Dunn took that next step with his confidence when he hit crossed over an Indiana Pacer en route to a game winning shot and yelled out “F#$k him”.

The player considered at the time to be the best player acquired in the trade - Zach Lavine - has yet to step on the floor this season thanks to injury. He's a legit scoring threat and a very good fit for what the Chicago Bulls are missing right now.

This young Bulls roster bought in to Hoiberg’s system and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s quite enjoyable to see cohesive basketball being played with young players who are deemed the future of the franchise. There isn’t much standing around like last year with the older veterans who didn’t feel it necessary to listen to a head coach or play within his scheme. In most instances, veterans don’t respect younger unproven coaches and that was abundantly clear with the previous core. With how they're playing as a unit and also developing, this team is a more enjoyable product than what we were exposed to.

The Bulls aren’t tanking - and that may not be a bad thing
(Winslow Townson/AP)

(Winslow Townson/AP)

Let’s face it... the Chicago Bulls are too good. Yes I’m aware that’s a weird thing to read but it’s true. Despite the Bulls’ 13-24 record, they’ve won 10 of their last 14 games and have one of the best records in the NBA since Dec. 8.

Our hopes of #SecuringtheBagley or #LosingforLuka have gone down the drain. The Bulls will likely pick between 7 and 14.

But don’t worry Bulls fans - there are a few reasons this may not be a bad thing.


Draft Picks

Look, it’s no secret a top 5 pick helps you win an NBA championship. The best player on 11 of the last 15 NBA champions was taken within the first five picks of their respective drafts.

The other four? Steph Curry, the best player for the 2015 Warriors, landed at No. 7 in the 2009 NBA draft. Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on the 2011 Mavericks, was taken with the No. 9 pick in 1998. Kobe Bryant, the best player on the 2009 and 2010 Lakers, went 13th overall to Charlotte in 1996.

See, it’s possible to get a franchise changing player outside of the top 5.

According to a 2018 NBA mock draft by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, he projects the Bulls to take Texas' Mohamed Bamba with the No. 6 pick. At 6’11 - with an 8' wingspan!!! -  225 pounds, the 19-year-old from Harlem is averaging 11.7 PPG, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game in his freshman season.

The latest projection from has Chicago drafting another emerging freshman in Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. with the No. 7 pick. Jackson is averaging 10.5 points, 7.1 board and 3.3 blocks per game. He’s also shooting 37 percent from the three-point line while averaging just under three attempts per game.

Both players are long, athletic big men who could fit nicely next to Lauri Markkanen. They're currently the seventh-worst team in the league. But if they keep winning, Bulls fans would be wise to turn their attention to prospects further down mock draft boards.

One of them is Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker, a 6'4" athletic wing with a 6’101/2” wingspan who could fit right into the uptempo, pace-and-space style head coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play, averaging 8.5 PPG in just 21 minutes a game.

(credit: ACC Digital Network)

In this video, you’ll see some highlights of Walker’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and some of his three-point range.

According to ESPN Insider Jonathan Givony, Walker is projected to be selected with the 15th pick.

The steal of the draft could be Villanova junior forward Mikal Bridges.

Bridges is playing like an All-American for the No. 1 ranked Villanova Wildcats. He’s averaging 17.8 PPG on 52 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from the three-point line. But it’s his play on the other side of the ball that makes Bridges one of the most complete players in this draft.

Bridges is a 6’7” wing with a 7’11/2” wingspan and he puts all that length to good use. He’s averaging 2 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game.

Imagine a defensive lineup with Dunn, Nwaba and Bridges - each with the ability to guard multiple positions and give ball handlers problems.

Fortunately for the Bulls, Bridges is 21-years old and will be 22 when the NBA draft comes around in June. His age could turn away some teams who may be looking for a young star - leaving a rebuilding Chicago Bulls with the chance to select a hidden gem in this year's draft.


Player Development 


The thing about winning in a tanking season is the wins usually mean your young players are developing faster than you expected. The Bulls are no different.

Fans are understandably excited about the growth of Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, two of the three pieces in the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players’ performance this season – and the hope budding star Zach LaVine will return to his star form from prior to his ACL tear - have some already naming the Bulls winners of the draft day trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Markkanen is averaging close to 15 PPG and has proven to be a willing rebounder, averaging just over 7 boards on the season.

The Finland native is also showing he is a capable defender, something no one could have predicted when he came out of Arizona. Check out the defense here on New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. (Credit: @_MarcusD2_/NBC Sports Chicago)

Dunn is in the running for the Most Improved Player award. He’s up nine points per game, to 13.2 ppg this year from 3.8 ppg from his rookie season with the Timberwolves.

His shooting has gotten slightly better with increased playing time. According to, Dunn is shooting 55 percent at the rim, 40 percent from mid-range and 32 percent from three.

Last year he shot, 50 percent at the rim, 36 percent from midrange and 28 percent from three.

His 2017-2018 shooting numbers show his offensive game still needs work but with more time those numbers could continue to rise.

Dunn has more than doubled his assist numbers as well, averaging six per game as opposed to the 2.4 last season.

Dunn and Markkanen aren’t the only one’s getting better. Young role players like Denzel Valentine and David Nwaba have also improved.

Nwaba can’t really shoot the ball but he’s shown the ability to attack on the catch and push the ball on fast breaks. (Credit/Chicago Bulls Twitter)

In addition, the Bulls get exponentially better with him on defense as opposing teams have a 105.6 offensive rating when he’s on the floor and a 111.4 offensive rating when he’s on the bench.

As for Valentine, for a while he seemed to be nothing more than a floor spacer. However he’s taken major steps forward in his game this season.

Last year, according to, 79 percent of Valentine’s threes were assisted. This year, that number is down to 61 percent, meaning he’s taking more pull-up threes.

In addition, Valentine is taking more shots inside the arc, averaging 26.1 percent of his points in the paint (as opposed to 13.7 in 2016-2017) and 12.8 percent of his points on midrange jumpshots (as opposed to 6.2 in 2016-2017).

Even Bobby Portis, who struggled to maintain any consistency last season, has been a positive for the Bulls, averaging nearly 13 PPG on 53 percent shooting and 39 percent from the three-point line over the last 14 games.


Free Agency


There’s a certain sense of pride when your “own guys” help you win a championship. But the draft isn’t the only way to get good players. The Houston Rockets are 26-9 and the only draft pick in their starting lineup is Clint Capela.

The Bulls have loads of cap space and some good players will test their luck in free agency in the next two years. And since they have been winning recently without any all-star talent, they are now a more attractive destination than if they were 5-31 and playing an atrocious brand of basketball.

The 2018 Free Agency class includes names such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George.

In 2019, the list gets even more interesting with players like restricted free agents Devin Booker and Karl Anthony Towns, and Kyrie Irving.

You read those names and think they are unrealistic for the Bulls. To be fair, their biggest free agent signing in the last 15 years is a 34-year old Pau Gasol.

(Editors note: I find it baffling he disregarded Bulls legend Eddie Robinson like that.)

However, this Bulls team feels different. They are a young team that’s playing basketball the right way with pace, three point shooting and intense defense.

Maybe it’s not so unthinkable that a major star would want to lead a team that seems to be headed in the right direction.

Why the Bulls won the Jimmy Butler trade
Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s take a trip back to NBA Draft night, June 22nd, 2017.

The night we saw Lonzo Ball become a Laker just as the prophet LaVar Ball predicted. We saw the Celtics and Sixers swap first round picks just days prior to ensure both teams “get their guy”. We also saw the end of an era in Chicago with Jimmy Butler being dealt to the Timberwolves and reunited with his beloved coach Tom Thibodeau.

Let’s talk about why the Bulls WON this trade.


Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

There comes a point where certain teams have a guy headed towards superstar level while the team is headed nowhere in a hurry - nowhere being a perennial playoff team that doesn’t necessarily belong there. Good enough to make it because their best player could carry the load, sure, but bad enough to be first round exits because they aren’t equipped for the marathon.

Those same wins that land bad teams in the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed ultimately doom them on draft night. They aren’t picking high enough to draft the ‘cream of the crop’, so they’re forced to roll the dice on a prospect. Obviously there are no sure things in sports no matter where you’re drafted, but you need the best available player when you’re thin on talent. Now if you’re a young team like the Sixers or even the Bucks, making the playoffs with no real chance at the title at least gives you hope for what the future holds. When you’re an established team like the Bulls whose playoff seeding is more of a fall from grace than a stepping stone, it’s time to make changes.

In a vacuum, the package of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 7th overall pick, which would become Lauri Bir-..I mean Markkanen, seems a bit low, right? 

Not if you think about this in totality. 

Usually once a superstar-level player reaches the last two years of his deal, the vultures start to circle. Other teams know this is the shit or get off the pot moment for your franchise and you’ll either accept whatever they offer or they’ll wait you out. In essence, whatever they offer will be too much on their end.

You’ll NEVER receive equal value for an established superstar. Think about it, a sure thing will always be safer than a ‘maybe’. It’s a results based, hindsight is 20/20, blah blah scenario every time. Ask the Hornets about Vlade and Kobe. However, if the pieces you receive are what’s best for YOUR future, then you’ve won. Think Oladipo/Sabonis for Paul George.

You hold on to that superstar player to avoid “looking” like you got fleeced, then lose him in free agency and remove all doubt that the fleecing occurred.

This deal was on the table a year prior, but the Bulls were still determined to wait and see if the Jimmy Butler experience was worth it all. To see if he would regress, or grow to be the player you could build around or trade while his stock was high to get more pieces. The latter occurred and in a surprising turn of events.....GarPax actually made a good decision. I still can’t believe I typed that...and it’s true.

Credit: Chicago Bulls

Credit: Chicago Bulls

Kris Dunn, a former top 5 pick in the draft, was never given a fair shake in Minnesota. We all know Thibs doesn’t play rookies, which isn’t a foreign concept by established coaches. When you’re hired to produce right away, it doesn’t behoove you to bet on potential. So, on the surface it looks like “Dunn couldn’t beat out Rubio for the starting job” when in reality it was never his job to actually ‘win’ because he was still learning.

In reality he’s a much better passer, scorer, and all around player than he was given credit for. He’s averaging 13.4 points per game and 6 assists in just 31 games with the Chicago Bulls, up over his 3.8 points and 2.4 assists in 78 games with Minnesota.

Zach LaVine, a former NBA dunk contest champion, is an incredible athlete. Before suffering a torn ACL in February of 2017, he showed tremendous upside and that he wasn’t just a dunker. He’s a career 37.9% shooter from 3 point range and averages 13.7 points per game. Obviously time will tell what kind of player he’ll be once he returns, but by all accounts he’s rehabbing great and should be back to normal soon.

Lauri Markkanen, who I’ve named Lauri Bird, is the most interesting player of the bunch. There was similar reaction to the Bulls drafting Lauri with the 7th pick as there was when the Knicks chose Kristaps Porzingis in 2015: a sea of boos and “who the fuck is this ass hole?” like Samuel L. Jackson in McDowell’s. Whenever you don’t take the flashy, prom king, golden boy of the moment on everyone’s radar you’re going to be met with criticism. Understandably so, because for every Dirk there’s a Darko.

Lauri is special though. He shot the lights out at Arizona and was called the best shooting 7-footer college basketball had ever seen, averaging 15.6PPG and 7.2RPG all while rocking the number 10 like Mike Bibby. In his rookie season so far he’s opened a lot of eyes and gained respect from those who once doubted. Did I mention he’s ONLY 20? (Jay-Z voice at Hot97 with Young Chris). He’s averaging 14.6PPG and 7.4RPG on the pro level, and is showing tremendous potential to be a franchise player.

I had to talk a few fellow Bulls fans off the ledge when this trade went down, and now they’re all on the edge of their seats for this team. The future is bright and we have something that not even GarPax could ru...let me stop there before they ask me to hold their beer and show me.

Bottom line is, I knew we won this trade the night it happened and now the world sees it. Now if they could only stop disrupting this tank so we can draft even higher and secure the Bagley, I’d be even happier...but that’s another story.