Tag Archives: Zach LaVine

2017-18 Chicago Bulls Roster Preview

Who’s ready to basketball?  It’s that time yall, as the 2017/18 Chicago Bulls season is underway.  First and foremost, let me just say that I’m thrilled to be writing for Bulletin Board this year.  Some quick background on myself:, Brad (B Mizzle) Miller is my all-time favorite Bull, I love dad jokes and the movie Baby Driver, and I used to say “for all intensive purposes until someone embarrassingly corrected me at the age of 22.”  Enough about me though.  I hope you enjoy my submissions for the coming year and I look forward to writing about this young and athletic  Bulls squad.  Without further ado, let’s bull out.

You may have noticed the roster looks slightly different than last year due to the full out rebuild GarPax and the Bulls organization are undergoing.  So it seems appropriate for us to take a deep dive into this roster and examine some of the key Bulls players and what we should expect from then and goals for the upcoming season.

Let’s narrow the focus to the 5 most important Bulls for this season. And  no, Cameron Payne will not be on this list, or any list not titled, “NBA players who are bad at basketball.”  I’m also not focusing on Nikola Mirotic, Cristiano Felicio, or Justin Holliday as I firmly believe there is no longer any mystery to the potential or growth for each of these players.  In the words of Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were.”  So who are the 5 most important Bulls for this coming season, and what can we realistically expect and hope for?  Let’s go.

Zach LaVine

Snapshot:

The center piece of the Jimmy Butler trade, LaVine has teased NBA fans with freakish athleticism and improved 3-point shooting and overall scoring ability since he came into the league.  A 6’5 shooting guard with range who figures to be a big part of the Bulls rebuild is recovering from a major ACL injury and will certainly not be rushed back to the court early.  Let’s also remember that despite being in his fourth year in the league, LaVine is only 22 years old.  

2016-17 Season

PPG APG RPG PER
18.9 3.0 3.4 14.69

Biggest question(s) of the year:  Will he return healthy?  Is he a centerpiece moving forward?

Strengths:  

  • Dude can score – LaVine averaged nearly 19 ppg last year and has seen his PPG, 3-point attempts, and FG% rise in his first 3 years in the NBA.  His 3-point attempts and % have also increased as he’s hovered around 39% (league average was 35.8)
  • Incredible athlete – I mean just watch this 
  • Works hard to improve his game – One of my favorite things about Jimmy Butler was that he went into every off season working to improve his game.  LaVine’s scoring ability continues to climb, and his ability to hit 3’s has been a great surprise.

Areas to Improve (nice way of saying what he sucks at):

  • Defense – His Defensive +/- is well below league average and he struggled defending the pick and roll and physical guards.  His rebounding, steals, blocks aren’t exactly going to jump off the page for ya.
  • Efficiency – He often times relies on fall away jumpers and long two’s which are basically forbidden in today’s NBA.  I’m fine with taking over 6 3’s per game, especially this year in ol Hoiball’s offense.  But he need to get to the line more than 2 times per game given his athleticism and explosiveness.
  • Leadership – He’s been saying all the right things since coming to Chicago, and he’s going to need to because this is 100% his team.  He is THE man on this Bulls team and he’s going to need to lead by example.  Sooo do the opposite of D Wade.

 

Goals & Expectations

Goal – Stay Healthy.  That’s literally all the Bulls should care about.

Expectation – The Bulls will slowly bring LaVine back from his injury, but he will immediately become the team’s best scoring option and will probably increase his 3 pt attempts to over 7 per game.

Early Possible Nicknames:  Zach Attack, Dunk Metro PD, Wiggity Zach, Zach Book Air, Zach Back, #TheReturn

Fun (not fact checked) trivia:  Was shocked to find out Fargo isn’t actually in Minnesota.

Lauri Markkanen

Snapshot:

The 7th pick in the 2016 NBA draft was also a part of the blockbuster (does that place still exist?)  Jimmy Butler trade.  For some reason, the Bulls had to give up their 16th pick but there are high hopes for the 7’0 Finnish stretch 4 from Arizona.  He’s an intriguing prospect and showed some great offensive skills during the FIBA tournament and in some of the final preseason games.  Is he the next dirk Nowitzki or the next Andrea Bargnani? Only time will tell (and he’s got lots of it), but many Bulls fans will not be patient if they see Dennis Smith Jr. tearing it up.

2016-17 Season (Arizona)

PPG RPG APG 3P%
15.6 7.2 0.9 42.3

Biggest question(s) of the year:  Is he more than just a spot up three point shooter?  Can he guard NBA power forwards?

Strengths

  • Shooting – It’s not just the 3P% that is impressive, it’s the smooth looking, quick release that Lauri has.  He doesn’t need nearly as much time to wind up as Nikola Mirotic and it’s just a beautiful shot and follow through for a 7 footer.  Range doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue either.  He is a threat to shoot anywhere out on the floor and should be able to stretch the floor once the Bulls have real players around him.

Areas to Improve:

  • Defense – He’s more athletic than I gave him credit for, but he has still struggled to guard anyone out on the perimeter and got pushed around a lot down low during the preseason.  He will have to continue to put on weight, and learn how to play help defense and at least average pick and roll defense.
  • Passing – He averaged less than one dime per game at Arizona and he’s going to need to be able to improve his vision and ability to find the open man.  He hasn’t great court awareness in the preseason and will need to improve as the year goes on.

Goals & Expectations

  • Goal – Get experience, shoot a lot!
  • Expectations – Especially with the early 8 game suspension, expect Lauri to get lots of minutes and lots of shots up.  He will struggle mightily at times this year and probably rely too much on the 3, but Bulls fans should be excited to watch him grow.

Early Possible Nicknames:  Chuck-it Finn, Finnish Line, The Riddlin Finland

Fun (not fact checked) trivia:  After every made 3 pointer, his grandma in the stands bellows out,  “Finnish him!”  (*Mortal Combat voice)

 

Kris Dunn

 

Snapshot:

What was deemed another lottery pick (GarPax were very high on him coming out of the draft!) and important piece of the Jimmy Butler trade, Dunn had a rookie year to forget in Minnesota.  In his defense, he barely got on the court under Coach Thibs and had the shortest of leashes.  With that said, his shot looked ugly, he played out of control, and is already 23 years old.  Did he need a chance and change of scenery?  Or is he just a less shitty Cameron Payne?

2016-17 Season (Timberwolves)

PPG APG RPG PER
3.8 2.4 2.1 8.13

Biggest question(s) of the year:  Is he an NBA point guard?

Strengths: 

  • Defense – This was true during his time at Providence, and is obvious when you watch him play.  He is a fierce on the ball defender who will annoy the hell out of the opponent.  He plays tough, and gives maximum effort on defense.

Areas to Improve :

Shooting – He’s not a good shooter, that simple.  Teams dared him to shoot from 2 and 3, and his confidence surely took a hit after his first year.  He shot 37.7% from the field and had a 28.3% 3P%.  Damn Gina…

Decision Making – Turnovers plagued him during his rookie year and summer league.  He was often times reckless with the ball and doesn’t seem to have the best vision.  This can certainly improve with actual minutes given to him.

Finishing at the rim – Dunn has showed some explosiveness to get to the rim but too often couldn’t finish near the basket.  If he doesn’t develop a jump shot, this is critical to his survival in the NBA.

Goals & Expectations

Goal – Dunn needs to win the starting PG job on the Bulls early in the season.  In order to do this, Dunn must make opposing defenses respect his jump shot.  He cannot shoot at the same %’s he did last year or everyone will give him the Anthony Roberson treatment.  He has to improve his shot if he has any chance of sticking in this league, and he must cut down his turnovers if he’s going to be a point guard.

Expectations – I’ve seen enough of Jerian Grant.  Once Dunn is healthy (suffered a nasty finger injury in the preseason), the Bulls will give him every chance to win this job…and let’s hope he does.

Early Possible Nicknames:  Dunn<Kirk, Indiana Dunn, Dunn Buggy

Fun (not fact checked) trivia:  Was named after Kristofferson, and grounded early and often because of Jenner.

Bobby Portis

 

Snapshot:

The man who barks like Kevin Garnett but plays like Malik Allen.  This is a make or break year for the former first round pick, and he’s already gone and broken Niko’s jaw and will be suspended for the first 8 games of the season.

2016-17 Season

PPG APG RPG PER
6.8 0.6 4.2 14.99

Biggest question(s) of the year:  How will he respond from this suspension?

Strengths

  • He’s got some length?  I honestly don’t know anymore.

Areas to Improve

  • Defense – He gets pushed around down low and car not guard many 4’s.  He’s horrible in the pick and roll, and often times is lazy and commits a foul rather move his body into better positioning.
  • Efficiency – A big man who shoots 45% from the field.  Not good.  A stretch 4 shooting 32% from 3.  Not good.
  • Maturity – See Nikos jaw

 

Goals & Expectations

Goal – Earn the starting PF job when he returns from suspension.

Expectations – Bobby Portis falls behind Lauri in the rotation and never starts for the Bulls.  I just don’t think Portis is a fit on this team long term and he will really have to improve his efficiency and defense to prove me otherwise.

Early Possible Nicknames:  Bobby Allen (Malik Allen’s lest interesting cousin), Punch Drunk Bob

Fun (not fact checked) trivia:  Swears to understand the plot to Prometheus but when put on the spot, responds, “Just watch the movie bro”

Denzel Valentine

 

Snapshot:

After GarPax swore to become younger and athletic, they drafted 34 24 year old Denzel Valentine.  He was a proven “winner” during his 4 years at Michigan State.  A playmaker that could play multiple positions and shoot the 3 seems enticing.  His rookie year was a mixed bag of results and this preseason has shown his over reliance on the 3ball.  Is Denzel too slow to be a starter in the NBA?  Is his ceiling just a spot up 3 point shooter?  It’s hard to say, but this year will tell us a lot.

2016-17 Season

PPG APG RPG PER
5.1 1.1 2.6 14.69

Biggest question(s) of the year:  Is he too slow to play defense in the NBA?  Is he a key piece of this Bulls rebuild?

Strengths

  • Confidence – He sure plays with some swag, and doesn’t seem afraid to take big shots.  He will have opportunities this year to take some big shots with no Wade or Butler around.
  • 3P shooting – It improved as the season when on last year and he ended up around league average.  He was 13 for his first 24 in the pre-season and certainly isn’t shy about taking them.

Areas to Improve:

  • Defense – He struggles guarding any quick 2 or 3.  He’s going to have to improve his footwork and staying in front of his opponent.
  • Decision Making – He often acts like hes a better ball handler and play maker than he actually is.  Too many horrendous turnovers over the summer.  he has to protect the ball.
  • Relying on the 3 – all preseason, Valentine popped 5 threes for every 2 he took and this is no way to survive in this league or improve your overall game.  He has to get to the line, create for others.

 

 

Expectations for 2017-18

Goal – Become manageable on defense and carve out a role as a key player for this rebuild.  He has offensive skills, but he relies too much on the 3 (especially for someone who only shot the 3 at league average)

Expectations – This one is a mystery to me, but I’m fairly certain Hoiberg will give him plenty of minutes to see what he has.  I suspect Hoiberg will reel him in and encourage him to be more of a play maker with the ball

Early Possible Nicknames:  Mr. Summer League

Fun (not fact checked) trivia:  Doesn’t believe any office meeting should last more than 90 minutes (Max!)

Welcome to the rebuild!

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The T’Wolves: Their future may be bright, but their present leaves something to be desired

Future Western Conference power, dark horse playoff contender, the most exciting team in the NBA (minus the Dubs), these are just a few of the phrases that were tossed around in various season previews for the Minnesota Timberwolves to hype the team of tomorrow. There was promise everywhere as the team had an embarrassment of young talent to show off. The list included: Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, and Kris Dunn. None of these players were over 26 and only Rubio had been in The Association for more than 3 years. This was going to be the year the rebuilding Wolves finally had the depth and chemistry to make a legit run at the playoffs and beyond. Add to the mix the hottest free agent coach, Tom Thibodeau, joining the mix with his defensive genius and all of the pieces were there. It really is no surprise that several experts had the Wolves ending the season in the top 5 in the Western Conference.

Well, we’re currently 43 games into the regular season and that same Minnesota squad littered with talent is sitting in 12th in the Western Conference with a 15-28 record. So where did all that hype go? Well it still appears to be there, it’s just going to take a little longer than the fans in Minny would have hoped. Let’s begin with the positives, there still appears to be A LOT of talent on the Wolves. They have three players averaging near or more than 20 points per game: Karl Anthony-Towns (22.3), Andrew Wiggins (21.7), and Zach LaVine (19.8). And the best part? They are all 21 years old. That’s insane that their three top scorers are all so young and inexperienced and they still have that much room for growth.

To go off of that, Karl Anthony-Towns has established himself already as one of the premier big men in the league. The University of Kentucky product is following up his impressive Rookie of the Year campaign with an even bigger year. He is averaging a slash line of 22/12/3. Those are eye popping numbers for a second year player, especially those three assists per game which shows he’s seeing the court well and understanding the game at a much easier pace. Along with Joel Embiid, Towns has one of the brightest futures for any big guy in the leagues and will surely be in the MVP conversation down the road.

Now let’s take a look at why we’re all pumping the breaks on those preseason expectations and why they sit in 12th in the Western Conference standings. When Thibodeau took over, experts were expecting the defense to improve immediately making them into this young contending squad. However, that has not come to fruition at this point in year one of Thibs behind the bench for the Wolves. They are giving up 104.3 PPG, slightly better than the league average but nothing to write home about. Additionally, they are fourth worst in the league in opponents field goal percentage at 46.9%. This means that they are allowing their opponents easy looks at an alarming rate, which should not be the case under defensive guru Thibs. So what’s the issue? Is it youth, chemistry, effort? Probably a combination of all three but I think there is another issue in play here, tiredness.

Thibs is back to his old ways, running his best players into the ground. This was always a huge criticism of his time during the Bulls would be burning the tires on his most valuable players even when his team was up by a lot. That has not changed with his move to Minnesota as his three best players this year (Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine) are all in the top nine in the NBA in minutes played per game with LaVine leading the way at 37.3 MPG. These guys aren’t used to playing this many minutes and can easily lead to defensive lapses throughout the course of a 48 minute game. Additionally, it’s also not a great plan to run these young athletic players into the ground within their first few years in the league, especially for a team that isn’t going anywhere fast this season.

All in all, this is still a team to fear going forward. At some point, all of this young talent is going to mature and they will get their defensive feet under them with an expert in the subject at the helm. I think experts and fans alike just jumped the gun at how good these guys could be this early. However, if at this point next year the Wolves are still on the outside looking in at the playoff race, then maybe we have to look at the team chemistry and coaching as not a fit for these incredible youngsters. Here’s to hoping they figure it out and can survive the dreaded Thibs minutes.    

Note-A-Bulls: T’Wolves stun Bulls by storming back from 21 down in Thibs return to Chicago

What just happened? In the simultaneously most AND least surprising game of the season, the Bulls (13-11) blew a 21 point lead at home to one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Bulls lost a clunker to Minnesota 99-94. Yes Thibs (making his anticipated return to Chicago) is a good coach, and yes, the Timberwolves (7-18) have some talent with Karl Anthony-Towns (KAT) and Andrew Wiggins, but let’s face it, the Wolves are a bad team. And somehow the Bulls found a way to blow a game where they were firing on all cylinders for the first 12+ minutes of the game. Let’s break down the Bulls worst loss of the season, shall we?

  • The Bulls started on a tear, dominating the first quarter of play and going up 38-22, including a 16-0 towards the middle of the frame. The defense was clicking, the offense was getting out in transition, and the Wolves interior defense was wallpaper thin. It also didn’t hurt that the Bulls were making everything in sight, 16/22 (73%) for the quarter.
  • They also made their only two threes of the first frame, and added only two more to that tally while missing 11 in the process. The Bulls also never scored 20 again in any of the last three quarters of this one to illustrate just how far south this game went. In fact, the Bulls only shot 22/65 for the final three frames, coming out to a putrid 34% over that time frame. I don’t care who you play, putting up those numbers over 36 minutes is going to result in an L more times than not.
  • I don’t know what hoarse nonsense Thibs yelled at his inexperienced squad after the first, but it sure got their attention. The game flipped around the halfway point of the second as the Wolves were able to get back within striking distance thanks to some poor Bulls shooting, 8/21 (38%) and pushing the pace off of said misses. They trailed by only four at the half.
  • The second half was a grind it out affair that saw the edge shift towards the T’Wolves thanks to their speed and ability to get second chance points. While the Bulls were continuing to force up bad shots and turn the ball over, Minnesota was able to get behind the Bulls secondary, err, defense, for an easy two on several occasions.
  • There were some bright spots to come out of this gloomy Tuesday night. Jimmy Butler did Jimmy Butler things en route to a 27/9/6 slash line. He was a playmaker all night but couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to eek out a win in this one.
  • Robin Lopez (despite his odd -16 +/- rating) played really well on the night. RoLo scored 14 points on an efficient 7/9 shooting night, but it was his defense that stood out in this one. Lopez had four huge blocks and held KAT (one of the most promising young talents) to a 6/21 shooting night and looked uncomfortable the majority of the evening. RoLo’s presence in the middle is a nice change of pace from the stone-footed Pau Gasol Bulls fans are used to from the last couple of years.
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thibs minutes are again the focal point of many of his critics. Coming into tonight, the Wolves had three of the top 19 players in minutes played this year. And again tonight, every starter played AT LEAST 35 minutes! Compare that to only one Bull (Butler) getting more than 33 minutes and you wonder what Thibs is thinking. In a day and age where rest is valued more than in any other era, you would think a smart coach would want to protect his young stallions. Instead, he whips them into the ground almost every night hoping he can get his team one game closer to .500. Color me forever confused on this one.
  • Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine were the two stars for Minnesota in this one. Wiggins scored 23 points and grabbed nine boards while finding different ways to score throughout the night. WIggins can not only spread the floor, but also is easily able to flash his athleticism once he gets into the lane. LaVine on the other hand had a 24/6/6 slash line on 10/18 shooting and was often on the receiving end of those long post routes down the floor for an easy two for the Wolves. He’s beginning to combine his freakish athleticism with some basketball IQ which is a scary thing for the rest of the Association.
  • Up Next: The Bulls try to rebound on Thursday night against Jabari Parker and the Bucks in Milwaukee.