Bulls’ New Leader, Zach LaVine

The Chicago Bulls have a new sheriff in town. His name is Zach LaVine. After coming off of tearing his ACL, he is still getting acclimated to playing hefty minutes. Although, LaVine has shown a lot of promise in the minutes he has played in.

In a recent game against his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, LaVine had a stellar performance. He posted 35 points and 11 of those came in the 4th quarter to put the Bulls over the top for a 114-113 victory.

In the next game, against the Orlando Magic, LaVine scored 18 points, had five assists and seven rebounds. He had a very well-rounded game, but this is not what made his play so impressive. It was the fact that he once again performed in the clutch to help his team win the game in back-to-back performances.

LaVine has shown that he could be trusted to take control of the game when necessary. His early play has been crucial¬†to the Bulls’ success. Against the Magic, he proved this again by stealing the ball off of an inbound pass and scoring off of the fast break to help cement the Bulls’ 105-101 victory.

LaVine is an important piece of the Bulls’ rebuild. He is a¬†player with tremendous offensive skill. His perimeter scoring is among the league’s best and he is very good at driving to the basket. Every team needs a player that can take control of a game and the Bulls have found their player.

Sources

https://www.sbnation.com/2018/2/12/17006686/zach-lavine-gamewinner-bulls-vs-magic-jonathon-simmons-turnover

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2018/02/10/lavine-scores-35-bulls-beat-butler-timberwolves-114-113/110285632/

https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/l/lavinza01.html#per_game::none

https://www.google.com/search?q=bulls&rlz=1C1JZAP_en&oq=bulls&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j0l5.1665j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#sie=m;/x/398c3p46xh_k9;3;/m/05jvx;dt;fp;1

https://www.google.com/search?q=bulls&rlz=1C1JZAP_en&oq=bulls&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j0l5.1665j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#sie=m;/x/31wk_pf5tj7rm;3;/m/05jvx;dt;fp;1

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2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Wide Receivers With a Lot of Potential

In the upcoming 2018 NFL draft, the Bears really need to work on their offense. There are a lot of wide receivers that can do some damage and help revitalize the Bears’ passing game. In my last Bears blog post, I gave my opinion on three wide receivers that I believe the Bears should target earlier in the draft. Although, there is some talent that could be acquired later on in the draft.

Marcell Ateman from Oklahoma State

He is 6 feet 4 inches tall and uses that height to his advantage. Ateman could do a lot for a team. Scoring via the¬†jump ball is one of his specialties. Often times it is too hard for defenders to get in good position while covering him. Ateman has what you can’t teach, height.

One aspect of Ateman’s¬†game that sets him apart from others, is his ability to perform in the red zone. He is just too strong and quick for defenders. If he is able to create space and hold onto the ball like he did in college, then Ateman is going to be a valuable weapon in the NFL.

UCLA’s Jordan Lasley

Lasley¬†is another wide receiver with size. Although, his size isn’t what impresses me the most. It’s his ability to make plays. Lasley runs really clean routes and makes excellent cuts. He is pretty fast too. His route running gets a lot better when he quickly changes gear to create separation.

For Lasley being tough is an understatement. He is always going to fight for the extra yard and if a defender is going to tackle him they’re going to have to get a good piece of him. Arm tackles are not going to work for this man. He isn’t going to give up on a play and players with that kind of heart know how to play the game.

Steve Ishmael from Syracuse

Ishmael is 6 feet 2 inches tall and fast. He is a high effort player. It doesn’t matter how he is covered or how many defenders are covering him, he is going to make a play. His mind-boggling ability to locate the ball is impressive, but his ability to then catch the ball is much more admirable.

Sources

http://walterfootball.com/draft2018WR.php

Bulls Missing Kris Dunn

The Chicago Bulls have lost eight of their last ten games. This shouldn’t be a surprise because that is how many games Kris Dunn has been out with a concussion. But now Dunn has exited concussion protocol and has practiced on Wednesday. The Bulls have missed Dunn’s contributions in recent games, but should they?

Dunn does a lot for the Bulls. He paces the game for them, creates shots for his teammates and scores when his team¬†needs him to. He is very good for this young Bulls’ team.

Despite all of this, is Dunn’s return good for the Bulls?

If you look at it from a big-picture standpoint, then obviously no. Dunn is going to have an instant impact when he returns to the starting lineup. Which isn’t going to help the Bulls in the 2018 draft. Ultimately, this is all that matters. So, while Dunn will help team chemistry, his return will hurt their rebuilding process unless he plays fewer minutes than he was before his injury.

Source

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/ct-spt-bulls-kris-dunn-cameron-payne-20180208-story.html

2018 Draft Prospects: Wide Receivers

The Chicago Bears have problems at the wide receiver position and some top prospects in this year’s draft could help make a difference.

Antonio Callaway is my favorite wide receiver from this draft class

I know Callaway comes with some concerns, but he is by far the best wide receiver in this draft class. He is the type of player that could open up a whole team’s offensive scheme. The Bears need this so they won’t be so one dimensional on the offensive side of the ball. Callaway could single-handedly make all of the players around him better.¬† He has the skill and the versatility¬†to do so.

In terms of what he does on the field, he can do no wrong. Callaway always creates separation¬†either through his elite speed or physicality. Opposing teams are going to have a hard time game planning¬†for him because there isn’t a place on the field that he can’t make a play on. He is a threat along the sideline, down the field and in the middle of the field. He can do it all, and a lot of it is due to his precise yet effortless route running. Callaway is a force to be reckoned with, but the Bears are going to have to work on his ability to stay out of trouble off the field.

Deontay Burnett from USC can catch

Really, like his hands look like they’re made out of glue or something. Once the ball touches them, it isn’t going anywhere. Burnett would be a nice piece for the Bears. They need people that can actually hold on to the ball and make plays. Callaway can do that. He’s an aggressive and talented player, and rising above the rest is what he knows best. Believe me, he’ll prove it to you. Especially, with his array of diving catches. If he develops a little bit more in the NFL, he could be very helpful to a struggling offensive team.

Boise State’s very own Cedrick Wilson is a difference maker

At 6 feet 3 inches, Wilson is a big body and will be a mismatch for most corners in the league. Although, his size is helpful. Wilson’s speed will also play a big factor in putting him over the top.

Wilson can do a lot for a team. He plays intelligently. Using his physical advantages to put him in a good position to make plays.

But it isn’t just about making plays, it’s about how you make them. At the collegiate level, a lot of players can score. But to understand and appreciate Wilson, you have to look at how he scores. He can make over the shoulder grabs. He can make defenders miss and he knows how to adjust in the air to go up for jump balls. Wilson would really help the Bears if they draft him.

Sources

http://walterfootball.com/draft2018WR.php

Draft Prospects that Best Fit the Bulls

With the NBA draft coming up, the Bulls need to consider what talent best fits their system. There are many players that could easily fit right in with the Chicago Bulls. In order to take the next step, the Bulls need more playmakers and floor spacers.

Michael Porter Jr. would be an excellent fit

Although he has been sidelined at Missouri due to a back injury, Porter is still a valuable player. Porter stands at 6 feet 10 inches tall with a skill set that can be compared to high-profile guards. He could be plugged right into the starting rotation and be exactly what the Bulls need.

For Porter, the sky is the limit if his injury doesn’t slow him down. He¬†could be an elite small forward in the league, which is important because the best teams are usually led by a player at that position. His shooting and ball handling ability would be hard to defend.

Perimeter scoring is the foundation of the best teams in the NBA right now. Porter is the ideal player for the modern NBA. He is fast, tall and will space the floor. If he is still available when the Bulls are up to pick, he should be a no-brainer.

Trae Young has all of the tools to be an offensive game changer

The Oklahoma star is playing some of the most electrifying college basketball in history. Young has all of the talents in the world and could be a nightmare for opposing defenses. He can stretch the floor, penetrate through defenses and make incredible passing plays. Despite all of this, he still needs a lot of work.

Young needs to work on creating fewer turnovers. He currently averages 5.3 turnovers per game, which is very dangerous. But when looking at this statistic, it should also be noted that Oklahoma’s entire offense is run¬†through him. So, if Young were to play on a team that had more weapons in its arsenal, he probably wouldn’t turn the ball over as often.

He’s going to have some growing¬†pains but his talents will transfer to the NBA

When you have a three-point shot like his, the sky is the limit. Young may not come straight into the NBA ready to take opposing teams by storm, but he will get there. Also, his passing ability isn’t something to be neglected. He is a gifted passer. His game just has to mature, and when it does look out.

Kevin Knox could be a nice piece next to Lauri Markkanen

Knox has a similar skill set that could be compared to Markkanen, but don’t get me wrong they aren’t on the same level. Still, it would be interesting to see them play off of each other.

His developing three-point shot is very impressive. He currently has a three-point shooting percentage of .353. With his athleticism and quickness at his height of 6 feet 9 inches. It would definitely bring another tool that would cause a problem for other teams.

Pairing him and Markkanen together would be beautiful to witness. The offense would have a lot of moving parts. Not only would they have to worry about their perimeter shooting ability, but they would also have to respect their ability to drive. The two of them together would definitely add to the Bulls offensive production.

Troy Brown Jr. is a playmaker offensively and defensively

Coming from Oregon at 6 feet 7 inches, Brown is undervalued, but when he gets to the NBA he won’t be. He is a complete player. Brown plays hard, plays defense, gets his teammates involved and can create his own shot. He will affect any team positively in the NBA.

The Bulls don’t have a solid small forward and although Brown is a guard, he could definitely fill that position. He has extreme defensive versatility and strength. He knows how to use his body on offense and defense. Players like him are rare and can always be helpful in a multitude of aspects.

Offensively, he isn’t afraid of any defender. He’ll drive by anyone and he knows how to make adjustments in the paint to finish. But if he can’t score on the play, he’ll definitely find an open teammate. The Bulls could use him and hopefully they’ll draft him.

Brown is only going to get better as the years pass by. He has talent and a good work ethic, which can only translate to a good future.

Sources

https://www.si.com/nba/nba-draft-2018-prospect-rankings-big-board

https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/trae-young-1.html#players_per_game::none

https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/kevin-knox-1.html#players_per_game::none

https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/troy-brown-5.html#players_per_game::none

Special thanks to Ezekiel Cappel for helping with the research of player evaluations.

Chicago Bears Free-Agent Targets: Offensive Weapons

The Bears need help.

With Mitchell Tribusky coming into his second season, this will be his time to prove himself. In his days at North Carolina, he was known for being an accurate passer. The problem is that when he moved to Chicago, he didn’t have anyone to pass it to (with the exception of Kendall Wright). So this free agency the Bears should look to address this problem.

There are three wide receivers and one tight end the Bears should consider taking a look at:

Wide Receivers Jarvis Landry
Sammy Watkins
Kendall Wright
Tight End Trey Burton

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry is my favorite candidate and he would be worth every penny.
Landry is still very young at 25 years old, and he is probably going to get better, which would be incredible considering how good he already is. In all four of his seasons in the NFL, Landry has had at least over 80 receptions. In the 2017 regular season,  he had an astounding 112 receptions.

Beyond the numbers, what does he play like?

He has hands like a bear trap. Once he clamps down, the ball isn’t going anywhere. Because of this, defenders are forced to respect his game and back up off of him at the line of scrimmage. Landry takes advantage of this and always creates separation. Then proceeds to either make the defender miss or run right at him for extra yards.

Landry is a complete wide receiver that plays with a lot of passion. The Bears should really consider him and give him the money he deserves. He’s the type of player that could open up their whole offense.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins could potentially be a steal.

Sammy Watkins was once known as a deep threat in Buffalo, but his time in Los Angelos didn’t live up to those expectations. I believe that we shouldn’t be so quick to¬†judge. He has shown that he has the talent when his full body of work is judged. Watkins just needs a little more time to come into his own. After all, he is only 24 years old.

Watkins is a pretty big receiver, standing at 6 feet 1 inch tall. Often times, he uses this size to push for extra yards. He plays the game with a lot of passion, and that is important for a developing team like the Bears.

His route running is well above average. He always makes tight cuts to create separation. Especially, on his goal line slants that look almost impossible for corners to defend. In 2017, four of his eight touchdowns came from them.

The moral of the story, Watkins can still play, and he can still judge the deep-ball and make that over-the-shoulder catch.

Watkins is a weapon the Bears could use.

Kendall Wright, wide receiver and former Bear, should be resigned.

Wright is an underrated and undervalued player. He recorded 59 receptions in 2017, which is impressive considering the Bears had the lowest amount of passing attempts in the NFL.

The Bears should keep Wright and have his relationship with Trubisky continue to grow. It’s important for a young quarterback to have some consistency with good wide receivers.

Especially, with one that¬†runs his routes well, catches the ball with his hands (I’m sorry Joshua Bellamy, but you’re supposed to catch with your hands and not your shoulder pads) and knows how to adjust his body to pull down the completion.

Tight end Trey Burton needs more playing time and the Bears could give it to him.

Burton is a tight end that is starting to show that he belongs in this league. While his primary position is at tight end, he also can play fullback and when he does he makes the right blocks to cut off the incoming linebackers.

But Burton is not just a guy out there to block, he can catch too.

For a tight end, he is pretty fast. So when he gets open, look out because he is going to pull down the ball.

His big frame also helps, standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall. Burton is strong and when he gets hit, he holds on to the ball. It doesn’t matter if one or two men are on his back. Burton is going to make the play.

Sources

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LandJa00.htm#receiving_and_rushing::none

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/W/WatkSa00.htm#receiving_and_rushing::none

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/W/WrigKe01.htm#receiving_and_rushing::none

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BurtTr01.htm#receiving_and_rushing::none

http://www.espn.com/nfl/statistics/team/_/stat/passing/sort/passingAttempts/seasontype/2

 

Bulls’ New Direction and What that Means for Mirotińá

In a draft-night deal, the Chicago Bulls decided to head towards a new direction, when they traded Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 7 draft pick (Lauri Markkanen), Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn. The Bulls entered their rebuilding stage, and what at the beginning of the season looked like a 60-loss team, is now looking like a team that could make a run for the playoffs.

The only problem is that the Bulls are making this run a season too early, which is opening up trade talks around the league. Starting with Nikola¬†Mirotińá.

But first, how did we get to this point?

John Paxson and Gar Forman decided it was time for a rebuild. The Bulls couldn’t pull in the proper veteran assets for Jimmy Butler and the team to¬†be under legitimate contention aspirations.

Instead, they decided to put the team in the hands of Fred Hoiberg, which surprisingly turned into a good thing.

How did Hoiberg help this Bulls team?

Well with Jimmy out of the picture, other players are actually able to touch the ball, which is a crucial aspect of Hoiberg’s offensive system. Everyone is supposed to get touches, and the new Bulls squad does a very good job of that. They’re playing more of team basketball, which is leading to more scoring opportunities and a better record.

This is a good sign, but the Bulls need to lose, and they should start by trading Mirotińá.

Mirotińá has played better this season than he ever has as a member of the Bulls. His trade value is at its highest. He is proving that he can help a team take a step forward in the right direction, and this is why now is the perfect time to move him.

A lot of the time people get lost in the moment. Especially, when making a playoff run and thinking that you only need one more piece to push you over the top.

The Bulls need to take advantage of this and wait for the right trade, which would be a first-round draft pick. Anything less is not acceptable.

If a team wants to forget Mirotińá’s checkered past and only look at his recent level of play to evaluate him, then invite them in and take advantage¬†of their mistake.

Mirotińá leaving Chicago could also give the Bulls a better first-round draft pick because, in theory, the Bulls should win fewer games with him (but this Bulls team is surprising so keep a lookout). The team as it is is a middle of the pack team. In other¬†words, a team doomed to failure until they decide to rebuild again.

Trading¬†Mirotińá is what the Bulls need. They are two young prospects away from going from a good team to a great team, and trading¬†Mirotińá might give the Bulls exactly that.

Sources

Should Chicago Bulls reconsider futures of Nikola Mirotic, Robin Lopez?

Chicago Bulls are (surprisingly) rolling along, but could be looking to deal at trade deadline

Future still outweighs present for surging Bulls, who should trade Nikola Mirotic ASAP

Nikola Mirotic trade talk, Zach LaVine’s return, draft prospects and more