Regular Season Can’t Start Soon Enough for Jimmy Butler, Bulls

In a recent interview with Chicago Magazine, Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler spoke to staff writer Bryan Smith about his new $95 million contract, celebrity friends, Nerf guns, and his difficult past. Smith describes just how tough it is for Butler to discuss it.

“…he loathes reliving the past—so much so that he has removed the rearview mirror on his car (yes, really) as a symbolic reminder to never look back. His coach at Marquette University, Buzz Williams, says Butler was so sensitive about his upbringing that he swore Williams to secrecy while playing for him.”

Of course sports media, the internet, and even I had a field day with that detail about the rearview mirror.

He cut his brakes because he CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP….but seriously, Jimmy, put the rearview mirror back. Otherwise, get someone else to drive you while you’re in Chicago. I don’t need to get in anymore silly accidents downtown and neither does anyone else. There’s also A LOT OF MONEY INVESTED IN YOU. So safety matters. – End mini rant.

Kidding/judging aside, I get the symbolism. Butler had an unbelievably tough upbringing. His father wasn’t around and mother kicked him out of the house as a 13 year-old before he was taken in by a high school teammate’s family. Butler doesn’t want his past to define who he is now. Since being drafted at the end of the first round of the 2011 draft, 30th overall, Butler worked his way to where he is today.

Butler’s points per game have increased every season. During his rookie campaign, Butler averaged 2.6 points over 42 games coming off the bench. In 2014-15, Butler started 65 games and averaged 20 points per. Then after being named to his first All-Star game, his second All-NBA Defensive Team, and leading the league in minutes per game (38.7), Butler led the Bulls in playoff scoring but was ousted by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the conference semis.

The last meaningful game the Bulls played, fans saw a team that had given up on their coach, Tom Thibodeau, in an elimination game against the best basketball player in the league. Even after keeping pace with the Cavs in a high scoring first (33-31 Cavs), Butler and his teammates stopped looking for easy baskets and settled for lazy jump shots. After leading all scorers in the first quarter with 10 points, Derrick Rose looked disinterested and so were fans by the 3rd quarter. The result of Game 6 left the worst taste in your mouth if you were at all invested with a Bulls team that was surrounded by drama between the coach and the front office, Butler’s contract situation, and Rose’s health.

While the Bulls’ roster is virtually the same as it was a year ago, there’s a new head coach and a new philosophy in 2015-16. Fred Hoiberg is the anti-Thibodeau and he brings a strong emphasis on scoring. If you haven’t already, get the defensive oriented try-hard Bulls teams of the past 6 years out of your system and get used to multiple 100+ free Big Mac games at the United Center. Hoiberg is also a “players coach” and Butler further expressed his appreciation for that in a revealing Q&A with NBA.com’s David Aldridge at the start of October…

“I think Fred is a bigger person, where he’s going to come in, he’s going to check on you. Over the summer, he came and visited everybody. I think every coach is different. Thibs wasn’t like that. Thibs was a guy that, he was going to be in that office studying ways to win a championship…Fred is trying to teach me that you’ve got to be a people person, too. Because you’ve got to balance both. You really do.”

As I noted earlier, Butler did get paid and he was paid very well. After betting on himself during the season last year and proving he’s worth more than the original extension the Bulls offered him, the restricted free agent and the team that drafted him agreed on a 5-year $95 million deal with a gradual rise in salary per year. It seems Butler understands that the new paper means more responsibility for him…

“I hired my trainer full-time. I have my own weight, strength and nutritional guys, full-time. I’m investing money into my body and into my craft, which is a wise investment…help my team win, I’ve got to be healthy. To help my team win, I’ve got to be able to score the ball. To help my team win, I’ve got to be able to guard. This whole summer was all about that — playing all 82 games, and the playoffs.”

There also seems to be a general agreement throughout the organization that the team isn’t built around Rose anymore, and Butler wants to take the mantle as the leader on the floor. If you were paying attention to the Rose-less Bulls for the past few seasons, the leaders were certainly Joakim Noah and Luol Deng on both ends of the floor. That’s where Aldridge’s interview with Butler gets interesting…

“I have to be a leader. I think I can lead vocally, and obviously with my actions on the court. I can’t tell anybody to do something if I’m not doing it. I can’t ask one of these rookies to dive on the floor if I’m not diving on the floor, take a charge if I’m not taking a charge. Leadership is one of the only things that this team has really been lacking. We’ve had a little here and there, but I think you’ve got to have that guy to come in and get it done in the leadership role.”

Dude…Noah’s still on your team. You know that right? I’ll be the first to admit Noah’s presence on the offensive end of the floor last season was more of a hindrance than helpful, but you can’t deny how he put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs in 2013-14. Noah finished 4th in MVP voting that season, with all the chest pumping glory you could ask for. You also have Pau Gasol on your roster with two NBA Finals rings on his hand.

I appreciate a lot of what Butler has had to say since committing to the Bulls for the next five seasons. I like that he’s talking like a superstar, now that he’s being paid like one. I hope Butler improved on his long-range shooting and ball handling though, so the other four guys on the floor can play off him in space. If he wants to take the reigns as the “face of the franchise” and leader, Butler also has to continue playing like the two-way player that his teammates, fans, and piers around the league have come to respect. Most importantly, win basketball games and win them in the playoffs. At the end of the day, the players who go to championships are the ones you trust the most.

I want the season to start already so Butler, Rose and everyone else in a Bulls uniform can simply let their game speak for them. The Bulls open the season next week at the United Center, Tuesday Oct. 27th, against the Cavaliers. It’s only the start to another long season, but one that couldn’t come soon enough.

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Chicago Celebrities We’d Rather See At Games

From afar, I’ve admired what the Chicago Cubs are doing. Not just at the plate and from the mound, but also from a promotional standpoint. Rather than trot out any famous person who can afford a ticket with what they find between their couch cushions, the Cubs had players who appreciate where the team is now and put in blood, sweat and tears wearing the blue pinstripes to throw out first pitches in Games 3 and 4.

After Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and 2-time All-Star Kerry Wood kicked off each game, the Cubs utilized their new video boards at Wrigley Field with videos of the late Ernie Banks and Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” That’s classy. That’s also what they should do from now on, but that’s a discussion for another day. (Never let Ryan Dempster do his impression of Will Ferrell’s impression of Harry Caray again)

Amidst the bat-flipping, opposing pitcher name chanting, and hardcore partying, we’ve seen the celebrity faces that we expected (some dreaded) to see at the ballpark. Billy Corgan and his new get-off-my-lawn attitude. Northside/Southside flipping John Cusack. And the worst front-runner on the planet, Jim Belushi (I cringe typing his name like he’s Voldemort). New assistant to Cubs President Theo Epstein (probably) Eddie Vedder has been fun. As an avid Pearl Jam fan, I get a kick out of him partying as hard as the players after each game.

It’s also hard to imagine that Bill Murray isn’t too far away, despite his media tour next week for the upcoming release of Rock the Kasbah. If anything, he could make it an epic cross promotion for his film and the MLB playoffs.

Bill Murray Harry

Vedder and Murray are awesome but it’s time to bring out the big hitters to the seats in Chicago, and not just at Wrigley Field. Last summer, I countered recently-outed heavyweight racist Hulk Hogan’s baiting for angry Blackhawks fans during the Stanley Cup with my own list of better celebrity hockey fans. Those mentioned in that list (CM Punk, Mr. T, Vince Vaughn, etc) get a hat-tip, but the following names will represent star power that we’d rather see regularly, similar to the likes at New York and Los Angeles events.

1. Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford Chicago

We’re talking about Han Solo AND Indiana Jones here. How can you deny the idea of either baseball stadium in Chicago playing the “Imperial Death March” music announcing the Yankees lineup, then following it with a shot of Harrison Ford behind home plate with the Rebel Victory score over it? Maybe it’s a the geek in me, but any opportunity to implement Star Wars, especially with the new film coming out, is super sexy to me.

Note: I also refer to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu as #Baseball Jedi, so there’s that. 

Ford has Chicago in his blood, being born here and spending his college summers working on a boat in Burnham Park Harbor or managing the first Crate and Barrel on Wells. In an Michigan Ave Magazine interview, Ford said:

I’ve been out in Los Angeles for 35 years, and I think there are some things about my upbringing that reflect the values and the attitudes of the Midwest…. a kind of work ethic that I find particular to the Midwest. I can say that those were important, formative years for me, living in Chicago.”

Cool, Indy. I’ll buy you a beer next time you’re in town, if it gets you to a ballgame.

2. Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman Cubs

Currently featured in the new season of Fargo, Nick Offerman isn’t slowing down since the end of Ron Swanson and Parks and Recreation. Offerman isn’t shy about his baseball allegiance either.

There are many grown men and women who would scream like a 90’s tween at a Backstreet Boys concert if they saw the Joliet native, University of Illinois grad, and professional canoe craftsman down the foul line at a ballgame.

If he’s willing, during a the Crosstown Cup series, there’s plenty of bacon-on-a-stick awaiting his consumption at US Cellular Field.

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Double-thick maple bacon. You know you want it, Nick…

3. Gillian Anderson

Gillian Anderson Chicago

Yep, X-Files fans, Scully is from Chicago. With The X-Files revival series coming soon to FOX, they’d be making a huge mistake not having Gillian Anderson at Wrigley Field fending off the paranormal and extraterrestrial that I’m sure some Cubs fans still believe will prevent the Cubs from going to the World Series…At least come out to a Men and/or Women’s basketball game at DePaul, where Anderson finished college…something she and I have in common.

4. President Barack Obama

President Obama Chicago

Partisan opinions aside, he’s the MF’n President of the United States. He’s also a hardcore sports fan, which I thoroughly laid out on his birthday, and loves his Chicago teams…

When his term is up, I would welcome the president taking in as much Bulls basketball, White Sox baseball, Bears football, and whatever as he wants.

5. John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly Chicago

Would you really argue with me on this? Who doesn’t want south side native John C. Reilly in their corner?

That’s exactly who you want in games against New York when Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Jay-Z and Beyonce are behind the opponent’s bench.

6. Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert Chicago

For someone who has spent a lot of his career recently in New York City, Stephen Colbert has not been bashful at all about his time in Chicago. Leading up to the new Late Show’s premiere, Colbert dedicated multiple podcasts to his years at Northwestern and doing improv in Chicago. While interviewing Jane The Virgin star Gina Rodriguez this week, the two bonded over their love for the city and living there. Most notably, as tongue-in-cheek as it sounded, Colbert predicted a Cubs World Series win…a proclamation he believes “in no way will come back to haunt” him.

If the NLCS goes to New York, I would be shocked if Colbert wasn’t in attendance. Heck, he should catch a weekend game in Chicago if the opportunity is there.

More Chicago Celebrities You’d Rather See:

John Landis, Director – Animal House, Blues Brothers

Robert Zemeckis, Director – Back to the Future Trilogy

Patricia Arquette, Actress – Boyhood, True Romance

Common, Hip-Hop Artist & Actor – Selma

Fred Savage, Actor & Director – The Wonder Years

Ben Savage, Actor – Boy Meets World

Chloe Bennet, Actress – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Mandy Patinkin, Actor – The Princess Bride, Homeland

Gina Rodriguez, Actress – Jane The Virgin

Michael Pena, Actor – Ant-Man, The Martian

Frances McDormand, Actress – Fargo, Almost Famous

Shonda Rhimes, Writer – Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy

Michael Madsen, Actor – Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill

Jennifer Morrison, Actress – House M.D.

Michael Mann, Director – Heat

Tom Berenger, Actor – Major League

Dan Castellanata, Actor – The Simpsons

Bruce Dern, Actor – Nebraska, The Cowboys

Andre Braugher, Actor – Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Wood Harris, Actor – The Wire, Remember the Titans

Bob Balaban, Actor – Moonrise Kingdom

Jennifer Hudson, Singer & Actress – Dreamgirls

Chi McBride, Actor – Boston Public, The Terminal

Craig Robinson, Actor – The Office, Knocked Up

Jay Chandrasekhar, Actor & Director – Super Troopers

Jim O’Heir, Actor – Parks and Recreation

Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

What To Love About Fall Around Chicago

Happy First Day of Fall, Chicago.

If you were up early this morning, I hope you got a good look at “Chicagohenge” as the sunrise lined up with the city’s East-West grid. You can check it out again at sunset, in cased you missed it, but it only happens twice a year.

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Fall is my favorite season in Chicago, and I know I’m not alone saying so. Sure it means “Winter is Coming“, but it’s more like opening a fresh jar of peanut butter than it is scraping the bottom of one.

So what makes Fall worth loving? I’m glad you asked…

1. Sweater Weather and Flannel

Sweater Weather

Sweater Weather is so good that The Neighborhood recorded a song about it…Some of us are much more in our element with long sleeves and a cool breeze.

Has fashion ever blessed us with anything better than the hoodie?

Poehler Party

I think not…

And when else is Al Borland’s getup ever sexier?

Al Borland

mmm…checker patterns and stripes.

While sweaters and flannel are fantastic on their own, they both pair perfectly with the always lovable “puffy” vest. At least you’re getting ahead of the curve for Star Wars: Episode VII.

“I love you.” / “…I know.”

2. Them Leaves

Chicago Leaves

Fall foliage is a thing in Chicago. It may be the most stunning part about living in a region with four seasons. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Loop area, you can get lost in the changing of the leaves around Grant Park. Perhaps take a walk around Lincoln Park as the zoo tigers are camouflaged with the trees. I’m also looking forward to the views along the new 606 Trail and West Ridge Nature Preserve.

If you’re looking for a nice getaway from the city, take an hour and half trip west on Rt. 80 toward the Illinois Valley and see what Starved Rock is all about. The hiking is fantastic and nearby are the greatest wings ON THE PLANET at Skoog’s in Utica.

Starved Rock Fall

While you’re already heading west, go see what the Quad Cities are all about. The first half of my college years were certainly highlighted by the unbelievable view at Augustana College walking the Slough Path to class.

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Hey now…You can take a train from Chicago to Rock Island, so it counts.

3. Sports, baby…Sports.

Soldier Field

I know, Bears fans. Not the start to a season that anybody wanted…but when did that ever stop you from throwing on your blue and orange and fill up Soldier Field? Seriously. Those games are always sold out…At least you have Fantasy Football and tailgating, right?

It won’t be too long before the United Center tenants are back at it making 1901 W. Madison into a Madhouse again. The Blackhawks drop their new Stanley Cup banner and set to defend it starting with the New York Rangers Oct. 7th, and the Bulls tipoff with their season against LeBron James and the Cavs on their NEW home floor Oct. 27th.

It also looks like there WILL be October baseball in Chicago. Even though not all of us are Cubs fans *cough* me *cough*, it’s hard not to appreciate the fun they’re having on the north side. I don’t know how long the run will last, but you can’t help imagining how insane the city will be if a certain team hoists a certain trophy in a certain ballpark…

…and don’t forget Northwestern Football. Coach Pat Fitzgerald won’t let you.

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Go Cats…?

4. Gone Pickin’…

Apple Picking

According to my Facebook feed around this time each year, couples and families LUV to go apple picking. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, here’s a helpful directory for you.

For those less inclined to do free manual labor on the weekends, might I recommend APPLE FEST in Long Grove? Starting this Friday, Sept 25th through the weekend, all the fun shops and vendors in tiny and quaint Long Grove gather to share apple treats and all the joy Fall can bring. There’s music, cider doughnuts, apple sangria, and I hear the Confectionary is making white chocolate and cinnamon sugar candy apples.

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Can someone please try to recreate this photo and post it to the Facebook page? Thanks!

5. Halloween’ness

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Why yes, yes that is Daley Plaza…

While you’re not glued to your television being “Shawshanked” into an AMC Marathon of bad slasher franchise sequels, you’ll probably notice all the Halloween popup stores in what used to be your favorite nearby businesses. (*Skypoint* Blockbuster)…

Quick remedy? How about a trip to your nearest terrifying Haunted House? For years I’ve been trying to gather friends (and the nerves) to try the Statesville Haunted Prison. If you’re interested, just Tweet at me.

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If you’re less than willing to have the begeezes scared out of you, I would recommend doing what I have for the past few years…hit up a Bulls game and count how many “Where’s Waldo” costumes you find. It’s absurdly entertaining.

6. Fall Beverages

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I know, Pumpkin Spiced Anything is the fad this time of year…but so are several seasonal adult beverages. The patios are still open across the city, and what’s better than a “warm apple pie” or some other warm cocktail while siting along the the Chicago river walk?

I’ll sit and wait for your response…

That’s what I thought.

If you happen to have some recipes for excellent Fall-coholic beverages, please feel free to share them on the Facebook page and I’ll post them to the site as well!

7. Fun Runs

Chicago Fun Runs

You may be like most of us who didn’t train for the Chicago Marathon, but still want to feel like you accomplished something fitness-wise this Fall. FEAR NOT! Here’s a schedule for the remaining “run for fun” races, including various Thanksgiving Turkey Trots and the famous Hot Chocolate Run…

Hot Chocolate Run

That totally looks worth running a 15k or 5k.

8. ALL THE PEANUTS SPECIALS

Not necessarily something Chicago-centric, but it’s the F’ing Peanuts. Who didn’t grow up on Snoopy and all the holiday specials? With the new movie coming out in November, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a ton of fun promotions around the city for it.

9. Indoor Concerts – Big and Small

Festival season is over, but the music lives strong in Chicago year-round.

From the big stadium venues like the United Center and Allsate Arena

To concert halls like House of Blues, The Riviera, The Metro, The Vic, and The Aragon Ballroom

Wilco Riv

and small venues like The Beat Kitchen, Reggies, Double Door, and Bottom Lounge. You never know who’s going to show up…

10…

You let me know on Facebook and Twitter!

Michael Jordan’s Takes Are The Hottest

When Michael Jordan talks, people listen.

At his 20th “Flight School” Camp in Santa Barbara, Jordan took the mic for a Q&A session…and it was everything an MJ fan would want it to be.

If you had to win one game, who would you want coaching: Phil Jackson or Dean Smith?

“Dean Smith…Phil was lucky because I was taught the game by Dean Smith.”

What did you think when Shaq said the All-Time Lakers could beat the Bulls’ greatest players?

“I just felt like he was just talking (Jordan shrug)…The thing is, we’d never know. I think we would’ve killed them…It’s just a debate”

Who would you choose to go one-on-one with between Stephen Curry or LeBron?

“Right now? I would go against StephON (I love that he calls him Stephon) because I’m a little bit bigger than he is so I could back him down…but LeBron’s too big.”

Who would you add to Team Jordan?

“Any sport?…I’m a big fan of Mike Trout. But he’s Nike. I can’t steal Nike’s guys.”

If you were in your prime, could you beat LeBron in a one-on-one game? 

“This is the ESPN Question. I know it’s going to be all over ESPN…(longer pause).

No question.”

Cue another Jordan shrug.

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MJ’s also a big Robin Thicke fan, apparently.

Jordan wasn’t wrong about the LeBron one-on-one question. It went viral in minutes. I haven’t even flipped on ESPN yet today, but it’s easy to guess what they are talking about.

I personally hate the debate. Jordan said so himself, while responding to Shaq’s nonsense, we’d never know because they won’t ever play each other in their prime. I also think people who get hung up on the debate don’t allow themselves the opportunity to appreciate what LeBron has accomplished.

What we forget is that the younger generation today didn’t even see Jordan play in a Chicago Bulls uniform. Kids going into high school weren’t even born yet, and neither were the kids who sat around Jordan at the Q&A. So when you hear rumors of a Space Jam sequel potentially happening, isn’t it logical for LeBron to star in it since most kids today grew up watching him play instead of Jordan?

Here’s the video to most of the Q&A and it’s definitely worth the watch.

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President Obama’s Birthday and All His Sportiness

The 44th President of the United States LOVES his sports. He is an unapologetic Chicago White Sox fan. He fills out March Madness brackets for both Men and Women’s tournaments on SportsCenter each year. He also has no problem mixing it up on the White House basketball court.

Air Obama

So on his 54th birthday, lets put the partisan blah blah blah on the back-burner and appreciate something we all enjoy…Sports.

March Madness

Presidential Bracket

I look forward to the President’s annual segment on ESPN where he joins the rest of the nation in the Madness. Since he was elected, President Obama is interviewed by college basketball reporter Andy Katz from the White House to talk out each of his picks. Last year he took regular season undefeated favorite Kentucky to win it all (like many of you did) over Nova, and was obviously incorrect as Duke beat Wisconsin in the National Championship.

President Obama finished in ESPN’s 72.9 percentile in 2014 and was most successful in 2011 with a bracket in the 87.4%. Both years, UConn won the National Championship and he didn’t pick them. The President did choose a National Champion for his first year in office, North Carolina in 2009.

ESPN isn’t the only network who gets to share air-time with the Commander in Chief as one of CBS’s best color analysts, Clark Kellogg, took him on in a game of HORSE…err POTUS.

I don’t even want to know what would’ve happen if the President got skunked.

He Loves His Chicago Teams

President Chicago Teams

Despite referring to his White Sox’s home stadium as “Kaminskey Field” early in his first term, the President has never wavered as a Chicago die hard. When the Bulls re-signed All-Star Jimmy Butler to a longterm deal, he was on it…

(Props to my old teammate Matt Rodewald for getting that tweet picked up)

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for Game 6, President Obama was leading the chants from Twitter…

And wore his lucky hockey sweater while doing so.

While touring Cooperstown a year ago, the President asked to try on the White Sox World Series ring.

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…and then donated the Sox jacket he wore to throw out the first pitch at the 2009 All-Star Game to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The President even hosted a White House visit for the Super Bowl winning 1985 Bears team, because they never got the chance to do so before. 

President and Ditka

(Ironic that it was Mike Ditka handing the President his jersey since he also wanted to run against him for a Senate seat in 2004)

The ’85 Bears and the Blackhawks may be the only Chicago teams that the President has hosted at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but he always seems to get a quick shoutout in for his favorite squads when he hosts other teams.

White House Host with the Most

We all remember the drama surrounding Red Sox DH David Ortiz’s selfie with the President and the handful of athletes who make a thing out of not going to visit the White House, despite it being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (looking at you, Tim Thomas)…

But damn, do those photo ops turn out great.

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#TBT Poll: Best Sports Moment of 1988

If you haven’t yet, check out this week’s Throwback Thursday Year in Review.

Not a bad year for sports, right?

#1.

Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins Dunk Contest

#2.

Kirk Gibson’s Walk-off Home Run, Game 1 of the World Series vs. A’s.

#3.

Joe Montana leads 49ers on 92 yard drive to win Super Bowl XXIII vs. Bengals

Anything else better than these 3 choices? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

NBA Draft 2015: Who Fits For Bulls With 22nd Pick?

Get your fancy suits and flat-billed team hats ready, it’s NBA Draft Day!

Wiggins and Jabari

Best suit in NBA Draft history right there. I wonder if Andrew Wiggins kept the hat…

Commissioner Adam Silver, who has yet to give Draft attendees a reason to boo him, is expected to shake the hands of the 2015 draft class and its coveted triumvirate. That group include’s Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. After that, the field of college basketball’s best and international stars becomes much less predictable. Trade talks have heated up across the league, and it doesn’t appear to be as much smokescreen as it has in the past (Way to blow your cover, George Karl).

The Chicago Bulls, for the time being, appear to be staying put in the 22nd spot and that’s not a bad thing. In recent years, Vice President John Paxson and General Manager Gar Forman have found “diamonds in the rough” late in the first round after selecting Taj Gibson 26th in 2009 and All-Star Jimmy Butler 30th in 2011. They flipped 28th overall pick Norris Cole and 2nd rounder Malcolm Lee for Nikola Mirotic, who was selected 23rd by Houston before making his way to Minnesota via trade, also in the 2011 draft. Tony Snell, selected 20th overall in 2013, made strides as an athletic scorer last season. However, Marquis Teague (29th overall in 2012) may or may not have changed professions after being traded to Brooklyn in 2014 for Tornike Shengelia (we hardly knew thee…No, we never thee at all). Hitting on four out of five picks is still a nice batting average though…

While it’s nice to have a lottery choice in the draft, picking between the 20 and 30 spots is still significantly valuable. The players available are older, better developed for specific roles, and ready to contribute right away. They are also nearly 20% the price of a the Top 3 draft picks. In 2013, frenchman Rudy Gobert was selected 27th by the Utah Jazz. Gobert was 11 blocked shots behind Anthony Davis for the league lead this past season and earned $1.1 million. 1st overall 2013 pick Anthony Bennett has averaged just 4.7 points per game, is on his second team in as many years (and back on the trading block), and made $5.6 million last season.

So who will be there for the Bulls after the Dallas Mavericks make their choice at 21? Let’s take a look at who fits their needs and can realistically be available.

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

Grant Bulls

Senior / Guard / 6-5

Son of former NBA forward Harvey Grant and nephew of four-time NBA Champion Horace Grant, Jerian Grant may be the best fit. Backcourt depth was a glaring issue for the Bulls, especially in the playoffs, and Grant is one of the best point guard prospects in this draft. His size and ball handling allows Grant to play both 1 and 2 guard spots, making him a flexible option for new head coach Fred Hoiberg to pair with either Derrick Rose or Butler. With an ability to create his own shot and excel in transition, Grant can also be utilized in small lineups in case Hoiberg wants to play him with both Rose and Butler. He averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game in his senior season while also shooting over 57% from 2-point range. Being older, Grant can contribute right away for a Bulls team that wants to win now…and he can certainly finish at the rim.

Grant Dunk

Rashad Vaughn, UNLV

Vaughn Bulls

Freshman / Guard / 6-6

The Bulls lacked dependable scoring off the bench in the postseason last year. Rashad Vaughn is an “instant offense” pure scorer who has shown he can generate scoring in bunches. Averaging 17.8 points per game, Vaughn is a natural scorer and played his best in catch-and-shoot opportunities. He can create off the dribble in isolation situations and is athletic enough to be a decent defender. Vaughn’s freshman season was ended prematurely due to a meniscus tear against Fresno State in February, which has contributed to his slide in draft projections.

RJ Hunter

RJ Hunter

Junior/ Guard / 6-6

During March Madness this year, the country was made aware (if they weren’t already) of RJ Hunter as he knocked out #3 Baylor from the tournament…and his coach/dad out of his chair.

RJ Huner shot

As 3-star recruit from Indianapolis, Hunter passed on much bigger programs than Georgia State so he could play for his father and led the Panthers to 25+ victory seasons. Hunter provides two things the Bulls are in need of…scoring and 3-point shooting. As they wait and see who Doug McDermott is in Hoiberg’s system, adding Hunter’s 19.7 points per game and 51% shooting from the field doesn’t hurt either.

Trey Lyles, Kentucky

Trey Lyles

Freshman / Forward / 6-10

Had he not been on the same team as Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles would be a much higher prospect in this draft. Lyles was forced to play out of position at small forward with Alex Poythress going down to injury, but it allowed him to showcase how skilled he is off the dribble. Lyles is one of the best well-rounded forwards in the 2015 class and would bolster a very thin front court rotation for the Bulls. With Joakim Noah playing on one leg and Gibson out recovering from ankle surgery, Lyles provides a post up game that the Bulls don’t have with either Pau Gasol or Mirotic.

Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

Sam Dekker Bulls

Junior / Forward / 6-9

It is probably a stretch to think Sam Dekker would fall to the Bulls at 22, but his projections for tonight’s draft have varied from 8th overall to 25th. Like Hunter, Dekker provides scoring and range beyond the arc, but he is more polished and has done it against better competition. Dekker’s versatility on both ends of the floor and athleticism make him more than a role player off the bench. He can defend multiple positions, can play the 4 in small lineup scenarios, and is better prepared to play right away.

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