Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

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Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

DEERFIELDWhen Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau started his breakdown of the Wizards, his teams next opponent, after Fridays practice by saying theyre good, at the time, it could be chalked up to the coachs habit of showing almost reverential deference to every squad in the league. But after Washington won its fourth game of the season later that evening, beating a Magic team that has impressed observers thus far in the campaignalbeit not the most talented club and playing without arguably their best player, injured power forward Glen Big Baby Davisto snap an eight-game losing streak, one can assume that the Bulls will do everything in their power not to let Thibodeaus cautionary advice become prophecy.

If you look at their record, you would say, Oh, OK, theyre not having a great season, and once you look deeper and you see that, OK, theyve had a lot of injuries, Thibodeau rhapsodized after the Bulls shootaround Saturday morning at the Berto Center. John Walls been out virtually the whole season, Nene was out for a good chunk of that. So, you take a quality big like Nene and a good point guard off your team, youre going to feel it, and theyve had an opportunity to have some time together, guys are coming back, their bigs are tough to match up with.

Jordan Crawford is a load, Bradley Beal is a bright young player, Martell Webster has been a good player in the league for a long timeand hes had some health issues to deal with in his careerbut those all are quality players and then you add in a couple of guys like D-League call-up point guards Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack, two quality players that are under the radar, that are very hungry, so theyre a dangerous team, he continued with his breakdown. To me, theyre a quality team and the reason their record is like it is, is more because of the injuries that theyve had, but they played very, very well last night. Theyve played well in a lot of games that they lost, so we know how good they are. We have to be ready.

To face those aforementioned juggernauts Saturday night at the United Center, Thibodeau will have the services of Rip Hamilton, the Bulls starting shooting guard, who broke into the league with the Wizards, after the veteran missed nearly a month of action after tearing his left plantar fascia in a Dec. 1 win over Philadelphia. The coach wouldnt divulge it to the assembled media but Hamilton will playand start, moving understudy Marco Belinelli back to the bench, though the reserve will likely play the bulk of the minutes at the position, with Hamilton in a limited-minutes rolea source told CSNChicago.com.

Well see before the game. He went through shootaround, Thibodeau said. Everything is good so far. If there arent any problems, hell go.

Like Hamilton, bookend starting wing Luol Deng is a game-time decision after spraining his right ankle in the teams Christmas Day loss to Houston. Deng was also a full participant in the morning session and while Thibodeau wouldnt confirm whether or not the small forward and league minutes-per-game leader would suit up, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, Deng will also play Saturday.

Thibodeau is more focused on the Bulls righting the ship after two consecutive double-digit defeats than informing the media of his plans and with the opportunity to log some practice time, the coach indicated that the specific aspects that troubled him the most in blowout losses to the Hawks and Rockets were addressed.

Weve had the opportunity to have some quality practice time, so well see when we get out there, he explained. Usually, you have slippage in a lot of areas and often times, when you look at your schedule, you see that you havent had a lot of practice time and youre trying to make your corrections in film sessions, walk-throughs and sometimes, you need to be on the floor to get it done.

We had the opportunity to watch and see some of the things were not doing well, and you have to correct those first. I think the big thing is to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourselves first. We know if we defend and we rebound, and we take care of the ball, you do those three things, youre going to be in position to win, so we have to get back to taking care of those three things.

Aside from his own team, Thibodeau also touched on the coaching fate of Avery Johnson, who he coached in San Antonio. Johnson was fired from his position as the Brooklyn Nets head coachassistant P.J. Carlesimo is the teams interim head coach, but among the names who are being speculated to potentially be permanent replacements are Phil Jackson and current TV broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, Thibodeaus former bossThursday after being named the Eastern Conferences Coach of the Month in November.

Johnson is a hell of a guy and I think hes a great coach. Its a the unfortunate part of this profession. It seems like its awfully quick. They got off to a great start and they had some injuries, so I wish him well, Thibodeau said. I know him personally. I know the type of coach that he is. Hes a terrific coach, so I feel badly for him.

NBA Draft Profile: Utah C Jakob Poeltl

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NBA Draft Profile: Utah C Jakob Poeltl

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft we will provide profiles of more than 50 prospects, including video interviews with each player, what they're saying leading up to draft day as well as their potential fit with the Bulls.

Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah

7'0" | 230 lbs. | 20 years old

2015-16 stats:

17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 64.6% FG, 1.6 blocks, 30.4 minutes

Projection:

Lottery

Quotable:

"I feel like I acvtually fit that style pretty good. Because the league's getting smaller but also you have to be more versatile as a big, you have to do more different stuff like step out a little bit, like be able to handle the ball, be able to pass the ball. And I feel like that's somethign I'm actually pretty good at. So I think I'll fit in pretty well."

Rotoworld mock draft selection:

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah – Greg Monroe hasn’t really seemed to gel with Jason Kidd’s offense and defense, but Poeltl has the potential to step in and help on both ends. He has above-average potential as a rim protector, and though not the most athletic player, he is skilled on the offensive end, comfortable in the pick-and-roll, and can make an impact on the offensive boards.

Fit for the Bulls:

It could be an offseason of change for the Bulls' frontcourt, as both Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are set to become free agents. The Bulls hit on their Bobby Portis selection last year, and adding Poeltl to the mix would give a solid rim protector and post presence. Poeltl would be an excellent complement to Portis' stretch game. And if the Bulls opt to bring back one of Gasol or Noah, Poeltl would have a solid mentor to learn from. He'll become the first Austrian to ever play in the NBA, so the Bulls' fan base would grow exponentially in central Europe, for what it's worth.

The Bulls had the NBA's second best combined record against Cavs, Warriors

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The Bulls had the NBA's second best combined record against Cavs, Warriors

The Bulls' successes this season against the best teams in the NBA have been documented, and only make their inability to make the playoffs all the more baffling.

Those playoffs saw its number of teams dwindled down to two after the Warriors knocked off the Thunder in Game 7 Monday night in Oakland.

That means it'll be a rematch, as expected, between Steph Curry and the Warriors against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Bulls, like all but nine teams this regular season, lost all their games against Curry's Warriors, which set an NBA record by going 73-9.

But the Bulls had quite a bit of success against James and the Cavs, winning their of their four matchups.

That gave them a 3-3 record against the two teams competing in this year's Finals (they were a combined 6-0 against the runner-ups in either conference, Toronto and Oklahoma City).

That's significant, as only one other team (Detroit) had a combined record .500 or better against the conference champions.

Here's a look at how the 28 eliminated teams fared against the Cavs and Warriors this season.

Rank Team Record Diff
1. Detroit 4-2 +1.8
2. Chicago 3-3 -6.0
3. Miami 2-3 +2.4
4. Boston 2-3 -6.0
5. Portland 2-4 -0.8
6. Toronto 2-4 -4.0
7. Washington 2-4 -4.3
8. Milwaukee 2-4 -6.0
9. San Antonio 2-4 -8.3
10. Minnesota 1-4 -8.8
11. Houston 1-4 -9.0
12. New Orleans 1-4 -11.4
13. Indiana 1-5 -3.1
14. Dallas 1-5 -4.5
15. Charlotte 1-5 -7.1
16. Utah 1-5 -7.3
17. Brooklyn 1-5 -8.3
18. Denver 1-5 -11.3
19. LA Lakers 1-5 -12.8
20. Memphis 1-5 -19.1
21. Atlanta 0-5 -8.6
22. Oklahoma City 0-5 -10.6
23. Philadelphia 0-6 -10.0
24. LA Clippers 0-6 -11.1
25. Phoenix 0-6 -14.1
26. Sacramento 0-6 -14.6
27. New York 0-6 -15.6
28. Orlando 0-6 -17.0

Only four teams beat both Golden State and Cleveland this season: Detroit, Boston, Portland and Milwaukee.

The Bulls' average point differential against the two finalists was -6.0, tied for eighth best in the NBA.

The Bulls had myriad issues against the cellar dwellers - their 9-3 record against the NBA's final four teams was the same as their 9-3 record against the NBA's worst five teams - but they held their own against the game's elite.

NBA Draft Profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

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NBA Draft Profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft we will provide profiles of more than 50 prospects, including video interviews with each player, what they're saying leading up to draft day as well as their potential fit with the Bulls.

Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

6'3" | 205 lbs. | 22 years old

2015-16 stats:

16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.5 steals, 33.0 minutes

Projection:

Top-7

Quotable:

“You’re going to get someone who works hard every day. A guy who has great character. My personality resonates because I’m so goofy, I love to laugh. I like to make other people smile and I’m a very hard worker. I like to say I’m a blue-collar worker,” he said. “Nothing was ever given to me. I go after it with everything I have.”

Rotoworld mock draft selection:

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – Jrue Holiday has only one year left on his current deal, so the Pelicans could look to find their point guard of the future here in Dunn. A strong defender and excellent in transition, Dunn could create scoring chances on both ends of the floor, plus he has the passing ability which could continue to help Anthony Davis shine, as long as Dunn can cut down on his mistakes. Perimeter shooting has been an issue for Dunn, though he has looked good at times.

Fit for the Bulls:

The Bulls would likely need to move into the first five selections of the draft to have a shot at Dunn. But they're reportedly intrigued at the idea of having him as the point guard of the future. Though he's already 22, Dunn's size, defensive pressure and ability to play in transition all translate at the next level. He could theoretically learn under Derrick Rose for a year - something he said at the NBA Combine he'd love to do - before Rose becomes a free agent in 2017. A backcourt of Dunn and Jimmy Butler would be one of the best defensive tandems in the Eastern Conference. Then again, to get in position to draft Dunn the Bulls may need to part with Jimmy Butler, an unlikely scenario.