Scouting NCAA: Shooting Guards, Small Forwards

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Scouting NCAA: Shooting Guards, Small Forwards

Friday, March 26, 2010
2:00PMBy Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.comAs the NCAA Tournament continues--and in typically exciting fashion; unbelievable finish to the Kansas State-Xavier double-overtime thriller, not to mention Butler's upset of Syracuse--we continue with our look at college prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, as well as players the Bulls might consider. SHOOTING GUARDSOverview: While point guard isn't a position of need for the Bulls (some guy named Rose seems to be adequate at that spot), Chicago could look into upgrading its depth at the other backcourt slot. Regarding shooting guards--in reality, players who shade more to playing off the ball on the next level or play off the ball in college, as well as true "twos"--Oklahoma State junior James Anderson (who officially declared for the draft yesterday), the Big 12 player of the year, is one of the top names and could end up being a late-lottery selection. A big-time shooter, the 6-foot-6 Anderson displayed better ability to get to the rim this season, though the source was skeptical about his ability to do so in the NBA, considering him more of a spot-up shooter with limited playmaking talents and only average athleticism, stating, "they're some holes there."After Anderson, a trio of underclassmen from the Big 12--Kansas' Xavier Henry, Oklahoma's Willie Warren and Texas' Avery Bradley (Henry and Bradley are freshmen)--are highly regarded, perhaps more for their talent and potential than any possible impact they could make as NBA rookies next season, if they indeed declare for the draft. All have been inconsistent this season, but Henry's size and shooting ability, Warren's explosiveness and ability to create offense (although his stock was higher last season, when he teamed up with 2009 No. 1 pick Blake Griffin) and Bradley's athleticism and defensive acumen each make them attractive prospects.A local product, Duke's Jon Scheyer, successfully functioned as a point guard this season and while he isnt likely to play on the ball full-time as a pro, he showed that he can be more than just a shooter on the next level, as did Syracuses Andy Rautins, another 6-foot-5 sniper who displayed much-improved passing ability and the skills to create off the dribble. Mississippis Terrico White and Michigans Manny Harrisboth 6-foot-5 combo guardsdidnt have overwhelming seasons after coming in with high expectations. Both are talented scorers, but the athletic White, only a sophomore, functions best with the ball in his hands (he played the point as a freshman, but was moved off the ball due to the return of star Chris Warren, who was injured the previous season), while opinions are split about whether Harris is a product of Michigan head coach John Beileins system or whether the system limits him from putting his entire game on display.A pair of mid-major senior wingsRiders Ryan Thompson and Sienas Edwin Ubilesare sleepers to keep an eye on. Both are athletic swingmen that can score, as Thompson (the younger brother of Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson) is seen as more versatile, while Ubiles is regarded as a more consistent shooter.Scout's take: "All those guys will be in the mix, especially in the second round. Between the second round and the D-League, it's all about situation for some of these guys, but they're all prospects."Potential lottery picks: Anderson, Henry, Warren, BradleyBulls fit: Forget the local angleScheyer also played for the brother of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber in high schoolby playing point guard this season, the Duke senior displayed that he had enough ball skills to not be a completely one-dimensional shooter as a pro. His court awareness and playmaking ability augments a lethal shooting stroke and at 6-foot-5, if he can slide over to the point even on occasion in the NBA, he becomes much more valuable. His ability to stay in front of opponents as a defender is questionable, but his intangibles make up for it. Rautins, who has a similar skill set, could also be an option.SMALL FORWARDSOverview: This position has an interesting mix of prospects with experienced underclassmen, relative neophytes, perimeter-oriented swingmen and athletic insiders all included. Starting with the elder statesmen, Texas Damion James is among the most accomplished, as he steadily developed over his four-year career, superbly blending his warrior mentality with a more polished outside game. DaSean Butler developed a well-deserved reputation for coming through in the clutch at West Virginia and while his ceiling, like James, isnt unlimited, his toughness, versatility, outside shooting and ability to create have earned him a solid reputation with pro scouts. Another pair of seniors, Connecticuts Stanley Robinson and Washingtons Quincy Pondexter, were considered enigmatic as collegians, but their athleticism and potential finally reaped dividends in their final seasons (particularly in Pondexters case) on campus, as they added more substance and consistency to their high-flying games. A number of mid-major prospects also have received some attention. Gonzaga freshman Elias Harris, a native of Germany, increasingly got more buzz as the season went on, as his physicality, high motor and pogo-stick style were admired by observers. Butlers Gordon Hayward's sweet stroke and smooth game are also the objects of next-level decision-makers affections, although like Harris, the sophomore may opt to return for another year in college. A pair of their counterparts more likely to declare are Fresno States Paul George and Nevadas Luke Babbitt, although their defense are among the holesGeorge is a shaky ballhandler, but a high-level athlete; Babbitt is willing to mix it up inside, but his explosiveness is questionablediscussed in their games. Sitting more on the fence, but perhaps quietly a more highly-regarded prospect is New Mexico junior Darrington Hobson, a junior-college transfer and versatile talent, who can do a little bit of everything and play multiple positions. Two seniorsMarquettes Lazar Hayward and Michigans DeShawn Simsare also intriguing, as their ability to step out and shoot the ball from distance mixes well with their blue-collar mentalities. Dukes Kyle Singler and West Virginias Devin Ebanks are couple of players who came into the season with lofty reputations, but even though they had subsequently disappointing seasons, they will still have the opportunity to get drafted (Singler is a junior and Ebanks is a sophomore, so they could opt to a give it another shot next year), due to their unique skillsets. Scout's take: "Definitely the position of most depth. There's a ton of guys with versatility that can two to three positions."Potential lottery picks: Turner, Johnson, AminuBulls fit: Butler, JamesButlers toughness, winning pedigree (something valued by the Bulls) and versatility would be a natural fit in Chicago, especially with the team lacking a big wing defender since trading John Salmons. The hard-nosed Butlers ability to stretch the defense with his shooting fills another hole, as he would give Derrick Rose another player to kick the ball out to off penetration. Add his ability to handle the ball, score inside (he plays everywhere from point guard to the post for West Virginia) and defend, as well as his savvy, and it would be akin to adding Taj Gibson this seasona rookie who comes in with a veterans mentality. Jamesanother experienced playershould also be under consideration, as his rebounding and versatility would help the Bulls and give them a different look. Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

Jimmy Butler didn't come close to following in his trainer's footsteps, but Mr. G. Buckets Unplugged still proved enlightening.

Following a wild Thursday, Butler hopped on the phone Friday afternoon from Paris to chat with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the deal that sent the former face of the Bulls to rejoin Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Butler wanted to be labeled as the face of the franchise, but his comments seem to reflect the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

"It doesn't mean a damn thing. I guess being called the face of an organization isn't as good as I thought. We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That's all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I'm trying to do.

"Whatever they want to call me... face... I don't even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I've learned? Face of the team, eventually, you're going to see the back of his head as he's leaving town, so no thanks."

Whoa.

Butler also spoke about trying to block out all the trade rumors while on vacation in France:

"I mean, I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it. 

"It's crazy because it reminds you of what a business this is. You can't get mad at anybody. I'm not mad - I'm not. I just don't like the way some things were handled, but it's OK."

Butler doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise in Minnesota on a team that has two of the top homegrown young stars in the game in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.