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.

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Honda Road Ahead: Bulls continue playoff push against Cavaliers, Hawks

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups. 

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Whacked on his ailing left hand by Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler shook off the pain to hit a rare triple in transition while Middleton was complaining for a foul a couple possessions later.

Butler then darted into the passing lane for a pass intended for Jason Terry like a linebacker jumping into the flat for an interception, then trotted down for an uncontested dunk to give the Bulls an unlikely 17-point lead.

For the man who claims he’s the best football player in the NBA, playing through the pain and doing so with his team’s playoff hopes dwindling, Butler may finally have some believers to his boasts.

Not only did the Bulls avoid a season sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks with a resounding 109-94 win at the BMO Bradley Center Sunday afternoon, they restored a slight sense of pride after looking like they had none of it Friday night in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I give them credit for bouncing back after a tough home loss,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to understand what makes us successful. When we’re committed to following the game plan and executing…It’s the little things we have to do that add up to give ourselves a chance to win.

Butler scored 20 with a career-high 14 assists in a grinding 39 minutes, but he could play the role of a semi-closer, making those big plays in the fourth when the Bulls pulled away, and pulled to within a game of the eighth playoff spot in the East.

But the Bulls’ defense, one that held the Bucks to just 39 points in the second half, caught his eye.

“I could actually say we played some legitimate defense,” Butler said. “Got back in transition, we always helped. We came out, stuck to the gameplan of getting back.”

He didn’t have to carry a heavy load offensively, though, leading to his being fresh down the stretch as he started the fourth quarter on the floor as opposed to the bench.

Instead, it was March Madness as Nikola Mirotic played up to his career numbers in his favorite month on the calendar, drilling five triples on his way to 28 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

It helped the Bulls shoot 54 percent overall, bringing their mark to 10-1 when they cross that threshold.

“I’ve been playing with a lot of confidence,” Mirotic said. “I’ve spent a lot of hours before practice and after. I know you guys have been asking about consistency, so I’m working on that and trying to be more consistent.”

Mirotic and Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls to a decisive double-digit lead in the third quarter with Rondo scoring 14 of his 18 points in the period, hitting a triple, getting into the lane for layups and dishing out a few of his eight assists.

It was an offensive masterpiece for the Bulls, a prospect that seemed highly unlikely given the opponent and the way they played coming into Sunday’s contest. And with the Bucks getting Giannis Antetokounmpo going early along with Middleton, it looked like a nightmare of a different kind was in store for the Bulls.

Antetokounmpo scored 22 with eight rebounds and seven assists, but 12 of those points happened in the first quarter. Middleton scored 14 but shot six of 17.

“When we get slapped in the face and punched in the mouth, adversity hits and we have to handle it and get through it,” Hoiberg said. “I didn’t see any head-hanging when it didn’t start off great.”

But Hoiberg wasn’t about to let an instant replay occur, having seen his own version of a “Nightmare on Madison Street” Friday night against the woeful 76ers when his backups let time stand still for minutes at a time, squandering a double-digit lead.

Hoiberg decided not to mess around with the second unit as the Bucks began pulling away in the same manner the 76ers did Friday night. He brought the starters right back in when the lead ballooned to 45-33 at the 8:29 mark.

“We were ready in case that happened,” Hoiberg said. “We felt we had to do everything possible to give ourselves a chance. We were ready to play our guys big minutes tonight and we’ll have to do that in the next eight games.”

Then the Bulls went to work to finish the half, with a 23-10 run, along with starting off the third as efficient as they had been in awhile against a worthwhile opponent, shooting 14 of 21 in the period to take a 91-79 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Mirotic was seven of eight from the field before halftime and his first miss of the third—a 30-foot triple that went wide right, wound up in a 3-point opportunity for Rondo, who scooped the ball and scored on a layup while being fouled.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bulls, a team that can’t seem to decide who they want to be on a nightly basis—making it that much harder for an opponent to predict, that much more difficult to eliminate from the playoff conversation.