Chicago Bulls

Sharpshooter Korver emerges as clutch performer

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Sharpshooter Korver emerges as clutch performer

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 12:10 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
INDIANAPOLISAll season long, pundits and even opponents have maligned the Bulls lack of balanced scoring and outside shooting. Those people underestimated the value of Kyle Korver.

Ideally, the Bulls would have more options than Korveralthough Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are much-improved long-distance threats, and fellow starter Keith Bogans is also capable of hitting from deepbut when a team has one of the truly elite shooters in the league on its side, it provides a unique weapon. Moreover, not only is Korver potent from behind the arc, hes emerged as a major complement to Rose in the clutch, as evidenced by his body of work in the fourth quarter against the Pacers thus far.

Im just trying to take shots that are there. In the playoffs, the sets that we run, they work less and less because you run the same sets every game, they go over it in practice every day and youve got to have guys that can just break you down and play. Weve got the best one in the world in Derrick, so when theyre worried about him, thats when we have to really step up, move to the open spot, find the open seam and I just try to be one of those guys, said Korver. Youve just got to try to be ready. The type of player that I am, Ive been in that situation a lot in my basketball career on every level. Its one of those things. You just try to be ready. You cant get caught up in it. Youve got to know time and score, but you cant get caught up in, This is the big shot. I think its just over time and experience, you just kind of learn how to do those things.

You just try to play smart. You dont want to force the issue, but Ive always said: Im not the fastest guy in the world, but youre going to get tired before I do, he continued, laughing. I just keep on going and eventually, somebodys going to turn their head and just try to be ready.

Korver has developed a special chemistry with Rose, the ultimate drive-and-kick point guard. Their partnership has burgeoned to the point where the pair often confer during breaks in the action to strategize.

Hes helping us out a lot, shooting the ball when hes supposed to. I always tell him, when hes got an open look, shoot it because his chances are way greater than ours, Rose revealed. Hes a great teammate, comes to you, tells you how theyre playing you, how the game is.

Its great when you have a teammate come to you. As a point guard, youre going to miss some thingsyoure not going to see everythingand just telling me how they were playing him. Thats why, towards the end of Thursdays Game 3, I just kept going to him because Collison was on him. Korver has a great release on his shot, jumps pretty high and can get his shot off on him.

Korver struggled to find his rhythm at various junctures of the season, in part to adjusting to a new system and raising his defense to a level that earned Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus trust. He bought in from the start of the campaign, but now even downplays his own contributions because of his belief in the system.

If our defense is really on, we dont need to score 120 points to win. We scored in the 80s Thursday and we won. Weve done that a lot this year, said Korver. Shooting comes and goes, defense is what keeps you consistent throughout the year and obviously Thibs preaches that all the time, and I think because of that, were able to be in a game like Thursday. If we dont play the defense in Game 3, we probably lose.

Not without his 10 fourth-quarter points, torrid marksmanship and continued coolness under pressure.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft