Bulls will have plenty of options in 2017 NBA Draft

Bulls will have plenty of options in 2017 NBA Draft

Owning homecourt advantage at this week's NBA Draft Combine, the Bulls have one of the league's largest contingents for the testing and games at Quest Multisport, including their analytics experts and head of international scouting Ivica Dukan.

Picking in the middle of the first round (16th overall), you can expect the Bulls to go with the "best athlete available" formula, with extra emphasis on finding a young wing player to develop behind Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.

So, assuming the Bulls stay at No. 16, which players might still be on the board when they're on the clock? Let's start with a pair of athletic wings' OG Anunoby (Indiana) and Terrance Ferguson (currently playing professionally in France).

Anunoby would have probably been a lottery pick if he had not suffered a knee injury that ended his sophomore season with the Hoosiers. At 6-foot-8, with a 7'2 1/4" inch wingspan, Anunoby should be a plus defender immediately. With the Bulls, he could provide valuable rest for Butler and also spare the three-time All-Star the responsibility of guarding the opposing team's best scorer for long stretches.

Anunoby only averaged 11.1 points during his shortened sophomore year at Indiana, but he has the athleticism to run the floor for easy baskets, and since he still hasn't turned 20, he has plenty of time to develop his offensive game.

Similar story with Ferguson, who grew up in Tulsa but decided to play overseas rather than spend a year in college. He's only averaging 4.6 points for French team Adelaide, but scouts are intrigued by his physical skills and potential as a 6-foot-7 shooting guard.

Some other players to watch in the middle of the first round include power forwards' Ivan Rabb (California) and John Collins (Wake Forest). Rabb was projected as a likely lottery pick last season, but decided to return to Cal for his sophomore year.

Facing double teams most of the season, Rabb didn't show the improvement in his numbers (14 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game) that a lot of NBA scouts expected. Still, the 6-foot-10 lefty continues to draw comparisons to long-time Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat star Chris Bosh, and is a polished low post scorer.

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Rabb can hit consistently from mid-range, but if the Bosh comparisons are going to hold up, he'll need to stretch his shooting skills out to the 3-point line.

I asked Rabb about the possibility of being drafted by the Bulls.

"One of my friends, Bobby Portis, he's a real good player," Rabb said. "He played pretty well in the playoffs and throughout the season. I know they traded Taj Gibson, they have (Nikola) Mirotic, so I'm not really sure what they plan on doing. I feel that's a great destination from me, too."

The Bulls needs at power forward depend heavily on whether they re-sign Mirotic, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1. Rabb could be a good fit as an athletic, rangy 4 who can replace some of the skills the Bulls lost with the Gibson trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Similar story with Collins, who averaged 19.2 points at Wake Forest last season. The 6-foot-10 Collins is known for his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim, but he understands how important it is to show scouts he can be a threat from the 3-point line.

"I think I can shoot it a lot better than I've shown, or had the ability to show," Collins said. "Definitely going to be working on that, and keep on expanding on that, so when the time is necessary for me to shoot it, I'm going to look good doing it."

When it comes to self-confidence, it will be tough for any of the prospects to top Creighton center Justin Patton. The 7-foot Patton averaged 12.9 points per game last season, playing for Doug McDermott's dad Greg McDermott at Creighton. Patton shot over 68 percent on 2-point attempts and is a powerful finisher on alley-oop passes.

When asked about his ability to be a "stretch 5" in the league like Al Horford or Karl-Anthony Towns, Patton said, "If they're looking for a stretch-5, they come to me, and find the right person. My skills translate perfectly. I can put the ball on the floor, I can shoot the ball with range, and I'm a willing passer, and a great passer too, and I have a high IQ."

Okay, then. Patton says he's already met with the Bulls and will be ready to play immediately with any team that drafts him. At this point, it seems unlikely the Bulls would draft a center at No. 16, but anything is possible considering Cristiano Felicio and Joffrey Lauvergne are both restricted free agents.

Other names to watch during the middle part of round one include power forwards' T.J. Leaf (UCLA) and Kyle Kuzma, Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard, Syracuse small forward Tyler Lydon and point guard Jawun Evans.

And, there's always the possibility the Bulls could be involved in a trade to move up into the Top 10. That would bring a whole different level of prospects into play. But for now, the front office is looking for athletes and shooters to add quality depth to a roster that figures to be very similar to the one we watched last season.

As White Sox assume risk, Jose Quintana struggles in Opening Day loss to Tigers

As White Sox assume risk, Jose Quintana struggles in Opening Day loss to Tigers

Jose Quintana's poor start Tuesday is exactly what Rick Hahn meant when he discussed the different risk assessments factored into holding onto the pitcher. 

A 6-3 loser to the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 36,534 at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox are particularly keen on what potential hazards exist now that they've taken Quintana — the most rumored player of the offseason not to have been dealt — into the season. Quintana matched a career-worst in his first Opening Day start when he allowed three home runs in 5 1/3 innings in a duel against Justin Verlander. 

Even though it wasn't Quintana's finest showing, the White Sox feel more than confident that enduring those perils will be worth it in the end — that some contender will reward them with a cache of prospects for their patience. 
 
"Now that we have entered into the season, you are carrying a little bit different amount of risk on certain players that conceivably you could have moved and cashed in for whatever value they had at the time," Hahn said Monday. "Again, nothing presented itself that made it feel like ‘Well, there's gonna be some added risk once the season starts so therefore we'd better move now.' It just wasn't that close to getting anything done. We've had our conversations over the past few months. We've been prepared to enter the season."

The White Sox got paid handsomely in the trades for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.

They expect the same if they decide to deal Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016. 

The White Sox would love to deal their ace. Their goal is to accumulate as much young talent as quickly as possible. Moving Quintana would push them further along a road they've been on since the trades of Sale and Eaton in December.

But the White Sox don't intend to budge on their price. They know what they want in return for Quintana, who entered Tuesday having produced 18.1 f-Wins Above Replacement the past four seasons, the seventh-most in the majors. While they may consider giving in a little, Hahn said no offer has come close. 

Until they do, the White Sox will retain Quintana, who has options that keep him under team control through 2020. That means Quintana will continue to live life in limbo. 

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His first game in the precarious state wasn't near to the standard he's produced in the past.

Detroit took advantage of a hit batsmen and a walk by Quintana in a five-run second inning. He yielded a leadoff single to Justin Upton and hit Mikie Mahtook. One out later, JaCoby Jones hit a 2-2 curveball that caught too much of the plate for a three-run homer and a 3-1 Detroit lead.

Quintana walked Ian Kinsler with two outs before Nick Castellanos hammered a 92-mph fastball the opposite way for a two-run shot. 

Kinsler also blasted a solo shot off Quintana with two outs in the fourth. Quintana previously allowed three homers in a start twice last season and twice in 2013. He gave up six earned runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"Chalk it up to an anomaly," manager Rick Renteria said. 

The effort was no match for Verlander, who struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings and limited the White Sox to two runs as he overpowered them with his fastball.

The White Sox have to believe Tuesday is more an outlier than a sign Quintana can't handle the stress of his situation. He addressed the trade rumors yet again on Sunday before talking about his first Opening Day start.

"I know there are rumors but I just focus on doing my job," Quintana said. "There's nothing I can do. Help my team when I can and that's it.

"(The offseason) was a little different this year from the rumors. But it stayed the same, I never changed, I never paid any attention to that.

"My future is here. I have to just control this year. I pay attention to right now."

The White Sox are gambling on that focus. They've seen how Quintana has been unflappable throughout his career, dealing with a lack of run support and the misfortune that comes with it. 

They also believe in their own abilities to keep players healthy. Over the years, the White Sox have been far and away the healthiest team in baseball. 

Lastly, with Quintana under contract potentially through 2020 for $36.85 million, the White Sox know how valuable of an asset they possess. 

Until they get paid, the White Sox plan to persist — even if it's a risk.

"We really haven't been presented with anything in recent months that's even been close to feeling like this is something we should do," Hahn said. "Again, we have to be strong and keep that sort of long-term focus. That's where the fruit of these labors will pay off."

Dwyane Wade out for regular season with elbow injury

Dwyane Wade out for regular season with elbow injury

Dwyane Wade wore a wistful smile as he talked to the media at the Advocate Center, knowing the quiet dream he had of meeting one of his best friends for a playoff battle was extinguished.

The "pop-pop" he felt in his right elbow was the first sign last night things weren't going to fall his way, followed by his teammate Jimmy Butler telling him his experiences with the same injury.

But he still felt somewhat optimistic. 

Until his MRI showed not the worst possible news but not great news by any stretch, that he'll miss the remainder of the regular season with a small fracture in his right elbow. 

"Technical terms would be a sprain or whatever, but things like that," Wade said. "But the good thing about it is it did go back in. Obviously it's a big injury in baseball when it comes to baseball and pitchers — the Tommy John word that everyone in baseball and pitchers are afraid of – so it was big in that way.

"But I was lucky that it went back in and now the biggest things is about protecting it, making sure it heals the right way, so I can get back to my football passes on the basketball court.''

Thus, it ends the dream of hoping the Bulls would go on some magical playoff run to meet up with LeBron James for a showdown. Wade wouldn't say it publicly, but it's a small part of what kept him going through a tumultuous homecoming in Chicago.

He'll be in a soft cast for the next two weeks then start his rehab from then. He didn't seem too optimistic about his prospects for returning in the event the Bulls qualify for the playoffs, but wouldn't commit to anything in the moment.

"I told them that I heard a ‘pop, pop,' and I kind of said that [Wednesday night], and it was pretty much a dislocation at the time, and it went back in, so kind of dealing with the aftermath of what that looks like. This is what it looks like," Wade said.

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What it looks like for the Bulls is anybody's guess, as they're 10th in the East, a game back of Detroit with one meeting left. Being without their second best player and mature leader makes that task all the more difficult.

It took the air out of Bulls practice, as Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg called it a "tough blow" more than once.

"It was a little bit of shock on guys' faces when he walked in, seeing the arm in the type of shape that it was," Hoiberg said. "It's just something where these young guys have to take it as an opportunity to step up, obviously when we need it most, it's a very important stretch of our season."

A very important stretch without a guy who played the way he's played the past three seasons, to large degree. On some nights, he was the Bulls best player and easily provided the most inspiration.

Averaging 18.6 points, 3.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 30.2 minutes per game, that production will be hard to muster for the rest of the roster as Wade will only be able to bring the inspiration from the sideline.

Hoiberg wouldn't reveal who would start in Wade's place for Friday's game against the Wizards or beyond, but he could start Denzel Valentine at shooting guard to spread the floor.

With 14 games remaining, there's far more questions than answers, which was the case for the Bulls even before Wade's injury. 

"In this league it's an opportunity league for certain guys and it comes in different ways," Wade said. "So this opportunity for someone that probably wasn't getting enough time that they wanted, probably wasn't getting the touches they wanted. This is going to be an opportunity to step up and try and help this team as we are in this battle to make the playoffs down the stretch."

If they'll do that, Wade's biggest role will be turning into basketball's version of Bundini Brown for Butler, as Butler will have to reverse course from his post-All Star production to drag this group of inexperienced misfits to the playoffs.

"A lot is going to go on Jimmy's shoulders, but a lot has been on his shoulders already, so he'll be fine," Wade said. "He kind of told me what I was looking at. Like I said yesterday, I didn't want to believe him. I didn't like what he was seeing. It's not nothing he wanted. It's not nothing that anybody in here wanted. But it's something we gotta deal with."

And what Wade will have to deal with for his own future, a $23.8 million player option for next season he'll have to exercise or decline, is probably directly tied to whether Butler is on the roster.

"At this point, it's too much cart in front of the horse," Wade said. "Couple hours removed but definitely too soon."

But not too soon to say this isn't the way Wade's storybook return was supposed to end in his mind.