Tag Archives: Jerian Grant

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls bring the noise in a blowout win over the Thunder

Well the Bulls did it again. They played a great basketball game on the road against a quality team and made you wonder just how in the heck the Bulls (25-25) are a .500 team through 50 games this season. This W came in blowout fashion as the Thunder (28-22) lost their third straight since Enes Kanter went down with an injury. Let’s take a further look at how the Bulls managed a 128-100 win after all of their turmoil of the past week.

  • The first quarter was fairly even after the Bulls jumped out to an early nine-point lead. But poor shooting and general inconsistent movement on offense led to a fairly stagnant quarter as the Bulls clung to a 21-20 advantage after one.
  • The following two quarters decided this one. The Bulls shot lights out after the first while even Russell Westbrook couldn’t jumpstart the OKC offense in this one. The Bulls outscored the Thunder 73-53 over the middle two stanzas thanks to scoring from across the board (six Bulls in double-figures) while OKC became a one-man show.
  • It’s easy to attribute this game to a poor shooting night for one team (38% for OKC) combined with an unseasonably hot shooting game from the other (60% for the Bulls) but there was more to it in this one. The Bulls showed the kind of energy on both ends of the court that they often display against quality teas (especially on national TV for some reason). The result, more movement off the ball on offense creating more space and getting back on defense leading to minimal fast break points for OKC (18 on the night).
  • Finding consistency has been the issue ever since Hoiberg took over at the start of last year as they proved tonight they can beat anyone on any given night. While this one feels nice, knowing that they’ve lost home games to the Mavs and Heat take some shine out of it. Stringing five of these types of games together will be essential in what is shaping up to be a jam-packed back end of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
  • There were many positive takeaways on the night but one I want to focus on is Jerian Grant. He didn’t end with the best line 12 points, three assists, three rebounds on 5/7 shooting, but it was his energy in the first that got this team going. Grant had great vision, especially early on, and played very competent defense against a quality backcourt for the Thunder. If he can hit on his jumper like he did tonight with any consistency, Grant may find himself more ingrained in the rotation.
  • The disgruntled duo of Wade and Butler had themselves games as well. Wade ended the night with 18/7/7 on 7/12 shooting while posting a ridiculous +32 on the night. It still astounds me how crafty the veteran can be even after planting his pivot foot. Whether it’s drawing contact to get to the line or finding an open shot, Wade has one of the best pivot games in The Association.
  • Meanwhile Jimmy did Jimmy things posting 28 points on 11/17 shooting with a ho-hum five dimes, four boards, and three robberies against the Thunder. Every time OKC looked like they might creep back into it Butler would get aggressive and bully his way to the basket for an easy layup or getting to the line. He’s what Stacey King used to call Derrick Rose, a “run stopper”.
  • As for the Thunder, the lone bright spot on the evening was the jaw-dropping Russ Westbrook. Westbrook scored 28 points, assisted eight times, and grabbed five rebounds. While he still hasn’t recorded a triple-double against the Bulls (one of only three teams that can claim this), the little offense the Thunder did generate on Wednesday night was a result of him. Even being down 20, Russ was able to throw down a dunk that got me off my couch and generally makes everyone look like they’re in slow motion.
  • It’s obvious, however, that this team misses Enes Kanter. This team was lacking serious depth before the injury, meaning their bench is getting exposed now as there starters are forced to exhaust themselves throughout the game. I’m sure we’ll see a similar pattern as tonight, where the Thunder will stick around early before their depth catches up with them later in ball games. Russ can’t win games by himself every night despite what he might think.
  • Up Next: The Bulls play The Beard on Friday night in Houston as their second game of a six game road trip.

 

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Note-A-Bulls: Bulls rip apart Blazers in Circus Trip opener

The Bulls came into tonight 6-4 following a two game win streak against the Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards. Over the last three games, Jimmy Butler averaged 32 points, capped with a near triple double against the Wizards on Saturday, but tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers he would be without a lot of help. Rajon Rondo was sidelined with an ankle injury, Doug McDermott, who experienced a concussion against the Wiz, and Michael Carter-Williams, who suffered a bruised knee and sprained wrist after a hard fall in Brooklyn. The Trail Blazers needed a halftime pep talk in an embarrassing first half showing against the Denver Nuggets in order to get the win and were looking to come out with a chip on their shoulder. Or so the narrative was supposed to read.

  • The Bulls ran out to a quick 10-0 lead with the revised starting five that included Jerian Grant. They stuck with this squad nearly the entire first quarter, boasting a 35-14 lead to close the quarter. They came to play, never looked back, and went wire to wire.
  • That first quarter buffer proved to be all they would need, as Portland turnovers, poor shot selection, and the inability to secure a rebound (the Bulls outrebounded Portland 67-49) put the nail in the coffin. The Bulls led by 25 on several occasions, and by as much as 26 late in the game, with a final score of 113 to 88.
  • With Rondo out, Jerian Grant was in. And boy, was he in. His number was called and he rose to the occasion, putting forth an outstanding game. He brought energy, heart, and looked to not only fit in, but be a leader on the floor. He finished with an impressive line: over 30 minutes, he scored 18 points on 6-13 shooting with five steals.
  • Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Robin Lopez all had solid games, looking sharp. Butler scored 19 points in the first half along with six rebounds; for the game, 27 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes. Wade had 19 points, five assists, and five rebounds. Lopez produced 13 points and 11 rebounds. A well-balanced attack.
  • After Mirotic’s stellar performance on Saturday in which he scored 17 points on 6-7 from the field and 3-4 from deep, he looked uncertain in his first appearance tonight, playing under 10 minutes in the first half, but caught a groove in the 4th quarter and settled in, finishing with eight points on 3-6 shooting, 2-5 beyond the arc.
  • Taj Gibson continues to impress, being a strong presence down low. He put up 12 points and 11 rebounds in a nice effort.
  • The starting five all had at least +19 in the +/- category, and at least 29 minutes of gameplay each.
  • The Blazers just looked flat nearly the whole game. There was a small window midway through the third quarter where they showed some life, but offensive rebounding by the Bulls kept them at bay. CJ McCollum was their only sign of life. The Patriot League alumnus scored 17 points on 7-17 shooting. Damian Lillard posted 19 points, but was just 7-22 in 38 minutes.
  • Up Next: On Thursday, the Bulls travel to Utah to take on the Jazz, while Portland flies to Houston to face the Rockets.

Bulls make out well in shocking, emotional Derrick Rose trade

In a move that caught just about everyone by surprise, the Bulls traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks Wednesday afternoon. The move signifies the end of an era that will be remembered by all with mixed emotions ranging from the highest of highs to the lowest depths that exist in basketball fandom. Derrick Rose was never just a basketball player here in his home town. Rose’s first few years were the first time this city dumped it’s hopes and dreams into a Bull since the departure of Michael Jordan. And how could you not when he was doing this and this.  Rose captured our hearts with his humble demeanor and our excitement with his physics-defying drives to the hoop.

Rose tore his ACL in the first round of the playoffs in 2012 while leading the deepest team he would ever play for in Chicago and was simply never the same. Two additional knee injuries robbed Rose of nearly three entire years in his prime. Rose’s 66 games played this year were an incredible accomplishment to those of us who wondered if he would ever string together a few healthy months again. While it was encouraging to finally see his ability to withstand the rigors of the NBA, it was clear that the Rose who treated gravity like an optional feature would never return. And so, with one year and $21 million left on his contract, the Chicago Bulls have decided to turn the page.

While the idea of Derrick in Knickerbocker garb is sickening to many Bulls fans, the front office should be commended for haul they brought back in return for the former MVP. Here’s the full trade:

New York Receives;

Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick

Chicago Receives:

Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant

The big prize for Chicago is veteran center Robin Lopez, who will be entering year two of a four year, $54 million contract next season. Lopez’s brother Brook garners more attention around the league than Robin because of his smooth post moves and reliable mid range jump shot. But where Robin is lacking on offense compared to his brother, he more than makes up for on the other end.

Robin is one of the more underrated defenders in the NBA. He’s not going to erase your shot like DeAndre Jordan or Hassan Whiteside. He’s not going to blitz and trap the pick and roll like Serge Ibaka or Draymond Green. What he will do is put himself in the best position to wall off the basket and help his team win every possession. According to NBA.com, Robin defended the eighth-most shots at the rim of any NBA player. Racking up contests at the rim is often more an indicator of scheme than skill, especially when you consider that Brook Lopez and Pau Gasol rank in the top four in this category. While Robin’s limited athleticism force him to play exclusively in the conservative, drop back style, he was one of the absolute best at it.  Of the ten players who defended over 600 field goal attempts at the rim, nobody forced shooters into a lower field goal percentage than Robin Lopez.

What Lopez lacks in athleticism he makes up for with positioning and intelligence. Lopez is someone who can always be counted on to be in the right places and help cover for his teammates. The Bulls perimeter is not going to be much better next season if Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic play big minutes. But with a steady presence in the paint, their mistakes will be far less glaring.

Judging just by a box score, Lopez appears to be a very poor rebounder for a center, averaging just 7.3 per game. Piling up high rebound totals is often an indication of excellent leaping ability, a trait Lopez has never possessed. While Lopez is never going to lead the league in raw rebounds collected, he is still able to make important impacts on the glass. Lopez is an expert at boxing out and creating opportunities for his teammates to grab loose balls. The Knicks were an overall average rebounding team in 2015. But when Lopez, who averaged 27 minutes a game, was on the court, the Knicks rebounded at a top five rate in the league.

Lopez is not and has never been interested in being the focal point of an offense. In his eight years in the league, Robin has only finished one season with a usage rate around 20%. Instead, Robin scores many of his baskets by creating space with his body and tipping misses into the hoop. Lopez rebounded 13% of his teams own misses this past season, the 13th highest rate in the NBA. Lopez is a below average finisher at the rim, shooting 61% between zero and three feet, but he at least consistently puts himself in the position to attempt those makeable shots.

Acquiring Robin Lopez heading into this bonkers free agency period when there are no other starting caliber centers on the roster (sorry Cristiano Felicio) is a huge weight off the Bulls’ shoulders. Lopez is going to make $13.5 million per year over the next three years, which sounds like a steep price for a guy who has never averaged more than 11 points a game. But when you compare his contract to the ones likely to be given to Bismack Biyombo, Ian Mahimi and Festus Ezili, Lopez, who is just 28, will become an overnight bargain. While the trade did not create any cap space for the Bulls in 2016, they essentially filled their greatest hole without having to dip into their roughly $25 million of space.

Jerian Grant had a rough rookie season, but there is reason to hope he can develop into a solid NBA point guard. After four years of running spread pick and roll at Notre Dame, Grant went missing in the Philmuda Triangle. Grant never grasped the offense in New York and was never given a great opportunity to learn on the job, averaging 16.6 minutes per game behind long time veteran Jose Calderon.

That Jerian was never able to earn more minutes was a moderate indictment on Grant’s ability to do anything on offense. Grant shot a miserable 22% from three and a discouraging 52% within three feet. Some of that struggle could be attributed to him getting the ball in unfamiliar spots and being asked to do unfamiliar things. Still, a lack of true NBA athleticism may prevent Grant from becoming a quality guard. Grant will find himself in a familiar system under Fred Hoiberg, and if he has any chance to succeed the Bulls will have three cost-controlled years to find out.

Jose Calderon is a great shooter, averaging over 40% from three in each of the last four seasons. Unfortunately, shooting is pretty much all the 34-year-old point guard can do at an NBA level anymore. Calderon has seen his assist rate plummet since his peak days in Toronto as his athleticism has declined. Calderon was never a great athlete, but his threat of shooting used to be enough for him to create penetration and set up his teammates. Time has robbed Calderon of what little speed he ever had, limiting his ability to facilitate an offense. Calderon is also a turnstile on defense. The Knicks held opponents to three fewer points per 100 possessions when Jose was on the court versus when he was off.

The trade also allows the Bulls to sharpen their focus as the draft and free agency approach.  With the center position firmly covered between Lopez and Felicio, the Bulls can focus their attention on adding a point guard and deepening the wing rotation. This is not a draft or free agency class deep at either of those positions, but if the Bulls can snag Wade Baldin at 14 and throw a big contract at Kent Bazemore or someone in his ilk, they will be right back in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference.

A quality center on a value contract, a mildly intriguing prospect and a veteran shooter are a pretty good haul in return for an injury-riddled Rose who could leave in free agency in July 2017. Jake Weiner and I had been discussing whether the Bulls should trade Rose or Butler this offseason and I had been mostly against trading Rose, simply because I thought we could get nothing back for him better than cap space. By those low expectations, the Bulls made out like bandits in this trade.

 

2015 Mock Draft 2.0

I’ll hopefully be updating these occasionally leading up to the draft. Here’s the first one, from March 18th. Feel free to ask me any draft questions, or just tell me how wrong I am on Twitter @jeff_berest.

*Draft order is based on final standings/lottery odds

**Opinions on players are my own, and based on what I’ve observed thus far.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky

Towns will make the T’Wolves young roster even younger and give them a dominant low-post threat and rim protector on the other end. Wiggins and Towns could become a lethal force to be reckoned with in the West for years to come.

2. New York Knicks/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke

Mudiay and Russell are also in play, but the Knicks can’t afford to miss on this pick considering they don’t have a first rounder next year and Okafor has by far the highest floor. His defense is a concern but isn’t poor enough for another player to supplant him at this spot.

3. Philadelphia 76ers/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Congo

At this point it’s a battle between the “known” in Russell and the “unknown” in Mudiay. Mudiay exhibits elite athleticism and can get to the rim at will—an ability Russell has not shown in his game. Although Mudiay has an average to below-average jumpshot, the Sixers and Sam Hinkie will likely gamble on a two-way player and elite athlete with superstar potential over the possibly higher floor of Russell any day.

4. Los Angeles Lakers/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State

Jordan Clarkson did an admirable job in his rookie campaign but by no means does that shore up the point guard position for the Lakers’ future. They really need a rim protector as well, but this may be too rich of a spot for Willie Cauley-Stein. Russell is best player available at this point, and he creates a very formidable backcourt next year with Kobe Bryant returning. Assuming they don’t splurge on Rajon Rondo.

5. Orlando Magic/Justise Winslow/SF/Duke

Justise is probably the best wing defender in the draft and he improved his offensive game throughout his freshman season at Duke. He also provides the Magic some insurance if they do not retain Tobias Harris.

6. Sacramento Kings/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Latvia

Kings have been searching for another talented big man to play alongside Boogie Cousins for a while now. Porzingis can stretch the floor and has great athleticism for his size; although he needs to build upon his slight frame.

7. Denver Nuggets/Mario Hezonja/SG/Croatia

Nuggets need another wing player, and Hezonja is a good athlete and talented offensively. He can shoot from anywhere, can get to rim, and has good court vision. Like Porzingis, if Hezonja played college ball he might be considered one of the top 3 or 4 prospects in this draft.

8. Detroit Pistons/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona

I don’t know why people are down on Stanley since the tournament ended. He struggled offensively this season but that might have been because of Arizona’s system. He still has great size for an NBA forward and huge defensive potential. Down the road, Stanley Johnson going eighth might end up as one of the steals of this draft class. Detroit having a huge need at SF also helps his case for being taken at this spot.

9. Charlotte Hornets/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky

It wouldn’t shock me to see WCS go a few slots higher than this, and even though the Hornets are desperate for shooters, this is too good of a value to pass up. The Hornets would benefit from taking him here and at least entertaining offers. Al Jefferson isn’t getting any younger and their current rim protector Bismack Biyombo is a free agent and also doesn’t know how to play basketball.

10. Miami Heat/Myles Turner/C/Texas

Turner is still very raw and in Miami he’ll have time to grow and mature as a player behind Bosh and Whiteside. But having these three in a rotation has a lot of potential. Turner is a great shot blocker and can shoot from outside; he also plays the 4 and 5 spots. The Heat could use another guard or wing player, but Turner at 10 is great value.

11. Indiana Pacers/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky

The Pacers need to add to the frontcourt due to David West’s approaching free agency. There isn’t much that separates guys like Lyles, Looney, Portis, and Harrell except team preference, really. Lyles has a legit face up game that is comparable to West and could easily step into the starter’s role once he leaves Indiana.

12. Utah Jazz/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas

Oubre was a bit of a disappointment at Kansas and could never become a consistent scorer. But his potential is what still makes him a lottery talent. Jazz need to add more shooters and Kelly can play the 2 and 3 spot behind Burks and/or Hayward.

13. Phoenix Suns/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame

Who would’ve guessed another point guard for the Suns? This is a point in the draft where Grant is probably the best value and his ability to player either guard spot suits Phoenix too well to pass up. Also, who knows what happens with Brandon Knight this offseason.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky

OKC has struggled to fill the 2 spot since the James Harden departure. Booker underwhelmed in his freshman year, but like many of his teammates at Kentucky, there is plenty of untapped potential. He at least gives the Thunder a perimeter shooting threat right away.

15. Atlanta Hawks/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin

Dekker shot up draft boards during the tournament and I don’t think the Hawks are content with matching any huge offers a team will throw at DeMarre Carroll. So this leaves a gap at the SF position in Atlanta. Dekker is a decent enough athlete but has a good jumper and can get to the rim, as well as being a great rebounder for his size.

16. Boston Celtics/Kevon Looney/PF/UCLA

I’m not sure how Looney would fit in with the Celtics, but he is by far best player available at this spot, and was once thought of as a top 6 or 7 pick in this draft class. He has the ability to play both forward spots and is good offensive talent; also has good ball-handling skills for a player his size.

17. Milwaukee Bucks/Frank Kaminsky/C/Wisconsin

Frank the Tank proved himself against elite competition in the tournament this year and it wouldn’t be surprising if he goes much higher than this. He is solid in the post and creates mismatches with his ability to stretch the floor out to the three-point line. The Bucks need to add more bigs, and it will only be a short move for Kaminksy going from Madison to Milwaukee.

18. Houston Rockets/Cameron Payne/PG/Murray State

The Rockets don’t really have any depth behind Beverley at PG, and his injury history will force the Rockets to add another ball handler in this draft. Payne is more of distributor than most guys in this draft and he will certainly mesh in the backcourt with Harden.

19. Washington Wizards/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville

Both Gortat and Nene are getting up there in age and the Wizards frontcourt is lacking athleticism. Harrell isn’t gifted on the offensive side of the ball yet, but he plays with a ton of energy and attacks the basket on offense and defense. He will provide an instant spark to the Wizards’ bench right away and eventually edge his way into the starting lineup, probably sooner rather than later.

20. Toronto Raptors/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas

Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough are free agents this summer and Bobby Portis is a solid 4 with a good face-up game. He isn’t just a back-to-the-basket type of big, and is also a great value pick at 20 for the Raptors. Portis was SEC player of the year for a reason and seems like he could be a contributor in year one.

21. Dallas Mavericks/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke

Tyus Jones draft stock is soaring after the NCAA tournament and, needless to say, the Mavs are looking for a replacement for Rajon Rondo. Tyus Jones isn’t an elite athlete but is a good scorer and a decent distributor. There may be better point guards who are taken after him in this draft, but teams will want his clutch gene that he displayed in the NCAA Championship and throughout the tournament.

22. Chicago Bulls/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona

Rondae is another player that could go much higher if a team is comfortable just taking a defensive specialist. The Bulls could be looking for a point guard, but Hollis-Jefferson is too good to pass up here. Having Rondae and Jimmy Butler lock down opposing wing players every night is scary for other Eastern Conference teams. Rondae and McDermott combining their offense and defense at the SF spot is a good potential replacement for free agent Mike Dunleavy.

23. Portland Trail Blazers/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State

Regardless of whether LaMarcus Aldridge leaves Portland, the Blazers aren’t going to find his replacement at #23 in the draft. R.J. has a ton of upside and he and Damian Lilllard have the potential to be a poor man’s version of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Wes Matthews is obviously a question mark coming off of surgery and entering free agency. Portland is hoping for a steal here in grabbing R.J.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers/Justin Anderson/SG/Virginia

The Cavs could use a center here but Anderson is a really good value pick, considering he was borderline lottery before his injuries this season. He is a great shooter and holds his own defensively.

25. Memphis Grizzlies/Christian Wood/PF/UNLV

Memphis needs another rim protector and to add some athletes to its frontcourt. Wood could be an instant upgrade in both those departments to Kosta Koufos and Jon Leuer. Wood is raw but he’s a good project for the Grizzlies.

26. San Antonio Spurs/Jarell Martin/PF/LSU

I don’t think Tim Duncan is going to retire, and Martin isn’t necessarily a pick to try and replace him down the road. But the Spurs lack a scoring presence from their other guys in their frontcourt. Martin is a very skilled big man and scorer, and could possibly contribute right away.

27. Los Angeles Lakers/Robert Upshaw/C/Washington

Lakers are desperate for a rim protector and Upshaw provides just that. They were toasted night in and night out in the paint by opponents and Upshaw, who is still a bit raw, could find some minutes in this rotation from the start.

28. Boston Celtics/Cedi Osman/SF/Macedonia

This is purely a draft a stash pick for the Celtics, because I don’t think there is anyone at this point who could contribute to an NBA team right away. Typically these types of picks are at the beginning of the second round but Osman has a ton of potential as a point forward who is very gifted offensively. He may not come over for a few years but it may be worth it down the road; the Celts have a plethora of picks over the next few years and they can afford this type of move.

29. Brooklyn Nets/Delon Wright/PG/Utah

Wright would certainly go a lot higher if he wasn’t already 24 years old. He is mighty talented and has elite size at the point guard position. Good thing is he’s still younger than any PG the Nets have, and is a good replacement for Deron Williams once he exits Brooklyn.

30. Golden State Warriors/Chris McCullough/PF/Syracuse

McCullough tore his ACL this season and before that was projected to possibly be a top ten pick in 2016. His talent still warrants him to be a first round pick. Golden State can afford to wait on him and get great value out of this pick. And by drafting him in the first round instead of the second they lock him up for a few years.