Tag Archives: Sacramento Kings

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls win by a hair thanks to a late whistle

After a rough night getting trounced by the Atlanta Hawks for three quarters Friday night, the Bulls looked to rebound against a perennially struggling Sacramento Kings team at home on Saturday. The second night of a back-to-back is always rough, and the Bulls have been known to demonstrate an inability to get motivated for sub-0.500 teams. But thanks to a questionable foul call on DeMarcus Cousins against Dwyane Wade with just seconds remaining in the game, the Bulls were able to hold on to victory, 102-99, improving to 22-23.

  • Neither team held any substantial lead, as it was neck and neck the whole way. The largest lead of the night was the Bulls by nine, but it was very short-lived, and only in the second quarter. There were 17 ties in the game and 15 lead changes. It seemed whoever had the ball last was going to win, and with Wade’s breakaway missed dunk coupled with a phantom shooting foul call on Boogie in favor of Wade, the Bulls got just that, as Wade’s free throw would be all they would need.
  • In a game that was so tight, with neither team holding a lead for very long, and neither boasting a double-digit lead, the difference may have been at the free throw line. The Bulls had a decided advantage of 28-16 from the stripe; Jimmy Butler made all 10 of the free throws he was awarded, while the bulk of the others (12) came from Dwayne Wade.
  • Wade had a solid showing, putting up 30 points on 9/20 from the field, six rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. He got to the charity stripe 15 times, the most out of any player on the court. Still, his +/- was the worst of any Bull, at -11. However, two of his three steals were on key possessions late in the game to help seal the deal. Up one, with under 15 seconds remaining, he picked Boogie Cousin’s pocket, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk on the other end.
  • Jimmy Butler had a noteworthy game, per usual. Butler scored 23 points on 6/14 shooting, with five rebounds and seven assists. He struggled with his shot a bit down the stretch, which is rare for his superman status, and looked uncomfortable with the double team, but was able to be bailed out by his teammates. Butler is still proving to be by far and away the most valuable Bull on the court – in 39 minutes, he led the team with a +14, which is impressive, considering how tight the game was. In those 9 minutes he didn’t play, the Kings gained an 11 point advantage.
  • There aren’t too many sequences that we get to point to this year, so when one sticks out it’s a nice little bonus. One such sequence occurred tonight in the second quarter, after the Bulls began the quarter with a 24-21 lead: Rajon Rondo helped the Bulls get off to a fast start off the bench with a beautiful lob to Cristiano Felicio. The following possession, Rondo whipped the ball on a cross court bounce pass baseline to Paul Zipser for the corner three ball for a quick 5-0 run and an eight point lead.
  • We thought Doug McDermott may have broken out of his slump last week, with a 31 point showing against Memphis but has been just 5/18 for 12 points in the three games since. He had just three points on 1/5 shooting Saturday night.
  • A word about Boogie Cousins. He had a monster game: 42 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks, and a couple huge threes and some clutch and impressive moves to the basket, but the Kings couldn’t get it done, as there was no other Kings player in double figures (yikes). He’s posted seven 40-point games in his career, but the Kings are now just 3-4 in those contests.
  • Up Next: The Bulls travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Tuesday, while the Kings are back at it Monday night in Detroit.
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Rond’oh!

In a strange way, it’s been nice to see a flurry of activity from the Bulls front office in the point guard market. I was not alone in my frustration a season ago when the Bulls trotted out  the oft injured Derrick Rose, diminutive Aaron Brooks, and local real estate owner Kirk Hinrich to hold down the fort for a second consecutive season.

The swap of Cameron Bairstow for Spencer Dinwiddie was a low-risk move with the tiny potential for a nice payout. The big trade that sent Rose to the Knicks was judged to be a positive one by this writer, mostly because of the addition of the (suddenly) cheap Robin Lopez, but also because of the potential upside Jerian Grant brings to the table. And while Jose Calderon is nothing more than a shooter at this point in his career, I could envision him carving out a successful role next to Butler as a floor spacer.

All of these small moves were nice, but the Bulls were still clearly lacking someone they felt confident could soak up the majority of minutes at the one, a feeling that motivated the team to award Rajon Rando a two year, $28 million contract that reportedly has a partially guaranteed second year.

The Rondo signing appears to make sense on the surface. With a roster lacking any proven point guard talent, why not take a one year flier on the guy who lead the league in assists a season ago, averaged two steals a game and hit a career best 36% of his threes?

As anyone who watched Pau Gasol loaf through the past two seasons in Chicago knows, the box score does not tell the whole story. A closer examination combined with a careful eye can sometimes paint a different picture than some counting stats in the newspaper.

Rondo spent the past season on a typically dysfunctional Kings team that failed to crack .500 for the 37th consecutive season. The Kings scored a lot of points in George Karl‘s high paced system but surrendered even more on defense, posting a net -3 for the season. Rondo’s presence on the floor did nothing to help matters, as the team was more than a point better per 100 possessions when Rondo was on the bench.

Plus/minus can be a misleading stat at times. Starting players on talent-deficient teams can have artificially low net ratings compared to their teammates who are able to feast on opposing bench units. But when you consider that Rondo played 70% of his minutes alongside DeMarcus Cousins, who was exactly even in net rating, Rondo’s statistics begin to look more damning.

Despite his gaudy assist totals, Rondo does very little to improve his team’s offense. Rondo is a terrible shooter who is reluctant to even attempt long jump shots. A career 29% three point shooter, Rajon’s poor stroke is made even worse by the fact that defenses completely ignore him on the perimeter. Rondo absolutely needs to have the ball in his hands on offense to be remotely effective. When he doesn’t space becomes tight for all of his teammates. Look at what happened on this play against the well-coached Charlotte Hornets:

Hornets ignore Rondo pt 1

As DeMarcus Cousins runs to set a pick for Rudy Gay, Kemba Walker, Rondo’s defender, turns his head completely away from Rondo and begins to focus his attention on stopping the pick and roll.

Hornets ignore Rondo pt2

As soon as Cousins receives the pass from Gay, Walker has completely committed to clogging the lane for any potential drive from the big man. Rondo is left totally alone, a complete afterthought for the defense. Rondo ended up making the wide open three after the ensuing pass from Cousins, but he has been unable to connect on those shots at a high enough rate to force defenses to re-calibrate their strategy.

This is the biggest reason I hate the Rondo signing. After struggling through last season with a starting back court that couldn’t make a three, the Bulls are doubling down by signing the worst shooting point guard in basketball.

For all of the dynamic things Butler can do on a court, attracting attention off the ball is not something he does. As we saw quite a bit last season, Butler felt most comfortable with the ball in his hands running the offense. To compliment that, the Bulls need to pair him with a point guard who is going to keep help defenders occupied far away from the paint. Rajon Rondo could not be further from fitting that description.

I just cannot comprehend what Gar Forman and John Paxson were thinking  when they signed Rondo. Do they expect him and Butler to play well off each other? Unless Butler is spending his summer turning himself into a 40% three point shooter, I struggle to imagine a scenario where these two are able to power the Bulls to a half decent offense.

If Rondo’s outside shooting was his only issue, it would be bad enough. But there are several other aspects of offense the newest Bull struggles at. Rondo was arguably the single worst transition player in the NBA last season. According to NBA.com, of players to handle the ball on at least 200 transition possessions, nobody scored less frequently, and turned the ball over more frequently than Rajon Rondo. Only Jordan Clarkson and Klay Thompson (who took a lot of transition threes) shot free throws less often in transition than Rondo.

All of which brings me to my final complaint about Rondo’s offensive game: his utter fear of the charity stripe. Rondo has failed to crack 60% from the line in four of the last six seasons. And as his percentages have dropped, so have the attempts. Rondo got to the line just twice a game last season, a shockingly low number for the player who finished tenth in the league in drives to the basket. People complain about Rondo hunting for assists to boost his stats, but I think a lot of his hunted dimes are the result of his unwillingness to draw contact in the paint for fear of embarrassing himself shooting free throws.

This was a particularly poor market for free agent point guards, but the Bulls somehow managed to overpay for a low upside rental who makes no sense from a roster construction standpoint. Michael Wonsover looked at some of the other point guards the Bulls could have potentially signed for less money who may have also fit better alongside Butler. Allow me to add rookie Wade Baldwin to the list. The Bulls passed on Baldwin to take Denzel Valentine, another old college player with legitimate red flags. Baldwin projects to be a capable defender and a good shooter who does not need the ball in his hands to make an impact. Sort of like an ideal partner for Jimmy. Sort of like the opposite of Rondo.

The frustrating thing about the GarPax regime is they have the ability to make smart moves along the margins, but completely botch their bigger decisions. Grabbing Dinwiddie for free? Smart. Getting Justin Holiday back for washed up Hinrich? Savvy! Signing Felicio out of training camp for less than $1 million? Potentially franchise-altering!

But between the Gasol signing, the all-in Doug McDermott trade, the Thibs firing/Hoiberg hiring, and now the signing of Rajon Rondo, this front office has proven that they are incapable of making the decisions that count.

 

BULLet Points: Balanced Bulls attack too much for the Kings

Pau Gasol returned to action Monday night after being sidelined recently by a knee injury. With Gasol in the starting lineup, the Bulls were able to trot out their theoretically best five man group (sans Joakim Noah) for just the second time all season. Pau, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy give the Bulls effective offensive options across the board. If this group stays healthy, the Bulls will be tough to deal with down the stretch.

  • This game was decided in the latter half of the fourth quarter. With 6:34 left to play, the Kings led the Bulls 95-90. Over the next four minutes, the Bulls went on a 10-0 run and never looked back. The surge was fueled completely by the Bulls big three of Rose, Butler, and Gasol.
  • Rose was a team-high +18 in 33 minutes with 18 points on 9/15 shooting. He missed his only two free throw attempts and was 0/1 from three, but he flashed a series of slick moves off the dribble to free himself for quality shot attempts. Rose rounded out the stat sheet with five rebounds, four assists and just a single turnover.
  • Jimmy Butler let the game come to him Monday. Shooting just 3/10 from the field, Butler did not hijack many possessions with over dribbling and slow developing pick and rolls. Instead, he generally operated as a cog in a beautiful machine. Jimmy dished out a team-high eight assists in the win. Butler also came up huge on the other side of the ball, racking up five steals and consistently finding himself in the right place at the right time.
  • Taj Gibson co-lead the team with 18 points on 7/13 shooting. On a night where the Bulls struggled from the line, Taj was the only player to make all of his attempts at the stripe. Gibson only managed to grab three rebounds, but all three were offensive. Taj had his hands full all night defending All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, but he managed to hold the cantankerous center to 19 points, far below his average 27.2.
  • The return of Pau Gasol was a huge boost for Chicago. I will resist critiquing Gasol’s effort on defense as it was a pleasure to have the Spaniard soak up offensive possessions and take a huge burden off the starting guards. Gasol’s size and shooting touch make nearly all of his shots good in theory, an incredibly rare trait for a guy in his mid-30’s. Pau played just 24 minutes in his return to action, but he still managed to score 14 points, grab 14 rebounds and block three shots.
  • It’s pretty uncommon for a team to score 109 points in a game and not have a single player score more than 20, but that is precisely what the Bulls did tonight. The entire team did not hesitate to make the extra pass, assisting on 28/41 field goals, an assist ratio that would tie the league-leading Warriors over the course of the season. There’s truly nothing more beautiful than unselfish play leading to easy offense:

  • The Bulls were lights out from beyond the arc in this game, shooting 50% as a team. They attempted five fewer three point shots than the Kings, but connected on twelve compared to Sacramento’s nine. Doug McDermott started the game 4/4 from three and scored 16 points. Mike Dunleavy was 3/6 from three and Justin Holiday hit 3/4 of his attempts. Who said the Bulls need depth on the wing?!
  • Sacramento has a way of making mediocre offenses look elite. The Kings defensive effort was miserable all game, especially that of Rajon Rondo. On one critical play in the fourth quarter, Rondo seemed to pick up Justin Holiday at the top of the key, only to pass him off to a nonexistent teammate. The sequence reminded me of football miscommunication where a corner incorrectly  believes he has safety help over the top. In this case, Holiday drifted unguarded to the corner and knocked home a wide open three.
  • Coming up: the Bulls host the Knicks on Wednesday night.

Free Agency Bonanza Podcast with Jake Weiner & Jeff Berest

(D)Roses and Thorns contributors Jake Weiner and Jeff Berest connected to talk about the 76ers recent moves and a whole lot about all the free agency news. Including Danny Green, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Brandon Knight, Wes Matthews, Tyson Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge and much more. And of course, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr. may have come up.

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.