Three Lottery Picks, Important Part Of The Mix

Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen will meet with media in Chicago on Tuesday.

Chuck Todd is not scheduled to be there Tuesday. But Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen will meet the (Chicago) press. As well as its social and other sorts of media in the initial introduction of what the Bulls hope will be the new era core of their future.

Time for the Bulls to embrace the 21st Century of the NBA.

Yes, we know who they are, the three from the draft day Jimmy Butler trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Though we’ll presumably find out a bit more during the morning session in the Advocate Center.

We know who, where and when. But for the Bulls moving forward the question will be what and how.

What do they have and how are they going to play?

The dramatic and historic trade last week of All-Star Butler effectively began a new era for the Bulls franchise. The consensus, and appropriately so, is the team that receives the best player in a trade is in the more favorable situation. That, for now, certainly was Butler. Though all trades truly are judged on future effect and impact. We’ll know better in a few years. Whichever team does better wins.

But this deal by any objective standard is excellent for the Bulls.

Consider that they turned a No. 30 draft pick into three lottery picks in Dunn (No. 5 in 2016), LaVine (No. 13 in 2014) and Markkanen (No. 7 in 2017). Of course, they cannot be measured yet against Butler, an accomplished NBA star.

Still, it is a positive sign of development. And it’s doubtful six years ago when Butler was drafted anyone could have predicted not only his success, but the value a trade would return. It’s not what the Bulls hoped because the ideal would have been Butler on a successful playoff team. But after winning one playoff series in the last four years with no sign of improvement, there seemed little choice.

Butler grew into an all-pro player, which speaks to team development. Of course, others like Doug McDermott didn’t develop. But you cannot credit the player when he develops and blame the team when he doesn’t. It’s a shared responsibility.

The question hanging over this roster, which likely will undergo further changes in the next few years, is as much how they will play as who will be playing.

That’s perhaps just as big a reason for the personnel revision.

The Bulls basically prospered (one conference finals appearance) in the last 20 years only with the extraordinary athletic play of Derrick Rose.

Once Rose was injured, they evolved into a team built for the 1990s. It was defensive oriented, slow, plodding, reliant on mid range shooting.

It was entertaining to watch, at times, because of the individual level of personal commitment, especially on defense.

But it was a system being left behind by the rest of the NBA.

The Bulls kept trying to hammer that square offense into a game rounding out around the perimeter, and probably broke this past season.

The Bulls did get to the playoffs and won two first round games against the eventual Eastern Conference finals loser Boston.

But the trends for the Bulls were alarming.

Where were they going and how were they going to get anywhere and against whom with a team that was relatively deliberate and shooting from all the wrong places?

This NBA requires, demands really, three-point shooting, and the Bulls were as bereft of consistent outside shooting as any team in the NBA. And with few encouraging possibilities in reserve.

The Bulls finished last season tied for 24th in three-point shooting percentage and 25th in overall shooting. They were last--30th--in effective field goal percentage, which accounts for three-point shooting. Who were first and second? The Warriors and Cavs. Big surprise.

The Bulls were 28th in three pointers made and 29th in three pointers attempted. They were 28th in true shooting percentage which combined free throws and threes. They were 20th in pace and offensive efficiency. Plus as a relatively unathletic team, they were 20th in causing turnovers and 15th in steals.

This was a roster the NBA was passing by, a roster in need of desperate change for three-point shooting and athleticism.

Thus the beginning with Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen.

Dunn is a physical, 6-4 point guard, athletic with a long wingspan. His numbers were obviously poor last season in Minnesota, thus making him available. But he played little behind Ricky Rubio and never got a chance to shoot much. He had more than eight field goal attempts in four games all season, including a throwaway last game. Typical was his best two game stretch when he averaged 14 points and shot a combined 13 for 25. In the next nine games, he got more than four shot attempts just once.

Dunn was a league steals leader and top defender in college.

LaVine is rehabbing from a torn ACL, which gives the chills to Bulls fans after Rose’s painful period. But players like Jamal Crawford, Kyle Lowry, David West, Al Jefferson, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, Nerlens Noel, Corey Brewer and Danilo Gallinari had ACL injuries and then enjoyed high levels of play. Most returned to remain great athletes, including Jabari Parker after his first ACL injury. He is rehabbing again.

LaVine averaged 18.9 points starting for the Timberwolves last season before being injured. He’s one of the elite athletes in the NBA, a slam dunk champion who stunned fans with his incredible leaping ability. He also was close to a 40 percent three-point shooter. Though Dunn was a somewhat inconsistent shooter for Minnesota, he shot 37 percent on threes his final season in college.

Which is why the selection of Lauri Markkanen came next.

The seven footer at the U. of Arizona was not only one of the top shooters in the NCAA last season for any position at about 42 percent on threes, but he’s one of the best alltime for players taller than 6-10.

It’s beginning a transition of the Bulls from a slower, defensive oriented team to a team in style with the modern NBA where the pace is quicker, the court spread, guards looking up to throw ahead and shooters spaced around the court.

There currently are Bulls players with some of the elements on the roster like Denzel Valentine, who showed three-point effectiveness last season and will get more of a chance as a playmaker. Perhaps free agent Nikola Mirotic returns and Bobby Portis showed improving three-point range.

LaVine wasn’t regarded as a good defender, though because he is athletic there are possibilities. Markkanen isn’t long, but is fluid and as a legitimate seven footer is adept enough at close outs and switches. He’s already acknowledged a need to get stronger.

Though the way the game is played these days, there’s less need for scoring inside. A seven footer like Markkanen can pair with a shooting forward. Dunn gives the Bulls potentially excellent defense on the ball with his size close to 6-5. That’s where defense is most important in this guard oriented NBA.

And then the Bulls add big time three-point shooting with LaVine and Markkanen as a start.

It suggests also an aesthetically pleasing open game with passing, movement and shooting. They are just the first pieces being put in place, and certainly development and recovery are needed.

But you can finally begin to see the Bulls’ direction with Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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