Ar­row point­ing up for of­fense

But im­prove­ment might hin­der Bulls’ chances of draft­ing Wil­liamson

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - JOE COW­LEY jcow­[email protected]­times.com | @sun­times_hoops

Guard Zach LaVine likes where the Bulls’ of­fense is headed.

LaVine hasn’t al­ways felt that way this sea­son, but the Bulls’ ac­qui­si­tion of for­ward Otto Porter Jr. in a trade Wed­nes­day with the Wizards has changed his out­look.

Porter is a shot­maker, es­pe­cially from the out­side, which means more space for LaVine to op­er­ate and more op­por­tu­nity for him to use his slash­ing style to at­tack the rim. In their first two games with Porter, the Bulls scored 125 points in each.

‘‘Of­fen­sively, I think we looked good at times,’’ LaVine said af­ter the Bulls’ 134-125 loss Satur­day to the Wizards. ‘‘Still get­ting to know each other. I don’t think scor­ing is go­ing to be the is­sue. It’s chem­istry; we are go­ing to get that down. The game is a lot more open, I think we have a lit­tle more fire­power and we have to just get it done.’’

But here is what Bulls fans might have to come to grips with: An im­proved of­fense will jeop­ar­dize the team’s draft-lot­tery po­si­tion, which means the dream of se­lect­ing Zion Wil­liamson might be dy­ing a slow death.

The Bulls (13-43) have the fourth­worst record in the NBA, which would give them a 12.5 per­cent chance to land the No. 1 pick. With the new draft rules, the three teams with the worst records have a 14 per­cent chance.

Not a big deal? Wrong. Ev­ery per­cent­age point matters. And sit­ting just out­side the top three also means the Bulls can drop back as far as No. 8.

In a draft in which many ex­perts see a sig­nif­i­cant drop in tal­ent af­ter Wil­liamson, the Bulls’ of­fense sud­denly flex­ing some ‘‘fire­power’’ might not be a par­tic­u­larly pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment.

Another thing that should keep Bulls fans rest­less is the fact that gen­eral man­ager Gar For­man car­ries ma­jor weight in the scout­ing process. Yes, the Bulls have had some hits in the draft in the last decade (Jimmy But­ler, Lauri Markka­nen), but they also have had some se­ri­ous misses in the draft and, most re­cently, in free agency (Jabari Parker, who was dealt to the Wizards for Porter).

For­man was asked whether the Bulls would re-eval­u­ate their scout­ing process for the up­com­ing draft and free agency.

‘‘I like our process,’’ For­man said. ‘‘We’ve got a vet­eran staff, scout­ing staff. I like the pro­cesses that we go through.

‘‘I think when you look around the NBA and you eval­u­ate drafts and guys that you pick up, you’re go­ing to see that there’s hits and there’s misses. I’m go­ing to de­fend our scout­ing staff here. If you re­ally dig deep as far as how we’ve drafted, for in­stance, over the last 10 years — and the an­a­lyt­ics will prove this — we have drafted very, very well.

‘‘So I like our staff, like our process. Ob­vi­ously, scout­ing is go­ing to be a huge, huge part of what we’re do­ing to­day and what we’re do­ing mov­ing for­ward. Now we’re go­ing to have a high pick again this year, and this draft is go­ing to be crit­i­cal to us.’’

MARY ALTAFFER/AP

New­comer Otto Porter Jr.’s abil­ity to shoot from out­side should open things up for other play­ers and give the Bulls’ of­fense a boost.

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