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Chicago Bulls

Will Antonio Blakeney prove he is worth an NBA contract?

Benjamin Repay

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As the NBA offseason comes to a close, all eyes are on the Chicago Bulls’ acquisitions of Jabari Parker, Wendell Carter Jr., and the re-signing of Zach LaVine. However, with an injury-prone starting lineup, the Bulls’ season could become dependent on how much the bench players can produce and whether or not they are capable of moving into the starting lineup if needed. Antonio Blakeney may be one of these bench players asked to play a bigger role as the 2018-19 NBA season progresses.

The Bulls signed Blakeney to his first NBA contract back in July. He went undrafted after playing two years at LSU, but made the Bulls’ 2017 summer league roster. Antonio’s team-leading 16.8 points per game that summer earned him a two-way contract. He was named Rookie of the Year in the NBA G League averaging a whopping 32 points in 32 games played.

Blakeney rejoined the Bulls’ summer league roster this year and led the team in scoring again, this time with 21 points. Although he struggled with his shooting percentage and turnover rate, the Bulls saw enough upside and potential in him to offer him his first NBA deal. His ability to create his own shots anywhere on the floor could make him hard to stop off the bench this upcoming season.

Blakeney played just 19 games with the Bulls last season averaging 7.9 points per game in 16.5 minutes played. He struggled with his shooting but averaged a promising 0.6 turnovers. It’s a small sample size, but Blakeney could surprise the league this season with more playing time and perhaps a more important role in the Bulls’ offense.

I’m not saying Blakeney will become an All-Star, but his aggressive mindset as soon as he crosses half court could make him an offensive threat. He’s shown in both summer league and the G League the confidence he has when the ball is in his hands. While he has shown his ability to shoot the three ball and get to the rim, I believe his pull-up shot inside the arc is what makes him a great scorer. His explosive and unpredictable style of scoring makes him hard to guard and leaves me reminiscing about Nate Robinson’s days in Chicago.

Antonio Blakeney definitely has areas where he can improve his game, but at just 21 years old you can see the potential he has to grow into a larger role for the Chicago Bulls in the future. The Bulls’ young and offensively gifted starting lineup will certainly be fun to watch this year, but make sure to keep an eye on Blakeney as he looks to prove he is more than just a summer league star.

My name is Ben Repay and I am a soon to be sophomore at Purdue University in West Lafayette Indiana studying Mass Communication. I have always been a fan and close follower of Chicago sports and have always wanted to one day make my dream of talking about sports for a living a reality. Although this is my first opportunity to cover any sports team, I am confident and ready to improve my writing/coverage capabilities at both Purdue and with Locked On Bulls!

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Chicago Bulls

Which Bulls player will come up consistently clutch this season?

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Locked On Bulls is back with a fresh episode, the guys pick up where they left off on yesterday’s episode talking about what the fourth quarter of games might look like. Jordan and Matt dive into clutch time statistics, what they mean, how they are important, and where the young Bulls core ended up last season. The second half of the show the guys kick off their newest segment of “Most Iconic Moments in Bulls History” with 32 different storylines that have defined the Chicago Bulls. The guys start with Michael Jordan’s “I’m Back” fax vs. Derrick Rose’s press conference asking “Why Can’t I Be MVP?”. The guys discuss the importance of both and ultimately which one moves on. Vote for either on Twitter (@LockedOnBulls) and join the discussion at (331)-979-1369.


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Chicago Bulls

Bulls Voicemail: Who are you relying on to take the clutch shot?

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Locked On Bulls is back with their weekly Bulls mailbag show, the guys kick off the episode with a voicemail about comparing Lauri Markkanen to Rasheed Wallace. The guys compare both players, why Matt and Jordan don’t necessarily see a connection and ultimately what Markkanen should be working on this season. Second voicemail is in response to an early question asking how Fred Hoiberg can get back into the good graces with Bulls fans who don’t believe in him. Third voicemail is a call about not necessarily needing to sign a top-tier free agent in 2019 in order to compete. Last voicemail of the show asks who we would like to see take the last shot in close games this season. Matt and Jordan dive into some clutch time statistics from last year to try and make a case for any of the five Bulls core players. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.


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Chicago Bulls

Three Factors That Will Determine Bulls Playoff Chances

Benjamin Repay

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jabari parker bulls playoff chances

The Chicago Bulls won 27 games last season making it their lowest winning season since 2004. The Bulls were 26th in the NBA in points per game and 27th in points allowed per game. They were also 29th in the league in total point differential at -577 points. Although the Bulls had their worst season of the decade, the new and young additions to the roster may induce a playoff berth in a struggling Eastern Conference.

When deciding whether or not the Bulls are a playoff team, these questions come to mind:

  • Can an injury-prone starting lineup remain healthy?
  • Will Jabari Parker finally become the elite player he got drafted to be?
  • Are other teams in the East too good?

Health

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room, this Bulls starting lineup has a long history of significant injuries. Whether they can remain healthy is a question that could make or break their playoff chances. The two biggest concerns for the Bulls regarding health is Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine. Parker and LaVine have a combined three ACL tears in the past two years. We know from previous years with Derrick Rose that it is difficult to stay healthy and yield the same production after an injury like Parker and LaVine suffered. But it wasn’t just Parker and LaVine who were recovering from injuries throughout last season.

Kris Dunn missed 11 games due to a concussion after a hard fall in January. He missed a few more games due to minor injuries like a dislocated finger, patella tendinitis, and a big toe sprain.

Bulls sophomore Lauri Markkanen missed a total of 14 games last season dealing with some minor injuries. Markkanen’s “back stiffness” was the main reason for most of his missed games. You could argue that some of Markkanen’s “rest days” came at the end of the season when the Bulls were trying to get a better draft pick.

Health is perhaps the biggest factor in whether the Bulls can make the playoffs. A healthy Bulls team can be a productive one with this young and talented lineup. No player necessarily needs to be a star if the team is healthy. Each player in the starting lineup is capable of scoring 15 per game with ease. If they all remain healthy, it’s not hard to see them as the 8th seed in the East.

Jabari Parker

After the Bulls offered Parker a questionable $20 million deal, expectations have never been higher for the Simeon legend. Many Bulls fans are wondering if Parker can be the scoring threat he once was with the Bucks. As much as I hate being reminded of it, I can’t help but think of Rose’s struggles on the floor after his ACL tear.

It’s not just about whether Parker can remain healthy. Can he still show the explosiveness and athleticism he had prior to the injuries? Driving to the rim and creating his own shots off the dribble are substantial elements of Jabari’s game. If that is taken away from him due to his injuries, we may not see the player the Bulls paid for.

Competition

The East has been the significantly weaker conference over the past several seasons. It’s for this reason the Bulls’ chances of making a playoff appearance are a lot greater than they would be if they were in the West. There were a total of five teams under 30 wins in the East last year and every team that didn’t make the playoffs was under .500. There were only four teams in the East that had 50 or more wins. One of those teams was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Obviously, the Cavs will struggle to reach the playoffs this season without LeBron James.

The Bull could pull off a mediocre 42-win season and still manage to make the playoffs. Not many teams in the East improved their roster quite like the Bulls. They drafted what looks to be one of the more talented and NBA-ready rookies in the league in Wendell Carter Jr., signed a proven scorer in Parker, and continue to develop young and talented players like Markkanen, Dunn and Bobby Portis.

The Bulls are one of the most improved teams in the NBA if they can remain healthy and Parker can live up to everyone’s expectations. They have scorers all over their starting lineup and players like Portis and Antonio Blakeney wanting to prove themselves off the bench. Whether you want the Bulls to make the playoffs or not, there is no doubt they will be a fun team to watch come October.

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