Bulls could use Windy City team to help accelerate rebuild

There's some simple logic to the Bulls having a successful rebuild.

They can't control their luck in the draft lottery, but they can do a better job of developing players who aren't first-round picks. Putting a higher priority on the G-League's Windy City Bulls would be a good place to start.

"We had some really positive discussions with management about looking at this a bit differently," Windy City Bulls coach Damian Cotter said. "I'm really encouraged by the positiveness of everybody. Toward the end of the season, there was a lot of talk of trying to raise the improvement at many different levels within the club."

There are some good examples of teams that do this well. Toronto was one of the first NBA teams to put its G-League team nearby in the suburbs. The Raptors used their affiliate to develop future stars like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, along with helpful role players like power forward Chris Boucher.

Miami signed Duncan Robinson as a two-way player last year and let him spend a season in the G-League. He became one of the NBA's best 3-point shooters.

"I agree with those two examples. There's a lot for us to emulate there," Cotter said. "If we can pull the strengths out of both programs and integrate into what we're doing, I think it's going to really help. I like what we're trying to do."

Windy City didn't have much team success this season, posting a 17-26 record. But there were some good signs. The Bulls finished second in the G-League in defensive rating, while two-way players Max Strus and Adam Mokoka showed some potential, although Strus suffered a torn ACL in December.

At the start of this season, the Bulls tried to strengthen the relationship between the NBA Bulls and their affiliate in Hoffman Estates. Bulls coach Jim Boylen set out to make sure Windy City ran the same offensive and defensive systems, performed the same drills in practice and used the same language in the film room.

"I don't look at it like the G-League is separate from us," Boylen said. "I look at it like we're all in this together. We've got 17 guys on our roster. Our two-way guys are as much a part of us as they are a part of them. That's how I look at it. I want their coaches around, I want their players around. When they can practice at our place (the Advocate Center), I love that. I have (Cotter's) coaches in my meetings whenever they can be here."

The symmetry also helps when the Bulls send players on assignment to Windy City or when they're bringing a player back from injury. Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. practiced with Windy City when they were coming back from injuries.

Cotter, a native of Australia, has been in the G-League for three years, with previous stops as an assistant with the Long Island Nets and Capital City Go-Go.

"Jim's been great because my last two stops it hasn't been like that," Cotter said. "It's not just Coach Boylen, it's been (assistant) Coach (Chris) Fleming, it's been Nate Loenser. There's been so much interaction, not with just me but with the other staff. I'm very encouraged about where we're headed. I think it's the right way."

Boylen is hoping the Bulls can use the G-League not just for player development, but coach development. One of Windy City's assistant coaches, Martin Rancik, was a Bulls intern who earned a full-time job.

"He and I, we evaluate everything and we talk a lot," Boylen said of he and Cotter. "I think it's a really important piece for us, especially where our franchise it at. Because piece of our improvement is going to be internal development.

"When we hired (Cotter), I said, 'I'm going to hire your staff and you're going to run what I want you to run.' He said, 'OK, sounds good.'"

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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