With Wade set to reutrn, are playoff within reach for these young Bulls?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls' Jerian Grant, left, passes the ball to Jimmy Butler, right, as Philadelphia 76ers' Justin Anderson, center, tries to defend it on Thursday night. B Grant provided another example of a young player rising to the occasion. Grant filled in for Rajon Rondo and produced 15 points in Thursday's win over Philadelphia, despite not playing at all in eight of the Bulls' previous 12 games.

    Bulls' Jerian Grant, left, passes the ball to Jimmy Butler, right, as Philadelphia 76ers' Justin Anderson, center, tries to defend it on Thursday night. B Grant provided another example of a young player rising to the occasion. Grant filled in for Rajon Rondo and produced 15 points in Thursday's win over Philadelphia, despite not playing at all in eight of the Bulls' previous 12 games. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/7/2017 6:17 PM

About a month ago, it seemed like the Bulls' roster had become too young to succeed after Taj Gibson was traded and the team was destined for a slow dive out of playoff contention.

With three games left in the regular season, the playoffs are within reach for the Bulls and the youth movement is paying some dividends. Lately, it's been about finding enough hot hands to manufacture wins and an adjustment by second-year point guard Jerian Grant paid off during Thursday's victory in Philadelphia.

 

Grant got the call to start in place of an injured Rajon Rondo, even though Grant hadn't played at all in eight of the previous 12 games. He delivered 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists after following a new performance plan.

"I told him (Grant) before shootaround, after shootaround; (when) he was taking a nap I texted him," Jimmy Butler said Thursday, according to bulls.com. "I let him know you don't have to throw me the ball every single time. I want you to be aggressive because that will make my job easier; they won't key in on me and he did a great job of that."

Grant has started 26 games this season, but one reason he keeps falling out of the rotation is he doesn't seem comfortable running the offense. He's a better scorer than distributor.

Coach Fred Hoiberg said after Thursday's game they essentially made Grant the shooting guard and put Butler at the point to start the game. Something worked. This was the fifth time Grant dished out at least 5 assists this season.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I've been watching a lot of Rondo and how the team was playing and him being aggressive, being an extra option," Grant said Thursday. "I started off the ball. Then Jimmy told me, 'You're a point guard; handle the ball, go get it, make plays for people.'

"I get that type of confidence from him, and Rondo is helping me the whole game. He points everything out. When someone rolls, he talks about seeing the weak side, where to push the ball for better looks, so many little things that make such a difference. Our team has been playing well the last couple of weeks and he (Rondo) has been the lead guy, and for him to be there and give me that kind of advice really helps."

When it comes to the updated youth movement, Cameron Payne has basically been shelved until next season and Isaiah Canaan has been out of the rotation for months. But everyone else has made a case for strong consideration.

It's not always perfect. Paul Zipser, starting in place of Dwyane Wade, has mixed a few clunkers with some good performances. Rookie Denzel Valentine made 1 of 11 shots the past two games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Hoiberg has usually been able to find a combination that works on a given night. Bobby Portis and Joffrey Lauvergne have shined in recent games. Of course, the leader of this revival is Nikola Mirotic, who has averaged 17.2 points and shot 47 percent from 3-point range over the last 13 games.

Outside of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, who have caught fire for the Warriors, Mirotic might be the NBA's best 3-point shooter over the past month, considering his volume (3.5 makes per game) and accuracy.

"I had a lot of critics, a lot of people have been killing me during the season, all you (media), but with a reason," Mirotic told reporters Thursday "I did not play well at that point. But it's not how you start, it's how you finish the season. I feel much better now."

The Bulls are starting to succeed with the higher-scoring, faster-paced, long-range offense Hoiberg envisioned when he took the job in 2015. Having three different big men -- Mirotic, Portis and Lauvergne -- who can shoot well from outside has helped make things click.

Time will tell whether this is a mirage or positive news for the future. Mirotic's status with the Bulls is unpredictable since he'll be a restricted free agent this summer and there's no telling what sort of offers might be in store after his strong finish.

Wade set to return:

Dwyane Wade practiced Friday in New York and said he's hoping to return from an elbow injury Saturday when the Bulls play in Brooklyn. Wade has missed 11 games since suffering a right elbow sprain and hairline fracture on Mar. 15 against Memphis. The Bulls have gone 7-4 in his absence.

The Bulls listed Rajon Rondo as out for the Brooklyn game with the right wrist sprain, but he told reporters Friday he should be healthy soon.

Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

0 Comments
 

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.