McGraw: Bulls could use more stretch skills from Kornet

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls' Luke Kornet goes up for a dunk over Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love in the second half of the Jan. 25 game in Cleveland.

    Chicago Bulls' Luke Kornet goes up for a dunk over Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love in the second half of the Jan. 25 game in Cleveland. Associated Press

 
 
Posted5/1/2020 3:00 PM

An analysis of Bulls backup center Luke Kornet should begin with the financials.

Last summer, after they added Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky, there wasn't much money left. So the Bulls turned to Kornet and gave him a two-year deal worth $4.5 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There were better players available, but the Bulls couldn't afford any of those. So they took a low-cost flyer on the former New York Knicks big man, thinking he could become a stretch-five matchup problem with his ability to shoot from long range.

Kornet got off to a miserable start last season. Playing backup minutes in the first 10 games, he averaged 4.0 points and made just 5 of 23 attempts from 3-point range. Defensively, he wasn't moving fast enough to protect the basket.

After those first 10 games, though, he had sinus surgery. It turned out he wasn't breathing or sleeping well, the result of a broken nose suffered the previous season playing for the Knicks.

Kornet didn't start getting regular playing time until Jan. 11, a couple games after Wendell Carter Jr. went down with a bad ankle sprain, and there was a huge difference. This time, Kornet looked like an NBA player. He averaged 9.8 points and was one of the best on the team in both defensive rating and net rating during the next 17 games.

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But then he suffered a severe ankle sprain and broken left foot in practice on Feb. 21. He wasn't likely done for the season, or at least the regularly-scheduled version that was supposed to end on April 15.

So what can we take from the 36 games Kornet did play this season? The most encouraging part of his season was his competent defense during the small segment when he was completely healthy. The 7-foot-2 center from Vanderbilt needs to be able to handle switches and give some rim protection to stay on the floor.

What would really help his cause is showing some of those stretch-five skills that got the Bulls interested in the first place. He ended up shooting 28.7 percent from 3-point range for the season and wasn't much better (29.9 percent) during his 17-game healthy stretch.

Kornet could conceivably be a game-changer if he came in with the second unit and drained 3 or 4 shots from 3-point range. That's pretty much his best ceiling -- adequate defense and 3-point shooting.

At the moment, the Bulls have four centers under contract for next season -- Kornet, Carter, Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio -- and it's anyone's guess how many of them will be back in the fall after Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are done evaluating the roster.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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