Posts tagged Bulls
Joe FreshGoods and adidas helps the city of Chicago welcome Derrick Rose home for the holidays

Whether or not you're a fan of Derrick Rose, the man or the basketball player, what's undeniable is his magnetic connection to the city of Chicago - HIS city. 

In anticipation of D. Rose's return to Chicago as his Timberwolves play the Bulls the day after Christmas, Joe FreshGoods linked with the folks at adidas to create some digital art around the United Center.

Joe’s art is captivating, and the city is embracing the love.

Rose is nursing a sore ankle but should play Wednesday. He’s making a run for both the Sixth Man and Most Improved Player awards, averaging 18.5 points and 4.6 assists per game for Minnesota while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, and just shy of 47 percent from three-point range.

Ball Don't Lie - "Phillip Rivers is the white Antonio Cromartie"

The squad's all here. Scott Flows and Pierce lament over the firing of Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and the lack of faith in the organization before moving on from Sunday's Bears loss and onto this week's marquee matchup with the LA Rams! Plus, more football goodness from week 13, predictions for this Sunday, our thoughts on Kareem Hunt, Urban Meyer, the College Football Playoff and more!

Topics:
Bulls fire Fred Hoiberg
Do you have faith in Garpax and the rebuild?
Chase Daniel brings back Bears fans' PTSD
Bears-Rams predictions
NFC East outlook
Chargers' chances in the AFC
Why no one gives a damn about the Texans
NFC Wild Card chase
Week 14 predictions
Goofy Mog of the Week! (who else would it be?)

Ball Don't Lie EP 24.5 - Uncovering MJ Retirement Conspiracy (ft. Jack M Silverstein)
The Third Pick - Season Preview
The Third Pick EP 12 - Blame Mariano
Ball Don't Lie: The Commute ft. @readjack
What should the Bulls do with the Pelicans' first round pick?

Hello Bulls fans,

As we are all well aware the Chicago Bulls have two first round picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. I’ve discussed the possibilities of what can happen with the first of these two picks, but have not yet gone into detail about how the second pick, courtesy of the New Orleans Pelicans, can be utilized. It is very important that the Chicago Bulls hit on both of these picks in this draft to expedite the rebuild process with quality, high-upside players.

There’s no telling how things will shape out in the Western Conference but as of right now the Pelicans' pick sits at 18th overall, and can move anywhere from 14th up to the twenties. The Pelicans have lost four in a row, and are in competition with the Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the West, but their remaining schedule is mostly against lottery teams.

In the event the Pelicans do miss the playoffs, the Bulls will have some pretty good players to look at. Alabama PG Collin Sexton is a very interesting prospect. He has excellent burst and is dynamic in transition, and doesn’t need a ball screen to get to the rim. He is very explosive in space and would fit well in Fred Hoiberg's uptempo offense. Both Sexton and incumbent PG Kris Dunn both get after it defensively and would be fun to watch them battle for the starting job in camp.

If the Bulls are fortunate enough to grab a Mo Bamba, Marvin Bagley, or DeAndre Ayton with their first pick, then small forward suddenly becomes a position of need. Enter Kevin Knox, a combo forward from Kentucky into the mix. He’s 6’9 with a 11.5 wingspan and wide shoulders than can fill out in the NBA. He’s a multi-positional defender and can make shots with and space. Players that aren’t ball dominant will greatly benefit from this system and it will also take pressure off them to perform. There has no official word on if Knox will stay in college or skip his sophomore campaign to join the NBA. A decision will be made by this Friday.

The worst possible scenario is the Pelicans moving up in seeding, which would send that pick down to the late teens or early twenties. One of the players who could get a look late in the first is Villanova PG Jalen Brunson. I know I’m beating a dead horse when I say Kris Dunn needs a back up point guard to relieve him, but Jerian Grant doesn’t cut it. You need player who can keep things moving and has basketball IQ. Brunson can read the defense and make the right plays.

Ultimately the direction we elect to go with this pick depends on how these next couple of weeks go. I will have a better idea about what positional players make the most sense by where we are sitting. We can go from finding potential starters to adding in serviceable back ups or “camp bodies” to add competition.

The Bulls find themselves mired in a close tank race for the top picks in the draft
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Hello Bulls fans,

It’s become abundantly clear these last few weeks of the season what the set plan was for the franchise. Fred Hoiberg has been instructed to play the younger guys more than vets to see what they can offer the team in the future. Winning hasn’t been the idea because the better players including the big 3 of Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine have been held out for “minor” injuries. I’m sure there is a percentage of this that is factual, but I believe the prize in mind is a higher lottery pick for the franchise to jumpstart the rebuild this offseason.

We have yet to see what Zach LaVine will be because he is still coming back into form from his 2017 ACL injury. It is typically the second year that the player fully recovers from the injury and get their confidence back. He is only 23 years old so there is a lot more that can be added to his game. Zach LaVine still looks like he isn’t being acclimated into the offense. There were a lot of moments when he looks like he’s forcing shots up and not getting open looks. I believe once he gets a full offseason in this offense, which is must different than what the Minnesota Timberwolves run he will be okay.

I mention Zach LaVine just to say that he is an important piece to this rebuild, and him playing not as well as expected isn’t that bad of a thing. He needed to knock that rust off in order to fully come back from the ACL injury. It was a bonus benefit that they are failing to win games

The Chicago Bulls have lost six straight games and are sitting at 8th overall in the pick selection, and can possibly move up to the 5th or 6th overall selection before it’s all said and done. If Chicago can do that and get some lottery luck, they will have a chance to pick Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr, Luka Doncic, or Mohamed Bamba.

The Nets draft pick belongs to the Cavaliers via the Celtics trade with Kyrie Irving, so Brooklyn doesn’t have any motive to try and purposely tank and lose out. Dallas' win over the Kings gives the Bulls a very strong chance at least finishing with a tie for the 4th seed if they can lose their remaining eight games, although it's highly unlikely they go on a 14-game losing streak to finish the season.

If they are as serious about tanking as the player personnel that is deployed every night shows, then I have no doubt they can get in the top 5. Also, keep in mind that the Bulls own the New Orleans Pelicans first round pick as well. This should be a very interesting close to the season.

What the Bulls missed out on in Jordan Bell

If we go back to June 22, by no means does the Jimmy Butler trade seem like the worst move the Bulls made last summer. Instead, their decision to sell their second round pick, Jordan Bell, to the Warriors may have taken the cake.

For the small investment of $3.5 million, the Dubs may have found their big man of the future, and the Bulls may have lost a valuable prospect to help rebuild their team.

It was clear Jordan Bell was a perfect fit for the Warriors when he found out he had been traded, saying “Fuck Bron Bron!” at his draft party in jest. The kid is just beaming with confidence and competitiveness. Even when he’s on the bench he never misses an opportunity to celebrate a play, clown opponents, or complain to the refs in sync with the guys on the floor.

For some, the enthusiasm could come off as Bell subconsciously telling Kerr that he wants to be playing, but I just think it’s genuine. He could’ve gone to 29 other teams, but he landed with one of the greatest assemblies of talent in the history of basketball, and at age 23 that has to feel like winning the lottery.  

Some of his antics have drawn comparisons to one of his teammates, Draymond Green. In a blowout game in Dallas, he poked a ball loose, got the outlet, threw himself a dime off the glass and jammed it home while getting fouled. The players on bench were both stunned and jubilated, while Steve Kerr and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle weren’t as excited.

When the Bulls visited Oracle and got blown out, Bell celebrated an and-1 layup saying “3-point-5” and making a money gesture with his hands.  He doesn't have a short memory, and neither does the Warriors coaching staff.

Kerr has seen the kind of talent Bell’s flashed, but he wants to make sure he can reign him in emotionally, which he never has seemed to do with Draymond, having not been the head coach when Green was drafted. And while Green has used his intensity to hone in his talents, it’s gotten him in trouble, like in Game 4 of the 2016 Finals. Similarly, Kerr wants to be able to have Bell focus his fire on the task at hand, without the extracurriculars.

Positionally, Bell’s a small ball center, but he has the athleticism and smarts to become a real factor on both ends of the floor and play above his height. He’s quick to jump for a lob or to block a shot, and he runs the break really well (though it never looks like he’s making full strides, strangely). He’s even shown the ability to handle the ball a bit, which helps when his defender jumps the pick and roll to stop Curry. When that does happen, he’s made good decisions in 4-on-3 situations, either hitting the open man once he sees a help defender commit to him, or just attacking the rim if no one rotates. He still needs to make sure he doesn’t jump on every single pump fake, but that comes with calming himself down, and knowing that his minutes will be there consistently, which is still unclear at this point, and typically harder to handle as a rookie. As long as Bell buys into the process, he should see more minutes come playoff time.

Though Bell’s surely happier playing with Golden State, something he’ll miss from staying with the Bulls is experience. Kerr is a proponent of using as many players as he can, but Bell has racked up a number of DNP’s to the fan’s (and maybe some players) chagrin. Raw talent can only get a player so far, and at the highest level of competition, you have to outthink your opponents as well.

This may have finally gotten through Kerr’s head, as he made the decision to start Bell in their MLK day game against the Cavs, giving their regular starting center, Zaza Pachulia, the day off. The move also showed a subconscious effort by Kerr, giving Bell a chance to see first hand how their potential Finals opponent plays, and will try to attack Bell, specifically. And while at this point, David West is still the Warriors best center, Pachulia is a good minutes-eater, and Looney won’t mess anything up, Jordan Bell has the highest risk and the highest reward of all of their bigs. Kerr’s move to put Bell in the starting lineup may become a trend towards the end of the season. As Iguodala continues to struggle offensively, and even more recently, defensively, the Dubs may start to move Andre’s ‘Death Lineup’ minutes to Bell, giving him opportunities to find a rhythm and confidence playing with the all-stars.

But I feel bad for the Bulls. They’ve played competent ball, and have a really intriguing young core that has refused to tank, currently 12th in the East at 17-27. Kris Dunn has shown impressive leadership and poise at the point, and they just got Lavine back from his ACL tear. Justin Holiday is a solid, but skinny, wing who can space the floor and play good D, while Valentine and Portis shot above average from three on more than 2.5 attempts per game. Lauri Markkanen has been a stud, and currently 4th among rookies in PPG at 15.5, 2nd in RPG at 7.6, and 2nd in FT% at 85.1%. Jordan Bell would fit perfectly in their system. With smart, athletic, and rangy young players around him, he could push the pace offensively and defensively much better than their current ground bound center Robin Lopez.

It’ll be interesting to see the development of Bell. If he reaches his potential with Golden State, will it be a credit to him or the system? Would he have had the right mentorship and structure around him in Chicago to succeed?

For now, the Bulls front office, and I know Bulls fans will agree, should be kicking themselves. As the season progresses and the Bulls are on gone fishing come playoff time, it could become painful seeing the player they missed out playing big minutes. You’d think they would have more sense than to trade away a guy named Jordan.

The price is right: why the Bulls need to move Nikola Mirotic
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Hello Bulls fans,

There have been several reports that surfaced saying Nikola Mirotic will be traded sooner than later. After his fight with Bobby Portis before the start of the season there was no possible way these two can coexist on the same team right? Well after Bobby returned from his suspension and once Nikola fully recovered from being punched in the face, the two gave the Bulls a boost out of the Eastern Conference cellar.

It’s abundantly clear the Chicago Bulls are in full rebuild mode and are trying to secure a high draft assets in teh future. This upcoming draft is being compared to the 2003 draft class that had the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chis Bosh picked in the top 5. If the hype is real then it would be wise to try and be in a position to secure a top 5 pick in 2018. Mirotic has been playing very well since coming back from injury; in fact some would say he’s playing like how the franchise envisioned he would play when they brought him from overseas a few years ago.

During the 2011 NBA Draft the Bulls took guard Norris Cole at No. 28, but traded him and the No. 43 pick (UCLA guard Malcolm Lee) to Minnesota for the rights to Mirotic, whom Houston took at No. 23 and had dealt to the Timberwolves. It's ironic that we finessed Minnesota on draft night on more than one occasion. Bulls general manager Gar Forman said the organization would have no problem keeping a player in Europe for a few years to develop before bringing him over to play with the organization.

Mirotic started off slow when he began with the Bulls in 2014, but he ended up having a pretty good debut year,  finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Andrew Wiggins. He averaged a mere 10 points a game that season but led the NBA in scoring in the 4th quarter during the month of March. He also averaged 20 points a game that month.

His 2015 and 2016 seasons were both inconsistent to say the least, and those inconsistencies have followed him throughout his Bulls career. The Bulls were in need of a dynamic scoring option at the power forward position to keep up with new style of play in the NBA, but Mirotic never blossomed into a reliable scoring option.

It would be very wise for the Bulls to move on from him now while he’s actually on a hot streak. Yes the team is playing well with him and it’s exciting to watch, but history tends to repeat itself. The Utah Jazz are reportedly very interested in making a deal for Nikola Mirotic, so are the Pistons according to NY Times writer Marc Stein. and this might be a great way to get some good value for a player who is playing at a peak level currently. This is also a good way to ensure the tank continues for one of the top 5 picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.

How this year's Bulls differ from last year's team
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Hello Bulls fans,

It’s been an interesting year for our beloved Chicago Bulls to say the least. A lot of people believed this team wouldn’t win more than 20 games this season once they traded Jimmy Butler. The move signified the franchise was moving in the direction of a long and tedious rebuild. If this is the case, then how does a team in year one of a rebuild have a better record than the Lakers - a team in year 4 of their rebuild?

After the summer 2016 trade of Derrick Rose to the NY Knicks, the assumption was the Bulls were in rebuild mode.  The moves that followed - signing Rajon Rondo, and then Dwyane Wade - was a little confusing to the Bulls fan base. The idea was that the three "alphas" in Butler, Rondo and Wade would make the Bulls a playoff team and surprise contender.

But Fred Hoiberg was way over his head and didn’t have the players necessary to run his offensive system, or that respected him as a head coach. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler were both used to Tom Thibodeau's system. Rondo and Wade both won championships so they had little to no respect for a young head coach like Hoiberg. The product on the court showed that these players were not willing to buy in on what was being sold from the staff. Hoiberg’s system requires guards that can consistently shoot the three, and he didn’t have that in Rondo and Wade. The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls somehow squeezed into the east playoffs as the 8th seed. The team overachieved and went up 2-0 against the Boston Celtics but proceeded to lose 4 in a row once Rondo went down with an injury.

The following off-season bore the changes that were believed to be necessary the year prior. The Bulls sent Butler and their first round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 7th overall pick in that year's draft, which they used to pick Lauri Markkanen. Bulls fans unfairly criticized Gar Forman and John Paxson for the move, but I personally loved it, and the direction the team should’ve elected to go in a while ago. The Bulls were stuck in the perpetual cycle of not being good enough to win, but not being bad enough to get a top lottery pick. In this instance the patience to make the deal yielded a bigger haul for GarPax. It was believed that draft night 2016 the Bulls were willing to trade Butler to Minnesota for the 5th overall pick to take Dunn to make him the point guard of the future. The patience allowed us to not only bring in Dunn but also Lauri Markkanen who has shown the ability to play at a high level at just 20 years old.

The 2017 Chicago Bulls started off a bit rocky. A skirmish between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis led to Niko being hospitalized and Bobby being suspended by the organization. The silver lining of this event is that it allowed Hoiberg to start Markkanen at power forward to get a good look at the rookie under the lights. Markkanen didn’t disappoint, setting a record for most 3-pointers made in a rookie’s first six games in the NBA. With a quick release and the confidence to shoot without hesitation, Lauri is a lethal weapon in the pick and pop game.

Dunn was thrusted into a starting role because of the inept play of Jerian Grant. The playing time he has received has caused him to not only develop better as an pro point guard, but also allowed him to gain confidence. I knew Dunn took that next step with his confidence when he hit crossed over an Indiana Pacer en route to a game winning shot and yelled out “F#$k him”.

The player considered at the time to be the best player acquired in the trade - Zach Lavine - has yet to step on the floor this season thanks to injury. He's a legit scoring threat and a very good fit for what the Chicago Bulls are missing right now.

This young Bulls roster bought in to Hoiberg’s system and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s quite enjoyable to see cohesive basketball being played with young players who are deemed the future of the franchise. There isn’t much standing around like last year with the older veterans who didn’t feel it necessary to listen to a head coach or play within his scheme. In most instances, veterans don’t respect younger unproven coaches and that was abundantly clear with the previous core. With how they're playing as a unit and also developing, this team is a more enjoyable product than what we were exposed to.

The Bulls aren’t tanking - and that may not be a bad thing
(Winslow Townson/AP)

(Winslow Townson/AP)

Let’s face it... the Chicago Bulls are too good. Yes I’m aware that’s a weird thing to read but it’s true. Despite the Bulls’ 13-24 record, they’ve won 10 of their last 14 games and have one of the best records in the NBA since Dec. 8.

Our hopes of #SecuringtheBagley or #LosingforLuka have gone down the drain. The Bulls will likely pick between 7 and 14.

But don’t worry Bulls fans - there are a few reasons this may not be a bad thing.

 

Draft Picks

Look, it’s no secret a top 5 pick helps you win an NBA championship. The best player on 11 of the last 15 NBA champions was taken within the first five picks of their respective drafts.

The other four? Steph Curry, the best player for the 2015 Warriors, landed at No. 7 in the 2009 NBA draft. Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on the 2011 Mavericks, was taken with the No. 9 pick in 1998. Kobe Bryant, the best player on the 2009 and 2010 Lakers, went 13th overall to Charlotte in 1996.

See, it’s possible to get a franchise changing player outside of the top 5.

According to a 2018 NBA mock draft by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, he projects the Bulls to take Texas' Mohamed Bamba with the No. 6 pick. At 6’11 - with an 8' wingspan!!! -  225 pounds, the 19-year-old from Harlem is averaging 11.7 PPG, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game in his freshman season.

The latest projection from NBADraft.net has Chicago drafting another emerging freshman in Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. with the No. 7 pick. Jackson is averaging 10.5 points, 7.1 board and 3.3 blocks per game. He’s also shooting 37 percent from the three-point line while averaging just under three attempts per game.

Both players are long, athletic big men who could fit nicely next to Lauri Markkanen. They're currently the seventh-worst team in the league. But if they keep winning, Bulls fans would be wise to turn their attention to prospects further down mock draft boards.

One of them is Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker, a 6'4" athletic wing with a 6’101/2” wingspan who could fit right into the uptempo, pace-and-space style head coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play, averaging 8.5 PPG in just 21 minutes a game.

(credit: ACC Digital Network)

In this video, you’ll see some highlights of Walker’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and some of his three-point range.

According to ESPN Insider Jonathan Givony, Walker is projected to be selected with the 15th pick.

The steal of the draft could be Villanova junior forward Mikal Bridges.

Bridges is playing like an All-American for the No. 1 ranked Villanova Wildcats. He’s averaging 17.8 PPG on 52 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from the three-point line. But it’s his play on the other side of the ball that makes Bridges one of the most complete players in this draft.

Bridges is a 6’7” wing with a 7’11/2” wingspan and he puts all that length to good use. He’s averaging 2 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game.

Imagine a defensive lineup with Dunn, Nwaba and Bridges - each with the ability to guard multiple positions and give ball handlers problems.

Fortunately for the Bulls, Bridges is 21-years old and will be 22 when the NBA draft comes around in June. His age could turn away some teams who may be looking for a young star - leaving a rebuilding Chicago Bulls with the chance to select a hidden gem in this year's draft.

 

Player Development 

 

The thing about winning in a tanking season is the wins usually mean your young players are developing faster than you expected. The Bulls are no different.

Fans are understandably excited about the growth of Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, two of the three pieces in the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players’ performance this season – and the hope budding star Zach LaVine will return to his star form from prior to his ACL tear - have some already naming the Bulls winners of the draft day trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Markkanen is averaging close to 15 PPG and has proven to be a willing rebounder, averaging just over 7 boards on the season.

The Finland native is also showing he is a capable defender, something no one could have predicted when he came out of Arizona. Check out the defense here on New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. (Credit: @_MarcusD2_/NBC Sports Chicago)

Dunn is in the running for the Most Improved Player award. He’s up nine points per game, to 13.2 ppg this year from 3.8 ppg from his rookie season with the Timberwolves.

His shooting has gotten slightly better with increased playing time. According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Dunn is shooting 55 percent at the rim, 40 percent from mid-range and 32 percent from three.

Last year he shot, 50 percent at the rim, 36 percent from midrange and 28 percent from three.

His 2017-2018 shooting numbers show his offensive game still needs work but with more time those numbers could continue to rise.

Dunn has more than doubled his assist numbers as well, averaging six per game as opposed to the 2.4 last season.

Dunn and Markkanen aren’t the only one’s getting better. Young role players like Denzel Valentine and David Nwaba have also improved.

Nwaba can’t really shoot the ball but he’s shown the ability to attack on the catch and push the ball on fast breaks. (Credit/Chicago Bulls Twitter)

In addition, the Bulls get exponentially better with him on defense as opposing teams have a 105.6 offensive rating when he’s on the floor and a 111.4 offensive rating when he’s on the bench.

As for Valentine, for a while he seemed to be nothing more than a floor spacer. However he’s taken major steps forward in his game this season.

Last year, according to NBA.com, 79 percent of Valentine’s threes were assisted. This year, that number is down to 61 percent, meaning he’s taking more pull-up threes.

In addition, Valentine is taking more shots inside the arc, averaging 26.1 percent of his points in the paint (as opposed to 13.7 in 2016-2017) and 12.8 percent of his points on midrange jumpshots (as opposed to 6.2 in 2016-2017).

Even Bobby Portis, who struggled to maintain any consistency last season, has been a positive for the Bulls, averaging nearly 13 PPG on 53 percent shooting and 39 percent from the three-point line over the last 14 games.

 

Free Agency

 

There’s a certain sense of pride when your “own guys” help you win a championship. But the draft isn’t the only way to get good players. The Houston Rockets are 26-9 and the only draft pick in their starting lineup is Clint Capela.

The Bulls have loads of cap space and some good players will test their luck in free agency in the next two years. And since they have been winning recently without any all-star talent, they are now a more attractive destination than if they were 5-31 and playing an atrocious brand of basketball.

The 2018 Free Agency class includes names such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George.

In 2019, the list gets even more interesting with players like restricted free agents Devin Booker and Karl Anthony Towns, and Kyrie Irving.

You read those names and think they are unrealistic for the Bulls. To be fair, their biggest free agent signing in the last 15 years is a 34-year old Pau Gasol.

(Editors note: I find it baffling he disregarded Bulls legend Eddie Robinson like that.)

However, this Bulls team feels different. They are a young team that’s playing basketball the right way with pace, three point shooting and intense defense.

Maybe it’s not so unthinkable that a major star would want to lead a team that seems to be headed in the right direction.

Why the Bulls won the Jimmy Butler trade
Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s take a trip back to NBA Draft night, June 22nd, 2017.

The night we saw Lonzo Ball become a Laker just as the prophet LaVar Ball predicted. We saw the Celtics and Sixers swap first round picks just days prior to ensure both teams “get their guy”. We also saw the end of an era in Chicago with Jimmy Butler being dealt to the Timberwolves and reunited with his beloved coach Tom Thibodeau.

Let’s talk about why the Bulls WON this trade.

 

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

There comes a point where certain teams have a guy headed towards superstar level while the team is headed nowhere in a hurry - nowhere being a perennial playoff team that doesn’t necessarily belong there. Good enough to make it because their best player could carry the load, sure, but bad enough to be first round exits because they aren’t equipped for the marathon.

Those same wins that land bad teams in the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed ultimately doom them on draft night. They aren’t picking high enough to draft the ‘cream of the crop’, so they’re forced to roll the dice on a prospect. Obviously there are no sure things in sports no matter where you’re drafted, but you need the best available player when you’re thin on talent. Now if you’re a young team like the Sixers or even the Bucks, making the playoffs with no real chance at the title at least gives you hope for what the future holds. When you’re an established team like the Bulls whose playoff seeding is more of a fall from grace than a stepping stone, it’s time to make changes.

In a vacuum, the package of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 7th overall pick, which would become Lauri Bir-..I mean Markkanen, seems a bit low, right? 

Not if you think about this in totality. 

Usually once a superstar-level player reaches the last two years of his deal, the vultures start to circle. Other teams know this is the shit or get off the pot moment for your franchise and you’ll either accept whatever they offer or they’ll wait you out. In essence, whatever they offer will be too much on their end.

You’ll NEVER receive equal value for an established superstar. Think about it, a sure thing will always be safer than a ‘maybe’. It’s a results based, hindsight is 20/20, blah blah scenario every time. Ask the Hornets about Vlade and Kobe. However, if the pieces you receive are what’s best for YOUR future, then you’ve won. Think Oladipo/Sabonis for Paul George.

You hold on to that superstar player to avoid “looking” like you got fleeced, then lose him in free agency and remove all doubt that the fleecing occurred.

This deal was on the table a year prior, but the Bulls were still determined to wait and see if the Jimmy Butler experience was worth it all. To see if he would regress, or grow to be the player you could build around or trade while his stock was high to get more pieces. The latter occurred and in a surprising turn of events.....GarPax actually made a good decision. I still can’t believe I typed that...and it’s true.

Credit: Chicago Bulls

Credit: Chicago Bulls

Kris Dunn, a former top 5 pick in the draft, was never given a fair shake in Minnesota. We all know Thibs doesn’t play rookies, which isn’t a foreign concept by established coaches. When you’re hired to produce right away, it doesn’t behoove you to bet on potential. So, on the surface it looks like “Dunn couldn’t beat out Rubio for the starting job” when in reality it was never his job to actually ‘win’ because he was still learning.

In reality he’s a much better passer, scorer, and all around player than he was given credit for. He’s averaging 13.4 points per game and 6 assists in just 31 games with the Chicago Bulls, up over his 3.8 points and 2.4 assists in 78 games with Minnesota.

Zach LaVine, a former NBA dunk contest champion, is an incredible athlete. Before suffering a torn ACL in February of 2017, he showed tremendous upside and that he wasn’t just a dunker. He’s a career 37.9% shooter from 3 point range and averages 13.7 points per game. Obviously time will tell what kind of player he’ll be once he returns, but by all accounts he’s rehabbing great and should be back to normal soon.

Lauri Markkanen, who I’ve named Lauri Bird, is the most interesting player of the bunch. There was similar reaction to the Bulls drafting Lauri with the 7th pick as there was when the Knicks chose Kristaps Porzingis in 2015: a sea of boos and “who the fuck is this ass hole?” like Samuel L. Jackson in McDowell’s. Whenever you don’t take the flashy, prom king, golden boy of the moment on everyone’s radar you’re going to be met with criticism. Understandably so, because for every Dirk there’s a Darko.

Lauri is special though. He shot the lights out at Arizona and was called the best shooting 7-footer college basketball had ever seen, averaging 15.6PPG and 7.2RPG all while rocking the number 10 like Mike Bibby. In his rookie season so far he’s opened a lot of eyes and gained respect from those who once doubted. Did I mention he’s ONLY 20? (Jay-Z voice at Hot97 with Young Chris). He’s averaging 14.6PPG and 7.4RPG on the pro level, and is showing tremendous potential to be a franchise player.

I had to talk a few fellow Bulls fans off the ledge when this trade went down, and now they’re all on the edge of their seats for this team. The future is bright and we have something that not even GarPax could ru...let me stop there before they ask me to hold their beer and show me.

Bottom line is, I knew we won this trade the night it happened and now the world sees it. Now if they could only stop disrupting this tank so we can draft even higher and secure the Bagley, I’d be even happier...but that’s another story.