Posts tagged John Paxson
When it comes to trading for Russell Westbrook, Bulls fans need to make up their minds: is it Oochie Wally or One Mic?
Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

This isn’t a post advocating for, or against, the Chicago Bulls trading for Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook. You’ll certainly see plenty of articles predicting where the 30-year-old MVP will wind up between now and the time he is traded, whether that comes now or at some point during the season. Let’s be frank: those are fun Bleacher Report stories to sift through while you sit on the Red Line hoping that discolored stream trickling down your train cart is actually some high schoolers’ spilled Mango Mania Mystic and not some homeless guy’s piss. However, they’re dry as hell and one of 1,000 that will be typed up by nerdy white dudes with ‘-NBA” on the end of their Twitter handle. Nobody needs more of those.

No, this article is addressed to Bulls fans, some of the most passionate supporters in the world. We have been there for our Bulls through the euphoric highs (three-peat X2, the Derrick Rose-led Bench Mob-by Bulls of 2011) and the dark, depressing lows (the Baby Bulls, Rose’s recurring knee injuries, The Three Alphas). One could argue that more than any team in the NBA, Bulls fans ride for their squad in thin times, evident by the Bulls’ second-place finish in average attendance in 2018-19, another year at-or-near the top of the league for a team that’s led the league in attendance 13 times since their last championship in 1998.

These are very much lean times for the Bulls, entering their third year of a long-overdue rebuild, the first full year of head coach Jim Boylen’s tenure after replacing the out-of-his-league Fred Hoiberg mid-season and limping towards a 22-60 record. Who knows when the Bulls will be competitive in the East again, or how long a fan base already restless for the return of a winning franchise will continue to wait patiently until heads finally roll.

Still, there’s much for Bulls fans to be excited about next season. Lauri Markkanen enters his third year in the league, and despite missing 30 games last season with a sprained elbow and health issues, has flashed glimpses of a future All-Star. Zach Lavine exploded in 2019, finishing in the top 20 in scoring in the NBA. Wendell Carter Jr. started 44 games before a thumb injury ended his season, and the Otto Porter Jr. trade at the deadline brought over a capable three-and-D option on the wing.

Chicago, shockingly, even made good moves in the offseason to improve the club, adding point guard Coby White and big Daniel Gafford in the draft, while signing vets Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky in free agency. The Bulls aren’t back yet, but the hope around Chicago is they’re well on their way.

But while the Bulls were busy resetting the ballclub, something happened across the NBA. The league we once knew got flipped on its ass, and all of a sudden the powers that were are no longer. The Western Conference has balanced out after the Raptors ended the Warriors run this June, with Kevin Durant leaving for the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson set to miss a good chunk of next season with a torn ACL. Now, more teams are gearing up for a run at the Larry O’Brien in 2020. The Clippers - say it with me again - are challenging the Lakers’ big two of LeBron James and Anthony Davis with one of their own, signing Kawhi Leonard away from Toronto and swinging a massive deal with the Thunder for Paul George. Brooklyn will try to make it work without KD next season, while Boston hopes for better returns from Kemba Walker than what the newest Net Kyrie Irving gave them, and the Sixers load up by re-signing Tobias Harris and adding Al Horford. The Heat are trying to build around Jimmy Butler, while the Jazz hope Mike Conley fits perfectly next to Donovan Mitchell. Not to mention the Bucks and reigning MVP Giannis Antetekoumpo, rising squads in Denver and Indy, and established powers in Houston and Golden State.

LOL and the Knicks doing whatever the Knicks are doing.

That brings us back to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, who according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, are receptive to trade offers for the eight-time All-Star. It’s not often that a superstar of Westbrook’s caliber - a former MVP coming off his third-consecutive season averaging a triple-double - is available via trade. Speculation has already begun with clubs like the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons reportedly the frontrunners, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst named Chicago as a destination that makes sense.

There’s pros and cons to the Westsiders pivoting in the middle of a rebuild to acquire an aging star like Westbrook, and we’ve heard each and every one of them to death on social media since the Paul George to LA trade was announced early Saturday morning. Cries of Westbrook’s alleged poor shooting ability, IQ, attitude, age, and most importantly, the massive contract he signed to stay in OKC that includes a player option of $47,063,478 in 2022-23, have run rampant online. All of those fears are understandable, especially given the time spent to acquire the young pieces the Bulls have over the last few years. However, something doesn’t seem right.

Just a week ago, Bulls fans and media members in the city looked down on the Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky acquisitions, either because they weren’t sexy, or because the Bulls made no effort to attract a superstar this summer or leading up to it. Now, the same ones are writing think pieces and making podcasts about why it would be idiotic for the Bulls to move for a superstar to try and compete in a thin Eastern Conference in 2020.

So what is it, Bulls fans? Is it Oochie Wally or is it One Mic? You decide, but be aware: the clock is ticking.

You can’t clown the Bulls front office for having a plan since the February trade for Porter and sticking with it this summer, then run it back and criticize fans who would be open to trading for one of the ten best players in the game right now. You can’t go on a tweet-storm about Chicago not being an attractive destination for free agents, then say the Bulls would be stupid to add a star that moves them not just a step closer to a title, but closer to attracting top talent in free agency, because it theoretically takes them out of the running for Giannis once he reaches the open market. Bulls fans have not been consistent at all with what they want out of the club, and it’s honestly more frustrating than watching the product on the court.

Do I want the Bulls to engage OKC in conversations for Russ? Hell yeah. He’s in his prime, playing the best basketball of his career, and he will be the same age Chris Paul is now when his contract is up. If he can bring the same level of production at 34 that CP3 has, there’s no reason to worry about his age. He immediately vaults the Bulls into playoff contention, but more importantly the pieces left behind after the trade - almost certainly Markkanen and one of Lavine/Carter Jr. - will elevate their game alongside Westbrook. Coby White would become a casualty of the deal, either going the other way to OKC or coming off the bench for Westbrook, but are we really worried that trading for a future Hall of Famer is going to greatly affect the future of Coby White?

If Gar Forman and John Paxson stick to their guns and avoid a move for Westbrook, I’m fine with that too. Sure the Bulls might be unbearable as hell next season, and maybe the season after that as well, but I won’t lose sleep. Chicago will wait their turn to strike on Giannis or A.D. or some other disgruntled superstar who could boost the club’s chances of winning. Russ definitely speeds up the timeline, but missing out on him doesn’t hurt it either.

But God help me, Bulls fans, pick a lane and stay firmly there. If you bitched and complained about the lack of a push for a star last week, be open to a deal for one the next week. If you demand more from the men in charge, don’t huff and puff and throw a hissy fit online when other fans do the same when they see one of the premier players in the league available. Sometimes it feels like Bulls fans have no idea what they want; they just want a return to the glory days of Bulls basketball, and I get it. 21 years is a mighty long time to be wishing and praying on a come up. But you can’t come up in the NBA if you don’t take chances. See: 2019 Toronto Raptors, 2008 Boston Celtics, and 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Or, yanow, keep whining like the apathetic losers you are. Won’t change how I feel about the Bulls one bit.

Ball Don't Lie - Lavar SZN has returned

Hoops N Brews' Pavy fills in for Joe for two DEEP hours of NBA basketball and trade deadline talks. Everything from the Sixers stacking up to the Lakers' failed pursuit of Anthony Davis to Kevin Durant's zesty press conference Wednesday. Oh, and I guess we'll talk about that shitty Super Bowl last Sunday.

Topics:
Patriots win Super Bowl
Bulls president John Paxson rattled during radio interview
NBA trade deadline news
Lavar Ball returns
KD lashes out at media
NBA All Star Game draft
Goofy Mog of the Week

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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?)

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.