Bulls

With the focus on Omer Asik, what will Bulls decide?

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With the focus on Omer Asik, what will Bulls decide?

After the New York Knicks declined to match the Houston Rockets' offer sheet on point guard Jeremy Lin, attention has now turned to Bulls' back-up center Omer Asik.
The matter will not be resolved quickly, as the Rockets must waive one player and then wait 48 hours to sign Asik to his offer sheet. After that, the Bulls will have three days to make a decision on whether or not to pay the 26-year-old Asik 25.1 million over the next three seasons.
Reports have differed on what the Bulls plan to do, with the latest being Lance Zierlein, a Houston radio talk show host, saying sources close to Asik "tell me Bulls not expected to match Rockets offer."
This differs from Chris Sheridan's report from July 11 that "every single offer sheet except Landry Fields' will be matched."
If anything, the Bulls releasing shooting guard Ronnie Brewer and trading small forward Kyle Korver would only suggest more the team is trying to free up room to bring back Asik.
The seven current players on the Bulls roster (Boozer, Butler, Deng, Gibson, Hamilton, Noah, Rose) will make approximately 63.3 million next season. First round draft pick Marquis Teague's rookie contract will not count against the salary cap.
The luxury tax for the 2012-2013 season is 70.307 million, and with Kirk Hinrich expected to sign a deal worth 6 million over two years, the Bulls would almost certainly go over the luxury tax by signing Asik, who would make 5 million in his first season.
Then again, finding a trade partner for Rip Hamilton, set to make 5 million next season, could free up room to match Houston's offer for Asik. However, the Bulls do still need to fill out the rest of their roster, potentially with veteran's minimum salaries.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman insisted the front office would make "basketball decisions" rather than financial ones this off-season, and if that's the case there is some sense in bringing back Asik.
The 26-year-old Asik would give the Bulls a stout defender inside and a back-up to Joakim Noah, who is still rehabbing the sprained ankle he suffered in the playoffs.
Because the Bulls have had to wait on Houston to sign the offer sheet, many of the available free agent centers have already signed.
But allowing Asik to walk would free up important salary cap space, not only this year but, more importantly, in 2014-15.
The Rockets "poison pill" against the Bulls would see Asik make almost 15 million in his third year. That would mean Chicago would pay Rose, Noah, Boozer and Asik more than 60 million in 2014-15.
Even if the Bulls used their amnesty clause on Boozer before then, it's a big risk if Asik does not pan out and the Bulls are then unable to re-sign either Luol Deng or Taj Gibson, who will become a restricted free agent after next season.
So while the final decision may not come until this weekend, there's plenty to discuss with Asik's contract. He could grow into a defensive standout on the team's second unit, or he could be a regrettable decision the Bulls are more or less stuck with the next three years.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.