Bulls

Schanowski: NBA's Trading Season has Arrived

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Schanowski: NBA's Trading Season has Arrived

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
3:44 PM

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

As we near the midway point of the NBA season, most teams have a pretty good idea of what kind of roster improvements they'll need to make both short-term and long-term. So, with that in mind, is it time for the Bulls to do something to improve their prospects for the rest of the season? Or, do they just ride it out with the current roster, and wait until the summer to make their big moves?

Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail if you prefer.

For those of us who watch every minute of every game, it's hard to see the same weaknesses show up night after night and say let's just continue on with the same roster. The Bulls continue to be one of the worst offensive teams in the league, ranking near the bottom in scoring and field goal percentage. So, if it's true that the Washington Wizards are willing to trade anyone on their roster, why not pursue a deal for high-scoring swing man Caron Butler? I've been told there was nothing to the recent report suggesting a Kirk Hinrich-Jerome James for Butler-Mike James deal, but you can bet John Paxson andor Gar Forman have talked to the Wizards. Butler isn't really a shooting guard, and might have some of the same issues John Salmons has experienced trying to play out of position. Still, Butler is averaging around 17 points a game and made the All-Star team a couple years ago. He makes basically the same amount of money as Hinrich and has one less year remaining on his contract than Captain Kirk. The Wizards could be interested in acquiring a steady point guard like Hinrich, since Gilbert Arenas has been suspended indefinitely by the league because of his recent gun violations. And Hinrich is playing out of position with the Bulls at shooting guard. He's a career 41 percent shooter, who's dropped down to 37 percent this season. Playing Hinrich together with Derrick Rose has given Derrick more freedom on the offensive end, which is a positive, but the lack of a legitimate three-point shooter has really killed the Bulls' half-court offense.

Butler wouldn't be the answer to that problem. He's a career 44 percent shooter, and only 31 percent from three-point range. But he is a proven scorer in the league, and would give the Bulls another option in late game situations. We saw what happened in the Charlotte game when the ball wound up in Hinrich's hands late. He missed two key jumpers which would have either tied the game or given the Bulls a lead. And even though Hinrich is given a lot of credit for his defensive ability, he had no success at all in trying to slow down Bobcats' reserve guard Flip Murray, who killed the Bulls with 25 points. So, if Hinrich's defensive ability has fallen off and he can't make outside shots consistently, maybe it's time to find a better option. If the Bulls can't get Butler, maybe they make a play for veteran Washington swing man Mike Miller, whose contract expires at the end of the season. Miller is a career 40 percent shooter from three-point range, and he also makes about the same amount of money as Hinrich. Getting Miller would give the Bulls the three-point shooter they so desperately need, and also give them added salary cap room for the summer free agent chase.

Another team to watch in the days and weeks ahead is Utah. The Jazz have fallen out of the playoff picture in the West with a payroll above the NBA's luxury tax line. If they decide to make Carlos Boozer available, the Bulls should make an aggressive bid. They've been lacking a low post scoring option ever since Eddy Curry left town, and Boozer is back to his All-Star form after a couple of injury plagued seasons. If the Bulls could acquire Boozer for Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas, they could get a half-season look at how he fits in with their system, and then have the ability to sign him to a long-term deal. If they decide they don't think he's the right guy, they'll have additional cap room to offer a maximum contract to LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire or Joe Johnson. Don't get too infatuated by the occasional strong game from Tyrus. He's just too inconsistent with his performance level and attitude, and won't be back with the Bulls next season unless all of their free agent plans fall through.

The other player who might be on the move is John Salmons. Although he's done a much better job off the bench in recent games, the Bulls don't want to get to the end of the season not knowing if Salmons will exercise his six million dollar player option for next season. If Salmons decides he can't do better on the open market, and opts in for next season, the Bulls won't have enough cap room to make the max offer they've been planning since last February. So, in order to eliminate that risk, they might deal Salmons to a contending team looking for scoring off the bench like the Lakers, Cavs or Celtics. The key will be finding a team that's willing to send back expiring contracts andor draft picks.

Any way you look at it, the next six weeks will be filled with trades and trade rumors around the league. So many teams are trying to position themselves for the summer free agent derby, that the deal of a lifetime might present itself for a lucky team. The Bulls' front office has to be ready to cash in their expiring deals if something unexpected comes up before the deadline on February 18th.

One thing's for sure......we'll all be watching. I'll see you Friday night at 7 for Bulls Pre-Game Live, just ahead of the game in Milwaukee on Comcast SportsNet.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.