Bulls

Thibodeau talks possible trade targets for Bulls

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Thibodeau talks possible trade targets for Bulls

MILWAUKEE - Prior to Wednesdays thrilling win over the Bucks, Tom Thibodeau was asked about one particular player and whether the Bulls would make a move to acquire him at the March 15th trade deadline.

Im not sure yet, he said. Were going to look at a lot of different options.

Vague, as expected. But who was Thibodeau talking about? Dwight Howard, who visits the United Center for Thursdays tilt against the Magic? For those panicking about Rip Hamiltons health status, maybe a shooting guard, such as Golden States Monta Ellis?

No and no. Thibodeau was talking about Mike James.

Its likely, unless another team snatches him up first, that the Bulls re-acquire the 36-year-old point guard later this month, along with a bargain-priced veteran backup big man. Something more significant is unlikely to occur.

When you study personnel, you also study the make-up of the players and can they fit in. Our managements going to study whats available and as I mentioned before, if we dont do anything, we feel very good about the people that we have, he said. Thibodeau and the Bulls front office talk every day. Their job is to study the league, field calls and often times, if you have a good team, you have good players, people want them, they call. That doesnt mean were going to do anything. We listen and if we think it can make the team better, well consider it. If not, were more than happy with the roster that we have. We feel very good about that.

That doesnt mean players on other teams, particularly title-starved veterans, dont covet an opportunity to play for the Bulls. Take Bucks swingman Stephen Jackson, a name bandied around in the past as a potential Bulls target.

At the present time, Jackson is wasting away on Milwaukees bench, the result of an ongoing feud with Bucks head coach Scott Skiles, ironically a former Bulls coach. Whether youre of the opinion that Jackson is a career malcontent or, as future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan would tell you the pair won a championship together in San Antonio hes one of the best teammates one could have, his talent is undeniable.

Who wouldnt want to play with Derrick Rose? Right up the street; it would be a great fit for me. I dont think anybody in the league would say they wouldnt want to do that, but me, at the end of the day, I just want to play. Ive been a competitor my whole career, Ive won everywhere Ive went, so at this point, I just want to get back on the court and do what I do best, wherever that is, Jackson told CSNChicago.com Wednesday morning. Im just here, working out every day, just waiting for my opportunity, so I can be ready, but thats always my goal, to win a championship and I know being on a team like that, it wouldnt be that hard.

Its been tough with me because Ive been in a situation where I havent been playing, a situation that doesnt fit me and the good thing about it is hopefully something happens in the next couple of weeks where I can get somewhere where I can play. At the end of the day, Im here supporting the team right now and just trying to stay professional until something changes, continued the versatile veteran. Ive heard a lot, but its kind of hard because teams dont really say too much to me, especially this organization, but Im just keeping my fingers crossed, just continuing to keep my body ready for when its time.

When asked about Jacksons situation, Thibodeau refused to take the bait, stating, Hes a talented player, but I have enough to worry about with our team.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, theres no evidence at least not from this writer that the Bulls are currently interested in Jackson. The organization has confidence in Hamilton returning from his latest injury, a fluke occurrence, and believe hes an excellent fit on and off the court, as well as possessing a postseason pedigree that can help them get over the hump, particularly because of his numerous playoff battles with Miami shooting-guard counterpart Dwyane Wade.

Injuries are part of the game. You have no control over that. You look at Milwaukee: center Andrew Bogut being out is significant. I think were fortunate, where we have a lot of depth. Ronnie had a great training camp and when we went into training camp, we didnt even know wed have Rip, said Thibodeau. Ronnies done a great job, both starting and coming off the bench. We have Kyle, Lu, Jimmy. We can play C.J., go small. Theres a lot of things that we can do. You deal with the things that happen as they come along and you have to respond to every challenge.

It comes down to, I think, in the end, the teams that are playing the best and are the healthiest, Thibodeau concluded. Whatever the circumstances are, you can always fit somebody in. They may not have a full understanding of everything, but you can design specific packages for those guys, when theyre in the game, and thats not uncommon. You deal with that throughout the course of the season, whether you bring in a guy for a 10-day contract or theres a trade made."

Since Thibodeau isnt a head coach with total control over personnel moves, he wisely left the door open for a transaction to happen, but the truth of it is, the current Bulls roster is probably the one hell finish the season coaching, give or take a few low-impact moves for depth purposes.

Additionally, while the team has won without Hamilton in the lineup, there wasnt a better available fit on the market when the Bulls acquired him in December - his perpetual-motion game allows the ball to remain in Derrick Rose's hands, yet he's an underrated playmaker, as well as defender, and gives the team the perimeter-shooting presence they so desired last season - so at least this season, its time to either stay on the ride and see where the team takes it or jump off the bandwagon right now.

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.