Bulls

No blockbusters, but the rebuild is on for Cubs

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No blockbusters, but the rebuild is on for Cubs

The draft and the trade deadline are now over, and it will take years before we know whether Theo Epstein and his crew were right on these players.

In less than 24 hours from Monday night into Tuesday afternoon the Cubs had traded two rotation pieces (Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm), a former Rookie of the Year (Geovany Soto) and a valuable bench player (Reed Johnson) for five prospects.

The Cubs (43-59) are planning for a future that wont include many of the current players. For now, they will be playing short-handed.

A.J. Burnett flirted with a no-hitter until Adrian Cardenas who was just called up from Triple-A Iowa amid all the roster moves knocked a pinch-single into right field with two outs in the eighth inning.

The Pittsburgh Pirates (59-44) went on to win 5-0 at Wrigley Field, while the Cubs are glad they no longer have to listen to all the repetitive questions about the trade deadline.

Im very happy to stay here, Alfonso Soriano said. Its sad that a lot of people (left). Now the team looks a little different, but we got to come every day strong mentally and try to do the job.

We got to keep grinding, keep playing hard. I know they want to build a new team (with) young guys, and thats good, (but) you have to finish the season. Its not over yet.

The three deals werent exactly blockbusters, but the haul included four pitchers, trying to address what Epstein believes is a real deficit.

Were getting there, general manager Jed Hoyer said. I dont think you ever are satisfied. We have to have a lot more good drafts and make some good trades and keep adding over and over.

The best teams are able to replenish their bullpen internally. Theyre able to bring up starters from the minor leagues whenever they need to. Were not at that point yet.

Casey Coleman, another call-up from Iowa, will be auditioning again. The 25-year-old right-hander gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings. Every pitching staff needs a leader to set the tone, and for so many years that guy was Dempster.

The one thing about Ryan was how consistent he was on the mound and off the field, Coleman said. He kept everybody loose, no matter how the team was doing. The best quality I learned from him was he would have a bad outing and he would be the first one to say: Hey, you go to work.

He would have a good outing and come in and do the exact same thing. Thats what you model yourself after, thats what you learn from and look up to the guy that can separate (everything.)

Thats how Dempster will be remembered in the clubhouse, as a model teammate, no matter how his image seemed to change for Cubs fans after he tried to engineer a deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dempster will miss walking to work at Wrigley Field, and had a genuine appreciation for the city. He still plans to keep his charitable foundation in Chicago.

But the Cubs front office and the old fan favorites are moving in two opposite directions.

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.