NBA trade deadline

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

The Bulls got more than a good dancer when they traded Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson for Cameron Payne and two others at Thursday's trade deadline. Though the 6-foot-3 point guard has been known more for his pregame dance routines with Russell Westbrook than his play on the court through two seasons, he’s still a 22-year-old two years removed from being a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Payne was a relative unknown to the casual NBA fan coming out of Murray State in 2015. Payne won the Ohio Valley Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 20.2 points, 6.0 assists and 1.9 steals, and ultimately became the lone mid-major selected in the lottery that year. He said at the 2015 Combine in Chicago that he wanted to be the next Steph Curry, going from an unknown at a mid-major to NBA stardom.

The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Payne that June over fellow point guards Terry Rozier, Delon Wright, Tys Jones and Jerian Grant, the last of whom the Bulls traded for this past offseason.

Payne’s biggest struggle in the NBA through two seasons backing up Westbrook has been his shooting. Though he shot nearly 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep as a college sophomore, Payne has been among the worst shooters in the league this season. In fact, among 295 players averaging at least 16 minutes per game, Payne’s 40.2 true shooting percentage is second worst in the league, in front of only Justise Winslow (39.7 percent).

Part of his lackluster shooting may be attributed to rust, as Payne missed the first 37 games of the season while recovering from a broken foot suffered in the preseason. He’s appeared in each of the Thunder’s last 20 games running the second unit, but with Westbrook putting up historic numbers there hasn’t been much of a need for him – he and Westbrook have shared the court for just 59 minutes this season.

The Thunder bench has produced the eighth worst net rating in the NBA this season, which could be part of the reason general manager Sam Presti made the move to acquire Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson. Payne’s shooting woes have attributed to that, as the Thunder are more than 8 points per 100 possessions worse offensively with him on the floor.

But Payne has provided value on the other end of the court; he has a positive net rating and his defensive RPM is 20th among point guards. Put in layman’s terms, Payne has been a solid defender, which has allowed him playing time despite his shooting.

He hasn’t shown a knack for being a great passer, as his assist ratio (Thunder possessions that end in a Payne assist) of 21.3 percent is 67th among 96 qualified point guards. He has improved on taking care of the ball, with his turnover ratio shrinking this season despite a slight uptick in minutes from his rookie season. It’s not uncommon to see a reserve point guard take a backseat, so the verdict is still out on how good a passer he can become.

Where he fits into the Bulls’ equation is another story. Fred Hoiberg’s group now touts five point guards, with Grant the only real player who can move off the ball – Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, and Payne are strictly point guards, and Isaiah Canaan is simply an end-of-the-bench option.

The Bulls liked Grant enough to include him in last summer’s trade for Derrick Rose, and he’s under contract for two more seasons. Rondo and Carter-Williams are likely playing their final seasons in Chicago, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gar Forman and John Paxson go after a floor general in a loaded point guard draft class.

All told, Payne projects as a nice second unit guard capable of playing solid defense. He’s under contract for two more seasons on a rookie deal and, given that he was playing behind Ironman in Westbrook, still has room to grow. He and Grant will challenge each other in practice and only be better for it, but the long-term solution at the point is not currently on the team’s roster.

Receiving Payne – as well as Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne – wasn’t a terrible haul given Gibson’s impending free agency and Doug McDermott’s defensive limitations. But the trade certainly wasn’t the splash Bulls fans were hoping to see at the trade deadline, either.

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Fred Hoiberg's message to Bulls at trade deadline: Control what you can control

Jimmy Butler was the lone member of the Bulls not at practice Wednesday night at the Advocate Center. But the three-time All-Star wasn't on his way to Boston as part of a blockbuster trade. Instead, he was simply receiving an extra day of rest after a busy weekend in New Orleans.

With a little more than 12 hours remaining until the NBA trade deadline - Thursday at 2 p.m. CT - the Bulls' roster remains intact. Butler continues to be linked to the Boston Celtics - although multiple reports have stated that the two sides remain far off on a potential deal - and the likes of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez all have popped up in various trade rumors over the past week. Even Fred Hoiberg said "Jimmy's obviously been great for us and we thinkn that will obviously continue to happen" when asked if the team's leadeing scorer might be dealt.

The latest report came Wednesday evening when The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls are continuing their pursuit of Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, with Mirotic as a potential part of the package going back to Philadelphia.

Fred Hoiberg, who's been in a front office role at the deadline with the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he understands the trade deadline process of needing to "listen to everything and see if there's something that can help out without jeopardizing the future." But Hoiberg, as he's done when asked about the deadline the last few weeks, reiterated that "99 percent of the things that you hear and read don't transpire."

Still, as a former player he's aware of the strain the trade deadline can put on players, specifically players of a team in selling mode. He's implored his team to not read too much into reports and sources that pop up on social media and to focus on the task at hand, a Friday night matchup against the Suns.

"I don't think it's affected us at all. I think our guys have done a great job. Again, there's so many rumors that get thrown against the wall and that's what most of them are, they're rumors," Hoiberg said. "Our guys have done a good job ignoring that and going out and trying to work through and control what they can control, and that's going out and competing."

Butler has strung together another career year and started Sunday's All-Star Game for the first time in his career. But as the Bulls internally discuss whether to begin their rebuild - which would come in the form of dealing Butler to the Celtics for young assets - Dwyane Wade, who is expected to play through his wrist injury Friday against the Suns, understands that every rumor, report and eventual trade is fair game this time of the year.

"It's a business. every organization has a job to do to try to make their orgnaizatioon the way that they see fit. and as players you can't get sensitive about that at all," Wade said. "Trade deadline is more talk than anything, normally, but it's exciting for the fans to see what the team is gonna do or don't do and all this and that. But a lot of it is just talk."

For the Bulls, all talk remained just that at last year's deadline. They find themselves in a similar position as they did last season, although wins over contenders in Toronto and Boston have produced some optimism for the seventh-seeded Bulls. The schedule doesn't get much easier in March, with the Bulls facing off against 11 current playoff teams in their next 14 games.

And they'll know a lot more about where they stand when the clock strikes 2 p.m. on Thursday.

"I think it's always a relief for anybody that's in this business once that trade deadline comes and goes," Hoiberg admitted. "Then you can just focus on what you need to work on and not have to worry about all the things that are being thrown around and all the rumors that are out there. Just worry about getting your guys ready to play the stretch run and again hopefully play well."

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

Woj: Bulls still pushing for Jahlil Okafor trade with Philadelphia 76ers

According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls are continuing to go after Chicago native and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor.

According to Wojnarowski, the Bulls are trying to persuade the Sixers to entertain Nikola Mirotic as part of the package they would send to Philadelphia.

Okafor has been linked to the Bulls dating back to last month, when CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that the Bulls were going after the 21-year-old center.