Mark Schanowski

Bulls' offseason begins with productive draft night


Bulls' offseason begins with productive draft night

It’s no secret the Bulls were hoping to add a point guard in Thursday’s NBA Draft. After all, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has made it clear since the season ended he planned on bringing in a player or players to compete with Kris Dunn for the starting job.

The Bulls had been rumored to be one of the teams interested in trading up to draft Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, but when the cost of making that type of move became too high, Paxson decided to stay at No. 7 and see which player might fall. Both the Hawks and Timberwolves made trades to move ahead of the Bulls, but that actually turned out to be a positive, since Atlanta selected forward De’Andre Hunter (a player the Bulls really weren’t interested in) and Minnesota chose swingman Jarrett Culver at No. 6 when Garland went off the board right ahead of their pick.

That left the fastest player in the draft available to the Bulls at No. 7 in North Carolina point guard Coby White. White’s speed and scoring ability give him the chance to make an impact as a 19-year-old rookie, maybe even beating out Dunn for the starting job. Ironically, White and Dunn are represented by the same agency, but that won’t keep them from battling during training camp to prove which player deserves to start on opening night. And, there’s also the possibility a veteran free agent could be added to the point guard competition, as well as holdovers Shaq Harrison, Walter Lemon Jr. and restricted free agent Ryan Arcidiacono.

What are the Bulls getting in White? Well, in addition to his blazing speed, White can also play off the ball with a solid shooting touch from 3-point-range. In Jim Boylen’s multiple ballhandler system, White, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen will all have the freedom to push the ball in transition with teammates fanning out to the three point line for early offensive opportunities. White also has excellent positional size at 6-foot-5 to be able to defend both guard positions.

The biggest critique of White’s game involves decision-making in running an offense. He averaged almost as many turnovers as assists in his one college season at North Carolina. But given White’s age and lack of experience at the point guard position, you can expect his assist to turnover ratio to improve significantly over time. Whether White starts or not on Day 1, his speed and quick-strike scoring give Boylen a tremendous weapon to add to an offense that struggled through prolonged droughts last season.

The Bulls also made a good pick in Round 2, adding Arkansas center Daniel Gafford, who probably would have been a first round choice last season if he decided to stay in the draft. Gafford has limited shooting range, but excels at rebounding and blocking shots, two other areas where the Bulls could use a boost. Gafford is very mobile, which should enable him to excel in pick and roll coverage. With Robin Lopez unlikely to return next season, Gafford should compete for backup center minutes behind Wendell Carter Jr. in training camp.

The next step for Paxson and his staff is making the right free agent additions to the roster with their $20-23 million in salary cap space. The Bulls were the youngest team in the NBA last season, and Paxson has stressed the importance of adding high quality veterans to the mix.

After drafting White at No. 7, it’s unlikely the Bulls will pursue big ticket free agent point guards like D’Angelo Russell, Malcolm Brogdon or Ricky Rubio. Chicago native Patrick Beverley’s desire for long term security might also price him out of the Bulls’ range. If the Bulls do add a free agent point guard, expect them to consider career backup players like Cory Joseph or Ish Smith. It’s also possible they could find a bargain later in free agency if players like Elfrid Payton, Darren Collison, George Hill and Emmanuel Mudiay don’t find a robust market for their services.

The Bulls are also looking to add a veteran big man who can back up at the power forward and center spots, with old friend Taj Gibson believed to be near the top of their list. Gibson is 34, but still productive coming off a solid season in Minnesota. Brooklyn power forward Ed Davis could be an option as a solid rebounder and defender who could fill in at center in small ball lineups. Warriors backup center Kevon Looney and 26-year-old Lemont native Richaun Holmes are a couple other free agent big men who could fit.

If the Bulls are looking to add some offense on the frontline, veterans like Marcus Morris and Rudy Gay could be options. And if shooting on the wing is more of a priority, moderately priced free agents like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wayne Ellington and Seth Curry might come into play.

Paxson made it clear Thursday night that the Bulls have specific targets in mind when the free agent market opens for business at 5 p.m. CT on June 30. And he understands the Bulls need to add more three point shooting to a roster that ranked near the bottom of the league in that category this past season.

Make sure to tune in to NBC Sports Chicago at 6:30 p.m. on June 30 for our free agency special. Kendall Gill and Bulls Outsider Matt Peck will join me to go over all the moves around the league in the opening hours of free agency. Until then, have some fun figuring out how to stretch that $20-23 million in cap space to add a couple productive veterans to the Bulls’ roster.

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NBA Buzz: Expect a lot of movement at the start of Thursday's NBA Draft


NBA Buzz: Expect a lot of movement at the start of Thursday's NBA Draft

As we get closer to the New Orleans Pelicans going on the clock with the 1st pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, rumors are flying all over the basketball universe. All of a sudden, it seems like a handful of teams are trying to trade up to draft Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, even though he only played five games as a freshman before season-ending meniscus injury. Remember, Kyrie Irving only played 11 games at Duke because of injury and still wound up being the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland back in 2011.

The Knicks are planning to work out Garland on Wednesday, but it’s not believed they would take him over high-scoring Duke swingman R.J. Barrett with the 3rd overall pick. Apparently, the Knicks are just doing their due diligence in case they get an overwhelming offer to trade down. With that said, don’t be surprised if we see at least a couple trades involving the top 10 picks on draft night.

Here’s my final mock draft looking at what could happen in the lottery on Thursday.

  1. PELICANS-Zion Williamson, F, Duke.  No surprises here. New Orleans gets its franchise player to start a new era under Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. Griffin is an extremely bright executive who made an excellent trade with the Lakers over the weekend, getting maximum value for unhappy star Anthony Davis.

  2. GRIZZLIES-Ja Morant, PG, Murray St.  Memphis also in rebuild mode after dealing Marc Gasol to Toronto at the deadline, with Mike Conley also likely to be traded this summer. Morant is the perfect player to build around with his play-making ability and charisma.

  3. KNICKS-R.J. Barrett, SG-SF, Duke.   The Knicks are holding a last-minute workout with Darius Garland, but that could just be to try to drive up better trade offers. Barrett’s scoring ability is a perfect fit for a team that desperately needs more scoring at the wing spots.

  4. HAWKS (trade w/New Orleans) -Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech. Armed with 3 first round picks, the Hawks cash in No. 8 and No. 10 to acquire a perfect backcourt complement for last season’s rookie sensation Trae Young. If New Orleans decides to keep the pick, I still think Culver goes here.

  5. BULLS   (from Cavs)-Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt.  Bulls trade the 7th pick and a top 5 protected 2020 1st rounder to Cavs to acquire their point guard of the future. According to multiple reports, the Bulls have traveled to Los Angeles to watch Garland in a private workout, and they’ve been high on his potential since early in the college season. John Paxson is looking to make the team playoff relevant again, and acquiring Garland gives the Bulls a dynamic, young starting line-up with the chance to add a couple of quality veterans to strengthen the bench and the locker room in free agency.

  6. SUNS-Coby White, PG, North Carolina.  Phoenix also in desperate need of a point guard to run their young team. White’s speed and scoring ability should open things up for shooting star Devin Booker, and also set up screen and roll opportunities with last year’s No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.

  7. CAVS-Cam Reddish, F, Duke.   Since the Cavs just drafted point guard Collin Sexton last season, moving down 2 spots to get the player they want anyway is a perfect trade scenario. Some scouts believe Reddish has the most star potential outside of the top 3, and he can step right into the starting small forward spot once held by Northeast Ohio’s favorite son LeBron James.

  8. PELICANS-Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas.  After trading Davis to Lakers, New Orleans has a major need to solidify the post position. Hayes is only 19 with excellent potential as a rim runner and shot blocker, ala Houston’s Clint Capela. The Pelicans will have to be patient with Hayes’ development, but he could eventually be a good fit playing alongside Zion and Brandon Ingram.

  9. WIZARDS-De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia.  Washington will be thrilled to see Hunter fall this far. The Wizards are likely to lose both Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker in free agency, so they’ll need some reinforcements on the frontline. Hunter shot 52 percent from the field and 44 percent from the college 3-point line in leading Virginia to the national championship this past season. He should start immediately on a Washington team that will likely be without star guard John Wall for most of the 2019-20 season while he rehabs from an Achilles injury.

  10. ROCKETS (from Pelicans) -Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga. Griffin probably doesn’t want to make three top 10 picks in a shallow draft, so he’ll send this selection to Houston for a future first-round selection. Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey is desperate to re-tool his roster after coming up short against the Warriors for the second straight season. Hachimura is a highly skilled power forward who will give Houston some needed scoring punch on the frontline.

  11. TIMBERWOLVES-Sekou Doumbouya, F, France.  Minnesota needs some frontline help with the likelihood of losing former Bull Taj Gibson in free agency. Doumbouya came on strong late in his European season and scouts like his potential as a 6-foot-9  athlete with a smooth stroke from 3-point range.

  12. HORNETS-Kevin Porter, Jr., SG, USC.   With the possibility of high-scoring Kemba Walker and shooting guard Jeremy Lamb leaving in free agency, the Hornets need some help in the backcourt. Porter is a dynamic athlete who could develop into a go-to scorer at the NBA level.

  13. HEAT-Keldon Johnson, SG-SF, Kentucky.  Johnson is moving up draft boards with strong showings in individual team workouts. Miami will be looking to replace the wing scoring they lost with Dwyane Wade’s retirement, and they’re also looking to trade oft-injured shooting guard Dion Waiters.

  14. CELTICS (from Sacramento)-Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana.  With the likely departure of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving in free agency, Boston will need to add some backcourt scoring to go along with young wing players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Langford shot poorly in his one season at Indiana, but he played most of the year with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He began the college season as a likely top 10 pick.

Purdue Carsen Edwards hoping to crack the first round 

The Bulls also currently hold the No. 38 overall pick, which they acquired from Memphis in the Justin Holiday trade. Don’t be surprised if the Bulls trade the pick or use it on a European prospect who might not come to the league for a couple of years like forwards Luka Samanic or Deividas Sirvydis. They also could take a chance on Missouri big man Jontay Porter (Michael Porter’s brother), who might not play next season after suffering a second ACL tear. Another possibility is a first round talent falling into the second round like Purdue’s high-scoring guard Carsen Edwards.

Edwards led the Boilermakers to the NCAA’s Elite 8, putting up a pair of 42-point games against Villanova and eventual national champion Virginia. "Every game we won I enjoyed it, you know, moving on. I was just happy to be able to play the next game. Kind of enjoying it, staying in the moment, but then also getting ready for the next game. I enjoyed it with my teammates because it wasn't just me who won all those games and got us on the run that we had. I feel that we enjoyed it and for the most part we did it as a collective team."

For the season, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 24.3 points per game, reminding some scouts of former Bull Ben Gordon with his quick-strike scoring ability. His size would suggest playing point guard in the NBA, but like Gordon, Edwards is really an undersized shooting guard. Still, he’s willing to shift to a facilitator role if needed. "I just want to do whatever a team needs from me. They want me to prove that, which I'm working hard just to be able to be ready for that. But at the same time, Coach (Matt) Painter didn't tell me that's the role I need to play, so it's hard for me to prove that when I need to score the ball for my team to win. At the end of the day, I was trying to do what's best for my team. If they want me to be a point guard and run the offense, then that's what I'm prepared to do."

Until his scoring explosion in the NCAA tournament, Edwards was projected to be a second-round pick in this draft, but given the success of smaller scoring guards in the league like Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Damian Lillard, he could hear his name called somewhere in the 20s on Thursday. Still, Edwards isn’t wasting any time focusing on mock drafts.

"We'll see. There's a strategy we have for it, but for the most part, I'm trying not to focus on that. Honestly, I truly try not to look at those things. I just try to stay motivated by myself and do what I need to do. My agency has a strategy for me, and I just kind of work and follow after that."

Would the Bulls consider Edwards if he falls to 38? A lot depends on who they select in the first round and which players they plan to target when the free agent market opens at 5 p.m. on June 30. But the NBA has become a perimeter-based league--with 3-point shooting at a premium--so a player like Edwards figures to have a lot of value. Matter of fact, don’t be surprised if the Golden State Warriors pick him at 28 after losing Klay Thompson for most or all of next season due to an ACL injury.

The Big Ten won’t be getting a lot of attention in this year’s draft with only Romeo Langford and possibly Edwards expected to go in Round 1, but the Purdue star isn’t lacking confidence. After leading the Boilermakers within an overtime loss of reaching the Final 4, he plans of earning rotation minutes as a rookie for whichever team drafts him Thursday night.

Bulls Mailbag: Trade speculation heating up


Bulls Mailbag: Trade speculation heating up

As we get closer to the June 20 draft, the rumor mill is really starting to heat up around the NBA, and the Bulls find themselves right in the middle of speculation involving superstar big man Anthony Davis.

Unfortunately, the trade rumors aren't about bringing Davis home to Chicago, only about how they could facilitate a Davis-to-the-Lakers deal as a third team.

And, Bulls fans have plenty of questions about the latest rumors.

Paul Conner @paulconner33

What do you make of the reports of Zach Lavine being part of a larger package in a 3 way deal for Davis?

Trading Zach LaVine in a package for the 4th overall pick and Lonzo Ball would set the Bulls' rebuild back two years, basically starting over. Sure, LaVine has his issues at the defensive end, but athletic shooting guards who average 23.7 points per game don't grow on trees, and Zach has made great strides in terms of becoming a better passer and team leader. If the Bulls were getting Davis in the trade, sure you would be willing to trade LaVine, but not for another unproven rookie and a guy who can't shoot in Lonzo Ball.

Roderick L. @19RoLo67

You believing in Lonzo hype? What else can the Bulls get if they get in the 3 way trade with the Pelicans and Lakers? It looks like trading just to trade.

This isn't the first time the Bulls have been linked to trade rumors involving Ball, who was the 2nd overall pick in 2017, but has been hampered by injuries and poor shooting during his first two years in the league. I'm not a fan of Ball's game, so I'm hoping the Bulls don't give up the 7th pick on the gamble he'll reach his pre-NBA hype. Now, if New Orleans is making Jrue Holiday available to the Bulls, then I would consider getting involved, but not for Lonzo.

SportyGuy @MMAviewer

Not quite a Pax type move. I could see though, Pax turning that 7th pick into 2 lower first round picks if Boston or LeBron need a 3rd team involved. I can’t see Pax committing another PR mess in picking Ball over Rose and Pat.

The whole Chicago homecoming thing hasn’t worked out that well in recent years with Dwyane Wade and Jabari Parker, so that might actually work against the Bulls being interested in either Derrick Rose or Patrick Beverley. As for trading down to acquire additional picks, that’s probably only an option as part of a larger deal. The Bulls already have the league’s youngest roster and probably wouldn’t be interested in bringing three rookies to training camp in September.

Ewin George @MasterGeorgeMan

Do you think it’s a possibility the Bulls clear up more cap space and make a contract offer to D’Angelo Russell?

Russell is suddenly the flavor of the week after reports of Kyrie Irving’s interest in signing with Brooklyn as a free agent. The belief is Irving’s ball-dominant style would clash with Russell, who made his first All-Star appearance this past season. Problem for the Bulls is, a max contract offer for Russell would start at $27 million dollars and they don’t have that much cap space. There’s also the likelihood that pairing Russell with LaVine would not be ideal. Some team will jump in to try to steal Russell away from the Nets, but it probably won’t be the Bulls.

Al Musavi @AIBcodin

Don’t you think the Bulls need to package some of their current assets and future assets to pick up a useful All-Star veteran or sign and trade a la how Boston’s original big three was made?

Like most NBA teams, the Bulls are exploring all options leading up to the draft, but they're not on the list of Anthony Davis' preferred trade destinations and not many other All-Star caliber players will be available this summer. If the Bulls want to make the playoffs next season, they could look into dealing for Memphis point guard Mike Conley, but he's due to make $67 million dollars over the next two years and it would probably cost them the No. 7 pick, plus one of their young players. That's likely a non-starter given the current composition of the roster.

Andre @andre2world

Any possibility of a big time free agent signing here in Chicago? Don’t the Bulls have a lot of cap space?

Andre asks the question that’s been troubling Bulls fans since the failed attempt to sign LeBron James and Dwyane Wade back in 2010. Why won’t the top free agents come to Chicago?

With NBA stars having more power than ever before to join forces and create super-teams, cap space isn’t necessarily the answer to being able to sign the top free agents. The Bulls effectively took themselves out of the running for the elite players this summer when they added Otto Porter Jr.’s massive contract before the February trade deadline. The thinking at the time being players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson wouldn’t be interested in joining a rebuilding team in Chicago.

The Bulls still have somewhere in the range of $20 million dollars to spend come July 1, and John Paxson has indicated he hopes to sign a couple of tough-minded veteran players to add leadership for the NBA’s youngest team.

R.o @OrtizJr88

If we stretch Felicio’s money and get relief for Asik’s contract, do we have enough to go after D’Angelo Russell/Malcolm Brogdon or another star?

Both Russell and Brogdon are restricted free agents, which means their current teams can match any offer sheet they receive. Brogdon could be available with an aggressive offer since the Bucks just signed point guard Eric Bledsoe to a big multi-year contract extension before the end of last season, and they’ll also have to extend a max offer to free agent Khris Middleton, plus give a significant raise to starting center Brook Lopez. It would probably take a four year offer in the $72 million dollar range to get the Bucks not to match on Brogdon, and I’m not sure the Bulls are willing to commit those kinds of dollars considering they would like to add two or three players in free agency.

I haven’t heard anything about the Bulls considering stretching their payments on the final two years of Felicio’s contract and they still haven’t heard back from the league on getting the $3 million dollars they owe to Asik off their books because of a career-ending medical condition.

Jonathan B. David @jbdstarwars

Could De’Andre Hunter develop more on the offensive side of the ball and become a shot creator?

Okay, so we finally get to a question about the draft! Hunter made a number of winning plays in Virginia’s run to the national championship, but most scouts see the 6-foot-7 forward as pretty much a finished product without a lot of upside. Hunter did improve his 3-point shooting this past season, hitting 44 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. He’s also an excellent defender, with the versatility to guard three different positions at the pro level. But he’s not particularly explosive off the dribble and doesn’t look like a primary scoring option for an NBA team.

The Bully Pulpit @BullyPulpitPod

How does the Lakers trading the 4th pick affect the Bulls ability to draft Darius Garland?

If the 4th pick goes to New Orleans in an Anthony Davis trade, the Pelicans could be more interested in wing players available like Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish or De’Andre Hunter rather than drafting Garland. Unfortunately, Phoenix would almost certainly take Garland at 6, just ahead of the Bulls, which makes the lottery night fall from No. 4 to No. 7even more painful.

It would be interesting to see if the Bulls would try to swing a deal with Cleveland in that scenario to move up from pick 7 to pick 5 to take Garland.

DeMarco Trammell @demarcotrammell1

If you were on the clock with the 7th pick and you had to make a choice, who would you pick, Coby White or Jarrett Culver?

Given the Bulls’ stated desire to upgrade the point guard position, I would go with White. I’ve watched a lot of tape on White in recent days, and I’m very impressed with his ability to push the ball in transition and at times create a one man fastbreak, with the kind of speed we used to see from a young Derrick Rose. White still needs to prove he can run an NBA offense, but his physical tools are impressive. White has excellent positional size at almost 6-foot-5 and decent shooting form from 3-point range.

Culver will be a solid pro with the versatility to play multiple positions, but the Bulls are deeper at the wing spots right now and are hoping last year’s 1st round pick Chandler Hutchison can develop into a player as good as Culver.

Blue Demon Ed @bluedemoned

What kind of NBA player do you think Bol Bol will be?  Seems to be forgotten prospect after season cut short by injury.

Yes indeed, the son of former NBA player Manute Bol is 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan and is considered one of the best shooters available in this year's draft. Bol put up good numbers at Oregon before breaking a foot, and that's what has NBA talent evaluators so concerned. Bol's foot injury is the same one that forced Joel Embiid to miss two seasons, and like his dad, Bol is painfully thin. NBA teams just don't know if he'll hold up over an 82 game season. Teams like Boston or Atlanta who each hold 3 first round picks could roll the dice on Bol's potential.

Gustavo Vega @iamvega1982

If the Bulls draft John Sabine, who would have the best hair on the team, Sabine or Ryan Arcidiacono?

Leave it to our good friend Gustavo to close out this week’s mailbag. Probably the toughest question I’ve received this week, but how could I go against my guy John Sabine. His basketball skills might be a little raw, but to quote the late, great Warren Zevon, “His hair was perfect!”

Draft week is here NBA fans! Buckle up for a wild ride!