Bulls

Bulls Draft: Free agency look-ahead

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Bulls Draft: Free agency look-ahead

Gar Forman insisted the Bulls would look for the best player available Thursday night, and he stayed true to his word when he drafted Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague with the 29th overall pick of the NBA Draft.

And if his comments last night were any indication, the Bulls general manager will be active in free agency, which begins July 1.

Forman specifically addressed trade rumors that first surfaced after the Bulls first round playoff exit in Philadelphia, when small forward Luol Deng and center Joakim Noah were being floated as potential trade pieces.

We dont respond to rumors. We like the direction in which were headed, Forman said. It was disappointing how this year ended with the injuries, and Ive said short-term, weve taken a little bit of a hit. Weve hit a bump in the road. But as far as what were looking at long-term, we still feel were headed in the right direction.

Forman noted that trade discussions involving the Bulls may have come up, but that the foundation the team had built was too talented to disassemble.

Were we actively shopping our players? Absolutely not. Were there conversations? All 30 teams have conversations about everybody on their roster, Forman said. But we like the core of this team, and its our job to continue putting pieces around Derrick and some of the other core guys and try to continue to trend up.

Many of those rumors stemmed from the strict financial constraints the Bulls will face this off-season. Forman, however, said the team moving forward will look to build on the basketball side first.

Much of that, Forman said, has had to do with Jerry Reinsdorfs commitment to allow the front office to build a winner.

Our decisions up to this point, and our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions. They wont be financial decisions, Forman said. Now, are finances a part of it going out the next three, four, five years? Of course, it always is in any decision you make. But were making basketball decisions.

Many expected the Bulls to draft a shooting guard or scorer on the wing Thursday night. Instead, the Bulls opted for Teague, a 19-year-old who had fallen to the Bulls pick. And while a point guard was not Chicagos most pressing need in the short-term, Forman said the team took both short and long-term needs into their selection process.

Youve got to weight both things, but we thought of what was left that (Teague) was the best prospect left on the board and in a scenario where, going forward, the next three, four, five years were going to have a need there, needs at several places, Forman said. But again, we were going to draft the best player. We werent going to draft for a specific need. Draft the best prospect that was left.

Forman said the team has several positions they must address in free agency, talks they have already discussed as an organization. Starting Sunday, they will begin speaking to free agents directly.

The contract statuses of small forwards Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, and point guard C.J. Watson are sure to be at the forefront of those discussions.

And even with Teague on board, Forman said the team will address the point guard position in free agency. Whether that means bringing back Watson or signing a veteran free agent, someone else is likely to join Teague and the injured Rose in the back court this summer.

We still have to make a decision in regards to C.J., Forman said. And right now, were still gonna have to add another point guard one way or another.

And just as Forman made good on his promise to draft the best player available Thursday night, its also a good bet that the Bulls will be active in the free agency market.

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

The hits keep coming for the Bulls, and after the latest one it might be time to fire up the 2019 mock drafts.

Fred Hoiberg revealed Tuesday before practice that point guard Kris Dunn suffered a moderate sprain of his left MCL in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks.

“To have him out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s extremely difficult,” Hoiberg said. “When you have a guy who is out there and really made strides over the course of last season and the summer he had and the way he played during training camp, it’s difficult to miss him.”

It’s yet another freak injury for Dunn, who suffered the injury midway through the second quarter while landing after a layup over DeAndre Jordan. Last year Dunn suffered a dislocated finger in the preseason and then suffered a concussion that cost him 11 games. A toe injury then ended his season as the tanking Bulls shut him down for the final 14 games.

But Dunn was expected to play a significant role in Year 2 of the Bulls’ rebuild. As well as leading the team in assists and being the most sure-handed closer, Dunn’s defensive prowess was going to help a Bulls team that finished 29th in efficiency and lost David Nwaba, perhaps their second best defender, in the offseason.

Even prior to Dunn’s injury the Bulls had been addressing the position behind him, claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers on Oct. 14 and signing Shaq Harrison on Sunday. They opted to keep Ryan Arcidiacono on the final roster and will now rely on some combination of those three behind Cam Payne, who tied a career high with 17 points on Saturday against the Pistons.

That’s why Dunn’s injury could affect the team more than Lauri Markkanen’s or Denzel Valentine’s. The Bulls were able to cover up Markkanen’s absence with Bobby Portis and free agent acquisition Jabari Parker, while they invested a first-round pick in wing Chandler Hutchison and guaranteed Antonio Blakeney’s contract over the summer.

There’s quantity on the Bulls’ depth chart behind Dunn, but quality is another story.

“Cam had his best game of maybe his career a couple games ago against Detroit,” Hoiberg said. “He has some things he can build on. The biggest thing at that position is you have to get us organized at both ends of the floor. That’s where Kris had taken a big step in the right direction with that. Arcidiacono is one of the better communicators and hardest-playing guys on our team. We’ve got guys who have some starting experience. It’s big shoes to fill. But I’m confident our guys will give great effort.”

It could mean more ball-handling responsibilities for Zach LaVine, who has been a terror in pick-and-roll sets three games into the season. Though he’s only averaged 2.7 assists, the Bulls offense has been humming, with his 32.3 points per game leading the way. Using LaVine as a primary ball handler could allow Hoiberg to run a point guard-less offense and mix and match the other backcourt position.

They’ll have to do it on the fly. The group of point guards the Bulls will face in the next 11 days include Kemba Walker (Charlotte) twice, Trae Young (Atlanta), Steph Curry (Golden State), Jamal Murray (Denver), Darren Collison (Indiana) and James Harden (Houston). It could get a lot worse for the Bulls before it gets any better, and with Markkanen, Valentine and now Dunn on the mend. 

For those looking into such things three games into the season, the Bulls are currently tied with the Thunder, Cavaliers and Lakers for the worst record in the league. The NBA changed its Lottery rules for this upcoming season, with the three worst teams in the league all sharing the same odds at receiving the top pick in the draft.

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

Should the Cubs bring Jesse Chavez back for the 2019 bullpen?

This question shouldn't have anywhere near the polarizing effect the Daniel Murphy query had earlier this week, and for good reason.

It's hard to find any real downside for the Cubs working Chavez back into the fold next season. 

Sure, he's 35 and he'll turn 36 in August, but Chavez just had far and away the best season of his 11-year career and all signs point to it being legit.

He won't have a 1.15 ERA forever, of course, but he clearly found something with his mechanics that helped lead to the remarkable consistency he showed in a Cubs uniform (4 saves, 4 holds, 1.15 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 42 Ks in 39 IP). 

The Cubs will be looking to add some reinforcements to their bullpen this winter and Chavez fits the bill in many areas.

When asked about how to address the bullpen this winter, Theo Epstein said his front office will be "looking for guys who can throw strikes and execute a gameplan and take the ball and pitch in big spots."

The Cubs have publicly placed an emphasis on "strike-throwers" out of the bullpen over the last two winters now and that is right up Chavez's alley.

He threw 68.5 percent first-pitch strikes while with the Cubs, which would've ranked near the top of the league in 2018, right up there with aces like Miles Mikolas, Clayton Kershaw, Aaron Nola and Justin Verlander. Among all relievers, Chavez ranked 5th in baseball in first-pitch strike percentage in the second half.

Expanding further (since the first pitch isn't the only one that matters): Chavez threw the fourth-most strikes in baseball among all MLB relievers after the All-Star Break. Since the day Chavez put on a Cubs uniform, Philadelphia's Tommy Hunter (70.5 percent) was the only reliever in baseball (minimum 30 innings) to throw a higher percentage of pitches for strikes than Chavez (69.8 percent).

If you want strikes, there's no better reliever on the market right now than Chavez.

He also shouldn't be all that expensive at age 35, even despite the breakout and high level of importance placed upon relievers these days. A similar deal to the one Brian Duensing got last winter - $7 million over 2 years - seems appropriate and would be a steal if Chavez can continue to find even a modicum of the success he had since putting on a Cubs uniform.

Speaking of the Cubs uniform, Chavez reportedly doesn't want to wear another logo in 2019, saying this after the NL Wild-Card Game:

That was an emotional time, but Chavez repeatedly raved about the Cubs clubhouse and culture throughout his time in Chicago and really appreciated the way his teammates made him feel comfortable from Day 1.

When the Cubs first acquired Chavez in that under-the-radar trade, they touted his versatility which has become a valuable asset, especially in today's game where relievers are often asked to pitch multiple innings. If necessary, he could also represent depth for the starting rotation, having made 70 starts over his MLB career. 

Unless there's a surprising market that develops for Chavez, bringing him back to the North Side of Chicago on a 1- or 2-year deal is a no-brainer.