Bulls

Bulls Mailbag: Heading into a crucial offseason

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USA TODAY

Bulls Mailbag: Heading into a crucial offseason

 

Chicago sports fans are known for their knowledge and passion, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to Bulls Twitter. Every day I receive questions and comments about what’s going on with the roster, coaching staff and front office. So, here’s a look at some of the issues on the minds of fans in our initial Bulls mailbag. We’ll be answering some of the questions in this format on a weekly basis leading up to the NBA Draft on June 20th.

Brandon Moss @BrandonMoss587

What are your thoughts on us drafting Cam Reddish?

I have to admit, I wasn’t too high on Reddish after a disappointing freshman season at Duke which included just 33% shooting from the college 3 point line. But with the Bulls falling to 7th in the lottery, Reddish might be the best player available. He measured 6’8” with shoes at the combine, which means the Bulls could potentially use him at 3 positions, including power forward when they play Lauri Markkanen at center in small ball line-ups. Reddish has all the physical traits to be an excellent NBA player, and since the top 3 point guards will probably be off the board when the Bulls pick at 7, they can’t be worried about trying to fill a positional need. Reddish could wind up climbing during individual team workouts, so there’s a chance Cleveland could take him at 5, but if he’s still available at 7 that would be my pick.

 

Gustavo Vega @iamvega1982

Trade the 7th pick for a veteran or draft a player?

Given that this is such a top-heavy draft, there probably won’t be a ton of interest in the 7th pick, since there isn’t a big difference in the quality of player available in the 4-14 range. If the Bulls want to pursue a quality starter like Mike Conley or Jrue Holiday, that 7th pick could be a piece in a larger deal, but the pick by itself won’t bring you the caliber of point guard the Bulls are hoping to find. So, unless it’s part of a larger trade, I would keep the pick at 7 and look for a guy that might develop into a star like Reddish.

 

PatTheDesigner @PatTheDesigner

Reports says the Bulls are looking to trade the 7th pick for Lonzo Ball. Do you feel this is a good deal or would it be better to draft at 7 and try to develop within?

I’m not a big fan of Lonzo Ball even though he’s a good passer and defender. The Bulls need a point guard who can be a spot-up shooting threat playing alongside Zach LaVine and that’s not Lonzo (or Kris Dunn). Also, the Lakers drafted Ball 2nd overall in 2017 so I don’t think they’re ready to give up on him yet, unless he’s a key piece in a trade to acquire Anthony Davis from New Orleans. The 7th pick isn’t ideal, but the Bulls’ bench definitely needs an upgrade, and a player like Reddish, De’Andre Hunter or Kevin Porter Jr. could provide some much-needed scoring for the 2nd  unit.

 

hyper pony @cronebender

Now that we are four deep with a core that, at the very least, plans to get big minutes—and may add a PG vet—then isn’t it basically indefensible to not search for high ceiling payoff with the #7 pick? Draft is now the only path to superstars & some still playing went 7 or lower?

That is the hope for all the teams that weren’t lucky in last week’s lottery, finding players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who all went 7th or lower in the draft. Reddish was one of the top rated players coming out of high school, while USC’s  Kevin Porter Jr., North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Oregon’s Bol Bol and Indiana’s Romeo Langford were all considered potential top 5 picks at the start of the college season.

The Bulls will have to trust their scouts and make their selection based on long term potential over expected production as a rookie. As you mention, they already have a young core in place, now it’s time to swing for the fences.

 

Deion “d3” Garcia @deiongarcia

Is it time for the Bulls to push for a playoff run now? Or wait ‘till 2021?

No reason why these ideas have to be mutually exclusive. As my colleague Mark Strotman wrote for NBC Sports Chicago, the next great free agent class will come in the summer of 2021, so the Bulls have to make sure they keep their salary cap situation in good order to have money to spend when Otto Porter Jr.’s contract comes off the books in 2021. But they still have to be competitive in order to get meetings with the top players.

Brooklyn’s unexpected playoff run this past season puts the Nets in position to at least have discussions with some of the elite free agents, while the Bulls made the Porter trade because they knew their rebuild hadn’t advanced far enough to generate any interest from players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson. The next challenge is showing that the young core of Markkanen, LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. can be competitive in the East and strong enough to reach contending status with the right free agent addition.

 

Joe @JoeZo88

Is the Lakers’ pick key to what the Bulls do at 7? If they take Garland, White probably goes 6 to Phoenix? That leaves either Culver or Hunter to the Bulls at 7. Thoughts?

I think you’re reading the board correctly at this date in late May, but there’s a long way to go until draft night on June 20th. Teams are just starting the process of bringing players to their facility for individual workouts and interviews, and I saw an item from ESPN’s draft analyst Mike Schmitz saying Reddish was far and away the best player on the court during a group workout put on by his agency. Some mock drafts have Reddish as low as 10 because of his poor shooting at Duke, but based on long range potential, he could easily move up to 4 or 5.

Darius Garland left the combine last week with a promise from a lottery team, believed to be the Lakers at No. 4 by many. Will new coach Frank Vogel want to play Garland and Ball together? Or is it possible they change course and draft a more traditional shooting guard like Jarrett Culver? Right now, it appears the Lakers are leaning towards Garland and the point guard-needy Suns will almost certainly take White at 6. That means Cleveland will probably choose between either Culver, Hunter or Reddish, with two of those wing players being available to the Bulls at 7.

 

elias photography chicago @elias_Zi

There’s over 200 FA’s this off-season. Do you think it’s better to wait and see what happens with first signings, or try to get your wish list and hope they’ll bite? Do you see many FA’s waiting for a good deal being left out in the cold?

The biggest decision for the Bulls’ front office will be deciding whether to extend an offer sheet to a restricted free agent point guard like Malcolm Brogdon or Terry Rozier. They would have to use most of their approximately $20 million dollars in cap space to try to steal one of those players away, and their money would be tied up for three days while either the Bucks or Celtics decide whether to match the offer. Plus, is either one of those players worth a huge contract, especially on a rebuilding team hoping to add an elite free agent down the road?

If the Bulls decide to go right to the unrestricted market, starting caliber players like Ricky Rubio and Darren Collison will command big offers, with Chicago natives Derrick Rose and Patrick Beverley on a lower level, along with career reserves like Cory Joseph and Ish Smith. Point guard figures to be the number one priority for the Bulls in free agency, but they’d also like to add an experienced big man like Taj Gibson, Ed Davis, Kevon Looney, Kenneth Faried or Mike Scott, and maybe a lower priced 3-point threat like Wayne Ellington, Seth Curry or Reggie Bullock.

With so many free agents available, there will probably be 25 or more players still looking for a contract when training camps open in September, so teams that are patient might find some excellent bargains later in the summer.

 

Matt Peck @Bulls_Peck

Which Bulls Outsider is his favorite?

Actually Matt, it’s a tie for 3rd, but John Sabine wins because he brought in donuts more often than you and Big Dave! Obviously, just kidding. I’m sure all of our Bulls Talk followers enjoyed the great work from the Bulls Outsiders throughout the past season. They have tremendous chemistry on air and off. Kendall, Will and I had a blast watching games with the guys in the green room. They’re passionate fans with great personalities, and their energy and sense of humor helped us get through a very difficult season. Okay, that should be good enough for them to bring in pizza on opening night!

Thanks to everyone for your questions and comments. It’s always fun to hear from our great fans on Bulls social media. We’ll be doing another mailbag next week, so feel free to ask questions about the NBA playoffs, free agency or anything that’s going on in the world of basketball.

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Thad Young on the challenges of being a father in a racially unjust world

Thad Young on the challenges of being a father in a racially unjust world

Before getting to Jim Boylen’s future, the anticlimactic end to the Bulls’ campaign and the NBA’s unprecedented 22-team play-in format to finish its 2019-20 season, Thad Young had to address the full context at hand for his conference call with reporters.

For Friday marked the 11th day since George Floyd, a black man, died after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine straight minutes. The killing has sparked mass unrest, protests and fervent discourse around racial injustice and police brutality across the globe. The world also continues to grapple with the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered the NBA on March 11, and the rest of the United States (where the virus has killed over 100,000 and counting) soon after.

“I know we’re stuck in unprecedented times where we’re in the house during COVID and then the thing that happened with George Floyd and social injustice,” Young said before fielding questions on the call. “I just want to make sure to let everybody know that I hope everybody is safe and healthy with our families, and make sure we’re holding each and every one of us close and try to get through these tough times…”

Young, 31, is currently bunkered down in his family’s new home in Texas with his wife, Shekinah, and two sons. Parsing through the realities of a racially unjust world with his sons, to hear Young tell is, has been a balancing act.

“When they come up with a question, it’s very hard to answer that question because I don’t want them to have to grow up and fear for their lives or have to grow up and understand that they can’t do the same things that other people are doing,” Young said. “That’s one of the toughest things. You want to give your kid the world. You want to get them to understand that, ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want to do.’ In these times, it’s just not the same. You can’t do everything that somebody else is doing. 

“If I’m going to be specific about it, the black kid can’t do everything that a white kid is doing. Those are things that are very, very tough to talk about. But it’s a harsh reality and we have to talk about them. My kids are still young, six and nine. They understand certain things that are going on, but not entirely everything. 

“For me as a father, that’s probably one of the toughest conversations to ever have with your kids. They all have questions because there’s so much stuff on social media and so much stuff on YouTube, which is what all the kids are watching now. When they see a video pop up with different things that happened… My youngest son, he asked the other day, ‘Why did they kill that man, Daddy?’ It’s hard for me to answer that question because you don’t want to push him into the harsh reality of what it is. But you have to answer those tough questions and you have to have those tough conversations with your kids. It’s definitely hard. What happened is definitely saddening for me but it also scares me to death because I have two young boys.”

Sadder still because the direct onus of those difficult conversations falls on black families far more than their white counterparts. It’s a testament to how ingrained racial biases (at best) and racist practices (at worst) still are, even today.

The hope of Young, Zach LaVine, who spoke on an earlier call, and countless others calling and fighting for change, is that a new dawn is on the horizon. Whether substantive change comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Young emphasized that resolution will come through unity.

“It’s so early right now just to see if there’s going to be change. One of the things that I do see is we have some unity coming,” Young said. “We have some people who are getting together. We have these protests. People are coming out and letting their voices be heard. You have a lot of celebrities and very, very influential people who are following suit. The good thing is we have a lot of people who are speaking up for change and speaking up for freedom and peace. 

“We’re bringing more and more people together. One of the biggest things is to continue to do that. Continue to let our voices be heard. Stay together. Stay unified. And also make sure we do what’s right and steer everybody away from doing what’s wrong.”

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Zach LaVine explains decision to vote, thoughts on fight for social justice

Zach LaVine explains decision to vote, thoughts on fight for social justice

At a rally to address social justice issues in Seattle on Thursday, Zach LaVine made both an important plea and a notable admission.

“Go vote,” he said, via a video from Percy Allen of The Seattle Times. “I haven’t been able to go and do that yet, but coming this November I am going to, because I know it’s gonna change something.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, which has sparked global unrest and protests, many have voiced the need for change, unity and concerted action to combat police brutality and injustice. LaVine added to that chorus (and past comments of his own) on a Friday conference call with reporters. 

He also confirmed that he’s never voted before, but made it a point to explain the evolution of his involvement in politics in his comments.

“It (voting) just wasn’t something that I was hip to,” LaVine said. “Obviously, I know that you have the right to vote, but everybody doesn’t have to. With what’s going on, I think it matters a lot more now, at least to me, because I think every single vote counts. Before, I wasn’t educated at all on it. I’m trying to educate myself now more on the politics and what goes on and how things are voted on. So just taking action in my own community and trying to do my part is the reason why I’m moving forward with that.”

LaVine went on to encourage others to educate themselves — as he has and continues to do — on issues that resonate with them and act on them at the ballot box.

“Go out there and not just vote for presidency but things in your own community, as well,” LaVine said. “Because everything that you vote for can make a change and put those people who are in power to hear your voice and help make that change, as well. Educating yourself, making sure that we're all together, because what's going on isn't right.”

Action outside of the electoral process can manifest in different ways for different people. For some, it’s seeking out education on topics once unfamiliar to them. For others, it’s speaking out — whether it be in their own social niches or on social media. For one person, it might mean donating. For another, it might mean protesting. 

Whatever one’s personal preference or capacity, LaVine is imploring any and all allies to the cause to get involved, now more fervently than ever.

“This has been going on for a long time. I think the video cameras shed light on a lot of things, what's been going on with the world and police and different things like that,” LaVine said. “I think now that we're starting to get this platform for all athletes and entertainers to use our platform for good, and I just want to continue to go out there and share that, as well. There's going to have to be some type of movement, and maybe it might not be this generation, it might be the next, but you know, it can't continue to be this way.”

LaVine’s advice for those looking for ways to take action was all-encompassing, and centered on being unabashedly yourself.

“Educate yourself. Be active. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be different either. Go out there and try to make a change even if you have an opinion and you’re the only one in the room talking,” LaVine said. “Don’t be afraid of that, because I think now with what’s going on, everybody has a certain opinion and now that everybody is talking, it’s OK to have that opinion. If something settles down and you’re the only one with an opinion, I think it’s a little bit harder for someone to speak up. So don’t feel scared about that. And go out there and do what’s right for you.”

He also parsed through the complex nature of the protests, which have in some instances featured looting.

“Everybody has a voice right now and we’re bringing attention to it, to where we have to be heard,” LaVine said. “Some of the negatives, obviously there’s a lot of frustration, not just in the black community but a lot of communities, where looting and things are going on. And you have to understand everybody’s situation. 

“For me personally, I don’t like looting and stealing, but if that’s a way for people to get their frustration out, that’s how it has to be. But it’s not being portrayed that way. It’s being portrayed as the black community is looting when that’s just the way of frustration and getting things out. And the black community isn’t the only one looting. The TV has their own narrative and they’re going to share their own narrative so we’ve got to be careful about that.”

The Bulls, according to LaVine, recently assembled on a Zoom call to talk through their emotions in the wake of the events of the past few weeks, organized by Arturas Karnisovas. LaVine called it a “safe space,” and pledged continued action moving forward.

“Not everybody has somebody to talk to or they feel afraid to talk, so, a safe space to talk and I think moving forward we're obviously going to do something,” LaVine said. “I think the league's going to do something. But I think that's going to come at a time when we can get together and actually sit down and think of something that's powerful.”

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