We’re posting this Thursday morning and looking forward to the Bulls doing something by the 2 p.m. deadline that makes it superfluous. But thanks for writing and for reading anyway.
Do you think Denzel Valentine is going anywhere before trade deadline? - Brian H.
I think the chances were greater before all the injuries. That said, he’s clearly not in the team’s long-term plans. So if the right deal presents itself, management would move off him as quickly as Jim Boylen has. The 76ers made moves late Wednesday to address shooting, so that possible destination is likely out. Time is growing short.
Do you think Kris Dunn and Thad Youg (Denzel Valentine, too, if they want him) would be enough to pry Kyle Kuzma from the Lakers? - Ziggylicious69, via Twitter
Kuzma survived all the rumors when the Lakers and Pelicans talked Anthony Davis trade last season. And now that Davis is in Hollywood, Kuzma has struggled to find his role this season and been linked to the Knicks and Kings. I haven’t heard any talk of the Bulls pursuing him. And he’s on a rookie deal that only pays him $1.9 million. So you’d either have to do Valentine straight up for him---no way the Lakers do that---or add salary moving from the Lakers to the Bulls. I think Kuzma goes to the Knicks or stays with the Lakers.
Are the Bulls really in on D’Angelo Russell? - Jonathan Rivera, via Facebook
I haven’t heard speculation linking Russell to the Bulls since last summer. Given that they just signed Tomas Satoransky, I don’t expect that to change.
I have been advocating having the Bulls move Wendell Carter Jr. to power forward and trying him with Daniel Gafford at center. I believe Wendell could develop an outside shot and flourish in a different offensive scheme if not Jim Boylen's. As you wrote, Lauri Markkanen is the player other general managers seem to want most. Any talk of a Lauri trade and moving Wendell to the four? Lauri could bring another solid piece, while the Bulls also have Thad Young locked in for two more years, and Thad though older, is much better (consistent) on both ends. Your thoughts? – Preacher A.
Don’t think it was me who wrote that because sense I’ve received in my conversations with people around the league is that Zach LaVine is most coveted. Plus, in my latest trade piece for NBC Sports Chicago, I wrote that Markkanen probably was overvalued at last year’s trade deadline and is certainly undervalued now. You don’t sell low on such a player, particularly one on his rookie deal. I’ve heard no talk of the Bulls trying to move Markkanen.
The Bulls drafted Carter for many reasons but one was because they felt he’d be a strong fit alongside Markkanen. I think Carter’s shooting ability and range both can develop but I don’t ever see him as a stretch four. Plus, for all this talk about him being undersized, he was putting up double-doubles regularly before getting hurt. He’s a very good rebounder for his size.
Any idea on what sort of packages the front office received for Zach LaVine before deeming him seemingly untouchable. - Josh J.
From what I’ve been able to gather, any calls on LaVine were exploratory in nature, as in, 'what would it take to get him?' kind of stuff. I don’t think the Bulls fielded any specific proposals, though I don’t know that for sure.
When are they going to start real conversations about changes in the front office? - Charles Weidenburner, via Facebook
Widespread speculation, including here, has the Bulls contemplating changes this offseason. As for the conversations, surely Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf exchange dialogue during the season. But there’s still strong belief in executive vice president John Paxson. If there are changes, I’d expect a different title for Gar Forman, a revamp of the scouting department and a new voice from outside the organization to run day-to-day duties but report to Paxson. But other than ownership’s belief in Paxson, this is speculation on my part.
Do you expect Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Otto Porter Jr. to be shut down for the rest of the year? Ross Pinsler, via Facebook
I expect all three players to play this season, although, if I had to rank, I’d place Dunn as the biggest possibility to miss the rest of the season. When he last suffered this injury, he missed 23 games. The Bulls have 27 left after the All-Star break. The break does buy him some time that he didn’t have last season to get his sprained MCL in his right knee right. But with his impending restricted free agency, I could see a scenario where he doesn’t return. Barring a setback, Markkanen will return for sure. He actually wanted to keep playing with the early stress reaction in his right pelvis and felt good enough to try. But doctors ultimately convinced him to sit so that it didn’t turn into a stress fracture. As for Porter, he has been increasing his workload lately and always had designs on trying to return after the All-Star break.
First, how are you enjoying your first season as a 'TV Guy' for NBC Sports Chicago? Miss you in the Trib, but it’s been great getting your perspective and insights each night during the games. Secondly, how would you characterize the different narratives that are out there regarding the Bulls’ disappointing season? It feels like quite a few fans and journalists would describe this awful year as player regression, poor decision-making, ineffective systems and not using guys in a way that helps them contribute at their highest level. Meanwhile, Coach Boylen and his bosses seem to want to paint this as a youth issue that has been exposed by injuries. While I get that both perspectives can be true, it seems to me the Bulls were still pretty bad when healthy. What is your opinion and what are you sensing/hearing from the Bulls coaches and front office? - Tom from Chicago
Thanks for following me over from the Chicago Tribune and, even more, thanks for putting 'TV guy' in quotes. I’ll always view myself as a writer, first and foremost, though I’ve enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying some television. Working with such pros as Neil Funk, Stacey King, Jason Goff, Will Perdue, Kendall Gill, Leila Rahimi, Adam Amin, Jason Benetti, Marc Brady and others has made it as easy as possible for a “newspaper guy” on TV. But news flash: I still write every day at nbcsports.com/Chicago/Bulls. So my perspective is still in writing as well.
Count me more in the former camp, though I’m glad you acknowledged both narratives. I do think parts of both perspectives can be true. And the Bulls have defended pretty well overall for such a young team and Boylen has tried to establish a style of play, for better or for worse. But even discounting injuries, they got off to that horribly slow start against the so-called 'easier' part of their schedule. And things just looked off right from the jump. I don’t think you can view this season any other way except underwhelming and disappointing. This was the season ownership, management and Boylen painted as one you could point to as progress in the rebuild. Instead, to me, there are more questions than answers: What is Markkanen’s ceiling? Is Boylen the long-term answer at coach? Did management overvalue some core pieces? Can Dunn stay healthy? And on and on and on.
Given the playing styles of Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen, wouldn't it make more sense to start Cristiano Felicio, who has shown some signs of improvement, at center and Luke Kornet at power forward? This way, when the injured return, the roles remain relatively the same. This might upset the not-much-of-a-veteran-leader Thaddeus Young, but who cares? He won't be here when they're good again anyway (or maybe even by the end of the week). - David P.
In the words of the great Rajon Rondo, “Um, how should I say this? No.” Felicio for sure and probably Kornet too also won’t be here if the Bulls get good again. Young is a better player than both of them. You start your best players. Starting Felicio would send the wrong message.
Most of the talking heads are saying the Bulls will have a quiet trade deadline. What can the team do internally to, if not actually win games in what will become a tankathon down the stretch, improve player development? I’d be intrigued to see what Wendell looks like playing some minutes at power forward with Daniel Gafford at center for example. And Chandler Hutchison and Coby White should both start and be playing 30+ minutes a game. - Nick P.
I think you’re going to see one last grasp at a playoff run once some, if not all, of the horses return. The bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is begging to be crashed. It takes one good week. I don’t see it happening. And I agree with you that the goal should be moved to full-on development at one point. But I don’t get the sense that the Bulls internally are there yet. I think most all the suggestions you make are good ones, although playing Carter at power forward doesn’t work since Markkanen is the cornerstone there.
Why is Archie viewed positively by management? He would be out of league if not on Bulls.
WCJ is undersized, Zach doesn't rebound and Lauri is a minus-rebounder. This team will be busted on boards every night, like they were in limited time together. Am I wrong?
What happened to Felicio? He once was a promising young player who showed potential. Now, he's an overweight roster spot certain to not be in the league when his contract expires. – Andrew G.
My man sent in three separate questions under three separate emails. That’s ambitious and impressive. Also, the fact that we’ve received two Felicio questions in the same mailbag is a record. Perhaps it’s time to start a new drinking game.
Arcidiacono actually drew interest from a handful of teams last summer when he re-upped with the Bulls. He’s a high IQ, low-turnover, tough-minded defensive scrapper who occasionally gets hot from 3. He’s a back-end rotation player or valuable practice player for the next five to seven years in this league.
You’ll get no such counterarguments from me on the rebounding and Felicio, other than to say Markkanen averaged 8.2 rebounds over his first two seasons and Carter was a double-double machine before getting hurt. As a team, the Bulls have struggled to rebound, and Markkanen’s regression this season has played a factor.
Has there been any questioning as to why Boylen was using Kornet as the screener over Lauri before his injury? – AJ
Uh, not a one. But I get your point: Having Markkanen set the screen could lead to more touches.
Does Jim Boylen's approach to Denzel Valentine -- who seems like a stand-up guy with skills badly needed by the Bulls -- give us important insights on his professionalism and adaptability as a coach? - Mike M, Denver
I’m not sure I’d go that far, although I’ve written plenty and opined some on TV about the mysteriousness of this disconnect. It has to be defense-related.
So yeah, the injuries have piled up and the Bulls are on their way to another lost season, barring some kind of miracle turnaround/eight-seed appearance. Which takes some heat off Boylen. But you mentioned before that if you were to expect any changes it could be new roles/people in the front office. You touched on this briefly before, but what exactly is Doug Collins bringing to the table? What does he think of Boylen? Does he just show up once in a while and make a few comments at practice or whatever and head back up to Evanston? – Elijah H.
He’s a senior adviser. The Bulls made pretty clear upon his hiring that he’d be in the background and basically a sounding board. He was around during training camp. He pops in here and there otherwise. His relationship with Boylen is a strong one because Boylen is open to input.
Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you soon.
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