Bulls

A history of Lottery teams trading down; Could the Bulls be next, and what would would it look like?

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USA TODAY

A history of Lottery teams trading down; Could the Bulls be next, and what would would it look like?

John Paxson admitted at his end-of-year press conference in April that the Bulls’ rebuild was moving along quicker than expected, and that they didn’t plan to be in this position – a 27-win team ranked 28th in offense and defense – ever again. He’s not wrong. Lauri Markkanen has proved to be a promising young piece, Kris Dunn showed a pulse after a woeful rookie season and Zach LaVine, for better or worse, averaged 16.7 points and, most importantly, stayed healthy.

The Bulls are one of five teams with multiple first-round picks – Phoenix, Philadelphia and the Clippers have two and Atlanta has three – and ample cap space to be active in free agency. All that looks good on paper and is true. The Bulls have a solid foundation with which to enter Year 2 of the rebuild. The other reality is that the team is incredibly shallow on talent. Assuming David Nwaba (and LaVine) both re-sign, the Bulls really only have five players they could truly consider part of the future: Markkanen, Dunn, LaVine, Nwaba, Bobby Portis (and even Portis remains a question mark given the contract he’ll need in 13 months).

So it’s entirely feasible that the Bulls, sitting at No. 7 in this year’s draft, could look to move out of that slot if the first six picks go in an unfavorable order. We will safely assume in this scenario Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson and Mo Bamba are off the board. If the Bulls aren’t sold on Michael Porter’s medicals and Trae Young goes sixth, they may want to move out. Or, if they feel comfortable with Kris Dunn running the point and improving his jumper and Michael Porter goes sixth, they may want to move out instead of drafting Young.

Whatever the scenario, let’s say it plays out where the Bulls don’t like their options at No. 7 as much as they would like moving back in the draft, dealing with a team that loves Porter or Young.

The two most likely scenarios for moving back involve the Clippers and Suns. Beginning with Los Angeles, Doc Rivers’ group missed the postseason (one Lottery pick) after dealing Blake Griffin (for, among other assets, another Lottery pick) at the deadline. Depth has been an issue for them, but with a 31-year-old Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan entering a contract year (assuming he opts in) they aren’t exactly getting younger. Perhaps they want to make another run at the postseason and add a more ready Day 1 contributor. The proposed deal would be the Clippers packaging Nos. 12 and 13 for No. 7.

Phoenix holds the No. 1 pick in addition to the No. 16 pick they acquired from Miami as part of the Goran Dragic deal in 2015. Rumors are floating that they’re attempting to get back into the top half of the Lottery to make a run at Young, who obviously won’t be available at 16.

Phoenix could, in theory, package No. 16 and an unprotected first-round pick to the Bulls for No. 7. The Suns had the league’s worst record a year ago but would undoubtedly improve in a scenario where they added Ayton and Young to a core with Devin Booker, Marquese Criss and T.J. Warren. This wouldn’t make Phoenix a playoff threat – or, realistically, even a 33-win team – giving the Bulls a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. The Bulls would then pick at 16 and 22 this year.

Even if Phoenix put some kind of protections on the pick (it couldn’t be heavy considering they’re only getting adding the 16th pick in the deal) the Bulls are still looking at a top future pick from the Suns.

There is precedent for teams trading back in the top 10, though not with the No. 7 pick or better. Here’s are close as we could find in the last decade or so.

2017: Sacramento trades No. 10 to Portland for Nos. 15 and 20

2016: Sacramento trades No. 8 to Phoenix for Nos. 13 and 28 and Bojan Bogdanovic (+ 2020 2nd)

2014: Denver trades No. 11 to Chicago for Nos. 16 and 19

2013: Minnesota trades No. 9 to Utah for Nos. 14 and 21

Short-term it of course would be better for the Bulls to retain two picks in this year's Lottery, and have 12, 13 and 22. It's not so much overkill as it three opportunities to find a real player for the future. They've got 11 players under contract before re-signing Zach LaVine, David Nwaba and potentially Noah Vonleh. They could also cut Paul Zipser without much of a cap hit, so it's realistic for them to add three first-rounders to the roster. A lot depends on what Paxson and Gar Forman think of the players slotted to go at the end of the Lottery.

Long-term the Suns' offer probably makes more sense. Even a realistic outlook has the Bulls perhaps two years away from the postseason. That means receiving a 2019 Lottery pick from the Suns gives the Bulls two picks in that draft to go with a core of Markkanen/Dunn/LaVine/Portis/16th pick/22nd pick. That appears to be a better path to success in 2020, especially if the Suns struggle and convey a top-5 or top-7 pick to the Bulls. If they really believe Young is the real deal they'd be willing to give up a first-round pick next year.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Zach LaVine's comments after 10th straight loss

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Zach LaVine's comments after 10th straight loss

Matt Peck, David Watson and John Sabine feel the Heat after Dwyane Wade and Co. hand the Bulls their 10th straight defeat. Plus, they react to LaVine's comments on the state of the Bulls (1:30), how they feel about stars speaking out (4:55) and Matt wants a new coach next season (6:48).
How can the Bulls attract free agents to this losing culture to improve on their young core (11:35)? Plus, why does it feel like the Bulls get more criticism than the Knicks (16:02)?

The big story was D-Wade's farewell game at the United Center. Watson explains why he's pro-Wade (18:30). Peck provides the rebuttal (19:29). Finally, Watson notes that Markkanen may be struggling to find chemistry with Kris Dunn (25:10).

Don't forget, you can watch Bulls Outsiders after Bulls Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago following every game. You can also stream the show on Facebook Live and interact with Matt, John and David.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Kris Dunn's midrange game has disappeared, and that's spelled disaster for his overall game

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USA TODAY

Kris Dunn's midrange game has disappeared, and that's spelled disaster for his overall game

No player was happier to return home from the Bulls' 0-5 West Coast road trip than Kris Dunn.

Dunn began the trip with a nice 15-point, seven-assist performance in Portland but was a disaster in the remaining four games, averaging 7.0 points on 31.4 percent shooting and 5.0 assists.

But his struggles continued on Wednesday night against a tough Miami Heat defense. Dunn started strong but disappeared after the first quarter, finishing with 6 points on 3 of 14 shooting and 5 assists in 33 minutes. The scoring output marked the fourth time in the last five games he's scored 6 points and the shooting was his worst of the year.

"Definitely going through it," Dunn said after the game. "It's part of the NBA. It's on me to find a way to get out of it. I feel like I'm getting to my spots and it's just not knocking down right now."

Dunn is getting to his spots, but that also might be part of the problem. In his first 13 games back from a sprained MCL he averaged 14.2 points on 50 percent shooting. That included 54 percent shooting on shots 8 to 16 feet away, per NBA.com. That number led the Bulls and was actually fourth in the NBA among players attempting at least 2 of those shots per game (Gay, Clarkson, McConnell were ahead of him) and ahead of players like Kyrie Irving (51.8%), Donovan Mitchell (50%) and Derrick Rose (49%).

But since that West Coast trip began Dunn has hit a wall on those shots. He's made just 30 percent of those attempts, 56th best among those with 2 or more attempts per game. It's only a five-game sample size, compared to 13 when that shot was falling, but the larger issue is that Dunn relies so heavily on them.

Among qualified full-time starting point guards, Dunn's 1.4 3-point attempts per game are second fewest. Only Ben Simmons, who hasn't attempted a 3-pointer this year, is behind Dunn.

And among those same point guards, Dunn's 1.7 free throw attempts per game are fourth fewest. Only De'Anthony Melton, Lonzo Ball and Bryn Forbes have attempted fewer per game than Dunn.

His midrange field goal percentage was eventually going to regress. He's always looked comfortable on those floaters and stepback 12-to-15 footers, but even last year he made just 39.3 percent of those 8 to 16 foot shots. That 54 percent clip was unsustainable, and when Dunn doesn't have that going he really isn't a threat to score anywhere else on the floor.

He's averaging a team-best 13.8 drives per game, per NBA.com, which is also 14th in the NBA and puts him in the same company as players like Jeff Teague and Chris Paul. He's ahead of players such as Mike Conley, De'Aaron Fox and Damian Lillard, so aggressiveness hasn't been the issue.

Dunn's midrange shot has abandoned him, and yet he hasn't been to the free throw line in his last 81 game minutes spanning two-plus games. His last attempts came with 3 minutes left in the second quarter against the Lakers. He's also attempted just four 3-pointers (going 1-for-4) in his last 170 minutes spanning five games; in Saturday night's loss Heat guard Tyler Johnson attempted four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter (and made three of them).

He quite simply isn't a versatile scoring threat, and his one trick has disappeared. This wouldn't be as big an issue if Dunn were an exceptional passer, facilitating the offense and finding open shooters. And while Dunn certainly has had some nice passing nights - and he's inside the top 20 in assists per game despite playing in an offense without a ton of shooters -  it hasn't been nearly enough to overcome his scoring woes.

Life in today's NBA means getting scoring from the point guard position, and Dunn is failing in that regard. Perhaps his midrange touch will find itself, but the more likely scenario is Dunn needing to be more aggressive on all those drives he's taking, getting to the free throw line more and initiating some of the action on his own.

It's unlikely he'll ever become a reliable source of 3-point shooting - he's down to 32.1 percent from deep this season, same as last - but even some improvement in that area will go a long way.

"He knows he can play better. He wants to play better," Jim Boylen said after Saturday's loss. "He takes ownership of his play. That’s one thing I like about him. We gotta keep supporting him, we gotta keep coaching him. That’s what this is all about."