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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 observations: Coby White, Zach LaVine, Thad Young lead way to much-needed win

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USA Today

Bulls observations: Coby White, Zach LaVine, Thad Young lead way to much-needed win

The Bulls snapped a drawn-out eight-game losing streak in beating the Wizards 126-117 on Sunday. The offense fired on all cylinders, Coby White continued his torrid stretch and Bradley Beal dropped a 50-burger, but overall, it was a next man up type of night. Some observations:

Coby White is developing before our very eyes

Have to tip the cap to Jim Boylen on insisting to continue to bring Coby White off the bench, even amid widespread injuries. White has flourished in that role out of the All-Star break.

Against Phoenix on Saturday, White posted a career-high 33 points with seven 3-pointers. Tonight, he wasted no time continuing that momentum with 16 points in seven first-quarter minutes (26 in the first half). White matched that this evening, finishing with 33 points on 11-for-18 (5-for-9 from 3), and a game-high +16.

 

The flashes embedded in that impressive statline were all the more tantalizing. There was a sequence in the first quarter where White flew by then recovered to contest a missed Bradley Beal 3-pointer, then nabbed the rebound and flashed coast-to-coast, finishing through contact on the other end (his burst off live rebounds and steals is eye-popping). A turnaround, fading and-one jumper. That buzzer beater to end the first. A one-handed, crosscourt dime that resulted in a Ryan Arcidiacono 3. On multiple occasions, White attacked mismatches and got to the rim with gumption. His defensive rotations have (mostly) been their crispest of late, and he’s shooting and moving decisively on-ball on the offensive end. 

This should excite Bulls fans tremendously. White’s rookie season has meandered to this point, but if this is the start of a tear down the stretch, we could exit this season with at least one marked positive.

Thad Young continues to be a bright spot

Thad Young isn’t a 20-year-old potential cornerstone of the franchise, but his improvements over the season are certainly worth appreciating, specifically shooting the ball.

After beginning the season ice-cold from long range, Young has brought his 3-point shooting percentage up to around the league average — entering play, his season-long mark was 35.1% and since Jan. 1, he was shooting 39% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game. Those figures will continue to rise after tonight; Young notched a season-high 25 points with six rebounds and three steals on 9-for-15 shooting (5-for-7 from deep) in 30 minutes against the Wiz.

Overall, Young is now averaging 14 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals since moving to the starting lineup in place of Lauri Markkanen — shooting 53.5% from the floor — and has scored in double figures in 13 straight games. Asked what’s behind his improved play the other night, Young’s response was simple: “More minutes.” He’s averaging 31.3 of those since sliding into the starting lineup.

Zach LaVine doesn’t back down from a challenge

When Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal — two of the preeminent scoring guards in the Eastern Conference — square off, there’s bound to be sparks. They delivered tonight, trading buckets early and often, and jawing at each other (good-naturedly) throughout.

LaVine finished the night 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting, scoring 10 with a timely steal in the fourth; Beal topped that with 53 points of his own, but LaVine owned the stretch run. They’re fun and good.

Oh, and LaVine went record shopping. With his third (of six) 3-pointers tonight, he broke Ben Gordon’s franchise record for 3s made in a season of 173. LaVine’s at 177 and counting after tonight.

 

A prideful performance

Hey, the Bulls got back in the win column! And they did it on the second night of a back-to-back following a really tough loss — even by their standards — to Phoenix the night before. 

Tonight, the Bulls shot well (55.6% from the field), re-found their defensive identity (forcing 24 turnovers and scoring 23 points off them) and stymied multiple second half swoons to eventually emerge victorious. White, LaVine and Young combined for 90 points, with Satoransky chipping in 15 points and 13 assists — another strong performance against his old team. Even the rotational weirdness was fun tonight; on multiple occasions, Boylen turned to five-guard lineups with Gafford and Cristiano Felicio perpetual foul trouble threats. 

Above all: The eight-game losing streak mercifully ceases.

Of course, these are the Wizards (the lowest-rated defense in the NBA) — though refreshing, this victory doesn’t change much about the long-term fate of this season. But a blowout victory is a nice change of pace nevertheless.

Back at the UC to cap the homestand versus the Thunder on Tuesday.

A defiant Jim Boylen doubles down on his usage of late-game timeouts

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USA Today

A defiant Jim Boylen doubles down on his usage of late-game timeouts

Jim Boylen’s late-game timeouts while facing seemingly insurmountable deficits are here to stay.

“We were down eight (points) with 40 seconds to go in Charlotte and won. So it does happen,” Boylen said. “But I can see where people would think it's unnecessary. That’s OK.”

That Boylen allowed for some questioning of his late-game tactics is the only change in this lingering story. They’ve become a larger story because, for the second time this season, cameras showed Zach LaVine expressing frustration or bewilderment over the move.

Following Boylen’s latest example of the practice — with the Bulls down 10 and 40 seconds to go in Saturday’s loss to the Suns — the coach disputed the assertion that his players are frustrated by his unconventional tactics. Nevertheless, he met with LaVine before LaVine addressed reporters late Saturday.

“[LaVine]'s frustrated. I think our team is frustrated. Nobody likes to lose games. We’re competitive people. I coach to the end of games. You guys know that. Could some people judge look at that timeout as unnecessary? Of course they can. You can judge it any way you want,” Boylen said before Sunday’s game versus the Wizards. “He’s a fighter. We’re going to fight to the end. I’m going to coach our guys to the end. I think there’s a misconception that Zach and I only talk when there’s something good to talk about or something bad to talk about. We talk all the time. I think it’s a healthy, productive relationship.”

Boylen said LaVine told him that he’s the coach and can call timeout whenever he wants, which squares with what LaVine told reporters. But LaVine also admitted to it being hard to stay locked in for developmental timeouts in the face of such large deficits, not to mention the constant losing.

Nevertheless, Boylen downplayed LaVine’s public reactions.

“You can video me on a 2-on-1 when we turn it over and I make an expression. You can video me on a wide-open 3-pointer we miss and then on the other end they make a contested three and I make an expression. You can do that on every clip and every situation,” Boylen said. “[Setting the tone is] all I’ve been trying to do. I did it last year. I did it this year. We’re trying to establish that we’re going to play until the end and we’re going to compete. We’ve had some tremendous comeback wins this year where we’ve kept playing so I think the guys get that. But I think what we can’t do is not expect people to be frustrated with a losing streak or a home loss. That’s a healthy thing that there’s frustration. It’s a healthy thing that you’ve got competitive people that are upset that we’re hurt and we’re fighting to win games.”

Boylen said the front office supports his practice of coaching to the end.

“I talked to (executive vice president) John (Paxson) this morning. We talk every day,” Boylen said. “I told him, 'I'm gonna coach these guys hard. John (said), ‘Keep doing what you're doing.' It's what we have to do.

“Is there a chance where maybe I'm more competitive in those situations? I think I have to own that.”

Asked if it’s almost defiance, Boylen agreed.

“That I don't want to lose? Yeah. I don't like losing,” he said. “We had a 17-point lead. I thought we played our hearts out — shorthanded — and we battled, got the game back under control. We're up 1 with 7 minutes to go and we didn't play very well the last seven minutes, but yeah I'm hanging onto that.”

Boylen also called a timeout in Toronto in the waning moments on Super Bowl Sunday with the Bulls down over 20 points. A Raptors broadcaster rebuked Boylen for the move.

But Boylen on Sunday reiterated what he said that day, that the timeout was for developmental purposes.

“The thing in Toronto is a different situation. How many ATOs you think Adam Mokoka has had drawn up for him? So that’s a totally different situation — coaching a guy that’s part of our development program, is in a situation he’s never been in and to have something run for him, I think that’s important,” Boylen said. “I don’t worry about if (criticism) is fair or not. I’ve got a job to do. I don’t listen to the cheers and I don’t listen to the boos and I don’t listen to the negativity. I don’t do it. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

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