VP of basketball operations John Paxson spoke with reporters on Friday night and dished on a number of topics.
Paxson happy with Holiday return but can’t commit to additional moves
Paxson said the Thursday trade with the Memphis Grizzlies came together in “a couple hours.” Memphis was looking for perimeter shooting and, having lost 10 of their last 13 to fall below .500, needed to make a move.
The Bulls were willing trade partners, looking to acquire assets. They found them in a pair of second round draft picks, which gets them back into the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft; they had traded that initial pick to the Lakers in 2016 as part of the process in signing Dwyane Wade.
So while Paxson believes there are more potential moves on the table – and both Robin Lopez and Jabari Parker are reportedly being shopped – he wouldn’t commit to another move before the Feb. 8 deadline.
“That’s what has to happen. Things have to align. You can’t just force it,” he said. “Again, if we can acquire young players, draft assets, we can maybe look at our roster and think there’s a better fit, we’ll go that route.”
Of note, both Paxson and Jim Boylen seem excited about Wayne Selden getting some run with the Bulls in this the final year of his contract. Selden fell out of the Grizzlies rotation in December but just turned 24 and showed some promise toward the end of last season.
MarShon Brooks has not reported to the Bulls, Boylen confirmed, and Paxson said the team will look for a resolution for moving him out of Chicago in the next couple days.
Paxson supports Boylen’s decision to take Jabari Parker out of rotation
Jabari Parker must have done something right during Thursday's practice. The Bulls' biggest offseason signing received his first playing time since Dec. 13 against the Orlando Magic in Mexico City. He finally found some minutes with Bobby Portis still out with a sprained ankle - though he could return as soon as Sunday - and Lauri Markkanen battling first-quarter foul trouble.
He still projects as the odd man out once Portis returns, as there's no real point in trying him again at small forward.
But Paxson, the guy who ultimately decided to pay him $20 million a year, said he trusts Boylen’s decision to take their highest paid player and turn him into a nightly DNP-CD, even with the minutes he got on Friday.
“The one thing Jim has been really consistent with is the accountability aspect,” Paxson said. “I believe you can hold players to a certain standard of what you want as a coach. Jabari is a really good guy. You guys have been around him. He’s a terrific person. If we can acclimate him back into things, he’s going to get a chance. This league is about getting chances, even for players who have been through what Jabari has been through.”
Paxson, like Boylen’s done often, said if an opportunity presents itself that Parker will get a chance. It happened on Friday and Parker looked good, but it's more likely is that if an opportunity presents itself for the Bulls to unload their latest failed free agent signing, they’ll do it as quickly as possible.
At the end of the day, Cam Payne was simply outplayed
Paxson couldn’t have been more excited about the Bulls acquiring Cam Payne two years ago, and he went out of his way in April to say how confident they were for his continued progression. Perhaps they were simply trying to convince themselves that Payne could transform into a second-unit point guard, but it never panned out. Payne was the odd man out following the Holiday trade, as the Bulls waived the final piece of their regrettable deal with Oklahoma City.
“You make decisions and hope for the best,” he said. “The reality is both (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Shaq Harrison) have outplayed him. They fit what we want to do. Cam had some struggles with his foot and trying to get him back. We wish him well.”
As expected, Paxson still confident in the future
It’s not as if Paxson would have said anything different, but he reiterated Friday that he’s confident in the direction the Bulls are headed.
Friday marked the first time this season that Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison took the floor together, and they did so in a starting capacity.
This is the future. Until this summer brings another top draft pick and potentially a significant free agent, the core of the Bulls lies with these five players. And all Paxson is looking for is continued improvement from his young core.
“Very important. It’s really important. We need to see growth. We need to see how they play. We’re a month into Jim’s tenure now, and I think they understand what’s expected,” Paxson said. “So we’re going to go out on the road here after these next two games. That’s a good time for a young team to get together. They’re going to be hard games. We just need to see development. That’s going to be a big key.”