Bulls

Latest Nikola Mirotic trade rumor has Jazz offering up Derrick Favors

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USA TODAY

Latest Nikola Mirotic trade rumor has Jazz offering up Derrick Favors

The Utah Jazz seem to be a very interested party when it comes to Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, and there's a new report out there that indicates what could be coming the Bulls' way in a potential deal.

Three separate reports over the last few days have linked the Jazz to Mirotic — with a couple of those reports listing additional teams, too, namely the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons — and it makes sense that Mirotic's name is popping up in trade chatter. After all, the rebuilding Bulls would be wise to cash in on Mirotic now, when he's the team's leading scorer and has helped earn 11 wins since making his season debut.

The new report, from Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, takes things a step further, however, saying the two teams are engaged in trade discussions and listing big man Derrick Favors as a guy the Jazz are offering up in those conversations.

That wouldn't be all, you would have to figure, as some of those aforementioned reports from the past few days have said the Bulls are looking to acquire a first-round pick, a no-brainer considering the Bulls are trying to strengthen their rebuilding efforts.

The Bulls can't deal Mirotic until Jan. 15, which is now just a few days away. Mirotic also has a no-trade clause, meaning he'd have to approve any deal that sent him out of Chicago. The Bulls could navigate around that by picking up Mirotic's contract option for next season.

Favors was the third-overall pick in the 2010 draft, picked by the then New Jersey Nets and then traded after 56 games to Utah in the deal that sent former Illinois star Deron Williams to the East Coast. Favors has been playing in the Beehive State ever since with varying levels of production. This season, he's averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He's two years removed from a career-high 16.4 scoring average, be it in only 62 games. Last season, that number fell off a cliff to just 9.5 points a game in only 50 games.

Favors, though, is a free agent after this season, meaning his expiring contract would come off the books for the rebuilding Bulls should they acquire him. Getting a draft pick would seem to be far more valuable in this hypothetical Mirotic trade.

Expect plenty more Mirotic trade buzz as the league moves toward its Feb. 8 trade deadline. Mirotic has been stellar since returning from the facial fractures sustained when Bobby Portis punched him in the face right before the season began. In 17 games, Mirotic is averaging 17.4 points and seven rebounds a game. He's shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from 3-point range, averaging 2.5 makes from beyond the arc per contest.

Stay tuned.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.