NBA Buzz: All options on the table for the Bulls after lottery fall

NBA Buzz: All options on the table for the Bulls after lottery fall

Looks like Adam Silver’s lottery reform plan accomplished exactly what the commissioner had hoped for. Three of the four teams with the worst regular season records missed out on a chance for a top 4 pick, while teams slotted at 7, 8 and 11 before the lottery jumped into the top 4. Of course, one could argue the whole idea of the draft is to help weaker teams close the gap on the playoff teams, so maybe the new lottery system isn’t the best thing for competitive balance. But Silver desperately wants to take away the incentive for teams to “tank” late in the season for a better chance at a high draft pick, and his message came through loud and clear Tuesday night.

So, where does that leave the Bulls after falling from No. 4 to No. 7 thanks to the new lottery odds? Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson will consider all options, including trading up, trading down or possibly simply trading the No. 7 overall pick for a veteran player who can help the team right away. Here’s a look at how the lottery selections could go on June 20th with the understanding players will rise or fall on team’s draft boards depending on how they do at the combine and in private team workouts and interviews.

  1. PELICANS- Zion Williamson, F, Duke.  It might not be an exaggeration to say the Pelicans cashing in a 6 percent chance for the No. 1 pick may have saved NBA basketball in New Orleans. With star player Anthony Davis demanding a trade, and attendance dwindling at Smoothie King Center, the Pelicans were at the top of the list of teams potentially relocating in the foreseeable future. Now, new head of basketball operations David Griffin has some ammunition in trying to convince AD to stay, and even if he doesn’t, the Pelicans should be able to acquire an attractive package of young players and picks to go along with Zion and Jrue Holiday.

  2. GRIZZLIES- Ja Morant, PG, Murray St.  The Grizzlies considered trade offers for veteran point guard Mike Conley before the deadline, and you can bet they’ll be proactive in trying to find him a new home this summer. Morant led the nation in assists during his sophomore season at Murray St. and his court vision and playmaking ability will usher in a new era of basketball in Memphis. Farewell Grit ‘n Grind!

  3. KNICKS- R.J. Barrett, SG-SF, Duke.  Barrett is a volume scorer, who averaged 22.9 points per game during his one season at Duke and should be a good fit for the Knicks, who are looking for more offense after trading Tim Hardaway Jr. to Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis deal. New York didn’t get the dream scenario of bringing Zion Williamson to the Big Apple, but the Knicks still plan to go big-game hunting this summer, with free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in their sights.

  4. LAKERS- Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech.  Culver didn’t have a great Final 4 with the Red Raiders, but LeBron could use another scorer on the perimeter and Culver has an effective mid-range game, similar to Spurs’ veteran DeMar DeRozan. Given James’ desire to win right away, this pick also could be available in a trade for the right veteran player.

  5. CAVALIERS- De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia.  Hunter got the best of Culver and Texas Tech in the national title game, showing a soft touch from the outside and tremendous defensive versatility for a 6’7” forward. The Cavs need just about everything, but Hunter could be the choice to provide some defensive help up front for the often-injured Kevin Love.

  6. SUNS- Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt.  Phoenix is desperate for a versatile point guard to run the show for new head coach Monty Williams. Garland only played five games at Vandy before suffering a season-ending meniscus injury, but scouts love his potential as a scoring lead guard. The jury is still out on whether Garland will be comfortable in a facilitator role, setting up recent lottery picks Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges.

  7. BULLS- Coby White, G, North Carolina.  Paxson said dropping to the No. 7 spot might lead to the Bulls picking for positional need rather than simply the best player available. So, with four of the five starting spots set, look for the Bulls to go with the best point guard on the board. White came on strong late in the season and has the size to play either backcourt spot at 6’5”. Best-case scenario, he could provide the speed and scoring punch Sacramento is getting from 2017 lottery pick De’Aaron Fox.

  8. HAWKS- Cam Reddish, SF, Duke.  Reddish was considered a top 3 pick before a sub-par freshman season at Duke. Still, his size and athleticism will keep him in the top 10, and the Hawks could use a 3-and-D wing to go along with their developing, young team.

  9. WIZARDS- Sekou Doumbouya, F, France.  Scouts are divided on this rangy athlete, but with ex-Bulls Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker heading into free agency, the Wizards need to restock at the forward position. Doumbouya is one of the ultimate boom or bust picks in this year’s draft.

  10. HAWKS (from Dallas)-  Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas.  Atlanta could use more size up front with Dewayne Dedmon likely leaving in free agency. Hayes is extremely raw offensively, but should be able to offer rebounding and rim protection right away.

  11. TIMBERWOLVES- Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga.  With Taj Gibson likely leaving in free agency, the T-Wolves will need to add a reliable power forward to help out Karl-Anthony Towns on the boards. The decision could come down to the high-flying Clarke or his Gonzaga teammate Rui Hachimura, who is a more skilled offensive player but not as explosive as Clarke, who should blow away teams in individual workouts.

  12. HORNETS- Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana.  Charlotte could be in the need for some scoring punch if Kemba Walker leaves in free agency, and Langford is considered to be one of the top wing prospects in the draft even after an uneven freshman season at Indiana.

  13. HEAT- Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC.  With Miami capped out because of the bad contracts handed out by Pat Riley, they’ll need to swing for the fences in the draft and hope the super-athletic Porter Jr. eventually lives up to his preseason billing as one of the top players available in this draft.

  14. CELTICS- Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga.  Hachimura has some Al Horford to his game with a solid mid-range jumper and good basketball instincts. Boston has three picks in the first round, and will probably look to add some frontcourt depth with this pick since all the top point guards are already off the board. Oregon’s Bol Bol is another possibility here for a team that can afford to wait on the 7’2” center to fully recover from a broken foot.

The Bulls also have a pick in the 2nd round, No. 38 overall. At that point, they could go with a developmental big man like Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey or LSU’s Naz Reid. Adding another shooter is a possibility with players like Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort and Washington’s Jaylen Nowell among the players who might still be on the board. Or, given the high numbers of young players already on the roster, the Bulls could draft an international player who might not come to the NBA for a few seasons.

Of course, the draft isn’t the only way for the Bulls to improve the roster. Paxson is still waiting on a decision from the league on whether the $3 million dollars owed to Omer Asik for next season will come off the team’s salary cap because of a career-ending medical condition, but the Bulls should have upwards of $20 million dollars to add a couple quality veterans to the NBA’s youngest team. If the Bulls draft a point guard like White, they might be less inclined to commit big dollars to a veteran at that position. But if they go another direction with the 7th overall pick, starting caliber free agents like Ricky Rubio and Darren Collison could come into play, as well as restricted free agents Malcolm Brogdon and Terry Rozier. Rozier told the Boston media following exit interviews last week that he would be looking to leave if both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are on the roster for next season since his role diminished considerably after those veterans returned from injury.

Meanwhile, the Bucks will have to spend a ton of money this summer to re-sign key rotation players Khris Middleton, Niko Mirotic and Brook Lopez, plus they have to make a decision on the non-guaranteed $18 million dollars on George Hill’s contract for next season. After giving starting point guard Eric Bledsoe a 4-year, $60 million dollar extension recently, the Bucks could be vulnerable to a lucrative, front loaded offer sheet for Brogdon, who was the only player in the NBA this season to reach the coveted 50-40-90 plateau, as in 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from 3 point range, and 90 percent from the free throw line.

Paxson has gone on the record saying he wants to bring in competition at the point guard spot to challenge incumbent starter Kris Dunn at training camp in September. Where that competition comes from will be the biggest storyline surrounding the Bulls this summer.

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How Drew Gooden thinks LeBron James can surpass Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

How Drew Gooden thinks LeBron James can surpass Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant

Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Who is truly the greatest of the bunch?

For Bulls supporters — and, it seems, most basketball fans in the wake of “The Last Dance” — the answer is simple. Jordan, of the five MVPs, six rings (and Finals MVPs), nine scoring titles and a litany of additional accolades is without comparison.

But appearing on Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico, Drew Gooden, now an NBC Sports Washington analyst and a teammate of James with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2004-2008, brought up an interesting swing variable in the debate: Phil Jackson.

“There’s one variable that we never talk about when this discussion comes up between Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and it’s one guy that I think is the variable in this formula and it’s Phil Jackson,” Gooden said. “I mean, if you take Phil Jackson out of this equation, how many championships does Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant have?

“LeBron James is in a unique situation outside of not having a Phil Jackson, being able to have to go like a vagabond and go figure it out himself with multiple coaches, multiple organizations, multiple systems. With that being said, I think his book is a lot different than Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s, because I feel like they had the structure with Phil Jackson most of their career and were successful with Phil Jackson.”

Indeed, James’ three titles are divided between two franchises, two with the Miami Heat, one with the Cavaliers. And he's positioned for another deep run with the top-seeded Lakers this year. Jordan and Bryant’s title-rearing years came under one coach’s tutelage, James’ two (that he actually won titles with) and counting, and he's cycled through countless rosters and team infrastructures. Some will point to that tumult being his own doing, but the point stands.

Gooden wasn’t ready to anoint James ahead of Jordan and Bryant. But he did say this season could be a pivot point.

I think this will be the tale of the tape of, OK, I’ve not only done that two times, but I’m gonna do it a third time in Los Angeles,” Gooden said. “Doesn’t matter who the coach is, doesn’t matter who my teammates are, I’m gonna provide another championship for the city of Los Angeles. 

“Now if he does that now, you’re starting to see, alright, where does he separate himself from Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant.”

It won’t look conventional, but with the NBA announcing a 22-team return plan for the late summer, it seems James will get a chance.

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Thad Young on the challenges of being a father in a racially unjust world

Thad Young on the challenges of being a father in a racially unjust world

Before getting to Jim Boylen’s future, the anticlimactic end to the Bulls’ campaign and the NBA’s unprecedented 22-team play-in format to finish its 2019-20 season, Thad Young had to address the full context at hand for his conference call with reporters.

For Friday marked the 11th day since George Floyd, a black man, died after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine straight minutes. The killing has sparked mass unrest, protests and fervent discourse around racial injustice and police brutality across the globe. The world also continues to grapple with the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered the NBA on March 11, and the rest of the United States (where the virus has killed over 100,000 and counting) soon after.

“I know we’re stuck in unprecedented times where we’re in the house during COVID and then the thing that happened with George Floyd and social injustice,” Young said before fielding questions on the call. “I just want to make sure to let everybody know that I hope everybody is safe and healthy with our families, and make sure we’re holding each and every one of us close and try to get through these tough times…”

Young, 31, is currently bunkered down in his family’s new home in Texas with his wife, Shekinah, and two sons. Parsing through the realities of a racially unjust world with his sons, to hear Young tell is, has been a balancing act.

“When they come up with a question, it’s very hard to answer that question because I don’t want them to have to grow up and fear for their lives or have to grow up and understand that they can’t do the same things that other people are doing,” Young said. “That’s one of the toughest things. You want to give your kid the world. You want to get them to understand that, ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want to do.’ In these times, it’s just not the same. You can’t do everything that somebody else is doing. 

“If I’m going to be specific about it, the black kid can’t do everything that a white kid is doing. Those are things that are very, very tough to talk about. But it’s a harsh reality and we have to talk about them. My kids are still young, six and nine. They understand certain things that are going on, but not entirely everything. 

“For me as a father, that’s probably one of the toughest conversations to ever have with your kids. They all have questions because there’s so much stuff on social media and so much stuff on YouTube, which is what all the kids are watching now. When they see a video pop up with different things that happened… My youngest son, he asked the other day, ‘Why did they kill that man, Daddy?’ It’s hard for me to answer that question because you don’t want to push him into the harsh reality of what it is. But you have to answer those tough questions and you have to have those tough conversations with your kids. It’s definitely hard. What happened is definitely saddening for me but it also scares me to death because I have two young boys.”

Sadder still because the direct onus of those difficult conversations falls on black families far more than their white counterparts. It’s a testament to how ingrained racial biases (at best) and racist practices (at worst) still are, even today.

The hope of Young, Zach LaVine, who spoke on an earlier call, and countless others calling and fighting for change, is that a new dawn is on the horizon. Whether substantive change comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Young emphasized that resolution will come through unity.

“It’s so early right now just to see if there’s going to be change. One of the things that I do see is we have some unity coming,” Young said. “We have some people who are getting together. We have these protests. People are coming out and letting their voices be heard. You have a lot of celebrities and very, very influential people who are following suit. The good thing is we have a lot of people who are speaking up for change and speaking up for freedom and peace. 

“We’re bringing more and more people together. One of the biggest things is to continue to do that. Continue to let our voices be heard. Stay together. Stay unified. And also make sure we do what’s right and steer everybody away from doing what’s wrong.”

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