Bulls

NBA moves up start time of free agency to 5 p.m. on June 30

NBA moves up start time of free agency to 5 p.m. on June 30

The NBA has wisely decided to get everyone some additonal shut-eye at the start of free agency.

The league announced Friday that the start of free agency has been moved up six hours to 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT) on June 30. Previously, the the start time was 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1. Teams may begin communicating with free agents and their representatives at 6 p.m. ET on June 29 to schedule free agent meetings.

The league's moratorium rules are still in place, meaning the official season - and the time when players can officially ink contracts - will begin at noon ET on July 6. But the decision to move up the start of the negotiating period will allow more reasonable hours for everyone involved, including players, representatives, NBA front offices and the media covering these meetings.

It doesn't change anything specifically for the Bulls. They, like the other 29 teams, will get an additional day to (legally) set up meetings, and they'll get to meet  with those players at a more reasonable hour instead of camping outside homes or waiting in separate hotel rooms until the clock struck midnight to start these meetings.

It's anyone's guess as to what the Bulls will do in free agency - what they do at No. 7 in the NBA Draft on June 20 could determine that - but odds are they'll be looking for a starter at point guard, a few shooters on the perimeter and a couple veterans to inject some maturity into the Bulls' inexperienced locker room.

Our Mark Schanowski has spent this offseason looking at potential point guard fits in free agency. Check out those Closer Looks below.

Joakim Noah reportedly planning to join the Los Angeles Clippers for workouts

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USA Today

Joakim Noah reportedly planning to join the Los Angeles Clippers for workouts

In what could be defined as a “Hollywood as hell” move, Joakim Noah is planning to join the Los Angeles Clippers for workouts this week, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Noah played 42 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season after being bought out of his mammoth four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks in October.

The Clippers currently have 14 guaranteed contracts on their roster, and the only real centers in their rotation are Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac, so there’s a decent chance Jo could stick around and contribute. He certainly gave Memphis their money’s worth on a vet minimum deal last year at a time when it seemed like his days playing in the NBA were dwindling. In those 42 games, Noah averaged 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in just 16.5 minutes per contest, and the Grizzlies’ general friskiness as a team -- even in the midst of a rebuild -- in 2018-19 can be at least somewhat attributed to the intensity Noah still brings game-in game-out.

On a team like the Clippers, which is flush with exemplary perimeter defenders and above-average shooters at guard and wing, Noah could be a great fit to provide some energy and playmaking in limited minutes off the bench. He also provides a wealth of experience in high-leverage moments and playoff series from his time with the Bulls. 

And not for nothing, with the crosstown Lakers set to be a force in the Western Conference, keeping Noah around would open the door for some good ol’ fashioned LeBron James antagonization that would surely bring Bulls fans back to the early 2010s. Charania also said that Noah was a finalist for a spot with the Lakers before they signed Dwight Howard, so I suppose if you can't join 'em, you might as try to beat 'em.  

All in all, it’s good to see Jo sticking around the league as a savvy, spark plug veteran -- a role that suits him to perfection. If it works out with the Clips, it’ll be fun to watch him on a contending team in a major market once again.

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Zach LaVine and Otto Porter make the Top 100 of ESPN's NBArank list

Zach LaVine and Otto Porter make the Top 100 of ESPN's NBArank list

NBA 'list season' has powered on as we approach the official start of the 2019-20 NBA season and ESPN is the latest to get in on all the player ranking fun. On Monday ESPN released the first part of their Top 100 NBA players list, containing players No. 100 through No. 51, with two Bulls players making the cut. 

ESPN's "NBArank: 100 to 51" was based off of which players would contribute most to their team's ability to win in the regular season and playoffs, as voted on by ESPN's NBA staff. The first Bull to make the cut was the steadying presence that is Otto Porter Jr., checking at No. 90 on the list. 

Porter has shown up on pretty much all of the offseason NBA player ranking lists, so it is not shocking to see him make the cut, however, his No. 90 ranking is somewhat surprising considering he was ranked inside the top 40 (No. 38) last season. ESPN's Kevin Pelton had this explanation for OPJ making the cut.

Porter is a solid complementary piece, a capable defender who scores with high efficiency in a limited role...There's little question that the Bulls could use a player such as that alongside Zach LaVine...

-Kevin Pelton on Otto Porter Jr. 

With Porter being ranked 52 spots lower than last year, the assumption would be that ESPN's panel is expecting a bit of regression from Porter.

Pelton does mention in his excerpt on Porter that the small forward shot better than 43% from 3-point range in each of the last two seasons before dropping to 37% in the first section of the 2018-19 season. Although Porter finished the season with his 3-point percentage above 40%, it did take a scorching hot shooting effort during his Bulls tenure (48.8% from 3-point range over 15 games) to get near his usual standards. 

It is understandable if the slight drop in 3-point percentage resulted in Porter taking a fall in the rankings but 40+ spots definitely feels like too steep of a drop in the NBArank for a player who is projected to add 6.2 wins to your team via ESPN's Real Plus-Minus statistic.

The second Bulls player to make the list so far was guard Zach LaVine, who came in at No. 55 on the list.

Obviously ESPN's NBArank feels—as most of Bulls Nation does—that LaVine has shown considerable growth over the past year, considering the fact that he jumped all the way to No. 55 on the list after not being ranked last year.

In 2018-19 LaVine had an All-Star caliber season, putting up 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on 46.7% shooting from the field, all career-highs.

ESPN's Zach Lowe commented that the best way for the Bulls' "ceiling and position in the trade market" to change was if LaVine was to transform himself into more of an all-around player rather than "an empty-calories hog".

This statement has some truth to it because while LaVine's 22.6% assist rate was the highest he's posted since his rookie year (when he played PG full-time), he also finished with the second-highest turnover rate of his career at 14.2%. However, that is less of an issue than his defense and shot selection. 

Cutting down on the turnovers would be ideal but as we have seen with players like James Harden, high turnover rates are just the name of the game when you are a score-first, high-usage superstar.

For LaVine, as Lowe hints at, it is everything else that needs work. His oft-discussed defense took a small step forward last season and it showed up in his improved defensive rating (112.4 in 2019 vs 114.7 in 2018). Of course,112.4 is by no means a good defensive rating, so there is much work to be done. But with the better, veteran talent and an improved Wendell Carter Jr. flanking him, we have every reason to believe LaVine will be a solid defender in 2020, justifying his spot on the list. 

What was most intriguing about LaVine and Porter's respective rankings were how drastically different they were from Sports Illustrated's 2020 NBA 100 list. 

On SI's list, Porter was at No. 57 while LaVine came in at No. 90, showing just how drastically different the evaluations of the Bulls talent has been on the national stage. But it is nonetheless encouraging to see multiple Bulls on ESPN's NBArank list as the franchise is looking for a bounce-back season, and there is (finally) acknowledgment that the Bulls have a stable core of young talent. 

Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen was noticeably absent from the 100-51 section of ESPN's NBArank after coming in at No. 66 last year, so the assumption here is that Markkanen will be ranked as a top 50 player by ESPN's panel, quite a leap for the young Finnish forward heading into his third year in the league. 

October 23 can't get here fast enough.

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