Bulls

Report: Bulls showing interest in Chicago native Jabari Parker

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AP

Report: Bulls showing interest in Chicago native Jabari Parker

Well, this is something.

With the Bulls still locked in to negotiations with their own restricted free agent Zach LaVine, they're reportedly interested in a familiar face.

There's a lot to unpack here. The first, most obvious, question here is where Parker would play. Yes, he's perimeter-oriented and has attempted 259 3-pointers the past two seasons after just 51 in his first two seasons. But the 6-foot-8 Parker is a natural fit as a small-ball power forward. He's listed at 250 pounds and simply doesn't have the lateral quickness in his game to play exclusively on the perimeter and, more importantly, defend there.

The Bulls, of course, have plenty of depth at power forward. Lauri Markkanen was named to the All-Rookie team and Bobby Portis was one of the league's best reserves. Portis has just one year left on his contract before entering free agency but all signs have pointed to him being part of the team's future.

And if fans are concerned about shelling out large amounts of money to LaVine after his lackluster results post-ACL surgery, consider that Parker is also 23 and has torn his ACL twice. He has missed 145 of a possible 328 regular-season games as a professional. The talent is there, as he was averaging 20.1 points on 49 percent shooting before he suffered his second torn ACL in 2017.

But investing the $15 million+ per year Parker could command in restricted free agency is a lot to offer to a player with conditioning issues, a severe injury history and one who doesn't fill a position of need.

The hometown story is nice, as Parker was born and raised in Chicago and made history while at Simeon Academy. But this would be a confusing fit on multiple levels for a Bulls team that needs help in the backcourt and on the wing.

The Bucks are in a tight financial situation so the Bulls could price Milwaukee out of matching a Parker offer sheet, but we're probably a ways away from that happening. For now it's a rumor to keep an eye on, even if it is just posturing by the Bulls to get LaVine negotiations going.

Could Iman Shumpert help fill two needs for the Bulls?

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USA TODAY

Could Iman Shumpert help fill two needs for the Bulls?

The Bulls need help on the wing. They seemingly struck gold in Otto Porter, who the Wizards dumped at last year’s trade deadline in the wake of John Wall’s season-ending Achilles tear. And they have draft capital invested in first-round pick Chandler Hutchison, who after breaking his toe 44 games into his rookie season suffered a hamstring strain last month that cut his offseason workouts short.

Past those two, the wing situation is murky. “Position-less basketball” is the league’s favorite new buzzword, but Adam Mokoka, Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Shaq Harrison are more on the shooting guard side of things and would make for a rather small defensive lineup if two of them shared the floor.

Significant help isn’t on the way. The Bulls couldn’t have addressed all their needs this offseason, and they valued point guard (Coby White, Tomas Satoransky) and frontcourt (Daniel Gafford, Thaddeus Young, Luke Kornet) depth over improvement and/or numbers on the wing. It’s September 18, and any difference makers have found teams as training camp nears.

But maybe the Bulls can find a smidgen of help on the free-agency wire. According to Stadium’s Shams Charania, Iman Shumpert couldn’t come to an agreement with the Houston Rockets after “months of discussion” between the two sides.

So Shumpert needs a new home. He’s still just 29 years old but has carved out a role as a veteran presence, having played for four different teams in eight seasons. He has appeared in 79 playoff games, including playing a key role off the bench for the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season he spent 42 games with the Sacramento Kings before being shipped to the Houston Rockets in February. He played 20 games in Houston, averaging 19.1 minutes, and played in eight of the Rockets’ 11 postseason games. He took on an increased role in Round 2 against the Warriors, averaging 15.4 minutes.

But the Rockets, for whatever reason, are moving on. Shumpert wasn’t all that impressive in Houston, averaging 4.6 points on 34.6% shooting (and, more importantly, 29.6% from beyond the arc) in 19.1 minutes. He was a fourth or fifth option on the iso-heavy Rockets, so his per-game numbers were never going to flourish, but the Rockets are clearly looking for better 3-point shooting off the bench.

Shumpert isn’t a perfect fit, but perhaps the Bulls will consider adding the Oak Park, Ill., native.

Shumpert didn’t give the Rockets much, but he was solid in Sacramento’s uptempo offense, something the Bulls are attempting to partially recreate this season. Shumpert averaged 8.9 points on 38.2% shooting and 36.6% from beyond the arc with the Kings, and added 3.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 26.2 minutes. More importantly, Shumpert was a key veteran presence for a young Kings team that made a significant jump from 27 to 39 wins last season. At the time of the Kings-Rockets trade, the Kings were 28-25 and in the hunt for the No. 8 seed in the West.

His experience would play well in the Bulls locker room. The Bulls roster has three players with playoff experience (Porter, Young, Satoransky) totaling 98 games. Shumpert alone has 79 playoff games under his belt – more than any of those three – and reached the mountaintop in 2016 with LeBron James and the Cavs. It’s tough to replicate three NBA Finals appearances and a ring.

Though he stands just 6-foot-5, Shumpert has always played bigger. In fact, he played 75% of his minutes at small forward between the Kings and Rockets last season. If nothing else than a stabilizing locker room presence and experienced teacher, Shumpert could push Hutchison for minutes. Again, the Bulls wouldn’t be bringing in Shumpert as a significant difference maker who moves the needle at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. But the Bulls also have the NBA’s second youngest roster. A group like that can never have enough veterans, and Shumpert having a track record of helping in Sacramento - as well as filling a need on the wing - would make him an excellent fit in Chicago.

He also played in Houston under assistant Roy Rogers, who joined Jim Boylen’s staff this summer, so there’s familiarity. Chicago homecomings haven’t exactly gone well the last handful of seasons, but Shumpert would be a low-risk option that could help push the rebuild forward.

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

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USA TODAY

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

The 2017 NBA Draft class has started to show their true colors three seasons into their respective careers and we have a good idea of where each player stands with their franchise. The Orlando Magic have made a decent-sized commitment to 2017 No.  1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, exercising their fourth-year team option on the 21-year old guard. This keeps him under contract for the 2020-21 season for $12.3 million.

Bulls star forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted No. 7 overall in 2017, will likely have a decision made soon on his fourth-year option ($6.7 million), but his position with the Bulls was never in doubt, however, what the move by Orlando did was again bring to the forefront how impressive Markkanen has been as compared to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft class.

Among the top 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen is second in win shares (6.1) to only No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum (12.0).

Markkanen was not a household name coming off of his lone year at Arizona and had the reputation of a floor-spacer who brought little else to the floor in terms of value, he quickly dispelled those notions, going on a historic tear that resulted in one of the best rookie campaigns in Bulls history.

He was the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and before Markkanen none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.

Unlike Fultz, who suffered to find his footing with a playoff-bound Sixers team and has yet to play for his latest team in Orlando, Markkanen's career was aided by the fact that the Bulls were thin on frontcourt depth right at the start of the 2017-18 season. Markkanen has not looked back since given an opportunity to be the Bulls starting power forward and has averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

Markkanen has become better in every aspect of his game and will need a similar sort of leap if the Bulls hope to turn things around in 2020. The Magic reaffirming their belief in Fultz is in no way shocking, but it should serve as a reminder to Bulls fans that the franchise made out quite well by selecting the Finnish big man back in 2017 amid the uncertainty surrounding the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls.

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