Bulls

20 in 20: Grading each team's offseason

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20 in 20: Grading each team's offseason

Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010
5:30 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
2. Which NBA teams had the best and worst offseasons?
The Bulls' offseason was discussed in this space yesterday, but with reports that Denver Nuggets All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony's trade preference is Chicago or New York (with the Bulls being the supposedly more realistic option) and the organization having "internal discussions" about whether to include star center Joakim Noah in a proposed trade for Anthony, an addendum must be made.

Although the potential addition of Anthony would obviously bring more star power to the Windy City, there are several aspects to consider. Chicago's front office has repeatedly indicated to CSNChicago.com that both Noah and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose are "untouchable" in trade scenarios.

Noah, who is due for a contract extension, would obviously see a major pay raise (an unsubstantiated report indicates Noah recently rejected a five-year, 60-million deal from the team), but still would unlikely be as costly as Anthony, who will also be a free agent after the upcoming season. In addition, even if Anthony fervently desired to come to the Bulls, a big part of that reasoning would be to join a team with Noah -- not one with a gaping hole in the middle after the departure of one of the league's top big men. While the temptation to assemble a Miami-like "super team" is hard to resist, if the price to be paid for Anthony is Noah, discussions should be tabled -- for now -- as Noah's presence on both ends of the floor, potential, status as both a franchise cornerstone and one of the NBA's rising stars can't be dismissed.

Furthermore, if speculation that Denver is reticent to take on Bulls small forward Luol Deng's contract in a trade for Anthony is accurate, then Chicago would be potentially left with two players at the same position with similar games (regardless of how much of an upgrade some consider Anthony to be over Deng) and seeking either a third trading partner or a separate trade for Deng to acquire another center. With the increasing chances of Anthony likely hitting the free-agent market in the summer of 2011 and the Bulls considered to now be an upper-echelon Eastern Conference team, all signs point to nothing occurring in the near future. Adding to that notion is a league source relating to CSNChicago.com that "nothing at all is happening at the moment" on the end of Denver's front office, especially since new Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri has yet to formally sit down with Anthony to discuss a trade in person since his hiring late last month.

As far as the rest of the Eastern Conference goes, there are some clear-cut winners and losers this offseason, taking organizational personnel moves, free agency and the draft into consideration. Let's briefly examine them by division, with winners in the "yea" category, losers in the "nay" section and teams who didn't cover much ground either way in the "eh" denomination.

Central:

Yea: The aforementioned Bulls obviously had an excellent offseason, but Chicago's neighbor to the north, the Milwaukee Bucks, quietly added some solid role players--namely underrated young talents Larry Sanders, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jon Brockman (Sanders was their first-round draft pick; the latter two were acquired in trades with New Jersey and Sacramento, respectively). The Bucks also added veteran free-agent point guards Earl Boykins and Keyon Dooling--and re-signed swingmen Carlos Delfino and former Bull John Salmons, as well as kept intact a roster that advanced to the playoffs and opened eyes around the league.
Nay: It's hard to bounce back from losing the reigning two-time MVP and hometown hero (LeBron James), not to mention a coach (Mike Brown) that won more than 60 games in each of the past two seasons and the general manager (Danny Ferry) who assembled the team in the first place. Byron Scott patrolling the sidelines and Chris Grant ascending to the GM role might help give the Cleveland Cavaliers a fresh outlook, but it's sure to be an uphill battle and when backup point guard Ramon Sessions is considered a major acquisition, things probably won't get better any time soon.

Eh: It will be interesting to see if the Detroit Pistons' addition of Tracy McGrady to already crowded group at the wing will pay off, especially since the other offseason moves in Motown -- no disrespect to draftees Greg Monroe and Terrico White, as well as reserve guard and Windy City product Will Bynum, who was re-signed by the team -- are unlikely to make much of a significant impact.

After years of searching for a reliable floor general, the Indiana Pacers brought in Darren Collison via trade (along with vet James Posey), and while the former Hornets' rookie numbers are a source of optimism, Indy's youth movement (there are high hopes for draft picks Paul George and Lance Stephenson, despite the latter's summer arrest) may not pay immediate dividends.

Atlantic:

Yea: While the New York Knicks didn't necessarily make the splash many in the Big Apple hoped for (although bringing in the likes of Anthony, Chris Paul and Tony Parker next summer means New Yorkers are in for another year of speculation), they did acquire a true superstar in power forward Amar'e Stoudemire. And with the addition of players like point guard Raymond Felton, shooter Roger Mason, banger Ronny Turiaf, swingman Kelenna Azubuike and versatile Anthony Randolph (the latter three were acquired in a sign-and-trade with Golden State for free agent power forward David Lee), the team now has the pieces to play the run-and-gun style New York head coach Mike D'Antoni is known for.

Nay: After the expected loss of star power forward Chris Bosh via free agency, the Toronto Raptors didn't necessarily rebound with a multitude of strong moves. Instead, the acquisitions of Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, David Andersen and Julian Wright, as well as high-risk, high-reward draftees Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi (they also re-signed energy guy Amir Johnson to a deal that raised eyebrows around the league) have even further dampened hopes for the upcoming season.

Eh: With the addition of the veteran O'Neal centers (Shaquille and Jermaine) to hold down the fort while Kendrick Perkins returns from injury, re-signing both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the return of former draft pick Delonte West and the selection of Avery Bradley for the future, in addition to other less prominent moves, the Boston Celtics were certainly active this summer. But whether the added depth results in Boston hoisting another banner at the conclusion of the postseason is another story.

Hiring former Bulls coach Doug Collins and exec Rod Thorn (who will be team president after "retiring" from the same role in New Jersey), subtracting disenchanted center Samuel Dalembert and adding versatile No. 2 overall draft pick and Chicago native Evan Turner should help the Sixers bounce back from a tumultuous 2009-10 campaign. But, they are still a team in need of an identity and with a somewhat redundant roster (not to mention the albatross-like contract of power forward Elton Brand, who has yet to resemble the pre-injury form of his Clippers days), don't be shocked if an in-season overhaul is made.

Along with the Clippers, the New Jersey Nets were the perceived "loser" during free agency, as they failed to acquire a max free agent (despite the deep coffers of new Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov). But at the same time, they did acquire some serviceable (albeit overpaid) role players in sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and jumping jack Travis Outlaw, drafted highly touted power forward Derrick Favors (although not getting the No. 1 overall pick and the opportunity to draft John Wall was a disappointment) and underrated Texas product Damion James. The Nets also made a late-summer steal in picking up New Jersey native Troy Murphy (an expiring contract after this season, Murphy not only produces on the court, but will save Favors from being immediately thrown into the fire) and added both a new coach (Avery Johnson) and GM (Billy King) to develop a young, talented roster, so things are looking up after a dismal 12-win campaign.

Southeast:

Yea: Miami was clearly the league-wide winner this summer, but as their acquisitions have been covered ad nauseum, let's instead focus on the Washington Wizards, who not only selected potential superstar point guard Wall with the top overall draft pick (big men Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin could develop into solid role players), but also acquired steady veteran Kirk Hinrich and still-promising forward Yi Jianlian from the Bulls and Nets, respectively, for basically nothing. They also re-signed swingman Josh Howard on the cheap (if he fully recovers from last season's ACL injury, the former Mavericks standout could turn out to be a bargain) and -- love him or hate him -- high-scoring Gilbert Arenas (who averaged 22 points per game before getting suspended last season; here's a bet he'll be on his best behavior, whether he's shipped out of D.C. or not) returns to add firepower to the offense.

Nay: After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Charlotte Bobcats are now faced with the prospects of a new starting point guard and center, and while Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler weren't superstars, adding the likes of Kwame Brown, Erick Dampier, former Illinois high school star Shaun Livingston and undrafted Chicagoan Sherron Collins means re-signing former Bull Tyrus Thomas was the team's biggest offseason move, which is a somewhat frightening proposition.

Eh: The Atlanta Hawks pretty much backed themselves into a corner by re-signing star swingman Joe Johnson -- but at least it keeps them a viable on-court product, if not a major draw for home fans -- but bringing in free-agent big men Josh Powell and Etan Thomas, drafting scorer Jordan Crawford and re-signing veteran Maurice Evans aren't moves that engender confidence in an already lackluster fan base. By basically standing pat -- save for the additions of backup point guard Chris Duhon and sharpshooter Quentin Richardson, a Windy City product, as well as re-signing veteran Jason Williams and outbidding the Bulls in order to acquire the services of shooter J.J. Redick -- demonstrates the organization's confidence that the squad is indeed a contender.

While the Miami Heat's coup of re-signing Dwyane Wade and acquiring both LeBron James and Chris Bosh has been much celebrated, the franchise also did a solid job of complementing the superstar trio with dependable and experienced role players, such as versatile Mike Miller, offensive sparkplug Eddie House, playmaker Carlos Arroyo, swingman James Jones and veteran insiders Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire, as well as re-signing hometown product Udonis Haslem.

Pacific:

Yea: The young Sacramento Kings shored up their interior deficiencies via trades (acquiring Dalembert from Philadelphia) and the draft (top pick DeMarcus Cousins is an early Rookie of the Year candidate, while second-rounder Hassan Whiteside is full of potential), but with a lot of overall talent -- particularly in the Tyreke Evans-led backcourt and on the perimeter in general -- sometimes less is more.
Nay: The Golden State Warriors' acquisition of free agent power forward David Lee, the "discovery" of former Harvard star and Bay Area product Jeremy Lin and a new ownership group is tempered by losing some of the team's once-promising core. They enter the season with the return of an unstable coaching staff and front office, an injured top draft choice in Ekpe Udoh and less-than-exciting pickups of middling vets like Charlie Bell, Rodney Carney, Dorell Wright and Dan Gadzuric.

Eh: The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers didn't have to make any major additions, but added depth in the form of steady point guard Steve Blake, gritty small forward Matt Barnes, veteran shot-blocker Theo Ratliff and rookie forwards Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks. The new acquisitions shouldn't take away from chemistry, while bringing back high-flying Chicago-area native Shannon Brown and most importantly, head coach Phil Jackson, maintains their top-dog status.

Another underwhelming summer for the Los Angeles Clippers included drafting athletic tweeners Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Warren, acquiring role players Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Brian Cook and Randy Foye, re-signing sharpshooter Rasual Butler and hiring former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro. However, a dose of optimism comes with the postponed debut of 2009 No. 1 pick Blake Griffin, who missed the entirety of last season.

After a surprising playoff run, the Phoenix Suns lost star power forward Stoudemire to New York and general manager Steve Kerr to the TV studio. Although a return to form isn't expected, a new front office (headed by Cleveland expatriate Lance Blanks in the GM role and new president and former player agent Lon Babby as president) and acquisitions of free agents Hedo Turkoglu, Euro League experimenter Josh Childress and former Bull Hakim Warrick (along with unsung rookies Gani Lawal and Matt Janning) should make things interesting.

Southwest:
Yea: By re-signing key role players Luis Scola and backup point guard Kyle Lowry, trading for talented and versatile Courtney Lee, signing former Bull Brad Miller in free agency and drafting mature and underrated Patrick Patterson, the Houston Rockets quietly improved -- and that's without mentioning the potential return of former All-Star center Yao Ming.
Nay: While retaining star head coach Lionel Hollins and small forward Rudy Gay -- and to a lesser extent, bringing in reserves Tony Allen and backup point guard Acie Law -- was a move in the right direction following an improved season, the hard stance of Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and his front office regarding the oddly incentive-based draft picks Xavier Henry (who could really help the team with his outside-shooting prowess) and Greivis Vasquez have wiped away much of the previously-generated goodwill.

Eh: Long one of the model franchises in the league, the San Antonio Spurs were somewhat quiet this summer. But although the almost below-the-radar signings of, among others, European star big men Tiago Splitter (via buyout from his overseas team) and American NBA newcomer Gary Neal don't seem like much on the surface, given the organization's history, they must be at least acknowledged, as does the surprise re-signing of the disappointing Richard Jefferson.

The Dallas Mavericks, another upper-echelon team, didn't make many changes either, but bringing back franchise player Dirk Nowitzki, center Brendan Haywood, energetic guard Jose Juan Barea and versatile forward Tim Thomas (who didn't suit up last season due to personal issues), drafting pure scorer Dominique Jones and adding center Tyson Chandler via trade should keep them in contention.

New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams and general manager Dell Demps (both new hires) have a lot of work to do in trying to appease reportedly disgruntled All-Star point guard Chris Paul, but trading for athletic swingman Trevor Ariza and shooter Marco Bellinelli and drafting live bodies Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins is a start.
Northwest:
Yea: Bringing in sharpshooter Daequan Cook from Miami and veteran leader Morris Peterson from New Orleans via trade, as well as drafting space-filling center Cole Aldrich were all good moves, but locking up young superstar Kevin Durant to a long-term deal cemented the Oklahoma City Thunder as a force to be reckoned with for the forseeable future.
Nay: Even before the recent Anthony saga, the Denver Nuggets had a disappointing offseason, as veterans Al Harrington and Shelden Williams were acquired to bolster the frontline, but nothing else was done to improve an already flawed and aging squad -- perhaps a microcosm of a reportedly disjointed front office -- meaning new general manager Masai Ujiri has a lot on his plate, despite the expected return of head coach George Karl.

Eh: While their youth means they have a longer leash than aforementioned division rival Denver, the Portland Trailblazers' very public front-office dysfunction was an ugly sight to witness (former general manager Kevin Pritchard was fired on draft day; Rich Cho replaced him later in the summer). But by stealing swingman Wesley Matthews out of Utah (likely overpaying for him) after an impressive rookie season and drafting sleepers Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson and Elliot Williams, at least the cupboard isn't anywhere close to bare.

The Utah Jazz were seemingly raided by the Bulls in the offseason, but the always-steady franchise recovered nicely by acquiring 20-and-10 big man Al Jefferson via trade, signing veteran swingman Raja Bell in free agency and drafting Butler's Final Four hero Gordon Hayward.

The strategy of the Minnesota Timberwolves remains confusing as ever, as they let their best player (Jefferson) leave for a division rival, rewarded Darko Milicic (who general manager David Kahn famously compared to Chris Webber) with a hefty contract for showing signs of life, traded for troubled forward Michael Beasley, drafted a swingman (Wesley Johnson) and subsequently traded for another (Martell Webster), acquired yet another point guard in Luke Ridnour and for good measure, brought in two more post players in free agent Anthony Tolliver and touted European import Nikola Pekovic.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Special Guest Ryan Arcidiacono

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USA Today

Bulls Talk Podcast: Special Guest Ryan Arcidiacono

Ryan Arcidiacono joins our K.C. Johnson to talk all things basketball.

0:25       Ryan on his very involved sports family and choosing Villanova over Florida

3:30       On his dad’s football background and the influence it had on Ryan

5:20       Why he missed his entire senior season in high school because of a back injury

6:10       On Villanova head coach Jay Wright

7:50       On winning the National Championship at Villanova and setting up Kris Jenkins for the game-winner

11:10    On Nova’s fight song (Arci sings the song- sort of)

12:15    On graduating from Nova and getting the chance to play in the NBA

13:00    On going undrafted and starting his career in the D-League

16:10    The feeling when he signed his first guaranteed NBA contract and how he celebrated by buying ice cream

18:15    On the reasons behind the Bulls slow start

19:10    On the feeling inside the Bulls locker room

20:00    On his community service and involvement with Zenni

22:05    Rapid fire questions including most embarrassing moment and favorite restaurant in Chicago

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

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Bulls mailbag: Where do the Bulls go from here?

Bulls mailbag: Where do the Bulls go from here?

The Bulls might lead the league in moral victories. Unfortunately for them, those don’t count in the standings. And so a season that began with playoff aspirations has led to a flooded inbox.

The Bulls have consistently been one of the top teams in attendance across the league, albeit with one of the largest capacities among NBA arenas. With the recent reporting on the dip of attendance at the United Center, do you see this metric getting through to the Reinsdorfs on the current state of the Bulls? Is it a measure being talked about internally that could lead to change? - Hugo M.

I also received a question via Twitter from T.K. asking if Mr. Reinsdorf is “feeling the pressure” from the dipping attendance. Pressure may be overstating matters, but it absolutely is being talked about internally. It has caught the Reinsdorfs’ attention. How could it not? The Bulls have finished first or second in attendance in 16 of the previous 19 seasons. This season also is the third straight they’ve ranked outside the top-10 in capacity, which hadn’t happened since 2003-04. Coincidentally, that’s the first season in which John Paxson had taken over for Jerry Krause, whom most fans thought Reinsdorf would never touch. But five seasons of rebuilding and two straight in which the Bulls ranked ninth and fifth in attendance — and 13th in capacity —  finally led to change.

Will it happen again? Only the Reinsdorfs know. Obviously, if the losing and sagging attendance continues throughout the season, changes would be on the table.

When will the Bulls make a change at head coach and the front office? Will they ride this out the rest of the year or do something midseason? Because they have to do something, right? – Tim G.

This season does feel different because everyone from ownership to management to Jim Boylen publicly stated progress would be made. Playoffs were even publicly set as the goal. And at the very least, competitive basketball was to be expected. At least the Bulls finally are showing signs of that. However, playoffs certainly feel like a longshot.

I’ve heard no talk of in-season changes. The Bulls just tried that last year. And remember: They’re still paying Fred Hoiberg this season, although his $5 million salary is offset by almost half thanks to him landing a job with Nebraska. Boylen is one of the lowest-paid coaches in the league. So if ownership and management concluded after this season that he’s not the right fit anymore, his salary isn’t prohibitive to swallow. But I wouldn’t expect such determinations to come from ownership on management and management on coaching until after the season.

In your sitdown with team president Michael Reinsdorf earlier this year, he stated that he doesn't like the term "GarPax" and that Gar Forman and John Paxson are "individuals" and have "different roles.”  However, his quotes in the article don't really spell out the differences and in fact he says "Gar and John" twice.  Can you help clarify?  I ask because at some point, the Bulls will need to make a coaching change (god bless Jim Boylen and his lame coaching speak, but the writing is on the wall). And I presume at some point, the Reinsdorfs will say to themselves: “We can't let the same people pick a third coach?”  Is the hiring of a coach a Gar decision?  A Pax decision? Somebody actually makes the decisions right?  Constant change (see Knicks) is ridiculous and unproductive, but at some point the fans do need some change, even if it’s for change's sake. Grasping for some kind of hope here, but will they ever get new blood in the front office ever? Or is this it? This can't be it can it? This is probably it. - Nit B.

Your angst, and humor, is palpable.

Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting picking a third coach. This management team has hired five, although Vinny Del Negro was largely seen as an ownership hire after a tortuous process that featured top choices Mike D’Antoni and Doug Collins not working out for various reasons.

The reason Michael referred to them as “Gar and John” is that, while their day-to-day duties are different, all major organizational decisions are made with input from all the top decision-makers. Forman focuses on scouting and talking to agents and other executives throughout the season. Paxson focuses on setting the culture, big-picture items and is around the team more.

For coaching hires, it’s my understanding that the two Reinsdorfs, Forman and Paxson all talk it out and reach a consensus. That said, Hoiberg is largely viewed as endorsed and pushed by Forman, while Boylen had strong support from Paxson and ownership.

You asked a lot of questions but to answer one: Yes, somebody actually makes the decisions. And those largely are reached by debate and discussion and consensus. As for new blood, let’s see how the season concludes. As mentioned above, if this losing and sagging attendance continue, changes have to be on the table.

You’ve been around the block a few times. Where does Boylen rank in terms of hatred from the fanbase? There’s been a few incompetent coaches this franchise has had. - Jay R.

As Louden Wainwright III once sang, “hate is a strong word/I wanna backtrack/the bigger the front/the bigger the back.” But I digress.

It’s always difficult to paint with broad brushstrokes. Yes, I receive plenty of dislike for Boylen via emails or @s on Twitter. I also see some support. At least in my little world, the dislike outweighs the support. But to answer your question, I’m now up to eight head coaches covered, not counting the other Jim Boylen who served as an interim head coach.

Here are your requested (subjective) rankings, from beloved to frustrated: Phil Jackson; Tom Thibodeau; Scott Skiles; Bill Cartwright; Fred Hoiberg; Vinny Del Negro; Jim Boylen; Tim Floyd.

Some brief elaboration: The first three won so they should be self-explanatory. Cartwright was such a decent man and had some leftover goodwill from winning three titles as a player that he ranks ahead of coaches who directed playoff teams. The reason Hoiberg, who had one playoff season, ranks ahead of Del Negro, who had two, is because a lot of the fan feedback I received during Hoiberg’s tenure is that he wasn’t given the proper personnel to fit his style. Boylen and Floyd have lost a lot, so they should be self-explanatory, too.

One last thing about coaching: The NBA is a players league. Coaching is important, obviously. But a lot of success or failure comes down to the rosters. Give Floyd a roster with Michael Jordan and maybe he doesn’t rank so low.

How bad does it have to get for the Bulls to realize they have no chance at making the playoffs? If the realization comes, then what? I don’t see any sort of path forward for this team that involves a title or even competing in the near future. Could they really blow it up again? It seems to be the only way towards a title but I’m thinking that would take the Reinsdorfs clearing house. Unfortunately, it is a bleak future and a long road no matter how you look at.  - Ben V.

This dynamic has my antennae and intrigue up as well, less so for coaching or management changes and more for the roster. If the Bulls don’t right the ship and at least start playing more competitively in the next month, are they active sellers at the February trade deadline? Remember: They traded Jimmy Butler and fully believed at least two of the three players they received in return could approach All-Star status. To this point, that hasn’t happened.

Through a very soft part of the schedule, the team is on pace for 26 wins. There have been no meaningful improvements from our vaunted “core” and from a cap perspective we are basically locked into this roster through the 2021 season when OPJ (he will 100% pick up his option, you can’t convince me otherwise) and Felicio are off the books  Can ownership in good faith really run this front office, coaching staff, and roster out there for 100 more games over the next season and a half? How many front office groups get a chance to rebuild from their own disastrous attempt at a rebuild gone fully off the rails? - A frustrated fan on the edge, Nick, Glen Ellyn

This ties into management’s future and is again a dynamic that has me intrigued. As I’ve reported countless times, the reason ownership has so much faith in this management team is because it watched it flip over a roster inherited from Krause (save for two players) and turn it into the well-liked and perennial playoff teams of Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon. Then, after one disastrous season, management walked into Derrick Rose and had that team on track to compete for titles until Rose’s torn ACL. So whether fans like to hear it or not, ownership believed in management’s ability to construct a competitive roster when starting over. That’s why this season has been so disappointing to this point. And it’s also why, if this disappointment continues, it will be fascinating to see what comes next. After all, ownership, management and Boylen all are on record as saying this season would be different.

With how pathetically thin the Bulls are on the wing, why hasn’t Boylen tried Thad Young there? It seems like he would be quick enough to make it work in spots and Young absolutely needs more minutes than the 21 or so he is averaging per game this season. – Nick P.

Boylen said he and his staff discussed this possibility and that Boylen also talked to Young about it. But it hasn’t happened. Dunn has played well as a starter and Denzel Valentine has revived his rotational role. But Young is playing the second-fewest minutes of his career. And while he knew he didn’t sign here to start because of Markkanen, he also thought he’d be playing more. Young is as professional as they come, but he has shared his desire to play more with several in the organization. He logged a season-high in minutes on Wednesday.

Taking into account the way the Bulls have been playing, and now the news that Otto Porter Jr. is going to be out at least another month, it looks like this season is going to be a total disaster. It’s beginning to look like the Bulls should throw in the towel and try to salvage the season by readying itself for next season. Since we won’t be able to attract any top free agent next year, it seems the next best thing would be to move some of our players who don’t show any signs of being well-balanced players. That includes Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaq Harrison, Kris Dunn and Kornet. Is it possible to trade any or all of those players for an early second-round pick next year? We’d be far better off if we lucked into a player who can make as much of an impact on the game as Daniel Gafford is now doing. I’m not suggesting that we move any of the core, but I’m not necessarily against it if it brought us one true All-Star player next season. Perhaps Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for a top 10-20 type player. It’s evident that the Bulls will have to make some moves soon to move the franchise in the right direction. The status quo will not work. Especially if management stands behind Boylen. - Rick L

Only Kris Dunn would have any value of the non-core players you mentioned (and as an aside, wasn’t he recently part of the core?). And his value would be minimal. Over the summer, it was even less but he has played well and might be able to bring back a back-end rotation player or a heavily-protected first-round pick. LaVine and Markkanen wouldn’t bring back an All-Star level player.

And therein lies the rub: If Porter opts in, which is likely, this roster almost certainly will look similar next season. The Bulls have little flexibility next offseason. This is why the Bulls banked on LaVine and Markkanen taking big jumps that, to this point, haven’t happened.

It’s been good to see a more aggressive Lauri Markkanen the last few games. How much do you think his struggles have been on him versus the system Boylen wants to play? – Matt A., Australia

Why can’t it be both? I do think Markkanen struggled early with being mostly relegated to a stationary 3-point shooter. He also missed a ton of open looks, which is on him. With the equal opportunity, multi ball-handler system, Markkanen often faded to the shadows. Again, that’s on both him and the system. Then it became somewhat mental for him. To Boylen’s credit, he has used sets designed to get Markkanen on the move more of late and Markkanen has started to respond.

In your last mailbag, you answered two questions to someone who endured being a ballboy during the Ron Mercer days. I am the same age, and I'm hoping I can get a couple questions answered myself because I survived those days as well as a fan---without the benefit of being the ballboy. It feels like those years all over again right now. The roster might be a little better, but records aren't much better between the teams. “Through thick and thin” was the slogan I remember growing up with as a Bulls fan having just missed the Jordan years. So many things that can be asked about the year so far, so I'll stick to just two for now.

It seemed like Boylen might have let it slip about Lauri having an oblique issue. Lauri's well-documented struggles have been one of bigger storylines I feel Bulls have had this year, and Lauri has been able to keep quiet for the most part it seems on his end. His responses in postgame questions from the meeting haven't generated as much buzz as some of LaVine's interviews. Did Boylen let it slip about his injury, or is there something different to how the Bulls are handling injuries this year?

Secondly, what should fans ACTUALLY make from the struggling attendance? Videos/pictures of empty upper bowl are becoming aplenty on Twitter. Social media makes it easy to gather fans ready for a drastic change within the organization, but how can we expect the organization to respond, if at all, to the struggling attendance at home games?– J. Boa

Anyone who remembers THAT slogan gets two questions, although I already answered your second above. I barely remember that slogan and I covered that era.

Markkanen's oblique issue never landed on the injury report. The injury report is a sensitive topic because most every player has some sort or bump or bruise at this point of the season. Do you list everybody and then list them as probable? That's the approach the Bulls seemed to take last game as nine players landed on the report, including most with minor ailments and listed as probable. Markkanen has four 20-point games this month. He's coming around and the oblique talk will be in the background here.

What does the K.C. stand for? Steven R., via Twitter

Kenneth Carl. But you can call me K.C.

Actually, I don’t mind Kenneth Carl and my college basketball teammates call me Kenny Carl. But I’ve been called K.C. my entire life. My parents were hip to the initials from Day One.

As this "improved" roster has scuttled through the light part of the schedule at basically the same winning percentage as last year (8 wins in 25 = .32, 27 of 82 in 2018 = .329), how likely does it seem that the Bulls will actually win less games this year? Mike K., via Twitter

Can they play the Hawks more? That would be something if it happens, particularly after how widely praised their offseason moves were and the public posturing for improvement by the organization. I still think the Bulls are better than their record indicates. I picked them for 36 wins before the season. But, yes, any way you analyze it, this season has been a disappointment.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

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