Bulls

Ask Aggrey: Is Hamilton close to coming back?

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Ask Aggrey: Is Hamilton close to coming back?

I was surprised that I didnt get any Jeremy Lin questions, but then I remembered the deadline for submissions was Friday. Being that I have a little space to opine before answering readers queries, how about Sundays Linsanity? Out-dueling Jason Kidd (who Im guessing he grew looking up to, with their shared Bay Area roots), taking and making big shots over Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, creating opportunities for the likes of Steve Novak to shine, integrating the newly-acquired J.R. Smith into the Knicks lineup and finally, taking down the defending champs? It doesnt get any better than that. But more practically, particularly for Bulls fans, if New York ends up in the seventh or eighth seed, does it become a battle with the Heat to not be in the spot to not face the Knicks in the first round? Id bet that a team with Lin, Smith and Novak not to mention Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, who have meshed well with Lin, along with role players Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries and rookie Iman Shumpert, as well as currently injured Carmelo Anthony and Baron Davis is a lot less appealing than taking on the aging Celtics. Another question for another time, I suppose.
With his hard nosed play, strong D and overall hard working team first attitude, do you think Mike James has earned himself a biggermore permanent role with the team, perhaps supplanting John Lucas III or providing more depth at the guard position come playoff time? - Pat
Pat, its certainly a possibility. Ordinarily, I would say that its unlikely Tom Thibodeau would insert a player who hasnt been with the team long into his rotation, but Mike is a special case. First off, hes a veteran with championship experience, having played alongside Rip Hamilton on the Pistons 2004 title squad. Furthermore, hes familiar with Toms defensive principles from their time together in Houston and offensively, hes very solid in pick-and-roll scenarios, something the Bulls use frequently. Thibs is also very loyal to Luke, but his size can be a detriment against bigger, more physical point guards and Mike can bring to the table a lot of the same strengths offensively. I wouldnt be shocked to see the Bulls sign Mike for the remainder of the season when teams can expand their rosters to 15 players.

Hey Aggrey, do you think players double-teaming Derrick might have hurt his back because he has to jump upjerk his body sideways and throw the ball to a wide open player? - Tyler W.
Tyler, Im sure the wear and tear of the defensive attention Derrick receives certainly played a part in Derricks current injury woes, but when asked about it, he couldnt pinpoint a specific play on the court that led to his back problems. Rather, he said he just woke up with the issue and I cant remember one play or another that seemed to strain his back. As to your point about Derrick making jump passes, its not the most fundamentally-sound basketball play, but hes made it effective and with his physical gifts, I cant really quibble with him doing it, given the results, as well as the fact that its often the only play to make.

When is Richard Hamilton coming back? - Wes K.

Wes, well see Rip return to the lineup after the All-Star break. I cant say for sure if it will be against the Hornets at the United Center, the first game after the festivities, or on the Bulls subsequent road trip, but seeing him warm up before games and work out at the Berto Center makes me think hes close. Its been frustrating to both fans and the organization to see Rip be in and out of the lineup, and miss so much time (dont forget, he was away from the team for a stretch because of a family matter, the death of his grandmother, who he was close to), but hes a 13-year veteran, knows his body and with his successful track record, hes earned the benefit of the doubt.

I've heard rumors that Simeon coach Robert Smith could be in line for the Illinois job, have you heard anything and would he be a good fit there? - Roger G.

Roger, I know Rob fairly well and while Ive never asked him about the Illinois job specifically, I dont think he wants to miss out on coaching Jabari Parker during his senior season next year, although if he wins a state title this year, I believe hell have the most championships in Illinois high school history. That said, if Illinois came calling, he would have to listen. Theres been a lot of talk that the Illini need an African-American head coach or a coach with Chicago ties for recruiting purposes and Rob fits the bill on both counts. But despite his success, the university might think its too big of a leap to go from coaching in the Chicago Public Leagues Red-South division to the Big Ten. I do see Rob as a college coach in the near future and if I had to guess, I think hell start out as either a head coach on the low to mid-major Division I level or an assistant coach at an upper-echelon program.

With the team playing so well, wouldn't it be smart to let D-Rose rest up through the All-Star break? - Rahim T.

Rahim, try telling Derrick or Tom Thibodeau that theory, especially after the Bulls debacle Saturday against the Nets. Derrick is dying to get back on the court, period, regardless of how well the team has played without him. Sometimes I think that due to his age and humble demeanor, people underestimate how much of a competitor he is. With Thibs, his policy is simple: If a player is hurt, can tolerate the pain and wont do any further damage by playing, he plays. But if a player is actually injured, then he sits. At the moment, Derrick is in the latter category, but the instant that changes and hes medically cleared, expect to see him on the court, no matter whom the Bulls play or where they are in the schedule.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

NBA 'promises' to potential draft picks not unusual

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USA TODAY

NBA 'promises' to potential draft picks not unusual

Bulls Twitter went on high alert after last week's national report that the front office had made a "promise" to draft Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison if he was still on the board at No. 22 in the first round. Weren't the Bulls supposed to be interested in SF prospects like Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges with their own first round selection? Did a "promise" to Hutchison mean the Bulls would go with Wendell Carter, Trae Young or Collin Sexton at No. 7?

The simple answer is the Bulls haven't made any final decisions on either pick. They still plan to bring the top prospects in for workouts and interviews before June 21 and will continue to take a close look at players likely to be available in the 18-30 range.

And, like any professional sports franchise, the Bulls aren't about to confirm or deny they've made a commitment to Hutchison or any other player. Drafts are fluid, and invariably players will rise and fall throughout the workout/interview process as teams try to get their boards lined up for the big night.

The main reason a team will make a "promise" to a player is to eliminate his incentive to work out for other franchises. In the case of Hutchison, he's obviously received assurances from a team or teams that he will be drafted in the first round. Hutchison cancelled his plans to participate in last week's NBA Draft Combine, and most likely will only work out for teams drafting ahead of the franchise that said they would select him.

Jerry Krause would famously try to hide his interest in players he coveted in a particular year and persuade them not to work out for other teams. The best example came in 1987 when a little known player from Central Arkansas named Scottie Pippen became an obsession for Krause, and the Bulls GM tried everything in his power to keep Pippen under wraps. Problem is, Pippen did attend the scouting combine and quickly became the hot topic among NBA scouts and executives. It took some intense work on Krause's part to arrange for the draft night trade that brought Pippen to Chicago for Olden Polynice. Krause also added Horace Grant later in that same draft, and the foundation was built for the Bulls' first three championship teams.

So, the idea of a team making a "promise" to a player they like is certainly nothing new. What's important to understand is that doesn't guarantee the team will follow through on that promise when they're on the clock. Back in 2013, the Bulls got word to Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng they were interested in taking him with their No. 20 pick in round one. But when the Bulls were on the clock, the front office decided they would rather have New Mexico swingman Tony Snell who was ranked higher on their draft board. The Bulls drafted Snell, much to Dieng and his agent's surprise. Dieng wound up going to Utah with the next pick and was traded to Minnesota. He's still with that franchise today, although in a reduced role after the Timberwolves signed Taj Gibson as a free agent last summer.

With so much uncertainty in this year's draft, it seems unlikely the Bulls would "promise" to select Hutchison five weeks before the selection process was going to begin. Hutchison and his agent most likely received assurances from NBA executives that he would be drafted in the 20-30 range, and that was enough to get him to drop out of the combine. But just like in 2013, if the Bulls see a player ranked higher on their draft board fall to 22, that's the player they're going to take.

Hutchison is a good prospect, a 3-and-D player who would fit well with the team the Bulls are building. But he's also a 22-year-old senior without the upside of some of the younger prospects who might be available with the Bulls' pick late in Round 1. Both Hutchison and the Bulls have to reserve the right to protect their own best interests. Hutchison will most likely agree to work out for teams drafting earlier than 22, and he'll have to understand if the Bulls decide to go a different direction on draft night, no matter what kind of previous discussions his agent may have had with the front office.

At this point in the pre-draft process, a "promise" can only be seen as a team's legitimate interest in a given player and an indicator of how the first round is likely to play out. But a lot can and will change before Phoenix goes on the clock on June 21.

Combine notes

Since most of the projected first round picks do little or nothing at the combine, it's left to the second-round guys to try to improve their draft stock with a strong showing in the scrimmage games. Last year, it was Kyle Kuzma working his way into the first round with a dazzling performance at the combine, and this year, the big winner might be Villanova shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo.

The NCAA Tournament hero impressed everyone with his athleticism on both ends and his ability to knock down open shots. DiVincenzo told me his 31-point performance in the title game against Michigan convinced him he had what it takes to apply for early entry, and his strong showing last week probably convinced him to hire an agent and remain in the draft.

Much like Kuzma, DiVincenzo had been projected as a likely second-round pick before the combine. Now he's looked at as a probable first rounder, going somewhere in the 20-30 range, which means he's likely headed to a good team that can ease his transition to the pro game. Not bad for a guy who came off the bench most of the season for the eventual NCAA champs and probably never imagined he would be leaving early for the NBA until that magical night in San Antonio.

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Other players who improved their draft stock last week include USC combo guard De’Anthony Melton, Maryland swingman Kevin Huerter, Tulane shooting guard Melvin Frazier, Cincinnati swingman Jacob Evans and another Villanova product, point guard Jalen Brunson.

Brunson didn't play in the scrimmages in Chicago, but he showed well in the physical testing, displaying the kind of athleticism every team is looking for at the point guard position. It looks like Brunson will definitely be a first round pick.

Similar story for Evans, who averaged a modest 13 points a game for a top 10 Cincinnati team, but impressed the NBA execs at the combine with his tenacious defensive play and offensive potential. Evans could be a possibility for the Bulls at 22.

Maryland's Huerter showed scouts he's more than just a standstill 3-point shooter. The 6-foot-6 sophomore averaged just under 15 points a game last season, shooting almost 42 percent from 3-point range. Huerter's solid play at the combine gives him a chance to be drafted at the end of Round 1.

Frazier also showed enough in games last week to have his name called among the top 30 picks. At 6-foot-6, he has excellent size at the shooting guard position. Frazier averaged just under 16 points a game during his junior season at Tulane, shooting almost 56 percent from the field.

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But the most interesting story involves Melton, who was held out by USC last season because of his connection to the FBI's investigation of corruption in college basketball. Melton maintained his innocence all along, and said the university was just doing what it had to do, fearing additional trouble with the NCAA over allegations a friend of Melton's had accepted money to try to steer Melton to an agent.

Still, even without playing competitively last season, Melton probably cemented a first round selection with his play at the combine. The 6-foot-4 combo guard flashed on both ends, scoring 15 points in a game last Friday playing alongside DiVincenzo in the backcourt.

Melton told USA Today he compares himself to other two-way standouts like Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard and Avery Bradley. That's some pretty impressive company. Melton might be worth the investment of that No. 22 pick by the Bulls.

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Kudos to all the players who took part in the two days of media interviews last week. Almost all of them came off poised and well prepared. Among the top ten picks, I was especially impressed with Michael Porter Jr., who patiently answered all the questions about his back surgery and confidently said he considered himself the best player in the draft without sounding cocky.

Of course, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young also proclaimed themselves the best player in the draft, and projected top 10 picks Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Collin Sexton also came across as supremely confident.

The latest Basketball Insiders Mock Draft has the Bulls taking Bamba at 7 and Chandler Hutchison at 22, which would make the front office and a lot of Bulls fans very happy. But just to show you the wide range in how draft experts are evaluating the top prospects, Basketball Insiders currently has Jackson Jr. going 11 to Charlotte, and it's hard for me to imagine him staying on the board past four.

Brace yourself for all kinds of wild speculation over the next four weeks.

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Finally, May 22 turned out to be quite a day for Lauri Markkanen. Not only is Markkanen celebrating his 21st birthday, but he found out he was voted to the NBA's All-Rookie first team after averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Markkanen joined Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma from the extremely talented 2017-18 rookie class.

And the second team isn't bad either with Dennis Smith Jr., Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Given Markkanen's talent and work ethic, it's very easy to see him making multiple All-Star Game appearances down the line. The Bulls can only hope they come up with another foundation player like Markkanen when they draft seventh for the second year in a row.