Bulls

Ask Aggrey: How valuable is Deng?

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Ask Aggrey: How valuable is Deng?

As a kid growing up, one of the things I enjoyed reading the most was reading writers responses to readers, whether in magazines or the local newspaper. These days, with mediums like Twitter, its a lot easier to connect with members of the media, but I consider myself an old-school type of guy, so answering questions in my first mailbag is a pleasure. Well see if I feel that way after a few months (just kidding, I think), but for now, 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 with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Do you think the Bulls have enough to beat the Heat in a seven-game series? -- Kevin

Kevin, by no means am I a homer (Im from Washington, where the highlight of the Bullets teams during my childhood was the Bulls sweeping Chris Webber, Rod Strickland, Juwan Howard and company in a best-of-five first-round series, after which Michael Jordan proclaimed them the team of the future, which was followed by the dismantling of that squad and more losing, until the infamous Gilbert Arenas era), so trust me when I say Im not biased. That said, I do believe the Bulls can beat the Heat in the playoffs. Whether they pull it off or not depends on health (on both sides), if the Bulls take advantage of their size inside and how well they shoot the ball from the outside. LeBron James will likely get his points, but Luol Deng makes him work for them as well as any small forward in the league, and the addition of Rip Hamilton guarantees Dwyane Wade will have to focus on his assignment on the defensive end of the court. I understand that last Sundays loss was a tough pill to swallow for Bulls fans, but the fact that they had a chance to win, even without Deng and C.J. Watson -- dont underestimate his value, especially considering that Derrick Rose had to play through foul trouble and with virtually no rest in his absence -- privately encouraged the coaching staff about their chances.

Aggrey, Do you see any possible moves the Bulls may explore before the trade deadline? -- Dan Warner

Dan, something Bulls general manager Gar Forman constantly alludes to is exploring the trade market, doing their due diligence and having conversations with teams around the league. However, unless injury concerns crop up before the March 13th deadline, I dont see the Bulls making any significant moves. With the teams amazing chemistry and no huge holes to fill on the roster besides a veteran, insurance-policy big man, its more likely that the front office looks into adding a free-agent post player like center Joel Pryzbilla and maybe even another guard, such as the recently-released Mike James.

What do you think about going after Eric Gordon? He would fit very nicely maybe Omer or Taj and picks? -- Wally

Wally, I love Eric as a player, but I cant see the Bulls looking into acquiring him with Rip on board. In addition, Im guessing the league-owned Hornets would require more for the services of Gordon, Derricks former AAU backcourt partner, than Taj Gibson or Omer Asik, as coveted as they are in the league, even if the Bulls threw in their own pick and the increasingly-valued protected draft choice acquired from Charlotte in the Tyrus Thomas deal. The team to look out for in trading for Gordon, probably in the offseason, is Indiana. The low-key Gordon is an Indianapolis native and has made no secret of his love for his hometown, where he spends his summers. With the emergence of second-year swingman Paul George, a natural small forward currently playing shooting guard, natural swap would be a sign-and-trade for Gordon, sending leading scorer Danny Granger, a New Orleans-area native, back home, along with maybe a pick or young reserve big man, like Jeff Pendergraph, who just returned from injury, to make salaries work after Gordons deal.

Is Deng the key to the Bulls winning? -- Hugo

Hugo, I am bit biased on this question, as Ive championed Luols value to the Bulls from the beginning of last season, when many were still down on him. Derrick is obviously the teams best player, but an argument can be made that on a short-term basis, Luol is more important to the team. Think about it: C.J., a scoring point guard, can match Derricks productivity in Tom Thibodeaus point-guard friendly offense, which is heavy on pick-and-roll play. But while Ronnie Brewer is a versatile wing, solid defender and an improved outside shooter, he doesnt have Luols size or score as proficiently. Furthermore, when Ronnie starts, it takes quite a bit of firepower away from the Bench Mob, which leads to the final question
How does Jimmy Butler fit into this Bulls team? Will he have a bigger role by the end of the season? Roger

Roger, if I was answering this question before Thursdays win in New York, I would have said that Jimmy has to be patient, bide his time and continue to work hard in practice with the assistant coaches, as hes been doing all season. But after his performance against the Knicks, when he capably defended Carmelo Anthony, Id have to say that theres a chance he cracks the rotation on a more regular basis moving forward, albeit probably for scant minutes. Still, Thibs showed that he trusted Jimmy by playing him down the stretch, let alone having him guard Melo and the rookie rewarded him by playing solid basketball and even showing the willingness to take shots in the clutch. From talking to the Bulls coaches and front-office personnel, they really like Jimmys work ethic and demeanor, and I can attest that hes already become a good fit in the locker room. Hell likely never become a star and might not even become a starter, but I can see him having a long career as a role player and defensive stopper, the latter of which only comes with experience and knowing other players tendencies, something that only comes with more experience. I know, its a vicious cycle, but Thibs understands that, so if Jimmy continues to play confidently in limited minutes, moments like Thursdays game on the big stage and even his performance in the long-ago preseason opener at Indiana will become more of a regular thing, especially with an eye toward Ronnie possibly being with another team next season.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

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AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.