Bulls

Beyond the Arc: Is Rose MVP at quarter pole?

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Beyond the Arc: Is Rose MVP at quarter pole?

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
10:58 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With most NBA teams about a quarter of a way through their schedules, its become apparent Derrick Rose wasnt kidding when he asked reporters on media day, Why cant I be the best player in the league?

Derrick ranks among the league leaders in both scoring and assists, almost single-handedly carrying the Bulls to first place in the Central Division.

How would you rank Derrick among the leagues M.V.P. candidates? Are you surprised at how quickly hes advanced to the superstar level? Do the Bulls even need another All-Star caliber player to contend for the Eastern Conference championship? Please post your comments in the section below.

Even after taking off my Rose-colored glasses, and putting aside the fact I get the chance to watch every second of his games, I find it impossible not to put Derrick among my top M.V.P. choices after the opening 20-25 games. With Kobe Bryant not putting up his customary numbers for the Lakers, and LeBron James sacrificing some of his offense by playing with the new Big 3 in Miami, the race for M.V.P. could be more wide open than its been in years.

Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant was supposed to emerge as an M.V.P. candidate this season, but he got off to a slow start with the Thunder. Yes, Durant is leading the league in scoring, but hes shooting a poor percentage from the field, and Oklahoma City hasnt taken the step a lot of the experts predicted in terms of being the Lakers top challenger in the West. Matter of fact, you could make the argument that Durant isnt even the best player on his own team, with Russell Westbrook having a bigger impact on both ends of the court.

Right now, my top M.V.P. candidates would be Derrick, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki. San Antonio has the best record in the NBA, but no clear-cut number one star. Tim Duncan has slowed down with age, and even though Manu Ginobili is back to All-Star form, hes hardly an M.V.P. candidate. Similar story with the best team in the East. Boston has a share-the-wealth offense, and youd probably have to say NBA assists leader Rajon Rondo is their most valuable player at this point.

Nowitzki has led the Mavericks to the NBAS longest winning streak this season, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Hes right behind Rose in the league scoring race, and always seems to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

Similarly, Howard has been able to keep Orlando near the top of the East despite the fact a lot of the teams perimeter shooters are off to slow starts. Howard has increased his scoring average, while still playing game-changing defense. The Magic lead the league in fewest points allowed, and Howard is the single biggest reason, with his ability to block and alter shots.

Stoudemire has been a revelation for the Knicks, who were criticized around the league for giving a five-year, 100 million contract to a player with bad knees and a sometimes questionable attitude. Stoudemire just established a Knicks franchise record by scoring 30 points or more in eight straight games - all Knicks wins. New York looks like a lock for the playoffs, and if theyre able to work out a trade with Denver for Carmelo Anthony, watch out.

But after saying all that, my M.V.P. vote at the quarter pole would go to Rose. Not only has he dramatically improved his outside shooting and scoring, hes also done a much better job of directing the teams offense. Rose is averaging eight assists a game, even without having low post threat Carlos Boozer in the lineup for the first 15 games.

When Derrick goes to the bench for a few minutes of rest, the difference in the teams offense is obvious. The Bulls have trouble getting into their sets, and run the shot clock down to the final seconds looking for an open shooter. And, when Rose returns, the defense immediately has to alter its approach, trying to keep him from getting into the paint where he can do the most damage.

Having Rose on the court makes everyone in the Bulls line-up more dangerous, especially Kyle Korver. Hes been a huge factor in the fourth quarter of recent games, getting open shots because of all the defensive attention on Rose, and to a lesser extent, Boozer. The Bulls schedule for the rest of the month is filled with teams that have losing records. It will be interesting to see what kind of record theyll be able to carry into the New Year.

Carmelo's Power Play

In case you missed it, Carmelo Anthony played at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 129-125 loss to the Knicks. The fans at MSG gave Melo a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game, letting him know how much theyd love to see him in a Knicks uniform. And, Knicks fans might get their wish sooner than they expected.

Carmelo and his representatives basically told Denver management that hell only sign a contract extension if hes traded to the Knicks. Forget about staying in Denver, or going to the Bulls, Nets, Magic or Rockets. Anthony and his celebrity wife only want to play on the biggest stage in New York, and if Nuggets management cant work out a deal, Melo will just play out his contract and go to the Knicks as a free agent this summer.

Denver General Manager Masai Ujiri thought he could always turn back to a proposed trade with New Jersey for rookie Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks, and Troy Murphys expiring contract if he couldnt find a better deal elsewhere. Or even consider a Bulls package of Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and a first rounder.

Now, it looks like the Knicks or bust. And, after working in Toronto where that franchise was held hostage by Chris Boshs upcoming free agency, Ujiri knows he cant let Anthony walk away for nothing in the summer. So, look for the Nuggets to eventually accept a Knicks package that includes Eddy Currys expiring contract, Danilo Gallinari, possibly Wilson Chandler or Anthony Randolph and a first-round draft pick the Knicks would need to acquire from a third team.

That type of deal would create another contending team in the East, with Carmelo giving the Knicks a big-time scorer to go along with Stoudemire and much-improved point guard Raymond Felton. All of a sudden, the balance of power in the NBA is shifting East, with a revitalized Knicks team possibly joining the Celtics, Heat, Magic, Bulls and Hawks as potential 50-win teams.

At this point, would you even want to see the Bulls make another bid for Anthony? Or, do you think this Bulls team as currently constructed can compete with the Easts elite teams in the playoffs THIS season?

Should the Bulls consider making a slightly smaller deal to add a scoring threat at the shooting guard position like Jason Richardson, Richard Hamilton or O.J. Mayo?

As always, we appreciate your input. Please post your comments in the section below. It should be a lot of fun this December as we get ready to gift-wrap holiday presents while the Bulls prepare to gift-wrap victories against a very favorable schedule the rest of the month. Enjoy the hoops!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

NBA Buzz: Will another Chicago homecoming pay off for Bulls?

NBA Buzz: Will another Chicago homecoming pay off for Bulls?

Bulls' public address announcer Tommy Edwards is already getting his familiar introduction ready for next season. "Froooooom CHICAGO, a 6'8" forward, Jabari Parker!

Not sure if Parker has the resume to be introduced last for Bulls' home games this season, but there will be plenty of fanfare regardless of where he falls among the starting five. After all, Parker was a part of four straight state championship teams at Chicago's Simeon H.S., earning national prep player of the year honors along the way. And, he's been recognized for his tireless charitable work, including an essay in the Player's Tribune proclaiming his desire to be a factor in creating a safer environment in his hometown. 

Parker is articulate and driven to succeed, which will make him a go-to guy for members of the Chicago media during the upcoming season. Question is, can he succeed where so many other Chicago prep stars have failed? You know the names. Derrick Rose, Eddy Curry, Dwyane Wade, Hersey Hawkins, Dave Corzine, Cazzie Russell and even our own Kendall Gill. All Chicago area high school stars looking to replicate that greatness playing for the Bulls. But none of them were part of an NBA championship team in their hometown.

So, what will expectations be like for the 23 year old Parker? The No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft has already come back from two separate ACL tears in his left knee, which effectively removed him from the list of young players projected as future All-Stars. Still, Parker was averaging over 20 points a game for the Bucks before his second ACL injury in February of 2017, and he came back this past season with his trademark explosiveness at the rim still very much intact.

It's obvious playing for his hometown Bulls has always been a goal for Parker, but will the fit on the court be as good as his fit in the Chicago community?

Parker, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are all at their best with the basketball in their hands, which means the coaching staff will have to be creative in finding ways to feature all three of those players, plus the frontcourt duo of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. 

The best solution will be to push the pace to get early shot clock scoring opportunities. Parker is at his best running the floor for fastbreak lay-ups and dunks, and you can the bet the Bulls’ coaches are excited to see Dunn pushing the ball upcourt with Parker, LaVine and Markkanen running the wings. Fred Hoiberg wants to see his players get into a flow offense coming out of the initial attack in transition and when Carter Jr. is on the floor, the Bulls will have five athletic players, 24 years old or younger to get into secondary actions. 

Defense will be the biggest issue in the upcoming season. Parker and LaVine ranked near the bottom of the league among wing defenders in the analytics breakdowns from last season, and their ability to stay in front of talented shooting guards and small forwards will be a nightly key to the Bulls' success. Carter Jr. showed tremendous potential as a shot-blocker during Summer League games, but he can't be expected to block everything if opposing wings are getting straight line drives to the rim. 

So, where does this new-look Bulls team figure in the East? It's hard to project a win total for a team as young as the Bulls, but it's clear they have enough talent on the roster to see a double-digit increase over last season's 27 victories. 41 wins could be good enough to grab the last playoff spot in the East, so if everything comes together for the Bulls next season, they should be playing meaningful games in March and early April. 

AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
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Did you see LeBron James show up at the Vegas Summer League wearing a $500 pair of Lakers' customized shorts? I guess James wanted to make sure everyone knew he had switched teams this summer, and those shorts are now the hottest items in L.A. sports merchandise shops. 

As for the basketball fit, James has already met with Lakers' coach Luke Walton and seems satisfied with the jumbled roster he'll be leading in the upcoming season. James isn't expected to speak publicly on his latest move until the end of the month, but apparently he's been assured the Lakers will be bringing in another superstar at some point, either in the trade market or 2019 free agency. 

Magic Johnson must be confident he can sign Kawhi Leonard next summer, but after watching Paul George state his desire to join the Lakers, then change his mind and re-sign in Oklahoma City, Lakers' fans will be understandably cautious about projecting him as LeBron's running mate for the 2019-20 season. 
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Maybe that other All-Star caliber player is already on the Lakers' roster. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma are versatile forwards who have the potential to become 20 points per game scorers in the league, while Lonzo Ball could be an elite facilitator at the point guard position. And, the Lakers' other 1st round pick from the 2017 draft, Josh Hart, was just voted Summer League MVP, an honor that went to Ball a year ago. 

Hart is a 6'5" shooting guard who averaged 7.9 points as a rookie, connecting on 47% of his shots from the field and 40% from the 3 point line. He poured in 37 points Monday night to lead the Lakers to an overtime win over Cleveland in the Summer League semi-finals. The former Villanova star will compete with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lance Stephenson for minutes at the shooting guard position opposite the point guard tandem of Ball and Rajon Rondo.

It's an odd roster put together by Magic and GM Rob Pelinka, but adding James to the mix should almost guarantee 50 wins and a top five seed in the West. 
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Here's a look at the All-NBA Summer League team voted on by media members in Las Vegas.

Wendell Carter Jr.  (BULLS)
Josh Hart                 (Lakers)
Collin Sexton           (Cavs)
Kevin Knox              (Knicks)
Christian Wood       (Bucks)

Top five draft picks Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young were voted to the 2nd team. 

We've already told you about Carter Jr. and Hart, but Sexton impressed all the NBA people on hand in Vegas with his speed in the open court and his ability to get to the rim. There was some discussion in the Bulls' draft room about possibly taking Sexton with the No. 7 overall pick, and he was quickly snapped up by the Cavs after Carter Jr. went to the Bulls.

In the post-Lebron, post-Kyrie era in Cleveland, finding a dynamic point guard to run the show was absolutely crucial for GM Koby Altman and it looks like the Cavs have their man in the ultra-competitive Sexton, who famously almost beat the University of Minnesota by himself when his Alabama team was forced to play three-against-five during a Thanksgiving tournament game last season. 

Cleveland will be looking to shed some of the bad contracts on the roster like Tristan Thompson, George Hill and J.R. Smith, and veterans Kevin Love and Kyle Korver could be on the move as well. Sexton is a quality piece to start the rebuild, but I don't think the Cavs should count on winning the No. 1 overall pick three times in four years like they did the last time LeBron left.
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Finally, don't put too much stock into the Sporting News report listing the Bulls as one of the teams showing interest in free agent center Jahlil Okafor. The former Whitney Young H.S. star worked out for four teams in Las Vegas last week, but the Bulls were not in attendance. Okafor will probably have to sign for the NBA minimum this season to re-establish some value around the league.

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft is in great shape and is trying to prove he's more than just a low-post scorer. Okafor played sparingly in Brooklyn after he was acquired in a mid-season trade with Philadelphia. He's averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds over his three-year NBA career. 

The Bulls are already overloaded at the center position with Carter Jr., Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio and Omer Asik. 

Bulls interested in Jahlil Okafor?

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USA TODAY

Bulls interested in Jahlil Okafor?

A report via Sporting News writer Sean Deveney surfaced early on Tuesday morning, stating that the Bulls possibly have interest in free agent big man Jahlil Okafor. 

Deveny stated:

According to sources, Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, worked out for four teams last Wednesday in Las Vegas, and remains hopeful of signing with a team ahead of training camp next fall.

The Pacers were listed along with the Bulls as teams that could be looking at Okafor, though neither team was at his summer workouts in Las Vegas.

From a public relations standpoint, the Bulls could sell the idea of having a roster with multiple IHSA champions. It would be a feel-good story, with Okafor and Parker joining a young and developing core. But from an on-court perspective, the move makes little sense.

Chicago has a clogged frontcourt rotation that includes Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio and No. 7 overall pick Wendell Carter Jr. And while Parker is likely going to play the majority of his minutes on the wing, he will see time at the four and possibly five as well in spot minutes. Okafor has proven to be a capable low-post scorer and little else at this stage in his career.

Okafor has averaged 12.9 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game, but has only played 131 games over three seasons. He struggled to get minutes last year with the Sixers or the Brooklyn Nets (12.6 minutes per game in 2017-18). His continued poor defense and lack of rebounding prowess were the main reasons why.

He had a 59.3 true shooting percentage in his 26 games with the Nets, as well as 18.2 points per 36 minutes. But his defensive rating of 110 points given up per 100 possessions would do little to help a Bulls team that currently lacks established defensive centers sans Lopez. Even on a minimum contract, an Okafor signing would likely signal a forthcoming trade from the Bulls. In today’s NBA, having four centers on your roster would be ridiculous, no matter how good the narrative is.