Bulls

Boozer should join Noah, Deng as All-Stars

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Boozer should join Noah, Deng as All-Stars

DEERFIELD, ILL.Some might say Carlos Boozer picked up his game too late to be considered a legitimate All-Star candidate, but his coaches and teammates feel otherwise.

Boozer expressed his joy, via Twitter, in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng being named Eastern Conference All-Star reserves Thursday evening. But after Friday mornings shootaround at the Berto Center, Deng and Noah, as well as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, said that the power forward was also worthy of making the trip to Houston next month.

No question. I feel like I wouldnt be in this position right now if it wasnt for Carlos, especially," Noah said. "Hes somebody who demands so much attention because of how good he is offensively and Im able to get a lot of easy baskets because of Carlos, his passing ability. I feel like hes somebody whos very well-deserving and I feel like weve been through a lot in almost three years now together."

"You want to see all your teammates in the All-Star game," Deng added. "Thats how you feel. And I really mean this: I feel like Carlos Boozer and the way hes playing for us every night, rebounding, scoring his leadership, I really thought he was an All-Star this year. Even though he didnt get in, we know in this locker room he has stepped up his game huge.

RELATED: Noah, Deng excited about All-Star game for Bulls, each other

Thibodeau chimed in and added that he also felt Boozer was deserving of making the roster. The coach suggested that Boozer could make the game as an injury replacement, if that scenario came about.

As Ive said, these things are always tough because there is limited space and theres deserving players. Its a very difficult decision to make, Thibodeau said. I think Carlos has been unbelievable, so I think hes deserving and it would be a great honor.

Boozer was named last weeks Eastern Conference player of the week. Thibodeau equated Boozers situation with that of a player on the team the Bulls host Friday, Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, perceived as this years biggest snub.

One of the biggest perceived All-Star snubs was Golden State point guard Stephen Curry being left off the Western Conference reserves. Teammate David Lee did make the team for the much-improved Warriors, but the omission of Curry, a sharpshooting playmaker, was seen as glaring.

And Boozer is not the only one. I look at Golden State, and David Lee has had a terrific year, but Curry has been terrific as well, and hes very deserving, Thibodeau explained. To me, both of those guys are All-Star players, having All-Star type years, and theyre just not going to play in the game as of right now. That can always change.

Thibodeau impressed by Warriors, Jackson

Led by Curry and West All-Star reserve David Lee, the Warriors have been one of the leagues biggest surprises so far this season. Thibodeau was an assistant coach for the Knicks and Rockets when Golden States current head coach, Mark Jackson, played in New York and Houston toward the end of his long career.

Yeah I did. I had an opportunity to coach him, and a great leader, a great communicator, a lot of toughness, maybe not a great athlete he would probably argue that, but I loved coaching him, and hes a great person, Thibodeau said about the former NBA point guard, one of the leagues all-time assist leaders. Im thrilled for him, hes done a great job there.

Jackson and Thibodeau are both in their infancies in their head-coaching careers, but had vastly different paths, as Jackson, who worked as an NBA television analyst after his playing days, had never coached at any level before being hired by the Warriors. While Golden State struggled in his debut season a year ago, a defensive approach and improved health have made them one of the better teams in the Western Conference, even without the services of center Andrew Bogut.

Its a very deep team, very well put together," Thibodeau said. "I look at the players that they added from a year ago, and its impressive. You look at the impact that Jarrett Jack has had, and Carl Landry. Of course their young guys are guys that you really have to pay attention to, and theyre team guys. I think theyve made their team function extremely well, guys like Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli, Harrison Barnes, and then all the players that are returning have improved. Curry is healthy, and they still dont have Bogut.

"David Lee has been terrific all year long. Klay Thompson, one of the best two guards in the league. They shoot the ball, they post the ball, they share the ball. They are playing terrific defense. They are very, very impressive."

Noah: A little weird to play with rivals

Joakim Noah, upon learning that he made the All-Star team Thursday evening, pondered playing with the likes of foes, such as Miamis LeBron James, Bostons Kevin Garnett and New Yorks Tyson Chandler, all of whom the Bulls center has had on-court confrontations with.

I thought about it a little bit last night. Its going to be a little weird. Youre competing against all these guys and you kind of see them as the enemy. Now, all of a sudden, youre going to be playing in a game with them, he said. Then, I realized we have a game today, so Im trying to just focus on the task at hand.

Ill probably have some good stories for you, he quipped. Ill be fine.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million. 

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

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USA TODAY

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

"We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic..."

It was 2016 when Bulls general manager Gar Forman made this statement, drawing ire from many Bulls fans for what felt like—at the time—a disingenuous statement. A swap of Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant making you younger and athletic? No one was buying it.

But fast forward to July, 2018, and it is clear that at the very least, Forman has finally made good on his promise. The signing of Jabari Parker has been met with mostly positivity, as a short-term commitment to a former No. 2 overall pick is something that is difficult to hate. But when you factor in the rest of the pieces currently on the roster, it is OK for Bulls fans to be downright giddy over the future.

Lauri Markkanen is 21 years old, Wendell Carter Jr. is 19, Zach LaVine is 23, Jabari Parker is 23 and Kris Dunn is the elder statesmen of the group at 24 years old. If these five become the starting group moving forward, as expected, it would represent one of the youngest starting groups in the league with an average age of 22. 

And athleticism can be checked off the list as well. We know Markkanen has hopsLaVine showed off the explosiveness he was known for last season and Dunn had some dunks last year that legitimately gave fans a Rose flashback

Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both flashed the ability to switch onto guards for a limited amount of time and guard in space, a huge component of any defense that wants to switch a lot. And it also is the type of athleticism that is much more important at their position.

At this stage, Parker represents the biggest question mark athletically speaking. Despite his young age, the two ACL injuries make you wonder if there is any room for him to improve his agility. But at the least, Parker can drive to the basket and finish over the top with authority, even if his defense doesn't catch up.

So, Bulls fans are starting to become intrigued with this roster.

Fred Hoiberg wants his teams to play an up-tempo game, and last season was the first year during Hoiberg's Bulls tenure where the team actually ranked in the top 10 in pace. So if you have followed the Bulls carefully since Thibodeau's departure, you see a front-office that supports their new head coach, yet wasted a couple years to commit fully to his vision, and to a direction for the franchise.

But the point is Forman finally chose a direction.

The Bulls have a young core, and financial flexibility moving forward. And for all the jokes the "GarPax" regime have endured over the years, they have put the team in a position to have sustained success if they hit on all the young players they have acquired. 

And if they are wrong in their assessment of their young talent? 

The Bulls would be able to let Parker go, now that we know the second year of his contract is a team option. LaVine's offensive skill set will allow him to still have trade value years from now, as his contract won't look nearly as bad over time. 

And if the Bulls flurry of moves make the team significantly worse in a year where many expect them to take a step forward, all it would mean is being equipped with a high lottery pick in what is shaping up to be a top-heavy 2019 NBA Draft.

So Gar Forman wanted the team to get younger and more athletic, and though it took longer than it should've, the front-office made good on their promise. That is something that Bulls fans can believe in.