Bulls

Bulls blow 20-point lead in preseason loss to Pelicans

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Bulls blow 20-point lead in preseason loss to Pelicans

For those wondering if the Bulls would look like the disjointed outfit in their preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets or the free-flowing unit that blitzed the Minnesota Timberwolves, Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans provided a clear answer.

Both.

They launched triples with comfort and regularity but also went through dry stretches, leading to a 123-115 loss at the United Center, in front of a spirited crowd by preseason standards, buoyed by periodic updates from the Cubs Game 3 playoff win.

Chicago native Anthony Davis kept the Pelicans somewhat close early, with a smooth 26 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes, but it was the reserves, the players who often finish exhibitions, that turned things around in their favor.

“We forced up some bad shots late in the clock because we couldn’t run our plays,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to give them credit because they kept fighting and it never stopped for them. We have to somehow take a stand and stay in front of your man.”

Putting the Pelicans on the line 37 times helped a 20-point lead get whittled to a tie game at the end of three quarters, which offset the Bulls shooting 51 percent in the second half.

[MORE: Derrick Rose attends Bulls shootaround; status to be determined]

Then the Pelicans jumped out to an 8-2 run to start the fourth and the Bulls reserves never recovered, despite playing efficiently early on.

“We stopped doing what got us the lead,” Hoiberg said. “We were getting out, we were running, we were getting open shots. And then our pace went bad and we didn’t stop anyone.”

For many parts of the evening, it looked as if Jimmy Butler having a dead-legged night didn’t matter, as his shots came up short and he had trouble containing the Pelicans guards as they waltzed to the basket.

He shot 2-for-13 in 27 minutes, as the Bulls starters didn’t display the cohesiveness the bench did overall, although they had their moments.

Their ball movement and crisp passing led to a bevy of open shots, as they seemed to master the “swing-swing” pass, easily spotting shooters on the perimeter for 18 of their 32 3-point attempts in the first half, shooting 34 percent on the night.

But falling in love with the 3-ball could prove troublesome once the games get going, no matter their proficiency, although it should be said playing without numerous rotation players can skew the observations, just a bit.

Derrick Rose was in the building, but out. Joakim Noah sat out as a precautionary measure, while Taj Gibson is aiming to return Wednesday against Detroit.

It was the bench that found its rhythm while the starters struggled offensively, as Bobby Portis is continuing his impressive play, scoring 20 with 11 rebounds, including a pair of 3-pointers and two blocked shots.

[RELATED: Until Butler and Rose succeed together, speculation will always loom]

“He was awesome, he came off the bench and gave us a big lift,” Hoiberg said. “He was hitting shots, banging around. I thought he battled defensively against Anthony Davis.”

Doug McDermott scored 17 while launching a team-high nine triples off the bench and E’Twaun Moore scored 10 in the fourth to keep the Bulls somewhat close.

But everybody wearing a Bulls jersey had trouble on the defensive end, as they allowed a whopping 69 second-half points, allowing Pelicans reserve Sean Kilpatrick to score 23, including a 4-point play that energized his team in the fourth.

Ryan Anderson would be a great fit in the Bulls’ system for his ability to shoot, but was a thorn in their side on this night, running the bigs ragged for open triples on his way to 18 points and 10 boards.

Kilpatrick is making a name for himself in what will be termed a meaningless preseason game overall, the aim of such exercises, while the Bulls will be looking over game film for adjustments before things get truly serious, looking for answers—the goal of such exercises for them as a unit.

Jalen Rose hints at or proposes a Bulls-Pelicans NBA Draft trade

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USA TODAY

Jalen Rose hints at or proposes a Bulls-Pelicans NBA Draft trade

The Bulls expected to be picking at the top of the NBA Draft after finishing in the top 4 of lottery odds. They dropped to seventh however, but could they be moving up?

Some think they can, and former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose "proposes" a Bulls-Pelicans trade while strongly suggesting their might be insider info behind this "proposal."

When asked what the Pelicans should do with the No. 4 pick, Rose suggests a trade.

"If I was them.... I guess I'm going to say this, I was going to look at my phone to see if I was able to say this," Rose says. "I'll swap with the Bulls and try to get [Zach] LaVine from them.... and give [the Bulls] Lonzo Ball."

So that would be the Bulls sending the seventh overall pick and LaVine to New Orleans for Lonzo Ball and the fourth overall pick.

When asked if that was going to happen, Rose coyly responded "we'll see."

Ball has been connected to Chicago ever since the Lakers started pursuing Anthony Davis during last season. Rumors also connected the Bulls to the Lakers-Pelicans trade for Davis in the past couple weeks as the third team. And further rumors have suggested the Bulls were the most active team in regards to moving up in the NBA Draft.

But what would it take to move up in the draft and who would the Bulls pick? Mark Strotman has the answers.

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What it would cost for the Bulls to move up to No. 4 or 5 in the NBA Draft

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USA TODAY

What it would cost for the Bulls to move up to No. 4 or 5 in the NBA Draft

It doesn’t happen often – mostly because the price is so high – but there is precedent for teams trading in to the top 5 of the NBA Draft. In fact, it happened a year ago when the Dallas Mavericks dealt the No. 3 pick to the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 pick and a top-5 protected pick in 2019. Prior to that deal, the last team to move up that high in the draft was the 2005 Utah Jazz. They dealt three first-round picks to move up to No. 3 and select Deron Williams.

So while it’s rare to see a team jump up, it’s happened before. And there’s a feeling that the Bulls, owners of the No. 7 pick, may be interested in doing just that on Thursday night.

Rumors surfaced on Wednesday that they may be looking to move up to No. 4 or 5 to draft Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, while Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver could also be in play.

As it stands, it seems unlikely the Bulls will be in play for the No. 4 pick. The Pelicans essentially own that pick, as it will convey to them following the completion of the Anthony Davis trade next month. But the reason the pick is up for grabs is because GM David Griffin is looking for a veteran player as part of that return package.

He believes a core of Zion Williamson (who the Pelicans will select with the first pick), Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram can compete immediately in the West. A veteran player would provide more help right away than whoever they selected at No. 4.

Zach LaVine and even Lauri Markkanen have been speculated as potential assets in deals. No one should be untouchable on a team that has won 49 combined games the past two seasons, but in a draft considered weak by many, it’s hard to see the Bulls giving up two proven young talents on team-friendly deals just to move up a few spots.

The No. 5 pick could be an interesting spot for the Bulls. The Cavaliers could move down and pick up more assets. They already own the Rockets’ first-round pick (26th overall) and might entertain grabbing a third, or even a future first-round pick.

But the Bulls aren’t alone in wanting to move up, and that’s where it gets tricky. ESPN reported Wednesday that teams attempting to move up to No. 4 (and, presumably, No. 5) included the Celtics, Hawks and Timberwolves.

Both the Celtics and Hawks have three first-round picks (Boston has 14, 20, 22; Atlanta has 8, 10 and 17) with which to leverage in a potential deal this season, meaning the Bulls would have to beat those offers by including future assets.

That likely would include a not-so-protected 2020 first-round pick, a scary proposition for two reasons: The Bulls aren’t that close to competing and likely will be a Lottery team next season, and the new Lottery system is more balanced than it was in the past: 7, 8 and 11 all moved up last month into the top 4.

The Pelicans at 4 or Cavaliers at 5 could create a bidding war among teams looking to move up, either by including more picks or young players or having bidders continually reduce the protections on future picks.

So, here's what a hypothetical package could look like for the Bulls:

Bulls trade: No. 7 pick in 2019, 2020 first-round pick (top-10 protected; top-5 protected in 2020; top-3 protected in 2021; unprotected in 2022)
Bulls get: No. 4/5 pick in 2019

Those protections are similar to the ones the Mavericks put on their pick in the Doncic/Young deal, though the Bulls may be able to protect theirs a little better because the jump from 7 to 4/5 isn't as large as 5 to 3 and because the class isn't as strong.

When the Mavericks dealt their top-5 protected pick to the Hawks last year, their prize was Doncic. He turned out to be a franchise-changing pick. Guys like Garland and Culver may pan out, but the incentive to move up isn’t as high as it was last season because of the weak nature of the draft. There isn't a Doncic. Heck, there isn't a Trae Young or even Wendell Carter Jr.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, that doesn’t mean the price tag will come down. With so many teams reportedly trying to move up, they may need to overpay to move up and get their guy.

And it's not as though the Pelicans or Cavaliers NEED to get out of where they're picking. The worst-case scenario is drafting the player so many teams are trying to move up for. Draft capital is expensive, as the Bulls are sure to find out tonight if and when they try to make a deal.