Bulls might have to wait for shooting guard upgrade


Bulls might have to wait for shooting guard upgrade

Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
10:44 AM

By Mark Schanowski

An increasing number of Bulls fans are growing impatient with the continuing lack of production from starter Keith Bogans at the shooting guard position. And, rest assured, Bulls management shares your concerns. Thats why you keep reading internet reports about the Bulls being one of the most active teams in pursuing possible trades.

The problem is, because Joakim Noah is likely to miss another six weeks or so while rehabbing from thumb ligament surgery, the Bulls dont have enough frontcourt depth to trade away reserve players like Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. And, those are the guys teams are asking for when discussing possible deals.

The other issue is money. Because the Bulls are under the salary cap, they dont have a lot of big dollar contracts theyre willing to move, which makes it tough to match up salaries with other teams. That means if the Bulls were seriously interested in acquiring a veteran who makes 10 to 12 million dollars this season like Jamal Crawford, Richard Hamilton or Jason Richardson, theyd probably need to send four or five players back to make the money work, and thats just not realistic.

Even a guy like Stephen Jackson makes over 8 million dollars, which means the Bulls would probably have to trade Gibson, James Johnson and Ronnie Brewer or Kyle Korver to make the deal work financially, and theyre obviously not going to do that for a soon to be 33-year-old guard with a history of attitude problems.

So, which players might the Bulls have a shot at as we get closer to Noahs return and the February 24th trade deadline? Two guys who have been linked to the Bulls in past rumors who would be financially realistic targets are Portlands Rudy Fernandez and Memphis O.J. Mayo. The problem with Fernandez is hes an inconsistent shooter whos been very open about his desire to return to Europe when his NBA contract expires. Plus, the Blazers might not be willing to trade him now because of Brandon Roys serious knee problems.

As for Mayo, hes not really a pure shooter, either. Mayo is most effective with the ball in his hands, creating shots off the dribble. That style would probably make him a bad match with Derrick Rose in the backcourt. And, even though Mayo is currently coming off the bench in Memphis, the Grizzlies reportedly are asking for a hefty return in exchange for the number 3 pick in the 2008 draft.

Heres some names to watch for as we get closer to the deadline. Rodney Stuckey has seen his playing time drop in Detroit, and his salary of just under 3 million dollars means the Bulls could probably get him for Gibson and a number one draft pick, and use their remaining cap room to make up the difference in salaries. Stuckey is still the Pistons leading scorer at right around 15 points per game, and has good size at 6-5. Hes been playing the point in Detroit, but he has the shooting range to be a good partner with Rose here in Chicago.

The Pistons might not be willing to deal with the Bulls, but how about Toronto? The Raptors are in total rebuild mode now, which makes a good shooting reserve like Leandro Barbosa a luxury they probably cant affort. Barbosa is a 40 percent shooter from 3-point range for his career, and has extensive playoff experience with Phoenix. The biggest issue with Barbosa is his salary of 7 million dollars. The Bulls would probably have to move three of their bench players to make a trade possible under salary cap rules.

As for some other possibilities, San Antonio drafted shooting guard James Anderson last summer, but hes only played six games because of a broken foot, and probably wont get any time when he returns to action next month because of the emergence of free agent find Gary Neal as a long range shooting specialist off the bench. Maybe the Spurs would move him for a 1st round draft pick.

And, there are always journeymen veterans available like Rasual Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Napervilles Anthony Parker. Bottom line, Gar Forman and John Paxson will continue to work the phones. But until Noah is closer to returning, a trade is probably unlikely.


Now that Chicago sports fans have voted Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith into the NHLs All-Star game, its time to get behind Derrick Rose. Amazingly, Rose is only 3rd in the balloting among Eastern Conference guards, some 56 thousand votes behind runner-up Rajon Rondo of Boston. Rose is the only NBA player currently in the top ten in both scoring and assists, and you could make an argument for him being the leagues MVP during the first half of the season. Rondo, meanwhile, missed about two weeks with an ankle injury, and even though he leads the league in assists, his shaky shooting hardly makes him deserving of an All-Star start. Plus, Rondo is playing alongside four possible future Hall of Famers in Boston (Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.)

Dwyane Wade currently leads the voting for Eastern Conference guards, and the Chicago area native deserves to be a starter, but his running mate in L.A. on February 20th in Los Angeles should be D-Rose. And, only you can make that happen with your votes. Go to NBA.com or Bulls.com to make your voice heard. On line balloting will continues for the next two and a half weeks.

As always, Id love to hear what you think. Please post your comments about the Bulls shooting guard situation in the section below. It should be an exciting 2011 for all of us basketball fans here in Chicago.

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.

Denzel Valentine: Injury and surgery could be 'blessing in disguise'


Denzel Valentine: Injury and surgery could be 'blessing in disguise'

The Bulls are dealing with a lot of injuries to their core players, including Denzel Valentine who will likely miss the season after he gets surgery on his ankle. On Tuesday, Valentine opened up about the surgery at practice.

1. Be Thankful for Health

As you Bulls fans carve up your Thanksgiving turkey, use that as a reminder to say an extra prayer for Denzel Valentine who goes under the knife again later this week. This will be Valentine’s third surgery in three seasons. He had work done on the same left ankle following his rookie season in which he sprained the ankle twice and then the knee procedure at the end of last year. But after listening to the third-year guard speak at the Advocate Center on Tuesday, you sensed relief and optimism beyond the disappointment.

“It’s going to take 4-6 months to get back right, but when I come back it’s going to be a brand new ankle," Valentine said. "I’ve been pretty much having ankle issues ever since my rookie year. I think I’m going to be fine. I think I’m going to feel better.

"I think I’m going to take my game to another level because now I’m going to be more stable in my ankle. I’ll have a whole year to recover and get my body right, which I haven’t gotten to do since college, really. I’ve just been on the go, on the go, on the go... Could be a blessing in disguise, that’s how I’ve got to look at it.”

2. Decision Made  

Valentine admitted he could have come back and played this year, but evaluating how things were going he felt like he didn’t want to get on the court with nagging pain. Dr. Bob Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was the one to make the latest diagnosis “ongoing ankle instability” that requires surgery.

The Bulls said a full recovery is expected and believe Valentine will participate in normal offseason training, likely meaning the season is lost but Valentine is looking at the positives.  

“I know it’s going to suck, but it is what it is. I’ve jut got to attack rehab and try to come back the best that I can," Valentine said. "I’m fully confident that I will come back and be 100 percent. Who knows if I’ve ever been 100 percent this whole time in my NBA career. I’m really excited about coming back and being 100 percent.

3. Moving Forward

Not that it makes the process any easier, but Valentine has been able to talk to people and players that have been through this surgery and come back full strength. For reference, Dr. Bob Anderson is the same surgeon who performed Steph Curry’s ankle surgery in May, 2011, another guard who had been battling ankle injuries his entire career. Maybe this is why Valentine remains confident about the road ahead.

“I talked to a couple players and they’ve told me that they’ve got the surgery and came back better. So, they were glad I was getting it,” Valentine said.

And once he’s able to return to the sidelines, that’s where the 14th pick of the 2016 draft said he’ll be.

“Definitely, as much as I can I plan to be around the team. Still trying to lead, talk to the guys and be a part of the team. I don’t want to alienate myself," Valentine said. "I still want to feel part of the team and try to be positive and encourage the guys.”  

Zion, Reddish, RJ and Little: How the projected top 2019 NBA prospects would fit with the Bulls


Zion, Reddish, RJ and Little: How the projected top 2019 NBA prospects would fit with the Bulls

Best player available or need?

In seven months the Bulls will begin Year 3 of their rebuild. They'll do so with a core that consists of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter and Kris Dunn. It could include Bobby Portis.

As far as the draft is concerned, the Bulls have drafted for BPA and for need during their rebuild.

Lauri Markkanen was the best player left on the board even though the Bulls had 25-year-old Nikola Mirotic and 22-year-old Portis (pre-fight) on the roster and a clear need on the wing after trading Jimmy Butler.

A year later the Bulls drafted for need. Desperate for some kind of interior presence to go alongside Markkanen, they drafted Carter over some sexier picks like Collin Sexton or Kevin Knox. It's been less than 20 games but the Bulls' drafting on need appears to have worked out fine, just as drafting best player available worked out in 2017.

So where will they go in 2019? The front court is secured with Markkanen and Carter, and Zach LaVine is both locked in financially and skillfully as the shooting guard of the future. Dunn has some work to do to make believers out of his skeptics, while Portis (and Chandler Hutchison) won't really factor into what the Bulls do next June.

The good news is the Bulls likely won't have to make a decision on draft night. Though plenty can change between now and then, the 2019 NBA Draft appears to be flush with wings at the top, where the 4-13 Bulls should be drafting. Here's a look at five of the top draft prospects and how they'd fit in to the Bulls rebuild.

Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

That being said, of course we'll begin with the one player who wouldn't fill a need. But when considering a talent such as Williamson, throw everything out the window. He's the most unique prospect we've seen since Anthony Davis in 2012, and his combination of size and athleticism is unparalleled: He's 291 pounds with a 40-inch vertical. He's ferocious at the rim, an apt ball handler and distributor and has the length and footwork to defend multiple positions. He doesn't have much in the way of an outside shot yet because he hasn't needed one at any level he's played at. That will come in time, though it doesn't project to ever be a strong suit.

So, where does he fit in with the Bulls? It's tough to say. His best position in the NBA will be at power forward, with shooters surrounding him in a similar manner to how LeBron James plays. Markkanen is, of course, cemented in at power forward, which would push Williamson to small forward with Carter at center. Markkanen could move to the 5 in a smaller lineup, and in reality Williamson is adaptable to any non-point guard spot on the floor. Fred Hoiberg would have fun mixing and matching the three players, while Williamson's drive-and-kick ability would entirely open up the offense for Zach LaVine on the wing.

The point is, if you don't have a spot for Williamson, make one and worry about the fit later. He's a winning player and the early favorite to go first overall.

R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke

If not for Williamson, we'd all be oohing and aahing over Barrett. The *other* top recruit dominating for the Blue Devils, Barrett is a do-it-all wing with massive upside. He's averaging 24.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his freshman season. While he isn't the athlete Williamson is, he's constantly making the right play and is methodical in his decision making. He's got the perfect frame, looks smooth on his perimeter jump shot and is crafty working his way toward the basket.

He'd be a no-brainer for the Bulls. Too often the ball stops in Fred Hoiberg's offense, and it's one area where Barrett would make the Bulls light years better. He'd slot in at small forward - just the other wing position opposite LaVine - and use his playmaking to space the floor for outside shooters. His 6-foot-10 wingspan and instinctive play gives him great defensive potential. He can be the jack-of-all-trades player Jimmy Butler was in Chicago.

Cam Reddish, SG, Duke

The Bulls need shooting. It's been that way for a while now, and despite offensive stars in LaVine and Markkanen the Bulls still have as few outside threats as any roster in the NBA. That's where Reddish comes in. The third of Duke's three freshman phenoms, Reddish is shooting better than 43 percent from deep in the early season and is punishing defenses that chase him off the line. He's going to score at the next level, and his ability to guard both backcourt positions would give the Bulls flexibility.

He'd plug in perfectly next to LaVine. Having two wings who attack the basket and play well in pick-and-roll action will space the floor for Markkanen and Carter, and he'd immediately be the Bulls' best outside shooter. 

Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina

Someone not from Duke! But we'll stay in the state of North Carolina and look at perhaps the player with the highest defensive upside in the class. With Markkanen and LaVine leading the charge, there's an argument to be made that the Bulls already have their 1-2 scoring punch of the future. That's not to say Little can't score, but drafting with an eye toward defense could make sense for the Bulls. Little is a relentless defender with excellent instincts. He isn't a terrific outside shooter but has an excellent first step and isn't afraid to go inside. He's more athleticism than polish at this point, but there's potential for him on offense.

He'd be an excellent complement to LaVine and Markkanen offensively, and give the Bulls a lockdown wing defender. He's also sneaky-good in the post, which would add another dimension the Bulls offense doesn't really have right from in any of its wings.

Quentin Grimes, PG, Kansas

Is Dunn the point guard of the future? We'll have a much clearer answer in April after he (and Markkanen and Portis) has returned from his knee sprain and plays out the year with the rest of the young core. But the verdict is still out on whether Dunn can lead a contender at the point or is simply a Marcus Smart-type player: an important defender who can score in spurts but is better utilized off the bench in an 82-game season.

If the Bulls believe he's the latter, Grimes could be the former. He's not a true point guard, and many believe he'll play shooting guard at the next level. But he's a do-it-all type player that would finally give the Bulls an outside threat at the point for the first time since Nate Robinson in 2012. That's where the league is trending at a rapid pace, and he's a plus defender with that 6-foot-5 frame and 6-foot-7 wing span.