Bulls

Could the Bulls bring DeMarcus Cousins to Chicago?

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Could the Bulls bring DeMarcus Cousins to Chicago?

One of the best centers in the NBA could be available in trade in the hours leading up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Sacramento’s 24-year-old DeMarcus Cousins has been linked to trade rumors involving several teams around the league, and even though Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive and head of basketball operations Vlade Divac insist Cousins is not available, a chain of events has already begun that might force the organization’s hands.

First, a little history. Cousins was a big fan of former Kings’ coach Mike Malone, who was fired unceremoniously early last season when injuries sent the team into a tailspin after an impressive early start. Former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin was inserted as interim coach, and left to twist in the wind while Ranadive continued to search for big-name options. Ranadive eventually settled on NBA lifer George Karl, who’s been known to feud with his star players in previous stops, and that move immediately drew less than favorable reviews from the Cousins camp.

Karl and "Boogie" were able to co-exist over the final half of last season, but when Karl told reporters in his end of the year review that he didn’t have an untradeable player on the roster, the uneasy alliance already was starting to crumble. Now, after seeing his name bandied about in numerous trade scenarios over the last several weeks, Cousins is ready to bolt Sacramento and would welcome a trade to the division rival Lakers. Y! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski detailed how difficult it would be to bring Cousins back to Sacramento next season, given his relationship with Karl is now beyond repair.

[BULLS: Mark Schanowski's NBA mock draft]

If a trade of Cousins is seen as almost inevitable, is there any chance the Bulls could make a serious bid for a player who made his first All-Star team last season, averaging 24 points and almost 13 rebounds per game? Cousins also was part of the U.S. gold medal winning team at the World Cup, and has had some big games against the Bulls in the past.

The Lakers have reportedly offered the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft, along with last year’s lottery pick, Julius Randle. The Celtics are willing to offer multiple first rounders and players to acquire their top trade target. If Ranadive eventually relents to Karl’s pleas to move Cousins off the roster, you’d have to think just about every NBA team will show interest.

So, what could the Bulls offer in a package for Cousins? Any deal would probably involve Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade move once he’s agreed to his new max contract. Butler’s max deal would start at just under $16 million, almost exactly what Cousins is scheduled to make next season. The Bulls could sweeten the package by returning the Top-10 protected first round pick for 2016 or 2017 owed to them by the Kings in the Luol Deng trade, while also including a future first rounder of their own.

If that’s not enough to interest Sacramento, would the Bulls consider trading Derrick Rose? The former league MVP has two years left and $41.3 million left on his contract. The Kings could match the money with a deal of Cousins and veteran point guard Darren Collison, while also receiving one or two first rounders back from the Bulls.

[NBA DRAFT: Get ready with more than 60 player profiles]

Granted, trading Butler or Rose in a package for Cousins would leave the Bulls extremely heavy in the front court with Cousins, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. But remember, Noah only has one more year left on his contract, Gasol one year plus a player option, and Gibson has two more years. Gibson could also be traded at some point next season after he’s fully healed from his recent ankle surgery.

The harsh reality for the Bulls is they probably missed out on their best chance to beat LeBron James and the Cavs with their current roster. Big changes are coming in the next couple years with just about all of their key players’ contracts due to expire.

Why not accelerate the changeover by acquiring one of the NBA’s top scoring big men at a time when every other team in the league is fascinated by going small after the Warriors’ championship run? Maybe building a team around Cousins, either Butler or Rose, and young shooters like Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell will put them in a better position when LeBron inevitably starts to slow down.

It’s a lot easier to find complementary wing players than All-Star bigs, which means the market for Cousins will be extremely competitive. New coach Fred Hoiberg might be inclined to design an offense around a speedy point guard and a collection of wing shooters, but the opportunity to make a bid for a player as talented as Cousins might be too good to pass up.

Hey, at least it’s worth a phone call.

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

B/R names Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season

Bleacher Report named Zach LaVine as one of the NBA’s most overhyped players ahead of the 2018-19 season. The list included five players whose expectations have exceeded what author Grant Hughes, felt is realistic for this upcoming season. It is not entirely shocking for LaVine to make this list, and his defense was the main reason he was included. But the potential for his offensive output to get even better was somewhat overlooked. 

Per Hughes:

In 2016-17, he ranked 441st out of 468 players in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus metric. Last year, he was 490th out of 521. According to Basketball Reference, he's never posted a defensive box plus-minus in positive territory. He topped out at minus-2.0 in his abbreviated 2017-18 season.....It's hard to justify rotation minutes for a player like that, let alone $78 million.

Hughes’ critique is harsh, but based off of statistics that are hard to argue with. LaVine has indeed been one of the worst defenders in the league for the entirety of his NBA career, and his netting of the $78 million falls hand-in-hand with Jabari Parker’s comments on players not being paid to play defense. But for the Bulls to take the leap from lottery-to-playoff contender, at least a league-average D will have to be cobbled together. But that responsibility will not fall solely on his shoulders, and that is why I am skeptical on the idea of LaVine being “overhyped”. 

The post goes on to elaborate that even if LaVine was to recapture the magic of his solid 2016-17 season, he still would be a player who gives up more points on defense than he gets his team on offense. That is a strong possibility, but with the addition of Wendell Carter Jr. as another rim protector, capable of at least providing a hard hedge (if not an outright switch), there is a possibility that LaVine becomes a more aggressive defender out on the perimeter. But that is unlikely, and a much more realistic outcome is LaVine’s offensive value surpassing what is expected.

LaVine’s strength last season was his ability to get to the free throw line. Despite coming off a major ACL injury, he was able to get 4.5 free throw attempts per game, a mark that would’ve had him sandwiched between players like Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo had he qualified (LaVine only played in 24 games). It was the highest free throw attempt rate of his career, and assuming he expands on that in a year where he should be completely healthy, he will be one of the best in the league at getting to the line. 

His efficiency will be helped by players like Parker and Lauri Markkanen, who will draw attention off of him. LaVine’s 3-point percentage last season was 34 percent, a number that was more of a reflection of that fact that he was still working his way back into game shape. That 3-point percentage will soon trend more towards the 38 percent mark he shot the previous two seasons. And his 3-point attempts were also down, another mark that is sure to trend upwards, especially with Parker’s inclusion as a scorer who does most of his half-court work in the mid-post area. 

The way the 2018-19 Bulls are built, there is little behind Kris Dunn in the way of a reliable backup point guard, though there is belief internally that Cam Payne can develop into that player. But there is a strong possibility that LaVine will be used as a backup point guard to free up minutes for one of Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine or Chandler Hutchison. And in his rookie year, playing point guard, LaVine had an assist rate of 24 percent, but also an incredibly high turnover percentage. Since making the full-time switch to shooting guard, he has not posted a turnover rate above 10 percent. So, if he can adjust to the fact that there are other players capable of scoring 20 points on the floor—like he did in Minnesota—it is entirely possible for LaVine to be a player capable of getting you 20 points and five assists per game while scoring efficiently and avoiding turnovers. Even if his defense continues to be dreadful, a player who can keep the offense running well from either guard spot is definitely valuable in today’s league. 

In his last season with Minnesota, LaVine had a usage rate of 21.7 percent, a number much lower than his extremely high 29.5 usage rate last season with the Bulls. And while many think of LaVine as a high-volume shooter, his usage rate last year was likely a result of him forcing the issue to try to prove he was worth a significant investment. With his shiny, new contract in tow, LaVine should be focused on making the team better, and get one step closer to his Timberwolves self. On that squad, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each scored 20+ points per game, while LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game. And the team finished in the top 10 in the NBA in offensive rating.

It is not crazy to think the Bulls could have their own high-scoring trio in LaVine, Markkanen and Parker. And if that is the case, then the expectation is for LaVine to be a efficient scorer who can occasionally spot the open man. Hyped? Yes. But overhyped? No one is banking on him being an All-Star, though it remains in the realm of possibility. The idea that he is overhyped is based on the fact his new contract is $78 million and he is poor at defense, but this is overlooking the fact that LaVine has proven he is a player capable of having a large role on a top-10 offense. September 30 can’t get here fast enough.  

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.