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As draft approaches, Bulls' plans will become clear

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As draft approaches, Bulls' plans will become clear

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
5:54 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When the NBA Finals wrap up this week in Los Angeles, hoops fans can look forward to one of the most active trade markets in league history leading up to the annual draft on June 24th. Are you hoping the Bulls swing a deal for a high-quality player or create more salary cap room to make a run at two max free agents? Please post your comments in the section below.

Let's start with the first option. The Bulls' front office might try to improve their chances of recruiting LeBron James by pursuing another quality starter with a trade that won't significantly cut into their cap space. Think Luol Deng to Minnesota for low-post scorer Al Jefferson, or maybe Deng to New Orleans for former All-Star power forward David West. If the Bulls are able to sign LeBron, Deng becomes a 12 million dollar a year reserve, and that's a luxury no NBA team can really afford.

The Bulls also could look into the trade market to add a high-scoring shooting guard to replace Kirk Hinrich. Several players could be available in that category including Monta Ellis, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Hamilton, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Fernandez, J.R. Smith and Leandro Barbosa. Going this direction would be a lot trickier, especially considering the Bulls might turn to Atlanta's Joe Johnson as their free agent target if LeBron stays in Cleveland, or decides to sign elsewhere.

And, it's not just the Bulls looking to add a premier veteran to improve their roster heading into the start of free agency on July 1st. Cleveland is willing to offer just about anyone on their team, starting with guards Mo Williams and Delonte West, to add another impact player that will help convince LeBron the grass isn't necessarily greener somewhere else.

Look for Pat Riley in Miami to be aggressive on draft night. It's no secret he's looking to unload the 2nd pick in the 2008 draft, Michael Beasley, to just about anyone for next to nothing in return. Riley wants to create even more salary cap room with the thought of possibly signing Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson this summer.

Riley also hasn't given up thoughts of throwing his hat into the LeBron derby, but it's unlikely two strong-willed scorers like James and Wade would be able to play together on a championship team. Sure, they got along great on the Olympic and All-Star teams, but playing 82 regular season games and 20-plus playoff games requires someone to be willing to take on a supporting role, and I'm not sure either of those players is willing to do that.

Trying to make trades to create more cap room is another risky proposition. If the Bulls could trade Deng and a couple of number 1 draft picks to a team that could absorb his salary in exchange for a couple of 2nd round picks, they would be very close to being able to offer two maximum salary contracts, and then go into the free agent race with the ability to tell LeBron, bring whichever All-Star player you want with you to Chicago.

Of course, the Knicks already have that ability, and Miami might as well if they're successful in giving away Beasley. The point is, if you go with that strategy, and then fail in free agency, you've given away you're starting small forward (Deng) for nothing, and are further away from being a championship contender than ever. Part of the reason James is interested in coming to Chicago is they have the best roster in place of the teams with the ability to offer maximum contracts this summer. If the Bulls trade away Deng andor Hinrich for a player James doesn't think much of, they run the risk of hurting their chances to sign the 2-time M.V.P.

With Steve Kerr's decision to leave Phoenix, it looks like the deal to re-sign Amar'e Stoudemire might not get done, which would add another All-Star power forward to the free agent class. So, Phoenix could become an active seller on draft night, looking to move veteran players like Jason Richardson and Barbosa. Everything is pretty fluid right now, and the general managers that are the most adept at finding potential bargains on the trade market could be the real winners when all the dust settles sometime in mid-July.

So, what do you think? Suggest some trades for the Bulls in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail. We'll run some of them next week in the days leading up to the draft. My partner on Bulls' Pre and Post-game live, Kendall Gill, will join me at the Berto Center to cover all the story lines on what promises to be a very interesting night on June 24th.

Who knows? If the Bulls can add a guy like Al Jefferson, David West, Richard Hamilton or Monta Ellis, maybe they can make themselves the clear front-runner to sign LeBron next month.

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

NBA Buzz: Jabari Parker experiment could be coming to an end

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USA TODAY

NBA Buzz: Jabari Parker experiment could be coming to an end

FAILED JABARI PARKER EXPERIMENT COULD BE COMING TO AN END

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It was supposed to be a celebratory occasion. A Chicago prep sensation coming home to start a new chapter of his NBA career with the team he cheered for growing up on the city’s south side.

Jabari Parker’s family and some close friends were in attendance at a news conference at the United Center last summer to formally announce the signing of the Simeon H.S. star to a two-year, $40 million dollar free agent contract. After 4 injury-marred seasons in Milwaukee, the 23-year old Parker was ready to blossom as a high scoring forward for his hometown team.

Except something didn’t feel right. Maybe it was the past experience of facing so many questions about his injuries and the pressure of being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft, but Parker seemed uncomfortable with many of the innocent and obvious queries tossed his way by the Chicago media. His responses were mostly short and guarded, hardly reflecting what most assumed was a day of celebration for the Parker family.

Making the news conference even more awkward was the difficulty Bulls’ front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had in explaining how Parker would fit with the glut of players at his preferred power forward position. We were told it was worth taking a chance on a talented 23-year old free agent who fit age-wise with the rebuilding effort. Parker would be brought in as the starting small forward and the coaching staff would decide on the best way to construct the rotation. And, if things didn’t work out, the 2nd year of the contract was a team option.

6 months later Parker has gone from starting small forward to reserve, from reserve to starting power forward after injuries to Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, from starter to reserve after Markkanen returned and then completely out of the rotation in mid-December when new head coach Jim Boylen wanted more effort from Parker on the defensive end and in practice, and less individual play on offense.

At that point, the Bulls’ front office began working with Parker’s agent to start exploring trade scenarios, and that’s where things stand today two games after Parker was returned to the rotation, reportedly because he met the criteria set by Boylen when he was benched in December.

Parker probably improved his prospects for finding a new home by scoring 29 points while playing reserve minutes in the Bulls’ last two games against the Jazz and Lakers. Jabari told reporters in Salt Lake City he’s thought about playing for the Jazz in the past since he owns a home there and is a member of the Mormon church.

Utah is trying to make a playoff push after a slow start, and they could have an interest in acquiring Parker. A trade for Derrick Favors’ expiring contract would work under salary cap rules, but would the Jazz be willing to give up Favors’ interior defense and rebounding for a small bump in scoring?

Similarly, the Dallas Mavericks have let teams know they’re willing to trade starters Dennis Smith Jr. and Wesley Matthews. Dallas is looking for a 1st round pick in any deal for Smith Jr., but would they be willing to trade Matthews for Parker straight up? The Mavs are still hoping to make the playoffs this season, and acquiring Parker would allow them to move Harrison Barnes back to his more comfortable small forward spot with proven scorers at 4 of the 5 starting positions alongside rebounding machine DeAndre Jordan. And, Matthews could provide the Bulls some much-needed 3 point shooting as well as a respected veteran presence.

We’ve also seen reports of Parker potentially being included in a trade involving Knicks’ center Enes Kanter, with Kanter going to Sacramento, Parker to New York and the expiring contracts of Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos and maybe a 2nd round pick coming back to Chicago. Obviously, this type of deal would do nothing for the Bulls in the short term, but if they can pick up a draft asset, acquiring expiring deals is probably the best they can do in any trade for Parker.

Reflecting back to that summer afternoon when Jabari was introduced to the Chicago media, the basketball fit didn’t seem right at the time, especially after the Bulls had just matched the four-year, $78 million dollar offer sheet for Zach LaVine.

In a recent interview after the Justin Holiday trade, Paxson told reporters he had no regrets about the Parker signing, saying with the cap space the Bulls had available it was worth the risk to take a flyer on a 23-year old player with proven offensive talent. He also indicated Parker would probably get another chance to re-join the rotation for the Bulls, and we’ve seen that happen in the last week.

Still, with Boylen given the mandate to change the Bulls’ “culture” into a defense-first, hard-working, tough-minded team, it’s pretty clear Parker isn’t a long-term fit. Sports fans and many of us in the media love the story of a hometown hero starring for his city’s pro team. But the Jabari Parker homecoming story appears to be coming to an end soon, almost certainly by the February 7th trade deadline.

AROUND THE ASSOCIATION

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The amazing James Harden is putting together an incredible run of high-scoring games that just might earn him a 2nd straight MVP award. Harden poured in 57 points Monday night in the Rockets’ win over Memphis, topping the 30-point mark for the 17th straight game, the longest streak the NBA has seen since the days of Wilt Chamberlain.

Since All-Star point guard Chris Paul went out with a hamstring injury last month, Harden is averaging 41.2 points, almost single-handedly lifting the Rockets into position to earn home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Houston is playing without Paul, starting center Clint Capela and high-scoring 6th man Eric Gordon because of injuries, but thanks to Harden’s brilliance, they haven’t skipped a beat.

Gordon could be back by the weekend, and Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni is hopeful Paul will be ready to play sometime next week, but Capela is out 4 to 6 weeks after suffering a thumb injury, ending his hopes of making the Western Conference All-Star team. Still, with Harden playing at a Jordan-like level, the Rockets should be right in the mix for a top 4 seed until Capela returns.

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Those reports of the Golden State Warriors’ demise may have been a bit premature. The 2-time defending champs marched into Denver Tuesday night and destroyed the team that had owned the best record in the West, 142-111.

The Warriors scored an NBA record 51 points in the first quarter, hitting 19 of 25 shots from the field, including 10 three pointers! Steph Curry is playing at an MVP level, Klay Thompson has regained his long range shooting stroke, and Golden State should be even stronger when 4-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins makes his debut Friday night against the Clippers.

Sure, you can debate whether a ball-dominant player like Cousins will fit with Golden State’s free-flowing offense, but Cousins was averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans when he ruptured his Achilles last January, and his ability to score inside and out gives the Warriors yet another option on offense come playoff time.

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Out East, the Boston Celtics continue to search for consistency. Boston was supposed to run away with the conference championship with the return of veteran All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury to join the talented young players who led the Celtics to Game 7 of the conference finals last season.

But Boston continues to sputter, losing 8 of its last 15 games. The Celtics are stuck in 5th place in the East with a 25-18 record. And, Irving created headlines when he called out some of his teammates in the locker room following an embarrassing loss in Orlando over the weekend.

He tried to explain his motivation to reporters the following day after the team returned to Boston, saying “It came from a place where I asked for a trade and I’m coming here and I believe in this organization and I want these young guys to be successful. In order to do that, we all got to be on the same page and have that mindset that, a championship or nothing. And sometimes that can get the best of me at times.”

Irving announced to Celtics’ fans during an open training camp scrimmage at T.D. Garden that he planning to re-sign with Boston when he hits free agency this summer. But if the Celtics can’t figure things out by the time the playoffs roll around, you can expect the Knicks and Nets to come calling with max offers for the New York native.

So, don’t be surprised if always-aggressive Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge offers a trade package including Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and any number of the four 1st round draft picks Boston holds in the 2019 draft for an established star for the stretch run.

If we’ve learned anything in this era of NBA free agency, it’s that star players have been known to change their minds after disappointing playoff runs, and those decisions can impact franchises for years to come.

 

Pippen: Zion Williamson should sit out rest of the season

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USA TODAY

Pippen: Zion Williamson should sit out rest of the season

Pro Basketball Hall of Famer and 6-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen knows a few things about success and talent, and the former Bull thinks consensus top pick Zion Williamson should sit out the rest of Duke’s season and prepare for the NBA draft.

Speaking on ESPN’s ‘The Jump’ on Tuesday, Pippen was asked about the Duke freshman, “I would shut it down… I would stop playing because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career.”

Williamson is averaging 21.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game for the top-ranked Blue Devils. Most NBA experts, including our own Mark Schanowski, have the 6-foot-7 forward as the NBA Draft’s top pick this June.

Fellow Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady added “Football players are doing it, why not? College football players are skipping bowl games and they’re getting ready for the combine.”

The Chicago Bulls currently hold the second worst record in the league at 10-34. New NBA lottery rules go into effect this season that give the three worst teams in the league the exact same odds of landing the top pick — 14 percent.

 

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