Bulls

Gar Forman says Bulls 'retooling'; Rose trade the first step

Gar Forman says Bulls 'retooling'; Rose trade the first step

Trading a player with the stature and allure of Derrick Rose requires more than just a cursory explanation, something Bulls GM Gar Forman was well-aware of when he met with media two hours after the trade was consummated.

Forman said moving on from the 2011 MVP was a step in reshaping this roster, and moving it away from the way things used to be—although now, one doesn’t know what to make of the current state of affairs.

“Derrick has meant a lot to this organization and to this city and to this team and has had to overcome a lot over the years with all the injuries to get back to the point he was,” Forman said. “But in putting our plan together, we felt as a first step this really made sense for us.”

The Bulls acquired Robin Lopez, veteran guard Jose Calderon and 2015 first-round draft pick Jerian Grant for Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick. With the NBA draft on Thursday, it’s another opportunity for the Bulls to move forward, although who they’ll select has become just as murky—considering they’re high on Grant and Calderon started for the Knicks last season.

Forman wouldn’t say if Lopez, a serviceable if not outright revelation for the Knicks last season after signing a free agent deal, would be a starter this coming season as Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are free agents.

Lopez averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Knicks, and league executives say he could be a source of stability on the interior, especially considering he’s played 82 games in three of the last four seasons.

Forman wouldn’t say if this is now officially Jimmy Butler’s team—or if the Bulls would entertain offers for Butler leading into the draft, as he’s been highly coveted by teams looking to make the leap into the land of the elite.

“Basketball is a team game, a five-man game,” Forman said. “Obviously, Jimmy being an All-Star is our best player. But I don’t think you go as far as saying it’s this guy’s team. It’s everybody’s team.”

Either way, the reshaping or in Forman’s words, “retooling” of the Bulls will begin in earnest and take another step forward as free agency begins on July 1.

“We like a lot of the young players we have on this roster, starting with Jimmy, who’s 26,” Forman said. “ (Rookies) Bobby Portis and Felicio, who showed towards the end of the year that (Felicio) has got a lot of upside. Doug McDermott, Niko, we’ve got the first round pick coming up tomorrow night with the possibility of two first round picks next year, so you can see kind of where were kind of trying to go. Obviously at the same time we’re trying to put the best team together that we can. I wouldn’t call it a rebuild; more of a retool.”

Whether it’s a youth movement, athletic movement or whatever you want to call it, it’s a movement and where it’s moving, only Bulls management can chart.

“We felt we need to start changing the roster,” Forman said. “We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic. And I think we’ve done that in Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant. And along with that, get a veteran who we really like in Calderon. That was important to us. It was more from a team-building standpoint trying to get this process started and try to put us in a different direction where we think we can have success down the road.”

Taking a step back for the sake of taking multiple steps forward later seems to be the goal, an aspect that isn’t always easy in today’s superstar-laden NBA. Calderon is an expiring contract at $7.7 million, and the Bulls would also like to retain guard E’Twaun Moore, but he’ll have plenty of suitors around the league as a solid reserve.

Taj Gibson is also entering the final year of his contract, and the Bulls resisted offers from suitors at the deadline last season, namely the Toronto Raptors.

Mirotic will also be a free agent after next season, his third in the NBA.

“Like we should be this time of year, we’re talking to all 29 teams and a lot of different scenarios,” Forman said. “That’s our job, to listen, to know what the market is, to evaluate what’s out there and opportunities to get better and then ultimately make a decision.”

And it looks like the moves are just beginning.

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen. 
 

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

Mark Schanowski talks all things hoops with Indianapolis Star Pacers beat writer J.Michael. Is Victor Oladipo ready to take the next step as a legitimate MVP candidate? Can the Pacers challenge the top three teams in the East? Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the NBA? And, will the signing of Dwight Howard mean disaster in the nation’s capital? Plus, the guys make their predictions for the upcoming season.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: