Bulls

Happy Left-Handers Day: The best lefties in Bulls history

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AP

Happy Left-Handers Day: The best lefties in Bulls history

It's International Left Handers Day (which is actually a thing) today, which got us thinking: Who are the best lefties in Bulls history?

The current roster has just one lefty, point guard Cameron Payne, and the last lefty before him was Acie Law in 2010. Before Adrian Griffin became an assistant for the Bulls he played for them in 2008. And both lefties Othella Harrington and Randy Holcomb played for the 2005-06 Bulls.

None of those players make the cut for the five best Bulls lefties in franchise history. But here's who does:

5. Bob Weiss (1968-1974): Perhaps not as familiar a name as the other players on this list, Weiss holds a special place in Bulls lore. He was the second piece of a trade with Milwaukee in 1968 that brought Bob Love to the Bulls in exchange for Flynn Robinson. Weiss was both a reliable scorer and passer for the Bulls in the early 70s. He played six of his 12 NBA seasons in Chicago, where he averaged 9.5 points, 4.3 assists and made better than 83 percent of his free throw attempts. He's 8th all-time on the Bulls assist list with 2008 helpers. He was reliable, too, missing just three games in the five full seasons he played in Chicago.

4. Jalen Rose (2001-2003): The second player on our list is likely remembered for the time he spent with the Pacers, where he helped lead Indiana to a Finals appearance in 2000, or Toronto, where Kobe Bryant dropped 81 on him. But Rose's best statistical seasons came in Chicago. The Bulls acquired Rose at the 2002 trade deadline, a deal that sent Ron Artest, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller and Kevin Ollie to the Pacers. The Bulls also receive Travis Best and Norm Richardson. Rose averaged 23.8 points in 30 games for the Bulls post-deadline, then averaged 22.1 points the following season for a 30-win Bulls team. The Bulls then dealt Rose to the Raptors the following year, acquiring Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams in the deal. In 128 games, Rose averaged 21.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists in nearly 40 minutes per game.

3. Toni Kukoc (1993-2000): The only player on this list with a Bulls championship ring, Kukoc will go down in NBA history as one of the top international players of all-time (he and Manu Ginobili can argue about the top international lefty). All Kukoc did in seven Bulls seasons was average 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists out of primarily sixth man role. He was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 1996, and he was instrumental in the Bulls' second three-peat. He's littered across the Bulls all-time record books, including 3-pointers (9th), assists (10th) and steals (10th).

2. Guy Rodgers (1966-1968): Rodgers only played two seasons with the Bulls, but he made them count. In 85 games he averaged 17.6 points and 11.0 assists. He led the NBA in assists per game in 1967, when he was named to his fourth All-Star team. He recorded 908 assists that season, at the time an NBA record, and currently the Bulls' single-season record. His record stood in NBA history until 1972-73, when Tiny Archibald (another lefty) recorded 910 assists. Rodgers was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

1. Artis Gilmore (1976-1982, 1987-1988): Who else? The A-Train remains the greatest center in Bulls history, having averaged 19.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks over seven seasons. The first overall pick in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft was named an All-Star in four of those seasons, led the NBA in field goal percentage twice and helped the Bulls to two playoff appearances. He was traded to the Spurs in 1982 for Dave Corzine and Mark Olberding, but Gilmore returned for 24 games in 1988, averaging a modest 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds at 38 years old. He became a Hall of Famer in 2011. Quite the lefty.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million. 

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

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USA TODAY

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

"We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic..."

It was 2016 when Bulls general manager Gar Forman made this statement, drawing ire from many Bulls fans for what felt like—at the time—a disingenuous statement. A swap of Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant making you younger and athletic? No one was buying it.

But fast forward to July, 2018, and it is clear that at the very least, Forman has finally made good on his promise. The signing of Jabari Parker has been met with mostly positivity, as a short-term commitment to a former No. 2 overall pick is something that is difficult to hate. But when you factor in the rest of the pieces currently on the roster, it is OK for Bulls fans to be downright giddy over the future.

Lauri Markkanen is 21 years old, Wendell Carter Jr. is 19, Zach LaVine is 23, Jabari Parker is 23 and Kris Dunn is the elder statesmen of the group at 24 years old. If these five become the starting group moving forward, as expected, it would represent one of the youngest starting groups in the league with an average age of 22. 

And athleticism can be checked off the list as well. We know Markkanen has hopsLaVine showed off the explosiveness he was known for last season and Dunn had some dunks last year that legitimately gave fans a Rose flashback

Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both flashed the ability to switch onto guards for a limited amount of time and guard in space, a huge component of any defense that wants to switch a lot. And it also is the type of athleticism that is much more important at their position.

At this stage, Parker represents the biggest question mark athletically speaking. Despite his young age, the two ACL injuries make you wonder if there is any room for him to improve his agility. But at the least, Parker can drive to the basket and finish over the top with authority, even if his defense doesn't catch up.

So, Bulls fans are starting to become intrigued with this roster.

Fred Hoiberg wants his teams to play an up-tempo game, and last season was the first year during Hoiberg's Bulls tenure where the team actually ranked in the top 10 in pace. So if you have followed the Bulls carefully since Thibodeau's departure, you see a front-office that supports their new head coach, yet wasted a couple years to commit fully to his vision, and to a direction for the franchise.

But the point is Forman finally chose a direction.

The Bulls have a young core, and financial flexibility moving forward. And for all the jokes the "GarPax" regime have endured over the years, they have put the team in a position to have sustained success if they hit on all the young players they have acquired. 

And if they are wrong in their assessment of their young talent? 

The Bulls would be able to let Parker go, now that we know the second year of his contract is a team option. LaVine's offensive skill set will allow him to still have trade value years from now, as his contract won't look nearly as bad over time. 

And if the Bulls flurry of moves make the team significantly worse in a year where many expect them to take a step forward, all it would mean is being equipped with a high lottery pick in what is shaping up to be a top-heavy 2019 NBA Draft.

So Gar Forman wanted the team to get younger and more athletic, and though it took longer than it should've, the front-office made good on their promise. That is something that Bulls fans can believe in.