Bulls

Howard to Bulls a real possibility or just speculation?

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Howard to Bulls a real possibility or just speculation?

The idea that Magic center Dwight Howard could end up in Chicago, once a far-fetched notion, is picking up steam in some circles these days. Orlando, seeking to avoid a situation similar to the one Denver endured through the first half of last season with Carmelo Anthony, before he was traded to New York -- or worse, the fate Cleveland suffered when LeBron James left town, let alone when Shaquille O'Neal departed the Magic Kingdom and the team received nothing in exchange -- is starting to show signs that the perennial All-Star and reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year could be traded prior to this season's Christmas Day start date, if not sometime prior to the anticipated February trade deadline.

Regardless of when it happens, the fact that the organization is even considering the move means it's likely to happen, for when it comes to NBA trade rumors, where there's smoke, there's usually fire, even if the inferno is coming from the house down the street instead of the one neighbors say is a tinderbox. That's why talk of the Bulls being a potential suitor for Howard can't be ignored.

Now, it's much more likely that the best center in today's game ends up in Los Angeles, where he can pursue his off-court entertainment exploits, reside in his preferred warm climate (remember, the Atlanta native was drafted by the Magic straight out of high school) and either look to start a Clippers revival -- with or without Blake Griffin, although one would think Orlando general manager Otis Smith would insist on the Rookie of the Year being included in the deal, at least for leverage purposes -- or pair up with Kobe Bryant and try to win a title before the future Hall of Fame shooting guard walks off into the sunset.

Even the Nets, with their scant real assets -- Brook Lopez was a lot more intriguing after his rookie season -- impending move to Brooklyn and a long shot at holding on to All-Star point guard Deron Williams (a player in the same boat and who has issued contradictory statements about his desire to remain in the Big Apple region, further complicated by talk of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban plotting to repatriate the floor general to his hometown of Dallas), can't be counted out in the sweepstakes.

But neither can the Bulls. As Bulls.com's Sam Smith first suggested and Yahoo! reported, the Bulls are capable of putting an offer on the table that could seem more appealing to the Magic than other candidates to land Howard.

Chicago could send Orlando a more than adequate replacement center in Joakim Noah, whose popularity in central Florida remains high in the wake of his two college national championships ("Gator Nation" maintains a strong presence at Bulls games in the Sunshine State, even in Miami), while Luol Deng would fill a team need for a strong wing scorer and defender and Taj Gibson would bring a promising young power forward they could either lock up for the future or let walk in free agency to keep financial flexibility. A starting lineup of point guard Jameer Nelson, a re-signed Jason Richardson at shooting guard (holding onto cap space for Howard would be less of a concern, presumably giving the Magic room to offer the veteran more than the mid-level exception many of his current suitors reportedly plan to start negotiations with) and a frontcourt of Deng, Gibson and Noah smells like a playoff team in the East, complete with youth, balance, scoring and defense, if not a superstar.

If necessary, the Bulls would probably be open to taking on Hedo Turkoglu's contract, including a player like Ronnie Brewer as a throw-in or any other little tweak Orlando needed to make it happen. Of course, it's all a pipe dream.

Sorry to be a tease if you actually believe Howard's relocation to the Windy City is imminent, but not only would Orlando be reluctant to trade the superstar center -- one of the few legit players at the position, historically the spot considered most important to title contention, these days -- within the Eastern Conference, but as in the case of the aforementioned Anthony and the simultaneous saga of Chris Paul, Howard would likely have to decide in advance that he'd be willing to sign a long-term extension with the Bulls after this season. With players having increasing control of their destinies -- something unchanged by the reported terms of the tenative settlement agreement -- Howard would have to be willing to be Derrick Rose's sidekick in a city, not just a team, that's all about Rose, all the time.

The Bulls, only a series away from reaching the Finals last season, has a mostly selfless nucleus intact and wouldn't be inclined to gut it without a guarantee the team would be markedly better. As alluring as the idea of Rose and Howard -- and Carlos Boozer, assuming the Magic preferred him to Deng in a deal -- together would be, the new financial restrictions imposed on teams might make it difficult for Chicago to fill in the gaps effectively.

Meanwhile, Howard's West Coast possibilities make a lot more sense, as the Lakers have reportedly finally agreed to make Andrew Bynum -- like Noah, an instant replacement -- available and Lamar Odom is a versatile veteran, although they could need to enlist another team for Orlando to acquire draft considerations. There, Howard could immediately contend for a championship, but after Bryant retires, he'd be poised to be the Lakers' alpha-dog, as well as follow in the footsteps of the franchise's legendary centers like the recently retired Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan.

The other Staples Center tenants, the Clippers, also could have some appeal, although with longtime owner Donald Sterling's spendthrift ways, the team's level of financial commitment to players is always in doubt. But equipped with a budding star in Griffin, underrated young shooting guard Eric Gordon, two centers in veteran Chris Kaman and a coveted young free agent DeAndre Jordan, not to mention other talented young pieces, the assets at their disposal could tempt Orlando, Howard could still feed his spotlight jones -- whether the Clippers are the city's glamor team or not -- and he wouldn't have to take a back seat to anybody.

Even making a deal with the Nets -- while also in the East, the franchise is a non-contender for the time being -- would be better for Orlando's competitive hopes and still give Howard, depending on his belief that they'd be able to retain Williams, what he wants. In short, Howard coming to Chicago is about as feasible as LeBron James wearing a Bulls uniform, and we all know how that turned out.

Bulls core ranked 14th best in the league by The Ringer

Bulls core ranked 14th best in the league by The Ringer

The Ringer ranked the NBA's best young cores, organizing the best foundations in the league of players under 25.

The idea was to form concrete rankings based on FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO player projections and the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) statistic, and The Ringer's list certainly has some star power at the top with Zion Williamson's Pelicans, Nikola Jokic's Nuggets and Luka Doncic's Mavericks all ranking in the top five and the Bulls made the top half of the list for their collection of young talent. 

The Ringer's Zach Kram has the Bulls ranked 14th in the young core rankings, with Lauri Markkanen contributing heavily to the Bulls favorable placement. 

Markkanen was rated as the best young player on the Bulls as a result of his WAR being the highest (10.8) among the Bulls young players. 

The team amassed an overall WAR of 33.1 (14th in the league) right behind the Miami Heat and ahead of the San Antonio Spurs. 

All of the rankings are based on the aforementioned advanced stats—WAR and CARMELO—but the Bulls specifically were both helped and hurt by the fact that they have a stable of young, potential-filled players rather than one central, clear-cut star. 

The Bulls core group of players fit together better than many young groups, which gave Kram and The Ringer some confidence in their long-term outlook.

...at the very least, the Bulls roster features a reasonably complementary set of young players around which to build.

-Zach Kram 

The fact that the advanced stats like Markkanen as the Bulls best player isn't extremely shocking, as his sophomore season was unequivocally a success. Over 52 games in the 2018-19 season, "The Finnisher" averaged 18.7 points and 9 rebounds per game while posting a career-best 106.8 offensive rating (per NBA.com). 

Of the five teams (weighted by production)  with an average age under 25-year-old last season, the Bulls had the 3rd most wins (22) behind the Kings and Nuggets.

Chicago will be looking to build a winning culture this upcoming season and having their talented youngsters now surrounded by competent veterans will certainly help make this a much easier feat for Jim Boylen and co. to accomplish.

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Bulls crack the top 20 of Forbes' most valuable sports franchises

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USA TODAY

Bulls crack the top 20 of Forbes' most valuable sports franchises

The Bulls' franchise is heading in the right direction on the court, and it's doing pretty great off it, too.

Forbes released its annual ranking of the top 50 most valuable sports franchises, and the Bulls are back in the top 20 with a valuation of $2.9 billion.

The Bulls are up from 23rd a year ago, when they were valued at $2.6 billion. They were 22nd in 2017 with a $2.5 billion valuation, and 18th in 2016 with a $2.3 billion valuation.

The Bulls were one of nine NBA franchises in the top 50. That number was one more than last year.

Here's a list of all nine NBA teams that made the cut:

1. New York Knicks ($4 billion)
2. Los Angeles Lakers ($3.7 billion)
3. Golden State Warriors ($3.5 billion)
4. Chicago Bulls ($2.9 billion)
5. Boston Celtics ($2.8 billion)
6. Brooklyn Nets ($2.35 billion)
7. Houston Rockets ($2.3 billion)
8. Dallas Mavericks ($2.25 billion)
9. Los Angeles Clippers ($2.2 billion)

As Forbes noted in the piece, "NBA teams have made the most dramatic moves this decade." Just seven years ago, the Lakers were valued at $900 million and were one of just two NBA teams (the Knicks were the other) in the top 50.

Among Chicago teams, the Bulls ranked second behind the Cubs ($3.1 billion) and tied with the Bears ($2.9 billion). Neither the Blackhawks nor the White Sox made the list.