Bulls

Jerian Grant helps Bulls retool at point guard in post-Rose era

Jerian Grant helps Bulls retool at point guard in post-Rose era

Gar Forman told reporters at the Advocate Center that Wednesday's Derrick Rose trade marked the first step in the retooling of a Bulls roster in dire need of one.

The writing was on the wall that Rose likely didn't have a future in Chicago past the final year of his five-year, $94 million deal with the Bulls, which is why the trade that sent him, Justin Holiday and a second-round pick to the Knicks wasn't all that surprising.

In return the Bulls found their starting center in Robin Lopez, who averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 82 games for the Knicks last season. He was one of four players last season to average at least seven rebounds, 1.5 blocks and shoot 79 percent from the free throw line; Pau Gasol was another, along with Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns and Lopez's former teammate Kristaps Porzingis.

Lopez headlined the package the Bulls received - he's penciled in as the starting center and is under a team-friendly deal for three seasons - but Jerian Grant will give Fred Hoiberg a young option with upside as they "retool" the point guard position.

Grant was selected 19th overall in last year's draft by the Atlanta Hawks, who flipped the Notre Dame point guard to the Knicks for wing Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks were in search of their point guard of the future after rotating through Jose Calderon - also in the deal with the Bulls - Shane Larkin and Langston Galloway at the position in 2015.

Grant saw little action as a rookie, averaging 5.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.6 minutes while playing behind Calderon and sharing time with Galloway and Sasha Vujacic.

Head coach Kurt Rambis gave Grant some run in the final six games of the season after the Knicks were eliminated from playoff contention, and the rookie showed promise. In those six final April games, he averaged 14.5 points on 49 percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He also added 1.3 steals and hit seven 3-pointers.

Those final six games certainly helped convince the Bulls that Grant - who the Bulls were considering drafting at No. 22 in last year's draft - has the ability to come in and be a rotation player for the Bulls. Grant made 34.5 percent of his 3-pointers in four years with Notre Dame, and though he struggled from deep with the Knicks (22 percent on 1.3 attempts per game) he's someone who's able to play off the ball when the offense runs through Jimmy Butler.

The Bulls were bound to move away from Rose in the not-too-distant future, so receiving a 23-year-old point guard one year removed from being drafted in the first round was excellent value in return, and that's without including the veteran Lopez.

With Rose gone and Aaron Brooks a free agent, the Bulls still have a need to keep boosting the point guard position. Calderon will add depth there if the Bulls retain him, and there's still the chance the Bulls use the No. 14 pick in Thursday's draft on a point guard; this author has the Bulls selecting Kentucky's Tyler Ulis, while Insider Vincent Goodwill has them pegged selecting Wade Baldwin IV (both mocks were done before the Rose trade).

At the very least, regardless of the route they go in the draft, the Bulls have gotten younger at a position of need and began their "retooling" process with a talented guard in Grant who could be a part of their future.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.