Bulls

Is McGrady Answer to Bulls Offensive Problems?

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Is McGrady Answer to Bulls Offensive Problems?

Friday, November 13

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

After thinking more about my last post on the Bulls' offensive problems, I started wondering which veteran players might be available at this point who could legitimately help the Bulls win some of these close games. And I kept coming back to one name, Houston's one-time superstar Tracy McGrady. Yes, T-Mac is coming off microfracture knee surgery last spring and he's definitely got a selfish streak to his game, but he's not afraid to take a big shot in close games, and he can get to the foul line...two qualities the Bulls are lacking right now.

Before we go any further, any deal probably wouldn't happen before mid-December, since McGrady is still in the final stages of his rehab process, and my trade proposal would include Tyrus Thomas, who's out for 4 to 6 weeks with a broken left forearm. In case you haven't noticed, the Rockets are off to a surprisingly good start in the West, even without McGrady and center Yao Ming. There's a school of thought in Houston that the Rockets might be better off without McGrady, since he tends to dominate the ball and prefers a half-court style. The Rockets have gone to an up tempo offense with young point guard Aaron Brooks pushing the ball and setting up easy baskets for guys like Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza. Meanwhile, the Bulls have transformed themselves into a defensive-oriented team, giving up around 93 points a night, but scoring just 89. They figure to be in a LOT of close games this season, and right now they don't have a closer like McGrady. So far, we've seen the ball wind up in the hands of John Salmons, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich in late-game situations, and none of them have done a good job of knocking down perimeter jump shots. I would expect the Bulls will go to Derrick Rose more in high screen and roll situations when he's 100 percent healthy again, but right now, they are living and dying with the jump shot, and that's not really a formula for long-term success in the NBA.

So, how would this proposed deal work? First of all, this is 100 percent my idea. I have not talked with John Paxson or Gar Forman, but I'm pretty sure they intend to stay the course to see if those jump shots will start falling AND if Rose can start to take over late in close games. But with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson emerging as pleasant surprises this season, Luol Deng getting back to his old productive ways, and the big improvement on the defensive end, it would be a shame not to try to maximize this team's potential. My plan would be to bring in a proven scorer like McGrady, who worked hard all summer on his rehab with noted trainer Tim Grover here in Chicago, and says he's feeling better physically than he has in years.

Not only would adding McGrady help the Bulls in close games, but it would preserve the salary cap flexibility they desire for next summer's free agent derby. T-Mac will make 22 million dollars in the final season of a long-term deal. Basically the Bulls could bring him in as a one season rental, then use the cap space to go after LeBron, D-Wade or some other All-Star next summer.

In order to make the salaries match, the Bulls could go with one of two different proposals that both work under the salary cap rules. They could offer the expiring contracts of Brad Miller and Jerome James along with Tyrus, or if Houston wants more immediate help, rather than future cap relief, the Bulls could offer Tyrus, Kirk Hinrich and James' expiring contract. Draft picks could also be included to make the deal work for both sides. The 2nd proposed trade would give the Bulls a starting five of Noah, Deng, Gibson, McGrady and Rose, with Salmons, Miller, Jannero Pargo and rookie James Johnson coming off the bench. If Miller is included in the deal, the Bulls could use Aaron Gray as the back-up center, and bring back training camp players Chris Richard and Derrick Byars on minimum contracts to round out the roster. Don't forget, the Bulls have 7 footer Omer Asik from Turkey, a 2nd round draft pick in '08, penciled in as a back-up big man for next season. It's pretty unlikely Miller would return under most scenarios.

Why would Houston make either of my proposed trades? Well, we already talked about their good start and the advantages of not messing with team chemistry. The Rockets do not plan to re-sign McGrady next season, so they might as well try to get something for a 30 year old former All-Star, and getting him out of the Western Conference would be a plus. There are probably other teams that would be interested in acquiring McGrady and his expiring contract, so if the Bulls have any interest, they would probably need to act sooner, rather than later.

Once again, this is my idea, I don't think the Bulls are actively looking to make a trade this early in the season, and the plan since last February has been to preserve cap flexibility for a run at one of the big name stars next summer. So, what would you do if you were Bulls General Manager? Do you like the idea of bringing in McGrady or would you be more interested in a younger shooting guard like J.R. Smith or Leandro Barbosa? What about Allen Iverson or Stephen Jackson?

Please post your comments in the section below or send me an e-mail.

I'll see you from the United Center with Kendall Gill during Saturday's 6:30 SportsNite to preview the Bulls-76'ers game on Comcast SportsNet.

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

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.