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.

Thumb injury leaves Wendell Carter Jr. on the outside looking in at NBA All-Rookie teams

Thumb injury leaves Wendell Carter Jr. on the outside looking in at NBA All-Rookie teams

Wendell Carter Jr. was on his way to becoming the second consecutive Bulls player to make an All-Rookie Team, but a thumb injury that required surgery in January ultimately proved to be the deciding factor in his omission.

The All-Rookie Teams were announced on Tuesday afternoon and, as expected, Carter was not on either. The seventh overall pick had a promising rookie campaign in which he averaged 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Those marks ranked 10th, 4th and 2nd, respectively, among first-year players.

But Carter's thumb injury limited him to just 44 games. Of the 10 players who made the first and second teams, Memphis' Jaren Jackson Jr. played the fewest games (58) while the group averaged 72.8 games played.

Carter's thumb injury was initially diagnosed as a jam, but further testing revealed that surgery was the best course of action for the then-19-year-old (he turned 20 in April). The Bulls opted not to rush Carter back at the end of the season - a wise decision on multiple levels - and Carter, when he spoke with media members for the first time after undergoing surgery, said his goals had moved to the long-term.

“So many people have had this injury and they don’t get it taken care of and bones are coming out of their socket very easily,” Carter said. “I just wanted to eliminate all that. If I was to get in a cast and come back and the tendon didn’t come back out, then I’d have to wait another eight weeks and get the surgery. So I just went ahead and knocked it out to get it out of the way.

"It's all good. I'm just looking at the long-term now."

He was one of the league's youngest rookies but hardly played like it. He moved into the starting lineup for good just a few days into the preseason and wore multiple hats for the Bulls. Injuries to Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine thrust Carter into a significant scoring role for the Bulls, sometimes acting as the No. 2 option behind Zach LaVine early in the season.

He took on more of a traditional post-up role - with solid footwork making him a serviceable roll man - when those players returned and Jim Boylen took over, slowing down the offense. He shot a respectable 48.5% from the field and his 79.5% mark from the foul line showed a nice touch. But he also went 6 of 32 from beyond the arc in his rookie season. He'll need to find some more versatility on the offensive end, though there will be more floor spacing in his sophomore season after the Bulls added Otto Porter Jr. at the trade deadline.

He is one of five rookies over the last seven seasons to average at least 7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, joining Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid in that category. That's not to suggest that Carter will have the same career arc as those All-Stars plus Noel - he's got plenty to do on the defensive end - but in Carter the Bulls have found a defensive anchor and someone to complement Lauri Markkanen on that end of the floor.

He's a raw talent who showed promise as a rookie. And while it didn't result in an All-Rookie bid, the future is bright in the middle for the Bulls. Like many of his teammates, expectations will increase for Carter as they enter Year 3 of their rebuild.

Check out the All-Rookie Teams below.

So you want the Bulls to trade up in the NBA Draft? Here's what it costs

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AP

So you want the Bulls to trade up in the NBA Draft? Here's what it costs

NBA Draft capital is incredibly expensive these days.

It's never been cheap, but the price of moving up continues to cost teams a pretty penny without a surefire promise of return on their investment. This proves to be incredibly risky when considering trading in the top 5.

One year ago the Dallas Mavericks, who were picking fifth, wanted Slovenian point guard Luka Doncic. Knowing the Atlanta Hawks were eyeing a point guard, they put together a package that included the No. 5 pick and a top-5 protected first round pick the following season in order to move up two spots. It was a steep price, as the Mavericks wound up with the No. 10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft that will convey to Atlanta.

Consider two seasons ago, when the Philadelphia 76ers traded the No. 3 pick and the Kings' 2019 first-round pick to move up to No. 1. That Sacramento pick wound up being the No. 14 selection thanks to the Kings' surprise season out West, but at the time it was an incredibly valuable asset that many thought would yield a top-10 pick. The Sixers drafted Markelle Fultz while the Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum. Two years later, Tatum looks like a budding star while the Sixers traded Fultz and his bag of issues to the Magic in February.

In 2009, the Timberwolves traded two key rotation pieces to the Wizards for the No. 5 pick. In hindsight, trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller for a top-5 selection doesn't seem like a lot. But consider that Foye was a 25-year-old coming off a 16.3-point season, while Miller was a 28-year-old with a career mark of 40.1% from beyond the arc and averages of 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists to his name. The price to move up to No. 5 and draft Ricky Rubio - which they did a day later - was steep.

In 2005, the Utah Jazz held the sixth pick in the draft but desperately wanted to move up to get Illinois point guard Deron Williams. On draft night, they sent the No. 6 pick, the No. 27 pick and a future first round pick (Detroit's in 2006, which wound up being No. 30) to move up three spots to No. 3. They were able to grab Williams, and the rest is history.

So if we take out the 2009 trade that didn't include any picks, here's the history of trades involving top 5 picks:

Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 5 overall, No. 10 overall the following season

Get: No. 1 overall
Give: No. 3 overall, No. 14 overall the following season

Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 6 overall, No. 27 overall, No. 30 the following season

It's not cheap. And as we can see, the cost to move up is getting pricier. The 2019 NBA Draft won't be any different. We know that picks Nos. 1 and 2 are off the table. The New Orleans Pelicans will select Duke's Zion Williamson and the Memphis Grizzlies will follow a few minutes later by taking Murray State point guard Ja Morant. It's also pretty safe to say that the New York Knicks will draft Duke's R.J. Barrett with the third pick.

It gets pretty fuzzy after that. Picks 4-14 are all pretty much in the same tier, to the point that including assets to move up in a class that will be a major dice roll would be tough to justify. Then again, maybe the price to move up to No. 4 or 5 isn't as substantial because there isn't a sure fire player the other team would be giving up by moving back in the first round. In 2005, it was obvious the Jazz were going hard after Williams or Wake Forest's Chris Paul. The Sixers wanted to move up to No. 1 to get Markelle Fultz, who as funny as it seems now, was the consensus top pick. And the Mavericks were clearly eyeing Luka Doncic after the Kings passed on him for Duke's Marvin Bagley.

This time around? It's tough to say. The Bulls need a point guard in the worst way and Vanderbilt's Darius Garland will likely be gone before the Bulls pick at No. 7. It'd behoove the Bulls to jump in front of Phoenix at No. 6; the Suns have similar needs to the Bulls and are in similar situations as far as their respective rebuild goes. But the Bulls aren't once piece away from contending, and none of the players they would go target at No. 4 or 5 would really move the needle next season. That's critical, because they'd almost certainly be including next year's first-round pick in any deal (let's be real and say Kris Dunn's trade value is essentially zilch). If the Bulls were to attach even a heavily protected first round pick, they'd need to be certain they were going to have on-court improvement in the coming years. This is still a team that won 22 games a season ago.

It's too early in the pre-draft process to consider which teams may move back, and who teams trying to move up would want to target. That will happen in the coming weeks. For now, just realize that moving up in the draft costs a whole lot, and you'd better hit on the pick if you're going to give up assets during a rebuild.