NBA Buzz: Bulls pass on chance to start roster makeover


NBA Buzz: Bulls pass on chance to start roster makeover

The NBA trade deadline hit at 2 p.m. on Thursday with the Bulls standing pat, outside of the salary dump of Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta for seldom-used bench player Justin Holiday and a 2018 second round draft pick from Utah.

According to multiple national reports, including a detailed story from the well-connected Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Sacramento Kings aggressively pursued a deal for Bulls’ All-Star Pau Gasol, and made a generous offer that included promising young shooting guard Ben McLemore, back-up center Kosta Koufos, and reduction of the protection on the first round pick they owe to the Bulls (currently top 10 for this year and next).

The Bulls front office ultimately decided to pass on the deal, mostly because they didn’t want to be saddled with the contract of Koufos, a serviceable career back-up who’s owed over $8 million in each of the next three seasons. Now, I understand the perils of taking on a long-term contract for a player you don’t really love, but with the salary cap expected to grow by about $20 million in each of the next two summers, that contract might not look so bad.

Plus, the front office knows they need to add more shot creators and athletes to the roster, and that’s where McLemore comes in. When he arrived at the University of Kansas, McLemore was considered one of the top freshmen and NBA prospects in the country. To this point, McLemore has failed to live up to that enormous potential in his two and a half professional seasons, averaging just under 10 points a game on .415 shooting from the field, and .345 from 3-point range. But you can certainly blame some of that lack of development on playing for such a dysfunctional franchise like Sacramento, and you have to like McLemore’s odds of improving dramatically in his next NBA stop. He certainly has youth on his side after just turning 23 earlier this month.

[MORE: Chicago's goodbye to Kobe Bryant]

The opportunity to add a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with athleticism and upside sure looked like the perfect opportunity for the Bulls front office to start re-shaping the roster for the style of play their hand-picked young coach prefers. Especially when you consider the possibility Gasol can walk away in free agency this summer and the Bulls would get nothing in return.

General manager Gar Forman says he considers Gasol (who turns 36 in July) part of the team’s core group, adding that the Bulls would try to re-sign both Gasol and Joakim Noah this summer. Doing that would cancel any opportunity to improve the team in the free agent market, where the Bulls could create approximately $20-21 million of cap room by letting their two veteran big men walk. Plus, there are no assurances Gasol is interested in re-signing, saying what happens during the rest of the regular season and playoffs will determine whether he believes the Bulls are still a championship contender.

Why the Bulls front office wanted to pass up an offer of McLemore and Koufos to jump-start their plans to get younger and more athletic for a 36-year-old player who may or may not be interested in staying in Chicago, plus throw-in Tony Snell, is a mystery to me. We can only hope the summer strategy involves a lot more than just adding another draft pick of two to an aging and underachieving roster.

Niko's Nightmare

Second year forward Niko Mirotic returned to the Advocate Center following the All-Star break and met with local reporters last Wednesday. Mirotic looked noticeably thinner after dropping 18 pounds after an appendectomy, followed by a second emergency surgery to remove a hematoma.

Mirotic told the harrowing story of how the follow-up surgery came about, saying the surgeon told him in all his years of doing appendectomies he had never seen such a serious complication. “It was maybe bad luck," said Mirotic. "It was no one's mistake. It just could happen. I'm trying to forget that and focus on my recovery. Last year, I just missed one game. The good thing is I know my body is young and I can recover soon. Maybe two, three weeks. I don't know what the time is. The one thing I know that I will do the best job I can to get on the floor soon and help my teammates. Now I'm just walking; so I'm trying to move around a little bit. Let's see when I can do that. After that, try to get some shots. It's all about days. We'll see. I don't know. I know I'm going to be back before playoffs."

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So, Mirotic is weeks away from returning to the court, with Fred Hoiberg telling reporters Mirotic will start with low-impact conditioning work in the pool.

The reality is the Bulls probably won’t get a good read on what they have in Mirotic, given his erratic play earlier in the season, then all of the health issues. And since Niko only signed a three-year contract when he came over from Spain, he’ll be a free agent in the summer of 2017. Just another element of uncertainty as the Bulls try to decide which players will remain part of the team’s core group going forward.

Around the Association

No blockbuster deals on trade deadline day after all the rumors involving Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.  Detroit picked up 23-year-old forward Tobias Harris from Orlando for two players that were not going to be part of their future, Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. And later, the Pistons strengthened their bench by acquiring Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton from Houston for a first round draft pick.

Cleveland also picked up a potentially valuable bench piece, getting veteran stretch four Channing Frye from the Magic, and the Cavs are considered the front-runners to sign Joe Johnson if he agrees to a buyout with Brooklyn.

All told, there were 12 deals made during deadline week involving 26 players. Here’s a look at how that compares to the last five years. 

2015: 46 players traded (22 still with team), 12 draft picks. Notable: Isaiah Thomas (Suns to Celtics), Arron Afflalo (Nuggets to Blazers), Reggie Jackson (OKC to Pistons), Goran Dragic (Suns to Heat).

2014: 26 players traded (1 still with team), 6 draft picks. Notable: Aaron Brooks (Rockets to Nuggets), Evan Turner (76'ers to Pacers)

2013: 29 players traded (1 still with team), 2 draft picks. Notable: JJ Redick (Magic to Bucks), Tobias Harris (Bucks to Magic), Josh McRoberts (Magic to Bobcats).

2012: 28 players traded (2 still with team), 8 draft picks. Notable: Andrew Bogut (Bucks to Warriors), Monta Ellis (Warriors to Bucks), Nene Hilario (Nuggets to Wizards), Gerald Wallace (Blazers to Nets).

2011: 50 players traded (4 still with team), 16 draft picks. Notable: Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets to Knicks), Deron Williams (Jazz to Nets), Danilo Gallinari (Knicks to Nuggets), Derrick Favors (Nets to Jazz), Wilson Chandler (Knicks to Nuggets). 

A number of players coming with some big number out of the All-Star break. Chicago native Anthony Davis set a New Orleans Pelicans franchise record with his 59-point performance Sunday against the Pistons, it’s also the highest scoring game in the history of the Palace. Davis also pulled down 20 rebounds.

And, another Chicago native, Jabari Parker, appears to be fully recovered from ACL surgery in December of 2014. Parker has been dunking on players with regularity in recent weeks, and he scored a career-high 28 points in the Milwaukee Bucks’ win in Atlanta last Saturday.

Warriors pursuit of 72 wins

Golden State came out of the break with an embarrassing 32-point loss at Portland, but then bounced back with a good road win over the Los Angeles Clippers. At 49-5, the Warriors are one game ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Bulls when they won 72 games, and they’re also trying to become the first NBA team to go through an entire season without losing back-to-back games. The schedule is tough for Golden State over the next few weeks, but I’m still giving them a 55 percent chance to get to 72 wins.

Stats of the Week

Courtesy of CSN’s stats whiz Chris Kamka:

Derrick Rose 20+ point games this season:

Nine in last 15 games

Six in first 33 games

20+ point trios vs. Bulls (this season)

Feb. 19 (TOR): DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry

Feb. 6 (MIN): Andrew Wiggins (21), Karl-Anthony Towns (26) and Gorgui Dieng (24)

Jan. 3 (TOR): Luis Scola (22), DeRozan (24) and Lowry (22)

Dec. 18 (DET): Andre Drummond (33), Reggie Jackson (31) and Marcus Morris (20)

Nov. 18 (PHX): Brandon Knight (23), Eric Bledsoe (21) and P.J. Tucker (20)

Oct. 30 (DET): Morris (26), Jackson (22) and Drummond (20)

Bulls longest losing streak by season under Tom Thibodeau (regular season)

2010-11: two games (four times)

2011-12: two games

2012-13: three games

2013-14: four games (twice)

2014-15: three games (twice)

Under Fred Hoiberg

2015-16: five games (longest by Bulls since 10-game losing streak Feb. 27-March 19, 2010 under Vinnie Del Negro).

Quotes of the Week

Hoiberg used to work in the Timberwolves’ front office as an assistant to the GM, so he has some personal experience on what goes on at the trade deadline: "People like to lie to each other all the way up to those last 48 hours.”

And here are the thoughts of Taj Gibson on whether the Bulls disappointing season is the most challenging of his seven-year career. “I think, yeah. Just because we got a lot of young guys too. In previous years we [were] able to muster up because we had guys that had been together for a while, we had a good belief system. But it's a little different, we got different guys, and it's different. You're a veteran now. It's not like you're the young guys on the curb anymore so it's frustrating but I believe in this team…"

Gibson has definitely emerged as a team leader. We’re all waiting to see if this Bulls team is capable of sustaining a run of winning basketball once Jimmy Butler returns from his knee injury in a couple weeks.

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career


Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.