Bulls

NBA Draft: Will Bulls try a major trade?

NBA Draft: Will Bulls try a major trade?

Now that Tuesday’s uneventful draft lottery is in the books (all teams holding their pre-lottery positions for the first time), the Bulls are left with the 14th pick in Round 1 of what most experts consider to be a below average talent pool.

Sure, there could be some useful players available in that range like point guards Demetrius Jackson of Notre Dame and Wade Baldwin of Vanderbilt, plus project big men like Domantas Sabonis (son of Hall of Famer Arvydas), Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis and Diamond Stone. But if the Bulls really want to change over the roster, they’ll need to do something bold.

Anyone who’s watched the Cavaliers storm through this year’s playoffs will safely conclude LeBron James and Co. figure to own the Eastern Conference for the next 3-5 years since Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are all signed to long term deals, and James isn’t going anywhere. And, with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah ready to become free agents on July 1st, followed by Derrick Rose in the summer of 2017, the Bulls’ core group that put them on the fringe of championship contention is gone.

So why not get started on the rebuild in a major way with a significant trade on draft night?

The front offices with the 76ers and Lakers have already expressed their desire to add All-Star caliber veterans to the roster instead of more young players. And, those teams also wound up with the top two picks in this year’s draft. So why not explore what the Sixers and Lakers are willing to give up for a two-time All-Star like Jimmy Butler?

Philadelphia has drafted three young bigs in recent years, and might be willing to include Chicago native Jahlil Okafor in a possible deal. Would the Sixers be willing to trade the top pick and Okafor for Butler, Niko Mirotic and the Bulls' 1st round pick this year? Maybe the Bulls could sweeten the deal by including Taj Gibson or that future Sacramento No. 1 pick.

Similarly, Mitch Kupchak has seen the pitfalls of trying to build a team around mercurial young talent. Would the Lakers deal the No.2 overall pick and controversial young guard D’Angelo Russell (last year’s No. 2 overall pick) for Butler? The Lakers need to add an established player like Butler to possibly attract one of the premier free agents this summer, who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in joining a rebuilding team with a flock of young players like Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr.

Jimmy is only 26 and has established himself as one of the best two-way wing players in the league. But can the Bulls hope to threaten the Cavs with a team built around Butler? Or, are they better off trying to acquire a player like Ben Simmons, a 6-foot-10 versatile playmaker who might have the chance to be a superstar?

There’s also the potential to make a deal with Boston and Phoenix for Picks 3 and 4. Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge already inquired about Butler at the trade deadline and has three 1st round picks to offer this year, plus serviceable rotation players like Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley. The Bulls are reportedly intrigued by Providence point guard Kris Dunn, who’s a lock to be picked in the Top 6 on June 23rd.  So, would the No. 3 overall pick, Bradley/Crowder and another No. 1 get the deal done?

Phoenix also might be looking to trade out of their position at No. 4. The Suns hit on shooting guard Devin Booker last summer to go with their point guard duo of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, so they might be willing to pass on the chance to draft Dunn or Oklahoma sharp-shooter Buddy Hield to acquire an established talent like Butler.

Bulls GM Gar Forman could even call his old buddy Tom Thibodeau to see what the T-Wolves (who hold the No. 5 overall pick) might offer for Butler.

John Paxson and Forman figure to be presented with all kinds of intriguing trade proposals in the days leading up to the draft. Now it’s up to them to decide whether hoping to get a bottom-four seed in next year’s playoffs makes it worthwhile to hang on to Butler and Rose, and possibly re-sign Noah, or is it better to blow it all up and start building a team that can contend when James finally slows down?

Let’s be realistic, given the fact about two-thirds of the league will have enough cap room to offer a max contract this summer, the Bulls will not be a destination for the top free agents. So, forget about Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Nic Batum or any of the other top free agents coming on board this summer, any major change will have to come through the trade market.

I know it’s very small consolation, but after a painfully disappointing 2015-’16 season, the Bulls figure to be relevant over the next month as one of the most prominent teams in the NBA rumor mill.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:


Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.