Bulls

Schanowski: Johnson just ordinary Joe in playoffs

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Schanowski: Johnson just ordinary Joe in playoffs

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
4:27 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

So, do you still think Joe Johnson is worth a maximum contract when free agency opens on July 1st? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail.

Sure, the Bulls need a shooter to go along with Derrick Rose, and a two guard who stands 6-7 would be a significant help on the defensive end. But if you watched any of the Atlanta-Orlando series, it's pretty obvious Joe Johnson isn't the kind of player who can carry a team.

Johnson averaged just 12.7 points a game in the four-game wipe-out, while shooting just under 30 percent from the field. Hardly the kind of performance that will command a five-year contract, starting at about 16.5 million dollars on the open market. He also ripped Atlanta fans after they booed him throughout a Game 3 blowout loss at Phillips Arena, saying he didn't care if they even showed up for the 4th game of the series. So, let's see........Johnson is not a leader, he comes up small in the biggest games, and he'll turn 29 next month. Not exactly the kind of guy you want to commit 95 million over the next five seasons. Word out of the Berto Center is that the Bulls came to that conclusion a long time ago. The front office likes Johnson's skill-set, but they're not prepared to make him a maximum contract offer. Unless he's prepared to take a much lower contract offer, Johnson won't be coming to the Bulls this summer.

And, what about the other top prizes in this summer's free agent class. Dwyane Wade is involved in a nasty legal fight with his ex-wife over custody of the couple's two children. Wade's ex-wife is living in the Chicago area, where the couple first met during their high school days in Oak Lawn. It's pretty safe to assume Wade doesn't want to move back to Chicago, and be right in the middle of this legal mess. You can pretty much lock him in for a max contract extension with the Heat.

Chris Bosh will be the hardest free agent to acquire, because he plans to work with Toronto's front office on a sign-and-trade which will bring him the maximum six-year, 120 million package. That basically opens up every team in the league as a potential suitor for Bosh. And, since the Bulls aren't willing to include Rose or Joakim Noah in any trade with the Raptors, their chances of acquiring Bosh in a sign-and-trade deal are virtually nil, especially since some of the league's heavyweight teams like the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs are likely to get in the bidding.

Amar'e Stoudemire figures to take a long look at signing an extension in Phoenix after the Suns' surprising run through the Western Conference playoffs. And, Utah's Carlos Boozer isn't really worth a maximum contract offer, even though he might get one from a desperate team like the Knicks or Nets.

Which leads us back to the best player on the planet, LeBron James. At this point in the free agent speculation, the Bulls might have a better chance at signing LeBron than they do with any of the other top players available. James genuinely respects the Bulls' talent, and knows the team has a tremendous upside with so many young players having already established themselves as quality players in the league. If I'm John Paxson, I take Rose and Noah with me for a road trip to Akron, and I camp out at LeBron's front door to make my pitch at 12:01 a.m. on July 1st. The way I look at it now, there's a 60 likelihood James signs a three-year extension in Cleveland, 20 that he comes to Chicago, and 10 chances he signs with the Knicks or Clippers. And, don't laugh about the Clippers. They have the money to make a max offer, and they have a young nucleus of talent that rivals the Bulls with Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon and the number 1 pick in the 2009 draft, power forward Blake Griffin, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury.

As I wrote in my last post, it's hard to tell if we should root for James and the Cavs to win a championship this season, or lose to Boston in the 2nd round. James might find it hard to leave his home state if he fails to deliver the title he's talked about for so many years. That's why I think he would only sign a short-term extension if he stays. James knows the Cavs are an aging team, with three starters, Shaq, Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker, 34 years or older. His future prospects would be better served with the Bulls or Clippers, but the mental burden of abandoning his home state team might be too strong for James to pull the trigger on switching teams this summer. Then again, if the Cavs flame out in Round 2 against Boston, all bets could be off. Who knows if James will lash out at head coach Mike Brown, G.M. Danny Ferry or his teammates? Remember, it was a playoff dispute with head coach Flip Saunders that brought Ben Wallace to the Bulls when everyone around the league assumed he would stay with the Pistons back in 2006.

Bottom line, the Bulls need to be flexible in their planning for free agency, but the front office should start by doing everything in their power to recruit LeBron.

McHALE DEFINITELY INTERESTED IN BULLS COACHING POSITION

Not much to report on the Bulls' coaching search. General Manager Gar Forman continues to do research on most of the top candidates available, and we hear Doug Collins is definitely NOT on the Bulls' radar this time around. The one interesting development is Celtics' Hall of Famer Kevin McHale coming out strongly with his interest in the Bulls' job. McHale told WMVP radio in Chicago that he loves the young talent on the roster, and appreciates the fact that the key players are "tough guys, they play really hard and they get after it defensively, and I think they're all just going to be better." McHale says he has a good relationship with Paxson and Forman and would welcome the chance to interview for the job.

McHale has very little coaching experience, moving from the Minnesota Timberwolves' front office to the bench on two separate occasions. He worked last season as an analyst for TNT and NBA-TV. Still, it sounds like he's a guy the Bulls plan to talk to early in the interview process. The other names that have been talked about frequently are Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and Dwane Casey. Right now, it doesn't sound like the Bulls plan to interview former Knicks and Rockets' coach Jeff Van Gundy, and we still don't know where the Bulls stand on former NBA Coach of the Year Byron Scott, who had so much success working with Jason Kidd in New Jersey and Chris Paul in New Orleans.

Any way you look at it, the search process figures to drag into June. Let's hope all parties involved can agree on one candidate this time, and get the right man for the job.

E-MAIL TIME

Question from James - Oswego, IL: What are the chances that the Bulls could land Avery Johnson? He is young, has had success in the past and to me seems like a perfect fit to coach our young guys.

Schanowski: Right now James, there doesn't appear to be much interest on either side. Johnson is a controlling head coach who likes to call a play almost every trip downcourt. The Bulls would prefer a more wide open style that allows Derrick Rose to attack the defense. Johnson also criticized the Bulls' front office for the way they handled the incident with Vinny Del Negro back on March 30th, and he probably would want a higher salary than the Bulls are willing to pay. Add it all up, and Johnson just isn't the right guy.
Question from Robert - Chicago, IL : I think that the Bulls need to attack the market looking for tall defenders like Tayshaun Prince. He's not a king but we might be able get a prince at a cheap price and target a post man.

Schanowski: Unless his name is LeBron James, the Bulls won't be shopping for a small forward this off-season. They already have a ton of money invested in Luol Deng and they still have hopes for last year's top draft pick, James Johnson. I used to like Prince's game, but his performance has dropped significantly over the last couple seasons, especially when the Pistons try to play him at power forward. By the way, the Bulls will have a new post man coming in next season, 7 footer Omer Asik from Turkey, a guy they acquired on draft night in 2008.
Question from Raheim - Chicago, IL: How important is the Bulls' head coaching choice in who they will end up signing in free agency?

Schanowski: Good question, Raheim. Some people believe the Bulls should hold their coaching position open until July 1st, and let LeBron pick the guy he wants to coach as another enticement to come to Chicago. But in talking to a lot of people around the league, they say free agents rarely pick a team based on the head coach. It's all about money, chance to win and locationmarketing opportunitiesweather. Having said all that, I do think the Bulls will look like they have a better chance to win if they hire an experienced head coach like Byron Scott, Maurice Cheeks or Jeff Van Gundy, rather than a career assistant or a guy with a losing record in the league like Lawrence Frank or Eric Musselman.

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

NBA Draft: Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's a total package

NBA Draft: Cam Reddish out to prove doubters, show he's a total package

It's never easy being the third wheel. Ask Chris Bosh and Kevin Love, or more currently Klay Thompson. When Cam Reddish signed his Letter of Intent to play for Coach K at Duke, he was joined by a class that included RJ. Barrett and Cam Reddish. He and Barrett were expected to take on the scoring load and lead a freshman-driven Blue Devils team.

But two months after Reddish, Barrett and Jones signed on officially, Zion Williamson committed to Duke and turned everything on its head. On paper, it made the Blue Devils the No. 1 team in the country. It gave them a fourth five-star prospect and arguably the best player in the country. We all know what happened with Williamson; he turned in one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history and will be selected first overall by the Pelicans in a month. Barrett was excellent, too. The oft-criticized wing was an All-American, led the Blue Devils in scoring and cemented his status as a top-3 pick.

Reddish's freshman campaign couldn't have gone more differently. He was inconsistent throughout, finishing his lone season in Durham averaging 13.5 points on 35.6% shooting and just 33.3% from beyond the arc. Even his 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists were a far cry from what was expected of a recruit many had ranked ahead of Williamson when the season began. He showed flashes, to be sure, like his 22-point effort against Kentucky, his game-winner at Florida State and his 27-point outing against North Carolina in the infamous Zion-shoe-blowout game. But those flashes weren't enough to save a subpar season that saw his draft stock tumble throughout the fall and winter.

Then again, Reddish was the third option behind two of the most profilic scorers in the country. Barrett had a 32.2% usage rate - 25th highest in the country - and Williamson was a focal point every night he stepped on the floor. In a sense that should have created more open looks for Reddish as defenses keyed in on those two, but in reality it limited his opportunities and made it difficult for him to project at how he would be used on game-by-game basis.

Reddit wasn't making any excuses for his poor season when he spoke to the media on Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine. But he did say he's looking forward to opportunities in the pre-draft process to show off his entire arsenal that made him a top-5 prospect and a potential top NBA pick coming out of high school.

"I feel like I can do everything. I feel like I was more of a shooter this year (at Duke). I don’t really want to think of myself as a shooter," he said. "So I feel like if I just go out there and play my game, I can do a variety of things."

Two key statistics back up Reddish's claim. First, he was excellent on off-the-dribble jump shots, averaging 0.903 points per possession on 62 attempts. That ranked in the 71st percentile nationally. He also dominated in the small sample size of pick-and-roll actions he induced, averaging 1.114 points per possession (91st percentile nationally). It lends credibility to the notion that Reddish is capable with the ball in his hands. Reddish's usage rate was 15th in the ACC, so it's not as though he never touched the ball. But between the Williamson/Barrett combination and the lead point guard in Jones, he was rarely the main (or second) option.

Playing off the ball was certainly new to Reddish, who like so many NBA prospects deal with a new role in not being the go-to scorer once they arrive in the Association. Reddish got a dose of that as a college freshman and struggled to adjust. He was unguarded on 45 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts and yet ranked in just the 27th percentile nationally at 0.847 points per possession. Worse, he was in the 33rd percentile on spot-up jumpers on 193 possessions. The looks were there. He rarely knocked them down. He also shot just 51 percent at the rim, a troubling number, and that statistic includes freebies in transition that Duke thrived on during the season.

On talent and potential alone, Reddish is still a top-10 pick. He told reporters Thursday that he's hearing he'll fall somewhere in the 3 to 10 range, which sounds about right (though it'd be a shock to see him go before Barrett at No. 3). He still has prototypical NBA wing size - he measured 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-0.5 wingspan - and is an above average ball handler. But there's no denying his good traits combined with his poor showing at Duke make him a swing-for-the-fences, boom-or-bust pick.

For the Bulls, it might be time to pull the trigger on that kind of player. Both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. fell into their laps at No. 7 the previous two seasons - that's not to say they shouldn't be applauded for the picks, just that they were expected. But in this year's draft class, players in the 4-14 range all fall into a similar tier. In the Lottery, there will be safe routes to take (De'Andre Hunter, Rui Hachimura), selections for need (Darius Garland, Coby White) and there will be high-risk, high-reward options (Reddish, Sekou Doumbouya, Jarrett Culver).

But the Bulls could do worse than coming out of this year's draft with a player who 7 shorts months ago was a potential pick to go No. 1. He'd have lower expectations playing on a second unit and could spread his wings a little behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter. Having that freedom on a second unit could be what unlocks that untapped potential that was missing at Duke a year ago.

Is this the year for Bulls to think outside the box at No. 7?

Is this the year for Bulls to think outside the box at No. 7?

With the majority of mock drafts coming out after Tuesday’s lottery having the Bulls selecting North Carolina point guard Coby White with the seventh overall pick in the June 20 NBA Draft, it had me thinking about whether this might be the year to take a chance on a high risk/high reward pick.

Yes, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has made it clear he plans to bring in a point guard to challenge incumbent starter Kris Dunn, but with so many options in free agency, are the Bulls still inclined to go in that direction with their first round pick?

Before the lottery, the odds of the Bulls being in position to select either Ja Morant or Darius Garland looked pretty favorable if they stayed in the top-5. But after dropping all the way to No. 7, it’s almost a certainty that Morant and Garland will be gone, leaving White as the highest rated point guard available. White showed tremendous speed and scoring potential in his one season at North Carolina, but he has a lot to learn about directing an offense at the NBA level and will need to get stronger.

If Dunn returns for the final season of his rookie contract, there’s a good chance he moves into a backup role behind a veteran free agent, so maybe this isn’t the year to draft a developmental point guard.

So then, what do the Bulls do at No. 7?

Maybe it’s time to take a flier on a high upside athlete, something they really haven’t done since the infamous LaMarcus Aldridge-Tyrus Thomas draft night deal in 2006. This year’s draft contains a number of players who didn’t live up to expectations in their one collegiate season, but rank high on the athletic testing charts.

I had a chance to talk with a number of players at the draft combine in Chicago, and one who impressed me is USC guard Kevin Porter Jr. Scouts love the athleticism of the 6-foot-4 Porter Jr., but he underperformed in his one collegiate season, averaging just 9.5 points on 47 percent shooting from the field in a mostly reserve role.

Porter Jr. missed seven games because of a thigh injury and also had to serve a team suspension for “personal conduct issues.” But he’s not lacking in confidence, telling me he was a top-5 prospect at the start of the season and will be able to work his way up draft boards after teams get a chance to interview him and put him through individual workouts. Porter Jr. also mentioned comparisons to last year’s NBA MVP James Harden, mostly because they’re both 6-foot-4, played at PAC 12 universities and are left-handed.

No one is predicting Porter Jr. will ever come close to the unique scoring talent Harden displays on a nightly basis, but he definitely looks the part of an NBA player with a strong upper body and impressive leaping ability. Don’t be surprised if he winds up being a top-10 pick on draft night.

Other players projected for the late lottery include Indiana shooting guard Romeo Langford, Kentucky SG/SF Keldon Johnson, North Carolina small forward Nassir Little, French forward Sekou Doumbouya and Oregon 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol.

Much like Porter Jr., Little was considered a top-5 pick at the start of the college season, but never earned Roy Williams’ complete confidence at North Carolina, and struggled to find consistent minutes and shot attempts. He shot the ball well at the combine and projects as an elite defender at the NBA level. The Bulls really aren’t in the market for another small forward with Otto Porter Jr. and 2018 first round pick Chandler Hutchison already on the roster, but the wing positions offer the most talent in this draft.

Bol is a fascinating prospect with many scouts saying he’s one of the best pure shooters in this draft as a 7-footer. Problem is Bol suffered a foot fracture early in his freshman season at Oregon, the same type of injury that cost Joel Embiid his first two NBA seasons. Any team that drafts Bol will have to understand the risk of further injury, and the likelihood he won’t be able to contribute much in the 2019-2020 season.

If the Bulls stay at No. 7, White is the most logical pick, but they could go with a player that drops unexpectedly, like Duke forward Cam Reddish or Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver. The Bulls have always been aggressive in scheduling personal workouts and interviews with all the prospects in their draft range, and this year that process will take on more importance than ever.

Remember, Donovan Mitchell was one of the most impressive athletes at the combine two years ago, but stayed on the board until the Utah Jazz worked a trade with Denver to get him at No. 13. Now Mitchell is one of the best young guards in the NBA. Kyle Kuzma also moved into the first round in 2017 with a strong combine showing and is thriving as a productive two-way player with the Lakers.

It’s up to Paxson and his staff to find which player has the most long term upside and maybe come up with their own version of Mitchell or Kuzma next month.

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