Bulls

Schanowski: Wait 'Till Next Year for Bulls?

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Schanowski: Wait 'Till Next Year for Bulls?

Tuesday, March 10, 2010
4:53 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With the Bulls' playoff hopes looking pretty bleak right about now, I thought it would be a good time to start looking towards next season. What moves would you make to improve the team this summer if you were General Manager? Please post your suggestions in the section below or send me an e-mail, and we'll include some of the best ones in my next post.

Let's start with the draft, since that will come first. The Bulls' recent slide will probably put them in the lottery again, but they're not likely to fall any lower than 11th overall. They'll have about a 1 percent chance of winning the number one overall pick, and SLIGHTLY better odds at moving up to 2 or 3. But if they don't beat the odds like in '08 when they cashed in on a 1.7 percent chance to get Derrick Rose, they'll have to switch picks with Milwaukee as one of the sweeteners in last month's John Salmons' trade. That means they could wind up picking around 17th in the first round, taking a lot of potential picks off the board.

This year's draft is heavy on project big men, but the Bulls are already planning to bring in 7-foot Turkish center Omer Asik next season, so they'll already have one project big man on their roster. The Bulls traded 3 second round picks to get Asik during the '08 draft, and John Paxson really likes his potential, but he's been hurt this season, and from what we've been told, he's more of a perimeter big like countryman Mehmet Okur rather than a low post scorer. Still, he could be a decent back up for Joakim Noah and won't be called on to play major minutes as a rookie. So, if you want to think positive, look at Asik as a bonus 1st round draft pick heading into next season.

It's very unlikely Brad Miller will be back with the Bulls next season, unless he's willing to sign for the veteran's minimum of just over a million dollars. But with Miller's experience and shooting ability, he's probably going to get a better offer from a contending team looking for a reliable big man to bring off the bench. With that in mind, the Bulls might consider a decent shooting big man who falls to the middle of the first round, but my guess is they'll go for the best shooting guard available, and look to add a low post scorer in free agency.

One of the best pure shooters in the college game is Oklahoma State's James Anderson, a 6'6" junior guard who's averaging nearly 23 points a game on 47 percent shooting from the field. He would be a great fit playing opposite Rose, and might be available in the 10 to 12 range of the draft, But because the Bulls will probably have to switch first round picks with Milwaukee, Anderson will be off the board when it's their turn to pick. So, who does that leave? Well, Oklahoma's Willie Warren was considered a potential College Player of the Year back in October, but he's having a less than sensational season for the Sooners, averaging 16 points a game on 44 percent shooting from the field. Still, at 6-4, with explosive athletic skills, he might be a good value in the middle of round one. Other guys the Bulls will be looking at to fill their need at shooting guard include Elliot Williams of Memphis, Dominique Jones of South Florida, Terrico White of Ole Miss and Greivis Vazquez of Maryland. Vazquez is currently projected as a late first round or early 2nd round pick, but he led the Terps to a share of the A.C.C. regular season championship and has 4 years of college experience. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Hinrich at Kansas except that he's 3 inches taller at 6'-6", so if the Bulls draft Vazquez, they could trade Hinrich to free up more cap room for the free agent chase that begins on July 1st.

BOSH AND STOUDEMIRE SHOULD BE BULLS TARGETS

Now to the main event. Paxson and Gar Forman have been preparing for the free agent derby ever since the payroll-clearing moves they made at the trade dealine in '09. Throughout the season, they've expressed quiet confidence that they'll be able to attract one of the elite players available. But when the clock strikes midnight on June 30th, it's important to target one or two guys and move aggressively rather than waste time trying to negotiate with a half dozen players. I'm sure Pax and Forman have already done their work through back-channels to try to determine which free agents have a serious interest in the Bulls. When the playoffs end, they need to find out if LeBron or D-Wade have any intention of leaving their current teams. Once that's done, move on to the more realistic targets like Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer. If the Bulls can find a good shooting guard in the draft to team with Rose, cross Johnson off the list. That leaves the 3 power forwards, and my order would be Bosh, Stoudemire, then Boozer.

Bosh is clearly the best of the available big men. He's taken his game to a new level in Toronto this season, averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds a game while shooting 52 percent from the field. He's gotten stronger this season, and has shown more of a willingness to bang with opposing centers and power forwards in the paint. And, he's also very young, turning 26 later this month. Stoudemire has a player option for next season worth 17.7 million dollars, but after Phoenix explored trading him each of the last 2 seasons, I expect him to opt out of the contract and sell his services to the highest bidder, including the awful Knicks and Nets. There have been numerous questions about Stoudemire, including his history of injuries and a sometimes questionable attitude.

But the fact is the guy can play, and there aren't many 6-10, 250 pound athletes with his combination of speed, power and shooting ability. Stoudemire's game has really taken off since February 1st. He's averaging about 26 points and 10 rebounds a game over the last 6 weeks, while shooting almost 55 percent from the field.

Sure, there's a risk with guys like Stoudemire and Boozer, who's also been hurt a lot in recent years, but the Bulls desperately need a low post scoring option for the nights they can't buy a shot from the perimeter. The thought of Rose running the high screen and roll with Bosh, Stoudemire or Boozer should have Bulls fans very excited. Maybe Bosh is the only one of the 3 who truly deserves a maximum contract, but after waiting this long, the Bulls can't come up empty by haggling over a few million dollars. Take a lesson from what the Bears did in overpaying for Julius Peppers. Sometimes you have to overpay to get the player you want, and the Bulls have to get an inside scorer this summer.

Once again, I'm interested in what YOU think. Please post your suggestions in the comments section below or send me an e-mail, and we'll include some of them in my next post. Let's hope the Bulls can find a way to win one of these upcoming road games, but the reality is, it's all about this summer, and building a contending team for 2010-'11.

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.

23 Days to Opening Night: The Greatest of All-Time

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AP

23 Days to Opening Night: The Greatest of All-Time

Need we say more?

There isn’t a number more synonymous with greatness in basketball - and maybe in all of sports - than No. 23.

We’d list of all M.J.’s accomplishments but there isn’t enough room, even on the internet.

All we know is no Bulls player (or Heat player) will ever don the No. 23 uniform again.

And honestly, once LeBron James retires, it’d be pretty cool to see the NBA retire the number for good. Now we’re just getting nostalgic. No. 23 is No. 1.

#MuscleWatch: Lauri Markkanen's new frame will add critical component to his game

#MuscleWatch: Lauri Markkanen's new frame will add critical component to his game

#MuscleWatch has become a staple of NBA Media Days each year. Players from all 30 teams hitting the weight room all summer in preparation for their best year yet while feeling as strong and healthy as they’ve ever been. More times than not it’s fluff. Some of the world’s greatest athletes – many of whom are still maturing in their late teens – adding weight and muscle is expected. Even if that growth is real, 29 other teams’ players have accomplished the same.

That being said, it would have been impossible to see Lauri Markkanen on Monday at the Advocate Center and not believe he’s a changed player.

The second-year Finn spent his summer in his native Finland and also made joined a handful of NBA players in traveling to China for the Yao Ming Foundation Charity Game. When Markkanen wasn’t traveling he was spending hours in the weight room, and it’s easy to see that the results paid off.

A noticeably bigger, more defined Markkanen said he’s up to 240 pounds, 17 pounds heavier than his playing weight as a rookie. The transformation is a product of Markkanen having a more open summer after he spent the lead-up to his rookie season playing for Team Finland in EuroBasket 2017. There wasn’t as much time, Fred Hoiberg admitted, to work on Markkanen’s body as they worked him in slowly once he arrived in Chicago.

“I feel fresh,” Markkanen said. “We’ve been playing here (in Chicago) every day almost so I’ve been going up and down the court, but it’s different. I’ve been able to work on my body and actually be healthy. So I feel good.”

The next part of Markkanen’s transformation will be using it to his advantage on the floor. The 7-footer was impressive in Year 1, overshadowed some by the historic seasons posted by fellow rookies Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. Markkanen’s overall numbers didn’t jump off the page – 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 3-pointers, 43.4% from the field – but, taken in context, were solid. He began the year behind both Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, then found himself in the Opening Night starting lineup after the infamous fight in practice.

And where Markkanen was good and showed off his massive upside, his 20-year-old frame expectedly held him back in other areas.

Per NBA.com, Markkanen used just 11 percent of his offensive possessions in the post. And of those 111 possessions, he scored points on 45 of them. That 40.5% scoring frequency placed him in the 36th percentile league-wide. He shot 41.6 percent in post-up situations – nearly two percentage points lower than his overall number – a less-than-inspiring number considering the high percentage nature of those looks.

That should change with the added weight. Markkanen’s new frame, Hoiberg said, will also give the Bulls more options on offense.

“To be around our guys and to be in the weight room and to put on the size and strength that he did will help him overall all over the floor,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully the ability to be able to punish a switch more consistently on the block. And his strength, as far as his ball handling and keeping guys on his hip (and) when he’s able to go by a bigger player.”

Where it will make an even more significant impact – as Hoiberg also alluded to – is on the defensive end. Teams went after Markkanen in the post, as a team-high 15 percent of his defensive possessions came in the post. And teams were smart to do it. Markkanen’s post-up defense ranked in the 28th percentile, allowing opponents to shoot 49 percent and score 101 points on 103 possessions, per NBA.com.

“I’m not going to get back down as easily,” Markkanen said.

His strength will add another component to what’s already becoming one of the most unique skill sets in the league. Zach LaVine is the $78 million man, Jabari Parker is essentially in a contract year and Bobby Portis could be in one if he and the Bulls don’t reach an extension agreement by Opening Night. Even Kris Dunn is entering a critical year for his growth (and future earnings).

But if the Bulls are going to take the next step of their rebuild and begin winning games, it’ll be Markkanen leading the charge. Though he admitted there may be nights “I might not be able to get touches as much” because of the new faces and spread out talent, the Bulls are hoping he’ll take on more on an Alpha role and become a leader. Markkanen himself admitted he’s always been a leader by example but needs to accomplish more vocally in his second season.

It’s a lot to ask for from a 21-year-old, but such is life in the NBA. His teammates see it in him, and they’re confident the 240-pound version will be the best one yet.

“He had such a good rookie year with the opportunity that he had,” LaVine said. “And the sky’s the limit for him. He’s one of those players that can do a lot of big things. Lauri’s off the charts.”