Paul George

What would a potential Paul George signing look like for Bulls?

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What would a potential Paul George signing look like for Bulls?

Outside of LeBron James, Paul George is unquestionably the biggest name on this year's NBA free agent market.

The 28-year old George is coming off his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which he put up 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.  But perhaps most notable—especially for Bulls fans—is that George shot 40.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark of his career. 

George operated well playing with a dominant ball-handler in former MVP Russell Westbrook, and was able to showcase his defensive chops as well. The Thunder were in desperate need of a lockdown defender following the season-ending injury to Andre Roberson in late January, and George did his best to lift up a team that struggled down the stretch.

George has not been linked to Chicago for any specific reason at this stage of the NBA offseason, but things move fast in today's league. 

NBA free agency officially gets underway July 1, and soon more attention will be directed towards a Bulls team that may be more active in free agency than many originally expected

The Bulls had what many would call a "boring and predictable" draft night, selecting two players who fill needs at the small forward and center positions, rather than swinging for the fences with a high-upside pick.

But these "safe" selections could indicate the Bulls front office thinking they can make a surprising splash in free agency. Recent reports that the front office in Chicago isn't in complete agreement over Zach LaVine's future on the team support this idea. 

And if LaVine does leave Chicago via signing an offer sheet with another team, the Bulls projected salary cap would balloon significantly, allowing them to aggressively move towards the idea of signing two max-contract players. But for now, whether or not LaVine is back with the team next season, it is safe to say that George would fill a huge hole at the three for the Bulls.

For Chicago, the pitch to George is simple. He would get the same thing he gets in a theoretical signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. A young core that (for now) includes Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, LaVine and recent No. 7 pick Wendell Carter. The Bulls have multiple players who are decent ball-handlers as well as (yet another) logjam in the frontcourt. George would slide in seamlessly as the starting small forward.

His own ball-handling skills and 3-point shooting ability would significantly open up driving lanes for Dunn, who needs to improve his finishing at the rim dramatically to reach an true starter-level. Along with his ability to space the floor, George's driving would be able to act as a great initiator for a Bulls attack that often struggled to create dribble-drive penetration.

Last season George shot 66.9 percent on all field goal attempts between zero-to-three feet from the basket, a number that would've put him third amongst Bulls starters, behind only Markkanen and Lopez. And per Basketball-Reference.com, he shot 43.7 percent on 3-pointers from the corner, an elite mark in an essential part of today's game. 

If George signed with Chicago, the starting lineup would presumably be Dunn-LaVine-George-Markkanen-Lopez. This would allow additional time for the development of recent draftee Chandler Hutchison, who currently projects as the starting small forward due to the defensive shortcomings of Denzel Valentine. 

Our own Vincent Goodwill has expressed the difficulties of selling Bulls fans on a five years (or longer) rebuild, and the addition of George would significantly open up a title window in a rapidly changing Eastern conference. 

The biggest advantage that the Bulls currently have is the fact that George's current team (Thunder) has a cloudy financial outlook due to Carmelo Anthony opting-in to take the $28 million he will make next season.

The Thunder have been a luxury tax team in three of the last four seasons, meaning that retaining George could result in a massive tax bill. Knowing this, the Bulls could offer George a "LeBron-like" 1+1 deal. The 1+1 means the player would receive a one-year contract with a player option in the second year. This is the ultimate player-friendly contract, as it allows players to explore earning as much as possible on a future deal. 

On the flip side of things, the Bulls could offer George a deal with more years for his own long-term security. They could even get creative in offering him a two-year deal in the $60 million-plus range, and then offer him a much bigger long-term deal once he reaches the 10-year veteran designation. NBA players with 10-plus years of experience can earn up to 35 percent of the total salary cap figure.

Some fans may balk at the idea of offering max-contract money to a player with a well-known injury history, but George is still two years away from turning 30 years old, and his skillset is one that figures to age gracefully. Even more so if he was on a roster with young talent that would be hitting their stride as he loses some of his athleticism. 

A signing of this nature would be the biggest free-agent acquisition the Bulls have had since Carlos Boozer, and it would come at a time where the franchise is finally starting to have it's identity coalesce.

It is no doubt a risky move that could definitely have considerable downside. But Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey often likes to discuss "risk profiles", and the Bulls will need to up their risk profile if they truly don't want to "ever be in this position again."

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

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The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard.

Let's get that out of the way before continuing on.

At this stage in their rebuild the Bulls are interested in acquiring pieces - they dealt a Kawhi-like Jimmy Butler 12 months ago for three core parts - and have two picks in next week's NBA Draft.

The Spurs will have myriad options on where to send Leonard, the two-time All-Star and 2014 Finals MVP, and offers will pour in from everywhere. Leonard could also dictate where he plays next season, as he has one year remaining on his deal and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Certainly a team giving up the assets required to get Leonard would want to know their All-Pro intends on staying.

So that's why. Whichever team deals for Leonard (assuming he is dealt) will be able to put together a more enticing package than the Bulls could (think Boston, the Lakers, Philadelphia). Leonard also reportedly prefers to play in Los Angeles or New York. No mention of Chicago.

But! It's Friday afternoon and we can only churn out so much draft content before our own heads begin spinning. So we figured we would put together the best deal the Bulls could offer for Leonard.

First off, the Bulls would need a gaurantee from Leonard that he intended to re-sign. Like Butler, Leonard wouldn't be able for the supermax extension if he leaves the Spurs. Instead, Leonard could sign a five-year, $188 million max deal with the Bulls, averaging $37.6 million per year.

The Bulls would get a 26-year-old All-Pro just about to enter the prime of his career. Make no mistake about it: Kawhi Leonard is a superstar. It's easy to forget because he played in just nine games last year, but Leonard is just a year removed from a season in which he averaged 25.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 33.4 minutes. Oh, and he's won two Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016.

The Bulls would have Leonard through his age 31 season and would give the Bulls a souped-up version of Jimmy Butler, and perhaps one that could get them closer to contention in an Eastern Conference that may be without LeBron James.

The price would be steep. All-Rookie Lauri Markkanen would be the centerpiece of any deal. The Spurs have utilized versatile, small-ball lineups well in the past and adding Markkanen would be like a cheat code for Gregg Popovich. He'd slot in well next to LaMarcus Aldridge, who played 62 percent of his minutes at center last year, according to Basketball Reference. That was the most minutes he had played at center since his rookie season.

The Bulls would also have to include the 7th and 22nd picks in next week's draft, which only makes the deal more unlikely (from 0.01 percent to 0.005 percent). San Antonio could pursue a wing like Mikal Bridges or Kevin Knox and add him to a core that would include Dejounte Murray, Markkanen and Aldridge. The Spurs also have the 18th pick, so they could conceivably have five core players (Markkanen, Murray, 7, 18, 22) 21 years or younger to complement the 32-year-old Aldridge, who bounced back in a big way last season (ironically without Leonard).

Adding Justin Holiday's $4.615 million salary to the deal makes the money work and gives the Spurs another perimeter shooter.

What would the Bulls look like? Well, needless to say they would have found their wing.

Building around Leonard would include Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. With Markkanen gone, Portis would be in line for a significant contract extension and a much larger role in the offense; his per-36 numbers were on par with Kevin Love's and Joel Embiid's a year ago.

PG: Kris Dunn
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Bobby Portis
C: Robin Lopez

Alas, this deal is not happening. We can only hope to have angered some of you at this hypothetical, fun mock trade.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Do Bulls have a realistic chance of landing Paul George?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Do Bulls have a realistic chance of landing Paul George?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson discuss the chances of the Bulls signing Paul George in free agency this summer.

Plus, would Jimmy Butler really want to finish his career in Chicago? Also, a look around the NBA playoffs including the surprise performance of Derrick Rose, and you don’t want to miss the offer that Kendall makes Vincent Goodwill – it may be too tough for Vinnie to pass up.

Listen to the full Bulls Talk Podcast right here: