AUBURN HILLS, Mich. As the regular season winds down, its getting closer to the time when NBA writers are tabbed to select season-ending league awards. While I wont share which honors Ive been selected to vote on, it just so happened that one strong candidate for the Most Improved Player Award was in action against the Bulls Sunday night. He didnt have his best performance -- 13 points and eight rebounds, in comparison to his season averages of 15.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game, up from his rookie-year averages of 9.4 and 7.5 in the same categories -- but second-year Detroit big man Greg Monroe, as usual, was solid.In the interest of full disclosure, I lived in New Orleans during Monroes senior year of high school and watched him play in person, then followed him during his two seasons with the Georgetown Hoyas, a program Ive always rooted for. I caught up with the versatile, fundamentally-sound lefty prior to the Bulls overtime win to discuss his development.Just continuing to work on my post game, trying to get better. Work on my jump shot a whole lot. I wanted to be stronger, he told me about his offseason goals before the season. Knocking down that jump shot just opened up my game a little bit. It opens up anybodys game when you can make a jump shot, so I just try to focus on being consistent with that.Monroe acknowledged that after a decent rookie campaign, he knew opponents would focus on his dominant left hand, but even with increased defensive attention, he felt hed be able to exploit double teams with his passing ability. Ive definitely gotten better with my right hand, a lot more confident, he explained to me. Ive always had good vision. Ive always looked for my teammates. My main focus is to make the right play, whether its scoring or passing.Not that Monroes game Sunday will dissuade me or others from considering him as a viable candidate for the award, but there are certainly others worthy of consideration, from more-established players like the Lakers Andrew Bynum to more under-the-radar types, such as Milwaukees Ersan Ilyasova. Anyway, theres plenty of other stuff going on throughout the league and certainly with the Bulls, so on to this weeks mailbag.Where does this year's Bench Mob rank in terms of the best bench in NBA history? -- Tyler C.Tyler, as far as NBA history goes, wed be getting a little ahead of ourselves by comparing the Bulls to all-time benches. For instance, thinking of the Bulls opponent Sunday, both the Bad Boy Pistons teams and the 2004 Detroit title winner were extremely deep. If the Bulls win a championship, then the Bench Mob could reach similar status, as history is often kinder to squads that win it all. This season alone, however, Id certainly put the Bulls reserves among the top benches in the league, alongside the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers, though the latter hasnt been as potent since a lineup shake-up. Regardless, when we look back years later, the completeness of the Bench Mob and the way they seemingly never fail to rise to the occasion will be remembered fondly.What is the Bulls record for matinee games this season? It seems like they don't play as well during the day. -- Scott S.Scott, the Bulls are a woeful 2-6 in matinee games this season, with the two victories being the season-opening Christmas Day win over the Lakers and a home triumph over the Hawks. Youre right in saying they havent dealt with early starts very well this season, something Thibs discussed after last Sundays loss at New York (he joked -- at least I think he was joking; there was an awkward silence among the assembled media afterwards -- about wishing the Bulls had more matinee games at home), calling it a big concern, and putting some of the onus on himself for not having the team fully prepared. I wont downplay it and call it a coincidence, but I do think that if theyre faced with the prospect of an early start in the postseason, theyll be ready to play, especially with Thibs gently reminding them how they fared in the regular season.In your opinion, how has the lockout affected this season? Other than the number of games, of course.-- Neil A.Neil, thats an easy one: Injuries. From Derrick and Rip missing so many games for the Bulls to durable players like Dwight Howard-- say what you want about the All-Star center, but hes rarely injured and his current back problems appear to be serious-- being sidelined, its clear that the compressed schedule and shortened training camp have taken a toll on the leagues workforce. Sure, I could point to sloppy play early in the season, but for the most part, thats rectified itself as the season has gone on. But for players who came into the season out of shape or have played heavy minutes, its obvious the work stoppage has been a major factor. I havent studied the numbers-- the Bulls have enough going on to look at the league as a whole-- but even the number of freak injuries seems higher this season, something evidenced by the Bulls litany of various ailments. Other than injuries and the schedule itself, as time has gone on, its been more or less a normal NBA campaign.Just realized that Charlotte hasjust sevenwins this season, is there any hope for them? -- Joey N.Joey, good question. Even if the Bobcats land the No. 1 pick -- no guarantee, as Bulls fans are aware that the top pick doesnt always go to the worst team. Some observers, such as Charles Barkley, have suggested that with the Nets moving to Brooklyn, missing out on the aforementioned Howard this season and likely to lose Deron Williams, the draft lottery will be rigged for them to get the top choice -- Im not sure Chicago native Anthony Davis, assuming the Kentucky freshman declares for the draft, will guarantee them an instant turnaround. They do have a few pieces, namely swingman Gerald Henderson, point guard D.J. Augustin, center Byron Mullens and rookies Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, but in general, the Michael Jordan-owned franchise has an underwhelming collection of talent. That said, they do have plenty of cap space for free agents, but with speculation that there will be a coaching change, Jordans reputation as a penny-pincher, dwindling crowds and that less-than-attractive talent base, its unlikely that marquee players will look to relocate to Charlotte. That said, theyre capable of turning things around in the long-term future, but it wont be easy.Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.
Mark Cuban for Vice President?
It may not be as far-fetched as you think.
The Dallas Mavericks owner admitted it's too late to run for president, but he did offer his canidacy for vice president for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
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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.
The last time the Bulls were part of the NBA Lottery they defied odds and earned the top overall selection in the 2008 draft, eventually selecting Derrick Rose.
Lighting didn't strike twice Tuesday night, as the Bulls were not among the lottery winners. That means they will select No. 14 in June's draft.
The Bulls had less than a two percent chance of moving into the top three selections in the draft, and just a 0.5 percent chance of receiving the first pick.
Zero teams jumped up from where their odds had them pegged entering the lottery. The Philadelphia 76ers will select first, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics (via Brookylyn).
Here's a look at the lottery order:
1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (via New York)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (via Denver)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns (via Washington)
14. Chicago Bulls