Ask Aggrey: How valuable is Deng?

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Ask Aggrey: How valuable is Deng?

As a kid growing up, one of the things I enjoyed reading the most was reading writers responses to readers, whether in magazines or the local newspaper. These days, with mediums like Twitter, its a lot easier to connect with members of the media, but I consider myself an old-school type of guy, so answering questions in my first mailbag is a pleasure. Well see if I feel that way after a few months (just kidding, I think), but for now, 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 with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Do you think the Bulls have enough to beat the Heat in a seven-game series? -- Kevin

Kevin, by no means am I a homer (Im from Washington, where the highlight of the Bullets teams during my childhood was the Bulls sweeping Chris Webber, Rod Strickland, Juwan Howard and company in a best-of-five first-round series, after which Michael Jordan proclaimed them the team of the future, which was followed by the dismantling of that squad and more losing, until the infamous Gilbert Arenas era), so trust me when I say Im not biased. That said, I do believe the Bulls can beat the Heat in the playoffs. Whether they pull it off or not depends on health (on both sides), if the Bulls take advantage of their size inside and how well they shoot the ball from the outside. LeBron James will likely get his points, but Luol Deng makes him work for them as well as any small forward in the league, and the addition of Rip Hamilton guarantees Dwyane Wade will have to focus on his assignment on the defensive end of the court. I understand that last Sundays loss was a tough pill to swallow for Bulls fans, but the fact that they had a chance to win, even without Deng and C.J. Watson -- dont underestimate his value, especially considering that Derrick Rose had to play through foul trouble and with virtually no rest in his absence -- privately encouraged the coaching staff about their chances.

Aggrey, Do you see any possible moves the Bulls may explore before the trade deadline? -- Dan Warner

Dan, something Bulls general manager Gar Forman constantly alludes to is exploring the trade market, doing their due diligence and having conversations with teams around the league. However, unless injury concerns crop up before the March 13th deadline, I dont see the Bulls making any significant moves. With the teams amazing chemistry and no huge holes to fill on the roster besides a veteran, insurance-policy big man, its more likely that the front office looks into adding a free-agent post player like center Joel Pryzbilla and maybe even another guard, such as the recently-released Mike James.

What do you think about going after Eric Gordon? He would fit very nicely maybe Omer or Taj and picks? -- Wally

Wally, I love Eric as a player, but I cant see the Bulls looking into acquiring him with Rip on board. In addition, Im guessing the league-owned Hornets would require more for the services of Gordon, Derricks former AAU backcourt partner, than Taj Gibson or Omer Asik, as coveted as they are in the league, even if the Bulls threw in their own pick and the increasingly-valued protected draft choice acquired from Charlotte in the Tyrus Thomas deal. The team to look out for in trading for Gordon, probably in the offseason, is Indiana. The low-key Gordon is an Indianapolis native and has made no secret of his love for his hometown, where he spends his summers. With the emergence of second-year swingman Paul George, a natural small forward currently playing shooting guard, natural swap would be a sign-and-trade for Gordon, sending leading scorer Danny Granger, a New Orleans-area native, back home, along with maybe a pick or young reserve big man, like Jeff Pendergraph, who just returned from injury, to make salaries work after Gordons deal.

Is Deng the key to the Bulls winning? -- Hugo

Hugo, I am bit biased on this question, as Ive championed Luols value to the Bulls from the beginning of last season, when many were still down on him. Derrick is obviously the teams best player, but an argument can be made that on a short-term basis, Luol is more important to the team. Think about it: C.J., a scoring point guard, can match Derricks productivity in Tom Thibodeaus point-guard friendly offense, which is heavy on pick-and-roll play. But while Ronnie Brewer is a versatile wing, solid defender and an improved outside shooter, he doesnt have Luols size or score as proficiently. Furthermore, when Ronnie starts, it takes quite a bit of firepower away from the Bench Mob, which leads to the final question
How does Jimmy Butler fit into this Bulls team? Will he have a bigger role by the end of the season? Roger

Roger, if I was answering this question before Thursdays win in New York, I would have said that Jimmy has to be patient, bide his time and continue to work hard in practice with the assistant coaches, as hes been doing all season. But after his performance against the Knicks, when he capably defended Carmelo Anthony, Id have to say that theres a chance he cracks the rotation on a more regular basis moving forward, albeit probably for scant minutes. Still, Thibs showed that he trusted Jimmy by playing him down the stretch, let alone having him guard Melo and the rookie rewarded him by playing solid basketball and even showing the willingness to take shots in the clutch. From talking to the Bulls coaches and front-office personnel, they really like Jimmys work ethic and demeanor, and I can attest that hes already become a good fit in the locker room. Hell likely never become a star and might not even become a starter, but I can see him having a long career as a role player and defensive stopper, the latter of which only comes with experience and knowing other players tendencies, something that only comes with more experience. I know, its a vicious cycle, but Thibs understands that, so if Jimmy continues to play confidently in limited minutes, moments like Thursdays game on the big stage and even his performance in the long-ago preseason opener at Indiana will become more of a regular thing, especially with an eye toward Ronnie possibly being with another team next season.

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

[MORE BULLS: Dwyane Wade not buying into the Bosh to Bulls speculation]

Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.