Beauty in eye of beholder for Bulls' free-agent moves

824305.png

Beauty in eye of beholder for Bulls' free-agent moves

As other teams around the league are beginning to slow down their pursuit of free agents after a flurry of signings to begin the month, it appears that the Bulls are finally getting into the swing of things. Such is the nature of the organization's approach this offseason. An unwillingness to spend as freely as many of their peers can be interpreted as either the expected "step back" team general manager Gar Forman referred to earlier this summer, or exhibiting wise fiscal sense in the face of the league's punitive rules in the new CBA, as well as having an eye toward the future.
Veteran center Nazr Mohammed will be on board next season, as first reported by Peter Vecsey early Sunday morning and confirmed by a person privy to the negotiations. The addition of the Chicago native, who attended Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, was confirmed by an individual with knowledge of the situation, and indeed signals that the Bulls are unlikely to match Houston's 25.1-million offer sheet to restricted free agent Omer Asik, which was attempted to be delivered by the Rockets in Las Vegas on Saturday, giving the Bulls until Tuesday evening to make a decision.
Mohammed is regarded as a solid defender and while not an offensive juggernaut, is a more reliable option than Asik as a scorer. And while he doesn't possess the same upside in the latter stages of his career, he should help the Bulls' case to remain one of the league's elite defensive units. However, Mohammed's signing, confirmed to be at the league's veteran minimum, doesn't mean the Bulls are done adding post depth.
Summer-league revelation Malcolm Thomas is being wooed with a one-year-contract, according to a source, though the active 6-foot-8 power forward is also garnering interest multiple other NBA teams. Thomas notched double-doubles and led all competition in rebounding through his first four games in Las Vegas, prior to playing fewer minutes in the Bulls' blowout loss to Milwaukee in their finale Sunday. Thomas and swingman Jimmy Butler were named to the summer league's all-star team Sunday, despite the team only winning one game.
Bringing a backup shooting guard to Chicago also remains a priority and Marco Bellinelli, a sharpshooter who suited up for the Hornets last season, looks like he'll fill that role, combining with forward acquisition Vladimir Radmanovic to replace the outside shooting of the departed Kyle Korver. According to a source, Bellinelli's deal, likely at the league's bi-annual exception, is done, but that apparently isn't precluding the Bulls from continuing to pursue another free-agent: shooting guard Randy Foye. Compared to Belinelli, Foye is more of a slasher, better on-ball defender and has the ability to slide over to point guard, something that must be considered in the wake of first-round draft pick Marquis Teague's uneven summer-league play. Former Celtic E'Twaun Moore, a native of nearby East Chicago, Ind., and Patrick Beverley, who starred at Marshall High School and participated in the Bulls' mini-camp prior to Las Vegas, are also more remote possibilities.
Evaluated individually, none of these moves can be considered earth-shattering. Following Korver's trade to Atlanta, Asik's signing with Houston and fellow reserves C.J. Watson, John Lucas and Ronnie Brewer being waived, the tremendous depth the Bulls have enjoyed over the last two seasons has taken a hit, if not in talent, then certainly in chemistry and on the defensive end (Watson and Lucas will play for the Nets and Raptors, respectively; Brewer is the only member of the "Bench Mob" yet to find a new home). The front office's approach to free agency of waiting out the market for low-priced veterans -- with the relative exception of veteran guard Kirk Hinrich, whose two-year contract became official Monday - -might not sit well with fans, or even jibe with the Bulls' coaching staff win-now philosophy, but it is part of a long-term plan.
Although the chemistry of the erstwhile second unit won't be immediately duplicated, Bellinelli's relative youth and shooting prowess has the potential to provide a reasonable match for what Korver brought to the table. Hinrich can be considered an upgrade from Watson when he moves to the bench after Derrick Rose's eventual return, Mohammed should be effective in the same limited minutes Asik played last season, and Radmanovic, as a deep reserve, is a more feasible on-court option than fan favorite Brian Scalabrine. Butler's Vegas production also justifies giving him a shot to replace Brewer.
For all of the talk about the Bulls pinching pennies, from an on-court and financial perspective, consider the following: They did bring in serviceable talent to fill in for what they lost, it's now unavoidable that the franchise will pay the luxury tax for the first time in its history, even if it's less of a penalty than other, more free-spending teams, and looking ahead, they did gain some flexibility for the future.
While priorities remain signing both head coach Tom Thibodeau and Taj Gibson, the last remaining member of the "Bench Mob," to long-term contract extensions in the near future, as well as finishing off free agency with likely one backcourt and frontcourt acquisition, the upcoming season isn't one in which the Bulls can be considered a true contender, at least not based on present personnel. They should, however, at least be able to tread water. In an Eastern Conference that's improved, but still not strong from top to bottom, the Bulls' projected roster still appears to be a playoff team, even without Rose to begin the season in a pack that includes the Knicks, Nets, Pacers and 76ers, but below the defending-champion Heat and conference-finalist Celtics.
What the Bulls need is, based on Thibodeau's defensive schemes, the hope that a rejuvenated Hamilton remains healthy, Boozer can carry more of the scoring load early on, Hinrich proves that he's still capable of being a starting-caliber point guard for a long stretch, the increasing possibility of Deng not having wrist surgery after the Olympics, Gibson using his stint with the USA Select Team as a springboard to a stellar campaign and the new additions to the rotation, from Butler to the free-agent acquisitions, forming a cohesive second unit.
But moving forward, after Hamilton comes off the books next summer -- the team holds an option for him in the 2013-14 season; the incumbent starting shooting guard is presently working with the team's strength and conditioning coach in an effort to not repeat his injury-plagued debut campaign in Chicago, and get back to his previous form -- the Bulls will have an opportunity to make a push in free agency, when the likes of Oklahoma City's James Harden and others are free agents, especially if the amnesty provision is used on Carlos Boozer, something they could postpone until the following offseason, but are extremely likely to use at some point before his contract expires. Of course, they could wait until 2014 to amnesty Boozer -- something that's extremely likely to occur before his contract expires.
2014 is also when the contract of All-Star Luol Deng, who scored 25 points, albeit in a blowout defeat, in Great Britain's exhibition game against Team USA last week, expires -- dovetailing nicely to the expected arrival of 2011 first-round pick Nikola Mirotic from Spain and also making another major asset, the future draft pick from Charlotte acquired in the Tyrus Thomas trade, even more appealing.
So yes, in 2014, when the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony can exercise early-termination options in their contracts to become free agents -- aging stars such as Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and long-rumored Bulls target Pau Gasol will also hit the market that summer -- the Bulls will have an opportunity to make a major splash.
Several factors, including Rose's health, Gibson's impending free agency, whether or not Deng will be part of the team's future, Mirotic's potential, maximizing the value of the Bobcats' pick and the belief that the spending of rival teams this summer will prohibit them from competing as effectively from a financial standpoint down the road, will impact how successful the Bulls' vision will be, but it's time to come to grips with the blue-collar team that the Windy City identified with morphing into a new group, still with the talent to win, yet one that can only be judged on the success of the franchise in the future, based on a strategic gamble in the present.

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Vincent Goodwill projects the first round

vinnie_and_maggette_hit_on_prospects_preparing_for_nba_draft_05-19_640x360_688876611568.jpg

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Vincent Goodwill projects the first round

1. 76ERS - Ben Simmons, F (LSU)

Whether it’s a two-superstar draft or not, the 76ers could take the guy billed as the first pick for months in Simmons, a versatile and unselfish wing to jumpstart the path back to relevancy.

2. LAKERS - Brandon Ingram, F (Duke) 

Word has it the Lakers love being in this spot after keeping their pick, and Ingram would be a matchup nightmare with his long wingspan and ability to play three positions. But is he special?

3. CELTICS - Dragan Bender, F (Croatia)

This is where it gets uncertain as the Celtics could try to flip this pick for a veteran in win-now mode. But Bender has high upside, even if there’s question as to how long it’ll take him to get there.

4. SUNS - Jaylen Brown, G-F (California) 

One of the more intriguing prospects, Brown wants to work out against Simmons and Ingram for first two slots. Confident and young, can join Devin Booker on the wings as building block for future.

5. TIMBERWOLVES - Kris Dunn, G (Providence)

For Tom Thibodeau’s first draft pick, passing up a guard with defensive instincts could be too much to resist. His offense and shooting has progressed but Thibodeau will likely salivate at what Dunn can do for a defense.

6. PELICANS - Jamal Murray, G (Kentucky)

The Pelicans had injuries across the board but especially in the backcourt, so Murray will be able to play both positions and get a chance to compete immediately as a scorer off the ball.

7. NUGGETS - Buddy Hield, G (Oklahoma)

An explosive shooter, Hield maxed out at the college level as a four-year player. And as a professional, has good size for a shooting guard as he’ll play more off the ball as opposed to creating on his own.

8. KINGS - Skal Labissiere, F/C (Kentucky)

We all know the Kings’ owner loves picking up John Calipari players and this athletic big could join DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein in the frontcourt rotation.

9. RAPTORS - Marquese Chriss, F (Washington)

If Raps truly believe they can win now, perhaps they’ll package pick in trade for a veteran. But if they keep it, Chriss has one of the bigger upsides because he’s long, athletic and hasn’t played basketball long.

10. BUCKS - Jakob Poeltl, C (Utah) 

Back to the basket scorer, Poeltl could join an athletic and rangy Bucks team without having to fit the usual profile. How he performs defensively protecting the basket could be his greatest value down the line.

[RELATED: Mark Strotman's 2016 NBA Mock Draft]

11. MAGIC - Deyonta Davis, F (Michigan State) 

Prime candidate for a trade since the Magic have to start winning, but Davis has a legit upside although he has some question marks. Could play a big three or small-ball center with his athleticism.

12. JAZZ - Domantas Sabonis, PF/C (Gonzaga) 

The Jazz love stockpiling bigs who can protect the rim and score inside and Sabonis is this year’s man of mystery, an intriguing prospect.

13. SUNS - Henry Ellenson, C/F (Marquette) 

With Tyson Chandler aging and if they take a wing at four, they could go big here with Ellenson, a skilled big who could learn behind Chandler and develop at his own pace.

14. BULLS - Denzel Valentine, G-F (Michigan State) 

Since the Bulls passed on Draymond Green, they might go Green-lite with Valentine. The Bulls clearly need help on the wings and in the backcourt with depth, and Valentine could check all the boxes with his versatility.

15. NUGGETS - Taurean Prince, F (Baylor) 

With Wilson Chandler’s health in doubt, the Nuggets could draft Prince as an insurance policy. Prince is mature (22 years old), and fits the profile of a 3-and-D guy.

16. CELTICS - Timothe Luwawu, F (France) 

A guy the Celtics can stash overseas if need be, if the Celtics don’t package it. Luwawu is a good athlete who finishes in traffic and can be an elite defender in time.

17. GRIZZLIES - Demetrius Jackson, G (Notre Dame) 

Who knows if Jackson actually sticks around this long but with Mike Conley facing free agency, Jackson could be new coach David Fizdale’s hand-picked point guard who could develop in this slowdown system.

18. PISTONS - Wade Baldwin IV, G (Vanderbilt)

Don’t be shocked if the Pistons trade this pick for a veteran but they’re in need of a backup point guard in the worst way. Baldwin wouldn’t be a bad selection to play behind Reggie Jackson.

19. NUGGETS - Malik Beasley, G (Florida State)

He’s young (19), with room to grow but can score at the college level. Expect them to nab two wings with their trio of first-rounders.

20. PACERS - Tyler Ulis, G (Kentucky) 

The Pacers want to play fast, and there’s no better training ground than the dribble drive system in Kentucky. Ulis plays with pace and is a great distributor in the open floor.

[RELATED: Mark Schanowski's 2016 NBA Mock Draft]

21. HAWKS - Furkan Korkmaz, G (International)

Fluid scorer and outstanding shooter, according to accounts as Hawks need depth on the wings with Kent Bazemore entering free agency and Kyle Korver aging.

22. HORNETS - Damian Jones, C (Vanderbilt) 

Will take some time to develop but it’s easy to see the Hornets taking a big who can finish around the rim and knows where to get his shots. Seems to be a low-maintenance type.

23. CELTICS - Zhou Qi, C (International)

With size that’s scary in a good and bad way (7-foot-2), Qi has potential as a shot-blocking center who can cover a lot of space in little time.

24. 76ERS - DeAndre Bembry, F (St. Joseph’s)

Taking a local product in Bembry could help replenish the weakest point of the 76er roster—the wings, which has been historically bad in the Sam Hinkie era.
    
25. CLIPPERS - Caris LeVert, G-F (Michigan)

Before he got hurt, he was thought to be a sure-fire lottery pick with his skill set and versatility. If his medicals check out, will Doc Rivers roll the dice?

26. 76ERS - Dejounte Murray, G (Washington)

Murray can play both spots and has good size but is inconsistent. The 76ers will have to hope he can develop into a decent jump shooter.

27. RAPTORS - Cheick Diallo, PF/C (Kansas)

The Raptors aren’t afraid of taking big man projects and letting them develop, and with Jonas Valanciunas, they can let him learn at his own pace.

28. SUNS - Malachi Richardson, G/F (Syracuse) 

Richardson could be a mid-round pick or even slip early to the second as a potential shot maker and creator.

29. SPURS - Brice Johnson, F (North Carolina) 

Opinions on Johnson are mixed given his career at Carolina, but here’s thinking the Spurs won’t pass on his production as they’ll need frontcourt help and length.

30. WARRIORS - Juan Hernangomez, F (International) 

Fast-paced player who can make quick decisions in the Warriors’ system. But honestly, he’s a down the line option the franchise can stash away for the future and not take up cap space.

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Mark Schanowski makes his picks

snc_nick_talkback_05-25_640x360_693688387978.jpg

2016 NBA Mock Draft: Mark Schanowski makes his picks

1. 76ERS - Ben Simmons, F (LSU)

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown has a relationship with the Simmons family from his years coaching in Australia. Plus, the versatile 6-10 forward might be the only player in this draft with superstar potential, making it an easy choice for the 76’ers.

2. LAKERS – Brandon Ingram, F (Duke)

Los Angeles needs scoring punch in the frontcourt, and the 6-foot-9 Ingram has been compared to Kevin Durant by some scouts. He should fit in well with the up-tempo style preferred by new head coach Luke Walton.

3. CELTICS – Dragan Bender, F (Croatia)

Danny Ainge will be looking to use this pick in a trade for an All-Star caliber veteran (like Jimmy Butler). If not, the 7-foot Bender is the likely choice as this year’s version of Kristaps Porzingis.

4. SUNS - Jaylen Brown, SF-SG (California)

Brown has the most potential of the wing prospects available. Tremendous athleticism and ability to attack the rim. Still needs to improve his outside shooting after just one season at Cal.

5. TIMBERWOLVES - Buddy Hield, SG-SF (Oklahoma)

Tom Thibodeau gets his first chance to “buy the groceries” as head of basketball operations. Hield will provide some much-needed outside shooting to complement the talents of 2015-16 Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns.

6. PELICANS - Jamal Murray, G (Kentucky)

Murray might be the best pure shooter in this draft and the Pelicans will be in the market for a shooting guard with Eric Gordon likely leaving in free agency.

7. NUGGETS - Kris Dunn, PG (Providence)

Look for a trade at this point, maybe involving a team like the Bulls looking for a point guard. Nuggets have three picks in first round and might try to move up to draft either Hield or Murray.

8. KINGS - Demetrius Jackson, PG (Notre Dame) 

Dysfunctional Kings looking for a fresh start with Dave Joerger taking over as head coach. Rajon Rondo could leave in free agency, and Jackson could be a future star in the mold of Kyle Lowry.

9. RAPTORS - Marquesse Chriss, F (Washington)

Toronto has been looking to upgrade the power forward spot for the last two years. Chriss is one of the youngest players in the draft, with the highest ceiling among the PF’s still on the board.

10. BUCKS - Jakob Poeltl, C (Utah)

Milwaukee could use another big man to complement their collection of athletic wing players. Free agent Greg Monroe is likely available in a trade after a disappointing first season in the beer city.

[RELATED: Vincent Goodwill's 2016 NBA Mock Draft]

11. MAGIC - Deyonta Davis, PF-C (Michigan St.)

With defensive-minded Frank Vogel installed as the new head coach, the Magic will be looking for a shot-blocking presence inside. Davis is raw after limited playing time in his only college season, but should be a plus defender right away.

12. JAZZ - Denzel Valentine, SG-SF (Michigan St.)

Utah has done a good job of building a talented, young roster and a smart, four-year collegian like Valentine should fit right in. A very skilled passer with high basketball I.Q., he should eventually become a solid NBA three-point shooter.

13. SUNS - Henry Ellenson, PF, (Marquette)

With their second pick in round one, the Suns can go for a stretch PF like Ellenson, who also can score in the post. Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere also a possibility here.

14. BULLS - Wade Baldwin, PG, (Vanderbilt)

Tremendous athlete, who measured at 6-foot-4 with shoes at the draft combine, with an amazing 6-11 wing span. Should be an NBA-ready defender right away, and the Bulls can groom him to take over at point guard in 2017-18 after Derrick Rose most likely leaves in free agency.

15. NUGGETS - Skal Labissiere, PF-C (Kentucky)

With three picks in round one, the Nuggets can afford to take a chance on the painfully thin seven footer. Labissiere has an excellent shooting touch, with should complement Denver’s other young bigs, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.

16. CELTICS - Timothe Luwawu, SF (France)

Again, don’t be surprised if Ainge packages this pick in a trade on draft night, but Luwawu is an intriguing prospect with excellent defensive skills. Also, a personal favorite of our Bulls’ analyst Kendall Gill.

17. GRIZZLIES - Domantas Sabonis, PF-C (Gonzaga)

The son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis has a polished low post game, and the frame to withstand physical NBA play in the paint. He gives the Grizzlies a young big to develop behind Marc Gasol, who is coming back from a broken foot.

18. PISTONS - Malachi Richardson, G, (Syracuse)

Detroit could use another reliable guard off the bench to play behind Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Richardson burst on to NBA scouts’ radar after a strong showing in the NCAA tournament.

19. NUGGETS - Taurean Prince, F, (Baylor)

It’s unlikely Denver will keep all three of its first round picks, but if they do, an athletic forward like Prince is a good value pick at this point.

20. PACERS- Tyler Ulis, PG, (Kentucky)

Larry Bird made no secret of the fact he wants his team to play at a faster tempo and score more points. Having a speedy guard like Ulis to run the second unit would fit in well with Bird’s master plan.

[RELATED: Mark Strotman's 2016 NBA Mock Draft]

21. HAWKS - Cheick Diallo, PF-C (Kansas)

With Al Horford heading into free agency, the Hawks need to add some depth to the frontcourt. Diallo didn’t play much in his one season at Kansas, but showed a lot of potential at the NBA draft combine.

22. HORNETS - Malik Beasley, SG-SF (Florida St.)

Charlotte needs to fortify the wing spots with Nic Batum, Courtney Lee and Marvin Williams all free agents. Beasley is coming off a strong season in the ACC and scouts like his aggressiveness on the offensive end.

23. CELTICS - Furkan Korkmaz, SG-SF (Turkey)

Ainge completes his international trifecta by taking this sharp-shooting wing player in the mold of Orlando’s first round pick from a year ago, Mario Hezonja. Korkmaz has good athleticism and could develop into a streaky perimeter scorer.

24. 76ERS- DeAndre Bembry, SG-SF (St. Joseph’s)

The Sixers could go in a number of directions with so many needs, so why not take a local Philly product like Bembry. He showed very well at draft combine, and has the versatility to play both wing spots off the bench.

25. CLIPPERS - Brice Johnson, F, (North Carolina)

Coming off a strong NCAA tournament, Johnson would give the Clippers a talented forward to add to their bench. Doc Rivers is still looking for more consistency on that second unit.

26. 76ERS - Dejounte Murray, G (Washington)

Probably would have been better served to spend another year in college, but could develop as a combo guard in Philly.

27. RAPTORS - Damian Jones, C (Vanderbilt)

With Bismack Biyombo ready to cash in after a strong playoff run, the Raptors need a center to back up Jonas Valanciunas. Jones has good size and showed well against SEC competition.

28. SUNS - Caris LeVert, SG (Michigan)

Phoenix coach Earl Watson wants to play fast, and if the Suns keep this pick, LeVert is a guy worth taking a chance on. He probably would have been a lottery pick if not for injuries in his last two years at Michigan.

29. SPURS - Thon Maker, PF-C (Australia)

The international man of mystery in this year’s draft. Intriguing size at 7-foot-1, but NBA scouts aren’t sure what position he’ll play. The Spurs can let him develop overseas for a couple years before bringing him over.

30. WARRIORS - Ante Zizic, C (Croatia)

Another draft and stash candidate for the loaded Warriors. Golden State could use another center if Festus Ezeli is allowed to leave in free agency.

Jimmy Butler named to NBA All-Defense 2nd team

stl_is_this_butler_s_team_05-18_640x360_688362563603.jpg

Jimmy Butler named to NBA All-Defense 2nd team

Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler has been named to the NBA All-Defense 2nd team. This marks the third consecutive year that Butler has been given 2nd team honors, which is decided based off of votes from sports writers and broadcasters.

Butler led the Bulls this season with 1.6 steals per contest to go along with averages of 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

The 26-year-old Butler averaged five more minutes per game than any of his Bulls teammates. He was the only Chicago player to receive any votes. 

Here is a complete list of the NBA All-Defense team selections:

2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM

Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)
Draymond Green (Golden State)
DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers)
Avery Bradley (Boston)
Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers)

2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM

Paul Millsap (Atlanta)
Paul George (Indiana)
Hassan Whiteside (Miami)
Tony Allen (Memphis)
Jimmy Butler (Chicago)