Chicago Bulls

20 in 20: It's surprising, my dear Watson

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20 in 20: It's surprising, my dear Watson

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
6:33 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

15. Which Bulls player will be the biggest surprise to fans this season?

This is widely pegged as a season in which Derrick Rose takes his game to a new level and Joakim Noah becomes an All-Star center. There are hopes for more consistency out of Luol Deng and continued development from Taj Gibson. Carlos Boozer is obviously the most noteworthy newcomer to the Bulls and expectations are optimistic for the his former Utah teammates, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.

But a player who could provide an unexpected lift this season is a less-ballyhooed acquisition, backup point guard C.J. Watson. In his third year in the league--after first plying his trade overseas and in the D-League--the University of Tennessee product's per-game averages included 10.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest, all career highs, with Golden State. In addition, he shot 31 percent from beyond the three-point stripe, a decrease from his 35.1 percent career mark.

Granted, Watson played more minutes--27.5--than he will behind a healthy Derrick Rose, and he will have to play within more structure than with the free-wheeling, defense-optional Warriors. Still, he gives the Bulls a true backup point guard, something that didn't really exist last season, although starting shooting guard Kirk Hinrich served as Rose's defacto understudy.

Unlike last season, however, the Bulls will usually have a bigger backcourt, as Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans--all at least 6-foot-5--gives them more size paired with Rose, as opposed to Hinrich, and after John Salmons was traded, Flip Murray. Of course, Watson, a scoring point guard, is also capable of playing alongside Rose.

For those unfamiliar with further specifics about his game, Watson, while not necessarily a knockdown shooter, will likely be one of Chicago's better outside threats, as he can hit jumpers both from a standstill position and off the dribble. Although he wouldn't be considered a premier distributor, he is at least capable of running an offense. While he'll need to make an adjustment to defend up to new Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's stringent standards, he was one of Golden State's better defenders, although that backhanded compliment isn't saying much.

Those aspects of the Las Vegas native's game should all serve him well in Chicago, but perhaps his most important attribute is serving as an insurance and rest behind Rose (as of right now, Watson is the only player under contract that could effectively run the point, although the leading scorer for the Bulls summer-league entry, point guard John Lucas III, has been invited to next week's training camp), equipping the Bulls with both a more-than-adequate backup and a serviceable starter in case of injury. In addition, if the Bulls plan to employ a more up-tempo style of play, Watson has experience at pushing at the pace from his time with the Warriors.

Averaging even low double-figure scoring numbers for back-to-back seasons is probably out of the question, but Watson is capable of going off on an individual spurt in limited minutes and gives the Bulls their best backup at the position since Chris Duhon. Assuming he makes the adjustment to a more disciplined style of play--and stays away from boxer Floyd Mayweather--it's imaginable that Watson has a handful of games in which he not only offers a positive change of pace off the bench, but steals the show with his energy and scoring prowess.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

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USA TODAY

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

The Bulls are in complete rebuild mode, and that means they have little use for 35-year-old Dwayne Wade.

ESPN's Nick Friedell reported last week that it's a matter of when - not if - the Bulls will buy out Wade. The future Hall of Famer is due $24 million this upcoming season, but how much Wade receives in a potential buyout could hold things up in the short-term.

The question then becomes: where would Wade land after he passes through waivers and becomes a free agent?

A potential destination is joining good friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Wade could also consider going back to the Miami Heat, where he spent the first 13 years of his NBA career.

And if he did, budding star Hassan Whiteside says the team would welcome back Wade with open arms.

"It'd be great," Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel. "It's a three-time NBA champion coming back, coming in and really helping a team out. It would be great."

Stay tuned, but it seems like a Wade-to-Miami reunion is a real possibility.

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY

State of the Bulls: Stacked 2018 draft class

2018 draft class is loaded at the top

Quietly, you can bet Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman had a little celebration after hearing that prep star Marvin Bagley III was going to graduate from high school early and enroll at Duke for the 2017-18 season, making him eligible for the 2018 draft.

Bagley, a 6'11 power forward from Los Angeles, is being compared to longtime NBA star Chris Bosh, right down to his smooth left-handed shooting touch. Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and two blocked shots during his junior season for Sierra Canyon H.S. He's also fared well against NBA competition at the highly-regarded Drew League in L.A. this summer. Bagley’s physical tools are off the charts, and you can count on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski preparing him well for life in the NBA.

Most NBA scouts and execs expect the No. 1 overall pick to come down to either Bagley or Michael Porter Jr., who will play his one season of college basketball at Missouri. The 6'10 Porter averaged an amazing 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds last season against Seattle high school competition. He's considered a more dynamic scorer than Bagley with more range on his jump shot. Some scouts believe he could quickly develop into one of the league's elite players with Kevin Durant-type length and shooting ability at the small forward position.

International swingman Luka Doncic is also highly coveted by NBA teams. The 6'8 swingman has excellent shooting range, and is also capable of creating his own shot with outstanding ball-handling ability. Forget the stereotype of European players being mechanical and unable to compete athletically, Doncic is capable of being an 18-20 point scorer in the NBA and should go in the top five next June. He's considered one of the best international prospects in the last decade.

Two 7-footers also will hear their names called early on draft night 2018. University of Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.8 points and 12 rebounds in high school last season, while Texas freshman center Mohamed Bomba has an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan. Sure, the NBA has moved away from the traditional low post center, but teams are still looking to acquire agile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside. Depending on how they fare against top level college competition, Ayton and Bomba could round out the top five.

Other names to watch in the lottery portion of next year's draft include Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams, Michigan State's forward duo of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and the latest one-and-dones from John Calipari's Kentucky program, center Nick Richards and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

In case you missed it, ESPN released its preseason win total expectations for the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, and the Bulls were dead last with a projected record of 26-56. Now, I'm not sure a team with veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez and the three young players acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with Minnesota will be quite that bad, but if you're going to rebuild, the idea is to get the best draft pick possible, and the Bulls appear to be on course for a top-five selection depending on how the lottery falls.

If the Bulls are able to land an elite talent like Porter Jr., Bagley III or Doncic in the draft, then use their $40-50 million in cap space to land a couple of quality free agents, the rebuild might not be as painful as some fans are fearing.

Last dance for LeBron in Cleveland?

Well-connected NBA writer Chris Sheridan dropped this bomb on Twitter Wednesday, quoting an NBA source, "This will be LeBron's final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair." Don’t forget, Sheridan was the first national writer to report James was going to leave Miami to go back to Cleveland in 2014, so his reports definitely warrant a little extra attention.

Okay, we've already heard countless rumors about James planning to join the Lakers after next season. He's built a mansion in Brentwood, is close with Magic Johnson and will be able to bring another superstar with him to L.A. like Paul George or Russell Westbrook. Plus, the Lakers have a number of talented young players in place like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. and a promising coach in Luke Walton.

Add in the likelihood Kyrie Irving will be traded before training camp opens and LeBron's long-standing poor relationship with Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, and you have the perfect formula for another James' free agent decision next July. Although, I'm not sure why LeBron would want to go West, where Golden State is positioned to dominate the league for another five seasons, with strong challengers like the Rockets and Spurs still in place. 

But if we've learned anything from watching James over the years, he's clearly a man who wants to align the odds in his favor. So don't rule out anything when it comes to James' free agent decision. If the Cavs make a home run trade for Irving, maybe LeBron decided to plays out his career in his home state. If not, look for him to find a team with the cap space to bring in another top star to run with him.

Back in 2010, the Bulls carved out the cap space to add two max contract stars, but lost out to Pat Riley in Miami. This time around they won't be on James' July travel itinerary.

One thing we know for sure. Where LeBron plays in 2018 will be the number one story throughout the NBA season.