Aggrey Sam's Monday mailbag

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Aggrey Sam's Monday mailbag

Happy New Year, everybody. For once, I don't have to make the trek from the city to the Berto Center for a shootaround -- or a much easier commute to cover a visiting team's game-day morning walk-through -- since the Bulls host the Bobcats in a holiday matinee affair, so I already have a good feeling about 2013, especially since I won't be trudging out of the United Center in the midst of all the revelry late in the evening.
Anyway, I hope everybody has an enjoyable and safe holiday. On to the mailbag:
From Jose: How do you think Derrick Rose will adjust to the new-look Bulls when he returns?
Jose, there will likely be a learning curve for both Derrick and his new teammates when he gets back on the court, but the fact that there are few holdovers on the roster -- Luol, Joakim, Carlos, Rip, Taj and Jimmy, not to mention Kirk, who Derrick played with during his first two seasons -- should help him make the adjustment.
Although it will probably take some time before Derrick returns to his previous form, his ability to push the tempo, create for his teammates and manufacture offense for himself should immediately benefit the team, particularly new additions like Marco, who will be able to spot up more, and Nate, who I could envision playing off the ball in certain situations, with Derrick defending opposing shooting guards.
But having teammates who already know his game and vice versa will be a boon for Derrick, especially as he's observed the likes of Luol and Joakim specifically raise their level of play in his absence and showcase the playmaking aspects of their respective games more with him out of the lineup. Jimmy and Taj will also benefit from his ability in transition, while Rip and Kirk, like Marco, should have easier, uncontested opportunities on the perimeter.
Aside from Marquis and perhaps Nate, who typically drives looking to score more than be a setup guy, the Bulls often struggle to get into the paint off the dribble, which just happens to be Derrick's strength, so regardless of his brilliance, it isn't as if another player on the roster duplicates what he brings to the table.
From Mario: Given the production of Omer Asik and Kyle Korver, are Gar Forman's and John Paxson's jobs in any kind of jeopardy?
Mario, not that the Bulls haven't taken notice of the season that Omer, in particular, is having, but when the decision was made not to bring back the majority of the "Bench Mob" over the summer, it wasn't as if the front office totally underestimated what they were capable of doing individually this season.
It's been well-documented that Omer's offer sheet from the Rockets, which included a poison-pill in third year of his contract, was structured in a way that put the Bulls in a tough financial position, but it's not like they didn't make any effort to keep him. I know that with his performance in Houston's Christmas Day win at the United Center, it probably seems as if they dropped the ball, especially given Taj's struggles this season, but hindsight is 2020 and an average salary of more than 8 million, let alone 15 million in the third year of his contract, is a lot of money to pay a backup center. Let's also keep in mind that Joakim is having a tremendous season and if Omer had stayed in Chicago, either we wouldn't be seeing that because his minutes would be down or Omer would be a very high-priced limited-minutes player, one who, if I recall correctly, many Bulls fans didn't believe would develop into a competent offensive threat.
As for Kyle, he was the lone "Bench Mob" member who I thought the Bulls should have held on to -- Ronnie's departure opened up minutes for Jimmy and love Nate or hate him, he's at least the equal of C.J. Watson and John Lucas III as a scorer, while Derrick's eventual return will further solidify the backup point-guard spot -- because of his elite shooting ability and while that's still not a strength of the team, Marco's emergence this month has helped improve that deficiency. Kyle has been good in Atlanta, one of the early-season surprises in the league, but I wouldn't say he's done anything out of the ordinary and I know that there were also some concerns about him physically.
Regardless, the Bulls' management won't be judged too harshly for not re-signing any of the players who left over the summer, no matter what the circumstances were, and with the current roster playing solid basketball without Derrick in the lineup, they've actually, along with Thibs for his coaching, earned some praise around the league as of late.
From Andrew: Would the Bulls package Rip Hamilton and Nazr Mohammad for Sam Dalembert's expiring contract? Maybe send Kirk Hinrich to play alongside his old buddy Skiles?
Andrew, I don't see this happening. Rip and Nazr also have expiring contracts -- Nazr is on a one-year deal and the Bulls have a team option, which is unlikely to be picked up, for Rip next season, with only 1 million guaranteed -- so I don't know if Milwaukee would be all that eager for that scenario, regardless of what seems like a bad match between Dalembert and the Bucks.
Even though the Bucks could use some size at guard, I don't know where Milwaukee would find minutes for Rip as the starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis plays heavy minutes, with backup point guard Beno Udrih also in the rotation to provide more of a floor-general presence. As for Kirk, I think the ship sailed on his reunion with Skiles this summer, when he chose returning to Chicago over taking more money to sign with Milwaukee.
From Mario: What is the likelihood the Bulls would pursue a trade to get Tyreke Evans to play with Rose?
Another one from Mario; I might be partial to your questions because I have a sports-fanatic uncle with the same name in New Jersey, though I know you can't be him because your inquiries aren't centered around the Knicks or Nets, let alone Giants and Jets or Yankees and Mets.
Anyway, with Sacramento's current issues -- even in the wake of Sunday's blowout win over Boston -- the ongoing DeMarcus Cousins saga, as well as other, less-publicized problems the Kings are experiencing have overshadowed the chatter surrounding the organization moving the former Rookie of the Year, who was not one of the fourth-year players that signed a new contract extension at the outset of the season.
Reading the tea leaves, it appears that longtime Kings general manager Geoff Petrie is in Evans' corner, but Petrie's job is rumored to be in jeopardy and either way, with Sacramento's ownership preoccupied with Cousins and the franchise's future home, either moving him or keeping him in the fold seems to be on the back burner for now. Still, I'm hearing that Kings have been very active in trade talks and although Evans has had injury problems and there have been issues on how to best utilize his considerable talent, he's a name that garners some interest from rival executives.
That said, Sacramento's asking price for him (and Cousins) is supposedly higher than other teams are willing to pay at the moment, and I can't see the Bulls making a move to get him that will cost them a significant piece in the middle of the season with Derrick's return on the horizon.
Now, I am intrigued by the possibility of those two, who are represented by the same agency, pairing together in the backcourt, as Evans, though he lacks a consistent outside jumper, has great size and versatility, is a natural scorer and has the ballhandling and playmaking ability to both complement Derrick and add a new dimension to the Bulls, as well as potentially developing into an age-appropriate running mate "second star," due to his youth and upside. Assuming he isn't traded this season, doesn't want to return to Sacramento, the feeling is mutual (the Kings can match any offer he receives during free agency) and a lucrative offer doesn't immediately materialize in free agency, perhaps the Bulls could be a player for him in the summer, especially if he's willing to take an O.J. Mayo-like, "show-and-prove" short-term deal for less money to be in a better position to both win and show what he's capable of doing in the right situation.
From @DaChizzzz (via Twitter): How will the protected pick from the Bobcats affect the Bulls at the trade deadline?
Now that the Bobcats, who the Bulls host this afternoon in a matinee New Year's Eve game, are again who we thought they are -- losers of 18 straight after coming out of the gates with a better-than-expected, above-.500 start to the season under first-year head coach Mike Dunlap -- that future draft pick is an increasingly more significant asset. But just like the rights to 2011 pick Nikola Mirotic, don't expect the Bulls to part ways with it unless they can bring back something significant in return.
For a team currently paying four players (Derrick, Carlos, Luol and Joakim) eight-figure annual salaries, as well as Taj's new deal set to kick in next season, a high future pick, whether they wait it out or include it in a trade before they cash in via the draft, is extremely valuable, especially when it doesn't look like Charlotte will turn things around very soon.
Of course, other teams are also aware of this, so it wouldn't be surprising if some forward-thinking front offices inquired, dangling the requisite trade bait, but if the Bulls can't hook a big fish -- and at this year's deadline, I don't know if that's how management is thinking, as Derrick's return is the primary focus -- or there's a deal to be made that's a no-brainer, I believe they're best served by waiting until next offseason or the following one to possibly include it in sign-and-trade free-agent scenarios.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!