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.

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!