Chicago Bulls

Buckle Up for Bulls' Roller Coaster Ride

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Buckle Up for Bulls' Roller Coaster Ride

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010
7:28 PM

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Okay, so my prediction of a 3-4 road trip for the Bulls is still looking good, but I never would have guessed they would find a way to beat the Suns and Rockets after looking so bad in losing the first two games to Golden State and the Clippers.

Does anyone out there have an idea of what to expect from the Bulls from game to game? Frankly, I have no idea whether this is a good team that sometimes plays down to the level of its competition, or a bad team that sometimes catches the opposition on the right night or looking ahead to more important games on their schedules. The Bulls 20-22 record accurately shows what we've seen so far.......some great wins over NBA heavyweights like Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and San Antonio to go along with maddening defeats to the likes of New Jersey, Sacramento, the Clippers and Golden State.

Saturday's win over Houston may have been the most unlikely of the season. The Bulls didn't get to their hotel until around 4:30 a.m. after their win in Phoenix late Friday night, and they found out 10 minutes before tip-off that they would be without the services of their number one energy guy, Joakim Noah, who's battling a case of plantar fasciitis. But somehow, Brad Miller, who's having a terrible season, found a way to turn back the clock and score 25 points against his old coach in Sacramento, Rick Adelman. Miller made big play after big play down the stretch, hitting two huge three pointers, and making a beautiful feed to Taj Gibson for an important dunk. Gibson, the rookie from USC who's also been hampered by plantar fasciitis lately, picked up the slack for Noah by posting Joakim-like totals of 14 points and 16 rebounds.

And, let's not forget about Derrick Rose, who followed up his 32-point performance in Phoenix by scoring 20 against the Rockets, including a clutch jumper with about 30 seconds to go that pretty much sealed the win. Rose certainly improved his All-Star prospects with that big game on national television in Phoenix, including what might have been the best dunk of his young career over Goran Dragic late in the game. Rose still faces an uphill battle to get to the game in Dallas on February 14th now that Allen Iverson has reversed his position, and says he will play in the game. That leaves only two or three spots for back-up guards in the East and Atlanta's Joe Johnson is sure to get one of them. That could mean conference coaches will have to choose between Rose and Rajan Rondo, but if it were up to me, I'd find spots for both players on the East team.

Back to the Bulls, who knows what to expect in this week's games at San Antonio, Oklahoma City and New Orleans? The Bulls beat the Spurs in the regular season opener at the United Center back on October 29th, and San Antonio has been inconsistent all season while battling injuries to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The guess is the Spurs have too much firepower for Vinny's guys, but if the Bulls play like they did in Phoenix and Houston, they certainly have a chance to steal another win. Noah says he will play before the trip is over, and knowing his desire and work ethic, I wouldn't be surprised to see him out on the floor against Tim Duncan Monday night.

In years past, a game in Oklahoma City would look like a great chance to grab a "W". But the Thunder are one of the league's biggest surprises, led by scoring sensation Kevin Durant and versatile point guard Russell Westbrook. OKC beat the Bulls at the UC earlier this month with Westbrook getting the better of his match-up with Rose. Thunder coach Scott Brooks shifted 6'7 former Bull Thabo Sefolosha on to Rose in the 2nd half of that game, and Thabo did an excellent defensive job on the Bulls' young star. Look for more of that strategy on Wednesday night. The Bulls will probably try a variety of players on Durant, starting with Luol Deng and then possibly going to Tyrus Thomas or John Salmons.

The finale in New Orleans will give the Bulls a chance for another win. Chris Paul is back at full strength after an early season ankle injury, and Emeka Okafor is starting to play better in the middle after a rough adjustment early in the season. The Hornets also have 2-time all-star David West and a streaky shooter in guard Devin Brown. But the Bulls totally outplayed New Orleans in a win at the UC last month, and if they're not worn out from nearly two weeks on the road, they should have a good chance to beat the Hornets again.

Bottom line, forget about trying to figure out this Bulls' team.......they are totally unpredictable. That can make for some agonizing nights when they lose to bad teams, but it's also a lot of fun when the offense is clicking and they outscore teams like the Suns and Rockets.

I'll see you Monday night at 7:00 for Bulls Pre-game Live, just ahead of the Bulls-Spurs game on Comcast SportsNet at 7:30. You can watch all three games this week on CSN. Win or lose, this team is a never-ending roller coaster ride............ so just buckle up and enjoy the hoops!

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

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.

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Report: Bulls expected to reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade's homecoming may not last much longer. 

According to Nick Friedell's ESPN report, the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement with the 12-time NBA All-Star "at some point in the next few months." 

The news comes two months after Wade picked up his player option, choosing $24 million over earning less on a more competitive team. 

If Gar Forman and John Paxson indeed decide to buy D-Wade out, the "Three Alphas," which consisted of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo, would all be out just one season after coming together. 

The buyout may also mean more ping-pong balls in next year's stacked draft