Chicago Bulls

Bulls Defensive Issues Front and Center vs. Cavs

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Bulls Defensive Issues Front and Center vs. Cavs

Monday, April 26, 2010
9:54 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

For those of us who've watched just about every minute of Bulls' basketball this season, it's no surprise to see this team struggling on the defensive end in the playoffs. Granted, LeBron James is the best player in the league right now, and no one will have much success trying to slow him down. But the Bulls have done a poor job of trying to take the ball out of LeBron's hands with early double teams, and they haven't been consistent in rotating to help on James when he gets by the initial defender on his drives to the basket. Luol Deng is doing everything he can to try to stay in front of LeBron, but let's be honest, lateral quickness has never been Luol's strong suit, and he doesn't have the physical tools to guard a 6-8, 260 pound freight train like James. Vinny Del Negro has tried Taj Gibson, Hakim Warrick, James Johnson and even Kirk Hinrich on LeBron, but none of them have had even a shred of success. James will embarrass any number of defenders around the league before these playoffs are over, but the Bulls really haven't done anything to force him to give up the ball in the Cavs' half-court offense, and they're paying a heavy price.

Unfortunately, James isn't the only player who's hurting the Bulls right now. Derrick Rose continues his bad habit of watching the ball on the defensive end, and letting his man drift to an open spot for uncontested jumpers. Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon have hurt the Bulls at various times in the series with wide open 3's. The Bulls try to hide Rose on the defensive end, but against a willing passer like James, that isn't easy. When Derrick is out of position, James will get the ball to an open shooter, and the Bulls haven't done a good job of defending the three point line. Cleveland has shot a high percentage from beyond the arc throughout the series by taking advantage of the Bulls' poor weak-side defense. Improving team defense was supposed to be a high priority at the start of the season, but aside from a few decent stretches during the regular season, we haven't seen that improvement. You can bet defensive philosophy will be a big topic of conversation when the Bulls' begin the search for their next head coach.
Byron Scott could be a name to watch

Speaking of which, former Nets and Hornets head coach Byron Scott says he would be interested in the Bulls job. Scott led New Jersey to the Finals behind the talents of Jason Kidd back in 2002, and did a good job developing an offense to fully utilize the open-court talents of point guard Chris Paul in New Orleans. Former Bulls' center Tyson Chandler had the best season of his career by running the floor and finishing alley-oop passes from Paul, so you wonder if Scott couldn't bring that same type of efficiency with Rose and Joakim Noah. Scott played on the Showtime Lakers with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 80's, and he's well respected as a player and coach. He could be helpful in trying to attract an elite free agent to Chicago since he's known as a players' coach, willing to play an up-tempo style.

You can bet we'll also be hearing names like Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson and Lawrence Frank over the coming days and weeks as the Bulls try to find the right man to lead this team back to contending status. Another name to watch for is former Blazers and 76'ers head coach Maurice Cheeks, who's currently serving as an assistant to Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City. Like Byron Scott, Cheeks is well respected from his playing days in Philadelphia, and did a good job as a head coach under trying circumstances in both stops. Cheeks is also a Chicago native who excelled as an NBA point guard, and he might be able to help in Rose's development, especially on the defensive end. Look for the Bulls to try to move quickly and decisively in their search for a new head coach to avoid all the problems that occurred two years ago before they finally settled on Del Negro.

Bosh holds the key to free agent chase

So, while the Bulls should have a new head coach by the end of May, they'll have to wait until July 1st to start pursuing the best free agent class in NBA history. We're hearing Toronto General Manager Bryan Colangelo has pretty much resigned himself to the fact Chris Bosh won't be staying with the Raptors. But rather than just watch him walk away as a free agent, Colangelo will aggressively pursue sign-and-trade options. That means instead of 6 to 8 teams having the required salary cap room to sign Bosh outright, Colangelo can now negotiate with the rest of the league for the best deal possible. What's in it for Bosh you ask? Well, how about an extra year on his contract, and about 30 million dollars in salary over what he could get by just signing with another team. So, the Raptors AND Bosh will be motivated to explore sign-and-trade options, which could include some of the real heavyweight teams like Dallas and the Lakers. L.A. inquired about a Bosh for Andrew Bynum deal before the deadline in February, and if they aren't able to defend their championship, they'll probably be in the market to make an aggressive move, especially since Kobe Bryant recently signed a 3 year contract extension. A Bynum for Bosh trade could actually help both teams, since Toronto could move 3-point shooting big man Andrea Bargnani to the power forward spot with Bynum in the line-up as a legitimate low post threat, and Bosh could team with Pau Gasol to give the Lakers a versatile and explosive front court. Bosh grew up in Dallas, and we know how aggressive Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban is. He has multiple assets he could include in a sign-and-trade, including players like Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and explosive rookie Rodrigue Beaubois.

If the Raptors trade Bosh to one of the teams that doesn't have a maximum salary slot available, they could put a serious crimp into the grand plans of teams like New York and Miami. The Knicks know they have zero chance of attracting LeBron if he can't bring another superstar with him. And we're already hearing Amar'e Stoudemire is in serious talks on a contract extension with Phoenix. So, if you take Bosh and Stoudemire out of the market of available free agents, LeBron is probably going to stay in Cleveland, and Dwyane Wade might get a little anxious in Miami. Heat President Pat Riley has promised Wade a major infusion of talent for next season, and if he can't deliver Bosh or Stoudemire, Wade might decide he's better off leaving South Beach for a return home to Chicago. Granted, these are all just possible scenarios, and we haven't even considered whether Atlanta All-Star guard Joe Johnson might try to pursue a sign-and-trade with the Hawks to get a 6 year contract, instead of a five year deal with a new team. Everything is fluid right now, and no one can really predict how an early playoff exit might affect James, Stoudemire or the Lakers' desire to pursue Bosh. Bulls management has to be prepared for every possible twist and turn, but at this point, nothing is out of the question, even the ultimate dream of convincing LeBron his future championship goals are more attainable in Chicago.

I'll see you Tuesday on Bulls Pre-Game live with Kendall Gill at 6:30 on Comcast SportsNet. Neil Funk and Stacey King will have the call at 7:00 on CSN Chicago, and we'll also be streaming the game live on CSNChicago.com.

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