Chicago Bulls

Champs respect emerging Bulls squad

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Champs respect emerging Bulls squad

Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Posted: 3:40 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Phil Jacksons potential final visit to the United Center. Another litmus test for the new-look Bulls with a healthy Carlos Boozer. Derrick Roses youthful brilliance against cagey veteran superstar Kobe Bryant, tutored as teenager, by the way, by one Tom Thibodeau. Two teams on three-game winning streaks.

Subplots abound in Fridays matchup of the Bulls and the Lakers, the teams second meeting in less than a month, with the reigning champs holding off Chicago late in the Staples Center. Not a team known for its modesty, the Lakers have a healthy respect for their next opponent.

Theyve got the personnel. They seem dedicated to it. Its tough sometimes for kids to come in and find a way and get their minds straight and become pros. This crew seems to be drumming to that level of professionalism that it takes to be serious about winning, said Jackson at Friday mornings Lakers shootaround at the United Center when asked if he saw the Bulls approaching the championship-era teams he once coached.

Weve said that theyre going to be in the top five or six in the East, but right now they look that they could even be above that. They look like they could be in the three or four spot.

Carlos Boozer gives them a credible scorer, a guy thats a big body. We like Taj Gibson. Hes played very well since coming in the NBA, but Carlos gives them a real genuine scorer.

Added Bryant: The Bulls are a team that plays well together. They execute extremely well. They play hard.

Boozer is very versatile. He can extend the floor, which is perfect playing with a point guard like D-Rose. You need somebody that can extend the floor and he certainly can do that. He has great hands around the hoop, he has a knack for offensive rebounds and hes a very underrated passer.

Sixth-man extraordinaire-turned-starter Lamar Odom told CSNChicago, Theyre a good team. Theyve got a great defensive coach, great point guard.

Now theyve got Boozer as a scoring forward, really helped them out. I think their addition of Korver there will stretch the floor. Of course, you know what youre going to get from Noah hard defender, going to roll to the basket and rebound, he continued. I think Deng is one of the keys for them, somebody you want to try to keep out of the game. I know for them, its important that he gets going.

Theyre going to be a good team. Theyre going to be fighting for a playoff spot I dont know where, but theyre going to be fighting somewhere fighting to probably upset a team in the second or the late rounds of the playoffs.

After last months close call, the healthy respect the Lakers had for Rose only increased.

Hes a hell of a player. Hes one of the best players Ive ever played with or against. There isnt anything stopping him from getting to where he wants to go with the basketball. He has a high basketball I.Q., Odom, who played with Rose on the gold-medal winning FIBA World Championships USA Basketball squad in the offseason, told CSNChicago.com.

After he either sets somebody up or uses the dribble to get to where he wants to go in the lane, theres not too many guys his size that can elevate and get to the basket and finish with an array of moves.

Hes like an acrobat in the air. He worked on his pull-up jumper the whole summer and its showing because now when he gets going he gets those first two layups, then that jumper gets going guys have got to step out. It makes it easier for him to drive. Hes just playing with boys out there.

Jacksons take on Rose was similar.

Well, there are a lot of players in this game that we pick because theyve been on very good basketball teams in college and theyve been winners in their high school, college days. That doesnt mean theyre going to come into the NBA and be stars. They still have to have the talent, said Jackson. The ones that know how to win seem to perpetually find a way to win, help their teams win and Derrick has that character about him. What separates him right now and had separated him was his ability to hit shots trust his jump shot and this year he seems to have found that confidence that he needs to have the ability to pull up and shoot a shot.

Bryant, who briefly spoke with Rose on the court after the game in Los Angeles last month Just told him to stay healthy and continue the job that hes doing believes Rose can become even better.

I think the skys the limit for him. You see now, with the improvement hes made on his jump shot, just last year to this year, how his game has really gone to another level. I think hes just scratching the surface. I think he realizes now what his jump shot can do and hopefully hell continue to work on it and become a pure shooter, said Bryant, who told reporters Friday, Im passing expletivehe can certainly try, when asked if he was passing the torch to Rose.

I dont think you can develop that. I think you either have it or you dont. I think hes had that since high school, continued Bryant, when queried about Roses developing killer instinct, last displayed Wednesday in the waning moments of the Bulls narrow escape at Cleveland. That separates players, I think. Players of equal ability, its about the engine that you have inside. It certainly gives him an edge.

While the Bulls championship era will never be repeated, the fact that the team closest to doing it gives the current Windy City squad such a hearty endorsement should raise the level of optimism in Chicago.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

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