As draft approaches, Bulls' plans will become clear

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As draft approaches, Bulls' plans will become clear

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
5:54 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When the NBA Finals wrap up this week in Los Angeles, hoops fans can look forward to one of the most active trade markets in league history leading up to the annual draft on June 24th. Are you hoping the Bulls swing a deal for a high-quality player or create more salary cap room to make a run at two max free agents? Please post your comments in the section below.

Let's start with the first option. The Bulls' front office might try to improve their chances of recruiting LeBron James by pursuing another quality starter with a trade that won't significantly cut into their cap space. Think Luol Deng to Minnesota for low-post scorer Al Jefferson, or maybe Deng to New Orleans for former All-Star power forward David West. If the Bulls are able to sign LeBron, Deng becomes a 12 million dollar a year reserve, and that's a luxury no NBA team can really afford.

The Bulls also could look into the trade market to add a high-scoring shooting guard to replace Kirk Hinrich. Several players could be available in that category including Monta Ellis, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Hamilton, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Fernandez, J.R. Smith and Leandro Barbosa. Going this direction would be a lot trickier, especially considering the Bulls might turn to Atlanta's Joe Johnson as their free agent target if LeBron stays in Cleveland, or decides to sign elsewhere.

And, it's not just the Bulls looking to add a premier veteran to improve their roster heading into the start of free agency on July 1st. Cleveland is willing to offer just about anyone on their team, starting with guards Mo Williams and Delonte West, to add another impact player that will help convince LeBron the grass isn't necessarily greener somewhere else.

Look for Pat Riley in Miami to be aggressive on draft night. It's no secret he's looking to unload the 2nd pick in the 2008 draft, Michael Beasley, to just about anyone for next to nothing in return. Riley wants to create even more salary cap room with the thought of possibly signing Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson this summer.

Riley also hasn't given up thoughts of throwing his hat into the LeBron derby, but it's unlikely two strong-willed scorers like James and Wade would be able to play together on a championship team. Sure, they got along great on the Olympic and All-Star teams, but playing 82 regular season games and 20-plus playoff games requires someone to be willing to take on a supporting role, and I'm not sure either of those players is willing to do that.

Trying to make trades to create more cap room is another risky proposition. If the Bulls could trade Deng and a couple of number 1 draft picks to a team that could absorb his salary in exchange for a couple of 2nd round picks, they would be very close to being able to offer two maximum salary contracts, and then go into the free agent race with the ability to tell LeBron, bring whichever All-Star player you want with you to Chicago.

Of course, the Knicks already have that ability, and Miami might as well if they're successful in giving away Beasley. The point is, if you go with that strategy, and then fail in free agency, you've given away you're starting small forward (Deng) for nothing, and are further away from being a championship contender than ever. Part of the reason James is interested in coming to Chicago is they have the best roster in place of the teams with the ability to offer maximum contracts this summer. If the Bulls trade away Deng andor Hinrich for a player James doesn't think much of, they run the risk of hurting their chances to sign the 2-time M.V.P.

With Steve Kerr's decision to leave Phoenix, it looks like the deal to re-sign Amar'e Stoudemire might not get done, which would add another All-Star power forward to the free agent class. So, Phoenix could become an active seller on draft night, looking to move veteran players like Jason Richardson and Barbosa. Everything is pretty fluid right now, and the general managers that are the most adept at finding potential bargains on the trade market could be the real winners when all the dust settles sometime in mid-July.

So, what do you think? Suggest some trades for the Bulls in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail. We'll run some of them next week in the days leading up to the draft. My partner on Bulls' Pre and Post-game live, Kendall Gill, will join me at the Berto Center to cover all the story lines on what promises to be a very interesting night on June 24th.

Who knows? If the Bulls can add a guy like Al Jefferson, David West, Richard Hamilton or Monta Ellis, maybe they can make themselves the clear front-runner to sign LeBron next month.

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.

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA free agency doesn't officially begin until 11 p.m. Chicago time on Friday, but league executives have already gone into overdrive in their race to create the next super-team to compete with the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey hinted he had a big move up his sleeve last week, suggesting the Warriors "aren't unbeatable." Well, Morey unveiled that big move on Wednesday, rounding up a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts from all over the league to help him acquire Clippers' All-Star point guard Chris Paul before free agency even begins.

Paul met with Clippers officials on Tuesday, and basically told Doc Rivers he was going to sign with Houston as a free agent, so if the Clippers wanted to get anything for him, they better work out a trade right away. The return L.A. got in the 7-for-1 deal was hardly overwhelming, headlined by Chicago native Patrick Beverley and super-sub Lou Williams, and it showed once again how league executives are powerless if a star player decides he wants a chance of scenery.

Paul and James Harden wanted to play together, and Morey and his staff came up with a creative way to get it done. And, by all reports, Morey isn't done yet. The Rockets are hoping to swing a deal for either Paul George or Carmelo Anthony as a third star in the frontcourt, giving them a shooter's chance against the champion Warriors.

George is one of the biggest chess pieces being moved around boards in executive offices all around the league. Ever since George informed Pacers management he isn't interested in re-signing with the team, GM Kevin Pritchard has been searching for the best possible deal.

The Cavaliers would love to add George as the new third star on their super-team with LeBron and Kyrie Irving and send Kevin Love to the Pacers or to a third team that would provide Indiana with young players and/or draft picks.

Boston is hoping to trade some of Danny Ainge's treasure-trove of draft picks to bring George in, but only after they make a free agent run at Utah All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward, who played his college ball for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Remember, making a trade for George carries a lot of risk, since he's eligible to become a free agent next summer and could wind up being a one-year rental.

George has told anyone who will listen he plans to sign on with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, but will new Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson get antsy with all the trade interest in George and try to bring him in now? Is it worth it for Magic to give up young players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson if he can just wait a year and sign George without giving up any assets?

We're already hearing reports of George trying to recruit Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson to join him on the Lakers when Klay becomes a free agent in 2019. And, speculation continues about LeBron heading west to join the Lakers if the Cavs come up short of a championship again next season.

So many questions as we approach the start of free agency. Where will Derrick Rose end up after a fourth knee surgery? Will the Clippers be interested in bringing Rose in to play with Blake Griffin and keep Lob City going? And what about veterans like Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, George Hill, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague? What kind of market will they find with fewer teams having the kind of cap space we saw last summer?

And, where will Carmelo Anthony wind up now that Phil Jackson is out as Knicks President? Jackson might be the greatest coach in NBA history after winning 11 championships with the Bulls and Lakers, but it was clear the Zen Master was overmatched as a front office executive. Phil didn't want to travel to scout top college prospects, didn't stay on top of day to day roster moves around the league, and insisted on saddling his coaches with running an offense that didn't translate in today's game.

Maybe now Jeff Hornacek will be able to run his up-tempo offense that had some success in Phoenix instead of Phil's beloved triangle. But don't count on Anthony being a part of next season's Knicks team. Reports out of New York suggest the organization is still intent on dealing Melo, problem is that nasty no-trade clause that Phil gave Anthony on top of a $127 million contract back in 2014.

In the coming weeks, you can count on hearing all kinds of Anthony-related rumors. Maybe a trade to Houston, Boston or even Philadelphia. And, if Melo is able to convince the Knicks to buy out the remainder of his contract, look for him to join forces with LeBron in Cleveland for a shot at that elusive championship ring.

The Knicks may have rid themselves of Phil’s front office mismanagement, but their roster is still a mess with no easy solutions in sight.

The great thing for NBA fans is the buzz created by all the speculation. NBA offseasons are the most impactful of any sport since the acquisition of a star player can cause a major shift in any team's fortunes. Unfortunately here in Chicago, don't expect any free agent buzz this year, unless you're excited about the possibility of a Dwyane Wade buyout.

Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson made it clear the Bulls are going in a new direction and will be patient and disciplined in their rebuild. That means no spending on veterans this summer as the front office keeps its power dry for some time in the future when the Bulls are closer to being a playoff contender again.

Player development will be the focus of the next couple seasons as Fred Hoiberg and his staff try to find out exactly what they have in young players like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant, Cris Felicio and Niko Mirotic.

Ideally, the Bulls will lose enough games next season to put themselves into position to land a top-3 pick in next year's top-heavy draft. Paxson talked about building a contending team through the draft, and that will require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Adding a Michael Porter, Jr. or Luka Doncic to a young backcourt of Dunn and Zach LaVine and a promising "stretch 4" in Markkanen could be the foundation of the next Bulls playoff team.

So, while the league's top teams engage in a massive arms race to try to close the gap on the Warriors over the next few weeks, all will be quiet in the city of Chicago. The buzzword for Bulls fans for the foreseeable future is PATIENCE.

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

On the latest BullsTalk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Vincent Goodwill delve into the blockbuster news of Chris Paul being traded to the Rockets. Will any other teams try to go all-in?

With Phil Jackson parting ways with the Knicks, Goodwill shares the behind-the-scenes story of how James Dolan hired Jackson to run his franchise. 

Then, Schanowski sits down with the newest Bull Zach LaVine to discuss recovering from his ACL tear, his love of Space Jam and moving to Chicago.

Plus, the guys break down their first impressions of LaVine and his potential in a Bulls uniform, and how the new CBA is actually leading to teams getting rid of their stars rather than keeping them.

Finally, what will the Bulls do with Dwyane Wade, and where will Derrick Rose end up?

Check out the latest Bulls Talk Podcast right here: