Chicago Bulls

Optimism overflowing at Bulls' Tip-off Luncheon

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Optimism overflowing at Bulls' Tip-off Luncheon

Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010
8:30 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Ive had the chance to attend a lot of these events over the last 20 years, and invariably, the coaches and players talk about how excited they are for the upcoming season. But for the first time since 2007, the Bulls enter the new season with hopes of being a top 4 team in the Eastern Conference and having a realistic shot at advancing beyond the opening round of the playoffs.

What are your goals for this Bulls team? What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses? Can they win 50 or more games? Please post your comments in the section below.

The optimistic view on this years team centers on an improved defense and a share-the-wealth offensive system introduced by new head coach Tom Thibodeau. If youve been watching the pre-season games, youve seen Derrick Rose pushing the ball at every opportunity with a free-flowing half-court offense that will bring out the skills of players like Luol Deng and Kyle Korver.

Deng, in particular, looks like a new man. Under Vinny Del Negros system, Deng was often asked to go to the weak-side corner and wait for passes off the high screen-and-roll the Bulls ran so often in half-court situations. Now, hes moving off the ball, coming off screens and driving hard to the basket. He looks like the player NBA general managers were calling a future All-Star back in 2006 and 2007. Deng has even added a three point shot to his game and hes connecting at a better than 50 percent clip during the preseason.

Korver should be a big factor in the Bulls offense, once he recovers from a cyst on his ankle thats limited his mobility. Kyle told me after the luncheon his ankle is feeling a lot better after receiving a cortisone injection and hes hoping to play in the final preseason game against Indiana Friday night. He said if this was the regular season, he probably would have played through the pain. But once hes 100 percent healthy again, Korver will give the Bulls half-court offense the long range shooter theyve desperately needed. His quick release allows him to get shots off quickly coming around screens and we all know he set an NBA record for 3-point accuracy last season.

The Bulls are deep at the guard position with Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson battling for playing time opposite Rose. And, once Carlos Boozer returns from his hand injury, theyll have more depth up front than weve seen in a long time with the addition of 7-foot center Omer Asik and veteran big men Kurt Thomas and Brian Scalabrine.

The biggest concern right now is injuries. Korver is feeling better, and Brewer is making progress from a strained hamstring, but now Bogans is having problems with a stiff back and Joakim Noah is out with flu-like symptoms. Lets hope the worst is behind the Bulls and theyll be able to get through a tough opening month without Boozer. The schedule is loaded with home games in December, with should give the coaches a chance to work Boozer into the offense and find a consistent rotation.

AROUND THE NBA
With opening night less than a week away, its looking like Boston and Orlando will provide a stiff challenge to Pat Rileys traveling all-stars down in Miami. The Magic have won an incredible 21 straight preseason games over the last three years and Vince Carter is playing like he discovered the Fountain of Youth. Orlando is deeper than ever with the addition of solid veterans Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon and theyre determined to show the rest of the league they still have the best team in the state of Florida.

Boston went 7-1 in the exhibition season and it looks like Shaquille ONeal is planning to catch Kobe Bryant with five championship rings. Shaq is starting in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins and once Perkins returns, the Celtics will be able to call on Shaq, Jermaine ONeal and Big Baby Davis for size off the bench with wing players like Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson and Delonte West also available in reserve. Boston came within minutes of beating the Lakers in Game 7 of the Finals back in June and they look better than ever this season. Reports out of Boston say Kevin Garnett has his explosiveness back after a long rehab from knee surgery and thats bad news for the rest of the league.

As for the Heat, theyve been dealing with a variety of injuries in the pre-season. Dwyane Wade has missed almost all of the exhibition games because of a hamstring pull and its no secret his body is starting to break down after carrying a mediocre Heat squad over the last couple seasons. Miami added veteran Mike Miller to provide a three point shooting threat for the Big 3, but now Miller is hurt again and could miss several weeks of action after injuring his thumb in practice on Wednesday. Even the King himself, LeBron James, strained a hamstring in a preseason game, but he recovered quickly. Miami will win a lot of regular season games, but dont be surprised if they come up short against either the Celtics or Magic come playoff time.

Out West, it still looks like the Lakers and everyone else, but L.A. is also dealing with injury concerns. Kobe Bryant is playing limited minutes while continuing to rehab a knee and center Andrew Bynum again will miss extended time because of his continuing knee problems. Ron Artest switched numbers again, going back to the 15 he wore as a rookie with the Bulls and from what Ive seen in the preseason, hes dropped a lot of weight and is playing a lot more fluidly than he did the last couple seasons.

The Lakers should prevail in the West, but dont count out teams like Dallas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Portland. Denver could tumble this season, especially if they decide to trade Carmelo Anthony, and it will be interesting to see if Jerry Sloan can work his magic with the talented--but underachieving--big man Al Jefferson in Utah.

The regular season is almost here and if youre like me, it cant come soon enough. Well have a one hour preseason special before the Bulls home opener on October 30th, live on the United Center concourse at 6 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet. If youre going to the game, stop by to say hello.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, 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