Chicago Bulls

Schanowski: Can Bulls contend for title this season?

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Schanowski: Can Bulls contend for title this season?

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
12:02 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With Derrick Rose putting up an MVP-worthy season at the age of 22, some NBA observers are wondering if the Bulls might be ahead of schedule in their plan to build a title-contending team. Even with the long-term injuries suffered by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference, and already own victories over both Boston and Miami. Question is, could they beat either of these teams in a best of 7 series? What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below.

Noah surprised reporters by announcing hes hoping to return to action before the NBAs All-Star weekend, which starts on February 19th. That would give the Bulls almost two full months to get their team fine-tuned for the start of the playoffs. Amazingly, the Bulls have gone 15-6 since Noah went out with a torn ligament in his right thumb, which leads everyone to wonder just how good this team can be at full strength. Kurt Thomas has done an excellent job of holding down the center position in Noahs absence, but once Joakim returns, the Bulls will have the kind of frontcourt depth and versatility that few teams can equal.

Of course, there is that nagging lack of production at the shooting guard position, but dont look for the Bulls to make a major move before the February 24th trade deadline, unless Detroit decides to buy out Richard Hamilton, which isnt likely. With the league facing a difficult round of collective bargaining in the off-season, the Bulls and most other teams dont want to be stuck with long-term salary commitments for past their prime veteran players.

If David Stern and the owners are successful in instituting a hard salary cap in the new collective bargaining agreement, many teams could be forced to trade or release players just to get their rosters to comply with new league rules. And, with the Bulls planning to offer Rose a contract extension before next season, they need to make sure their roster isnt overloaded with long-term, big money deals. Adding another 8 million plus per year contract like Hamilton, Jamal Crawford or Stephen Jackson could actually prevent the Bulls from working out a new contract with Rose, and obviously, that would not make any sense for the future of the franchise.

So, the next time you wonder why Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer are failing to provide the offense youd expect from the shooting guard position, just remember building a championship roster isnt normally done in just one season. The Bulls decision makers know they need to add another reliable shooter to the mix, but because of the labor issues, it probably wont happen this season. Rest assured, Gar Forman and John Paxson are making their calls around the league, trying to find creative ways to improve the roster. But the reality is, any big move isnt likely to happen until next year, when the Bulls will have more roster flexibility.

Now, that doesnt mean the Bulls couldnt add another shooting guard before the trade deadline. Moderately priced players like Anthony Parker and Courtney Lee might be available, as well as guys in the 5 to 7 million range like Mikeal Pietrus, J.R. Smith and Leandro Barbosa. The problem is, any team talking trade with the Bulls is likely to ask for Taj Gibson as part of the package coming back. And, with the injuries suffered by Boozer and Noah this season, plus the inexperience of Omer Asik, it would be tough to give up such a valuable frontcourt reserve.

Its always difficult to be patient, especially with the Bulls exceeding pre-season expectations at this point. But if the Bulls could potentially add another All-Star caliber player at next years trade deadline, or in the summer of 2012, maybe patience is the best course right now.

As always, we appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Should the Bulls wait until they have the cap room to make a major upgrade at the shooting guard position, or would you like to see something done before February 24th? And, can the Bulls contend for a championship this season, or do they still need more talent and experience? Please post your comments in the section below.

Ill see you Friday at the United Center when the Bulls get another litmus test against Dwight Howard and the new-look Orlando Magic.

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 p.m.

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

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USA TODAY

If the Bulls buy out Dwyane Wade, the Heat seem like they'd welcome him back

The Bulls are in complete rebuild mode, and that means they have little use for 35-year-old Dwyane Wade.

ESPN's Nick Friedell reported last week that it's a matter of when - not if - the Bulls will buy out Wade. The future Hall of Famer is due $24 million this upcoming season, but how much Wade receives in a potential buyout could hold things up in the short-term.

The question then becomes: where would Wade land after he passes through waivers and becomes a free agent?

A potential destination is joining good friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Wade could also consider going back to the Miami Heat, where he spent the first 13 years of his NBA career.

And if he did, budding star Hassan Whiteside says the team would welcome back Wade with open arms.

"It'd be great," Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel. "It's a three-time NBA champion coming back, coming in and really helping a team out. It would be great."

Stay tuned, but it seems like a Wade-to-Miami reunion is a real possibility.

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.