Schanowski: Grading the Bulls' offseason

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Schanowski: Grading the Bulls' offseason

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
5:12 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Now that the Bulls are just a veteran big man away from completing their offseason makeover, we can start to analyze what kind of team were likely to see next season. Taking everything into account, I would give the Bulls front office a "B" for their efforts over the last month or so. How about you? Please post your offseason grades and any comments in the section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail.

Obviously, the Bulls failed in their efforts to recruit one of the top-three free agents available: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so that made it impossible for me to give the front office an "A." But when you take into consideration those three guys had been talking about playing together since the 2008 Olympics, maybe the Bulls and all the other teams with maximum contracts available never really had a fair chance. I give John Paxson and Gar Forman a lot of credit for reacting quickly to the changing marketplace. When Wade and Bosh announced they were going to Miami, the Bulls quickly got a deal worked out with the next best player available, Carlos Boozer, that same day. And, when Orlando decided to match the Bulls offer for restricted free agent guard J.J. Redick, the Bulls quickly got Ronnie Brewer to agree to a three-year contract later that day.

Boozer is the big addition. Hes a two-time All-Star with the low-post skills the Bulls have been looking for ever since Elton Brand was traded away. Boozers experience running the high screen-and-roll with Deron Williams in Utah should make for an easy transition to the offense the Bulls are likely to run with Derrick Rose at the point. Boozer has played in high pressure playoff games with Utah, and hes an underrated rebounder, averaging double figure boards for his career. His ability to score in the post, and hit the mid-range jumper should open things up for Rose and Luol Deng. Plus, hell provide veteran leadership for one of the younger teams in the league. And, hes one of the classiest guys youll ever meet who will represent the organization well off the court.

The Bulls also made an underrated signing in Kyle Korver. The 6-foot-7 swingman is one of the best long-range shooters in the league, matter of fact, he broke Steve Kerrs NBA record by hitting 53 precent from beyond the arc last season. Having Korver available to space the floor will open up driving lanes for Rose and Deng. And, even though Korver isnt the best defensive player around, the Bulls can try to dictate the match-ups hell be facing by giving him minutes at shooting guard and small forward.

Thats why the signing of Ronnie Brewer is so important. At 6-foor-7, he has the length and quickness to defend the leagues elite shooting guards like Kobe Bryant, Wade and Joe Johnson. And, hes also a competent offensive player, averaging around 10 points a game for his career, while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Brewer isnt a three-point threat, but his length and speed make him an ideal finisher on the fastbreak, and the Bulls plan to run whenever possible under new coach Tom Thibodeau.

And, lets not forget about the most recent addition, 6-foot-2 guard C.J. Watson. As a restricted free agent, Watson was coveted by a number of teams. So, give the Bulls front office credit for working out a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State, rather than extending an offer sheet, and possibly getting their money tied up for a week like the Redick situation with Orlando. Watson is coming off his best season as a pro, and hes made a remarkable rise since working his way up from the Developmental League. Even though hes relatively small, Watson has the athleticism to play both guard positions, and teaming him with Rose would form one of the leagues fastest backcourts.

Looking at the Bulls roster now, theyve got quality depth at every position. And, we fully expect the front office will add a veteran big man like Kurt Thomas, Fernando Elson, Fabricio Oberto, Etan Thomas or Kwame Brown.

Now its up to Thibodeau and his staff to go to work trying to integrate all the new players into a cohesive system. Thibodeau is heralded around the league as one of the best defensive tacticians in the game. If he can get this young, athletic group to totally buy in on the defensive end, theres no question they can shoot for 50 wins next season. As things stand, the Bulls look like the favorite in the Central Division over Scott Skiles Bucks, and on paper, they shape up as one of the top-4 teams in the East.

Miami stole all the headlines with their signings of James, Wade and Bosh, but dont underestimate what a real team can do. Im already looking forward to the start of training camp in October, and Im sure all Bulls fans feel the same.

Position battles to watch for at Bulls camp

Position battles to watch for at Bulls camp

After the Bulls traded for veteran center Robin Lopez and signed guards Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in free agency,  the starting lineup for the 2016-17 season was 80 percent complete with Jimmy Butler moving over to small forward. The only real question remained: will Nikola Mirotic or Taj Gibson start at power forward?

Arguments can be made for both players, but early in camp it appears Mirotic will have the edge, based on his three-point shooting ability. The Bulls need to create floor spacing for their wing players (Wade and Butler) who are most effective driving to the basket, and Mirotic has the ability to knock down the three (.355 for his career, .390 last season). Mirotic is also an underrated defensive rebounder with decent size at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds.

Mirotic got off to a fast start last season in a starting role, but eventually went to the bench after a late November-early December shooting slump. His second NBA season was also sidetracked by an emergency appendectomy in late January that caused him to miss almost six weeks of action. Mirotic finished the season strong, and went on to play a lead role with his former Bulls teammate, Pau Gasol, on Spain’s national team at the Rio Olympics. Mirotic will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, so he has a lot riding on establishing himself as a bonafide NBA starter.

It's a similar story for Gibson, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and is looking to land one more big contract when he turns 32-years-old next June. Gibson is known for his relentless work on the boards and his ability to defend power forwards and centers. He’s also 100 percent healthy after dealing with the after-effects of ankle surgery last season. But given the Bulls’ spacing issues, it makes sense for the coaching staff to go with Mirotic alongside Wade, Rondo and Butler, and to pair Gibson with young perimeter threats like Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine and Isaiah Canaan on the second unit. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg could use Gibson in a backup center role, with McDermott getting minutes at power forward in small ball lineups. Gibson will play, but don’t be surprised to see his name come up again in midseason trade rumors.

So, where does that leave 2015 first-round draft pick Bobby Portis? Portis looked good in Las Vegas Summer League play, showing off improved low-post skills and a consistent three-point shot. But unless Portis has a big preseason, it’s hard to imagine him getting consistent rotation minutes early in the season. Portis could earn some time as a stretch five backing up Lopez, but those minutes might also go to Gibson or second-year center Cristiano Felicio. Portis worked hard all summer, and should be a better all-around player in his sophomore season, but he faces an uphill battle to earn regular minutes. It will be interesting to see how many of the Bulls young players wind up logging time with the Bulls’ new D-League team in Hoffman Estates. Portis might not be involved as a No. 1 draft pick, but Felicio and second-round selection Paul Zipser might want to get familiar with the trip out to the Sears Center.

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The other major training camp battle involves the backup point guard spot behind Rondo. The coaches have a wide variety of options, starting with former Notre Dame star Jerian Grant, who came over in the Derrick Rose trade with the Knicks. The soon to be 24-year-old Grant is the son of long-time NBA player Harvey Grant and nephew of former Bulls star Horace Grant. The Bulls were interested in selecting Jerian Grant in the 2015 draft, but he went off the board a few picks before their turn in the first round.

Grant was a big-time scorer at Notre Dame, but struggled to get on the court in his rookie season with the Knicks. After Kurt Rambis replaced Derek Fisher as head coach of the Knicks, Grant finally got some consistent playing time, averaging 16.8 ppg over the last four games of the season. He’s not a great three-point shooter, hitting just 22 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie, but his ability to get to the basket and create open shots for teammates would give the Bulls consistent point guard play throughout the game.

Canaan was signed late in free agency to give the Bulls another long-range shooting option. He hit 36 percent of his 3’s with Philadelphia last season, averaging 11 points a game. The 25-year-old Canaan figures to be specialist with the Bulls, much like Aaron Brooks who could score points in bunches, but didn’t excel at running a half-court offense. Even though Canaan only stands 6 feet tall, he’s really a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, much like Brooks, D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson and C.J. Watson who proceeded him.

6-foot-6 Spencer Dinwiddie was considered a potential lottery pick at Colorado before suffering a devastating knee injury that dropped him into the second round. Dinwiddie didn’t get a lot of playing time for Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, but he’s completely healthy now and showed during Summer League play he’s capable of scoring over smaller point guards in the post. His size, scoring ability and defensive skills might push him ahead of the other candidates when all is said and done.

The wild card in the backup point guard derby is this year’s first-round pick Denzel Valentine. Even though he played a wing spot at Michigan State, Valentine was the floor general for Tom Izzo, and is an exceptional passer with outstanding court vision. Since playing time behind Wade & Butler might be limited, Valentine could wind up running the point on the second unit, with Butler on the court as the primary initiator on offense. Valentine’s shooting ability gives the Bulls another floor spacer, and at 6-foot-5, he’ll have size advantage over smaller backup point guards.

Boiling it all down, Hoiberg and his assistants figure to do a lot of experimenting during the preseason to find out which players execute best together. But once the ball goes up for real on Oct. 27, Hoiberg has to decide on his best 9 or 10 players for a consistent regular-season rotation. Matchups could dictate which backup point guards find the floor, but even this early in camp it’s pretty obvious the Bulls are intrigued by Valentine’s potential, and he should get consistent playing time in his rookie season.

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah may be wearing a different uniform, but he's still wearing the same heart on his sleeve.

That much was made clear in his comments made to the New York media on Wednesday.

Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Knicks after eight seasons with the Bulls, was asked about comments Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf questioning Noah's future as a main contributor on a team.

Reinsdorf told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month that Noah was "not a frontline player," referencing the team's decision not to bring him back in free agency.

Noah responded to those comments in classy fashion - while also getting his true thoughts across:

“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”

No one would ever question Noah's heart, but it's undeniable that his body is beginning to show wear, and his performance has reflected it.

Noah played in just 29 games last season before a season-ending shoulder injury, averaging career-lows in points (4.3), field goal percentage (38.3%), free throw percentage (48.9%) and steals (0.6). That came on the heels of a 2015 season in which he missed 15 games and averaged 7.2 points, the lowest since his second season in the league.

But the Knicks are hoping a rejuvenated Noah, playing in his hometown, will find some magic in his 31-year-old body and be able to get the Knicks back to the playoffs.

Noah, Derrick Rose and the Knicks will square off against the Bulls at the United Center on Nov. 4.