Schanowski: Rose off to MVP-caliber start

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Schanowski: Rose off to MVP-caliber start

Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010
7:08 PM
By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Heres a few observations after watching the first two games of the 82 game NBA marathon for the Bulls. As always, were interested in what you think. Please post your comments in the section below.

1. DERRICK ROSE REALLY DOES WANT TO BE IN THE MVP DISCUSSION

Remember back on Bulls Media Day when Derrick responded to a question about his individual goals for the coming season by saying. Why cant I be the best player in the league? Well, even though its only been two games so far, Rose is playing at an MVP level, averaging 33.5 points and 6.5 assists. Yes, he is shooting more than either he or the coaching staff would prefer, but with Luol Deng and Kyle Korver off to slow starts, the Bulls offense doesnt have the kind of balance we expected. Derrick has been a high-volume shooter by necessity, not by choice, and he singlehandedly rescued the Bulls from an embarrassing home court loss to Detroit, scoring 22 of his career-high matching 39 points in the 2nd half.

Rose worked hard all summer to improve his 3-point shooting, and hes probably the toughest point guard in the league to defend right now.

2. JOAKIM NOAH MIGHT JOIN ROSE IN THIS SEASONS ALL-STAR GAME

Talk about coming out with a vengeance, Joakim Noah has played like a man on a mission through the first two games, averaging 16.5 points and 18 rebounds. I had a discussion with my studio partner, Kendall Gill, about where Noah ranks among the Easts top centers. Kendall says he has Noah number 2 behind Dwight Howard, and Im starting to think hes right. Andrew Bogut and Brook Lopez may be better scorers, and Noahs University of Florida teammate, Al Horford, made the All-Star team as the Easts back-up center last season, but its hard to imagine any of those guys beating out Noah if he continues to play at the pace hes set during the opening week. Thank goodness it looks like Noahs foot problems are in the past thanks to new shoes complete with customized orthotics.

3. TAJ GIBSON STILL A VALUABLE PIECE OF BULLS PUZZLE

When the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer as a free agent this past summer, most people expected Gibson to be relegated to a lightly-used back-up, who might have to play some center to get additional minutes. Well, because of Boozers hand injury, Gibson is still in the starting line-up. He scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the season opener at Oklahoma City, and then scored 11 big points in the come-from-behind win over Detroit. Taj is extremely active on the offensive glass, giving the Bulls 2nd chance opportunities, and hes an underrated scorer. Even when Boozer comes back, Gibson will find his niche as an ultra-aggressive frontcourt banger who wont have to worry about the foul problems that sometimes limit his play as a starter.

4. BULLS NEED KYLE KORVER ON THE FLOOR

Maybe Korver is still struggling because of the ankle injury he suffered during the pre-season, but his presence in the line-up forces opposing defenses to alter their approach against the Bulls. When Korver hit that three pointer in the 4th quarter against the Pistons, their entire defensive philosophy seemed to change. All of a sudden, they were paying extra attention to Korver coming off screens, allowing Rose more opportunities to break down his man in half-court sets. And, with more defensive attention on Korver, Rose was also able to get the ball to Gibson and James Johnson for some easy baskets down the stretch. Tom Thibodeau has said repeatedly Korver needs to improve his defense, and the truth is, if he doesnt do a good job on the defensive end, his minutes will be limited. But, the Bulls gave him that 3 year, 15 million dollar contract for his ability to shoot the ball from long range, and space the floor for Rose and Boozer. Thibodeau needs to get Korver as many minutes as possible for the Bulls half-court offense to flourish.

5. SHOOTING GUARD POSITION COULD BE A PROBLEM

Its no secret the Bulls would have loved the chance to sign Joe Johnson in last summers free agent derby, and pair him with Rose. But Atlanta blew everyone out of the water by signing Johnson to a max contract that theyll likely come to regret in the coming years. The Bulls then focused their attention on Orlandos sharp-shooting J.J. Redick, but the Magic chose to match a front-loaded offer sheet that many NBA observers thought would be too rich for their blood given the fact they were already well over the leagues luxury tax threshold. That left the Bulls pursuing down the line free agents like Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and C.J. Watson. All of those players have their strengths, but none is really the ideal compliment to Rose. Bulls management looked into the possibility of acquiring Portlands dynamic shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, but the Blazers wouldnt make the deal for just the Bulls first round draft pick, which figures to be somewhere in the 20s. As a result, the Bulls look like they might be a shooter short right now, but that could change quickly once Korver gets over his ankle issues and Deng starts to heat up.

6. BOOZER CANT GET BACK QUICK ENOUGH

For years, weve been talking about the Bulls lack of a classic low-post scorer, and they addressed that need over the summer by signing Boozer. But until his broken finger heals and he can get comfortable with his new teammates, the Bulls are very much a work in progress. Its crucial they find a way to stack up some wins with five of their next six games at home before the dreaded Circus trip out west. Boozer should provide a lot of options for the Bulls half-court offense, easing the reliance on Rose to create something almost every time down the floor. If you havent watched Carlos much over the years, hes a perfect fit for the Bulls system because of his ability to score in the post, run the high screen and roll with Rose, and also hit the 15 to 17 foot jumper with consistency. Plus, hes averaging double figure rebounds over his career. Carlos, heal up soon. Your teammates REALLY miss you.

So, what do you think of the Bulls 1-1 start? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail. Should be an interesting week ahead with home games against Portland and the Knicks, followed by a trip to Boston on Friday. Enjoy the hoops, and well be talking to you on SportsNet Central at 6:30 and 10.

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!