Hassan Whiteside’s ascent to stardom is one of the best modern stories in all of professional sports. It’s an underdog tale that probably would have trouble being adapted to a movie because it seems too good to be true and, quite frankly, would probably seem unrealistic to non-sports fans.
Whiteside entered the NBA with a ton of potential after just one collegiate season at Marshall. He was a raw player, but it was clear he had talent and a ton of upside. After all, as a freshman, he averaged 13.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.4 blocks in just 26.1 minutes per game. Because of his inexperience and, some say, his ego, he slipped to the 33rd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
After two forgettable seasons with Sacramento Kings in which he appeared in just 18 games (averaging 1.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and .8 blocks), Whiteside was out of the NBA altogether. He was understandably frustrated that he wasn’t playing more in Sacramento. It also didn’t help that Whiteside entered the league with the Kings, an organization that has become known for its dysfunction, and Sacramento’s decision-makers gave him a limited opportunity to prove himself and weren’t very patient with him.
Before long, Whiteside was playing in Lebanon, China and the D-League. It seemed like his NBA days were over, and he had nearly come to terms with that fact. When he surfaced in the Lebanese league (which isn’t exactly notable), it made headlines simply based on how far Whiteside had seemingly fallen in just three years – especially since was considered such a promising prospect entering the NBA.
In November of 2014, he was playing in the NBA D-League – hoping that he could do well enough to catch an NBA team’s attention and get his career back on track. Whiteside did exactly that while playing for the Iowa Energy, averaging 22 points, 15.7 rebounds and 5.3 blocks in 28.7 minutes while shooting 85.7 percent from the field. The Miami HEAT were decimated by injuries and, quite frankly, desperate. They decided to bring in a number of players on short-term deals to see what they could do, including Whiteside, Tyler Johnson, Henry Walker and Michael Beasley. Whiteside was back in the NBA, although he was on a 10-day contract.
Ever since, he has taken advantage of his opportunity with Miami and exceeded all expectations. The HEAT signed him for the rest of last season after being impressed with his production, and he finished the 2014-15 campaign averaging 11.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 23.8 minutes per game.
The story could’ve ended there, with Whiteside returning to the NBA and becoming a productive role player. That would’ve been an impressive accomplishment since the NBA no longer seemed like an option for him. However, he has continued to improve this season and emerged as one of the best centers in the NBA. Through 60 games, Whiteside has averaged 13.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and an NBA-best 3.8 blocks in just 28.8 minutes per game.
He ranks fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game (11.7) behind only star centers Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard. He also ranks third among all players in field goal percentage, shooting an extremely efficient 60.5 percent. In addition to those impressive stats, he is ninth among all NBA players in PER, trailing only the league’s superstars (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and James Harden). By emerging as a dominant force after exiting the league and going through everything he did, his story became a completely unique and unprecedented one. There simply hasn’t been an ascent to stardom like the one Whiteside has experienced.
Even when head coach Erik Spoelstra has tinkered with his rotation and brought Whiteside off of the bench (to team him up with fellow young defenders Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson), he has continued to thrive. Take the last 10 games, for example, in which he has averaged 16.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 29.6 minutes off the bench. Because Whiteside has been so productive in so few minutes, his per-100-possession stats are jaw-dropping: 24.1 points, 20.8 rebounds and 6.7 blocks.
“I come in and try to bring value every minute I’m out there,” Whiteside told The Boston Globe. “I feel like every game [I’m] getting more and more comfortable each time I play on the court. I feel like I’m getting better as an NBA player.”
While he’s certainly right about improving, traditional statistics don’t tell the full story with Whiteside.
Not only is Whiteside leading the NBA in blocks, he is also ranked first in Defensive Rating (94) and block percentage (10.2 percent). That means Whiteside blocks 10.2 percent of all two-point attempts when he’s on the floor; to put that in perspective, no other NBA player has a block percentage above 5.9 percent.
Whiteside is second in the NBA in rebound percentage, grabbing 23 percent of all available rebounds when he’s on the court, and second in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (3.8). Whiteside also ranks fifth in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares – which estimates how many wins an individual player has contributed to their team due to their defense – with 4.4.
Whiteside’s 3.8 blocks per game not only leads all NBA players, it’s more blocks than three NBA teams currently average per game (Detroit, Dallas and Cleveland). He has rejected 226 shots this season, while no other NBA player has blocked more than 152 shots.
He has recorded four point-rebound-block triple-doubles since January 2015, while no other NBA player has recorded a single one in that span. As Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel noted, only four others players in NBA history have recorded more point-rebound-block triple-doubles than Whiteside – Dikembe Mutombo (10), Hakeem Olajuwon (nine), David Robinson (nine) and Shawn Bradley (six) – and he has posted all of his in a little over one year. Also, no NBA player in the last 19 seasons has averaged four blocks per game, but Whiteside very well could end that drought this year.
What Whiteside is doing this season would be incredible if it was a superstar player putting up these numbers. When you consider that he was out of the NBA just 16 months ago, it’s even more insane.
It’s also somewhat crazy that Whiteside isn’t getting more recognition for his fantastic defense. It’s safe to say that he’s the best shot-blocker in the NBA and his interior defense is extremely disruptive, yet his name is almost never mentioned when discussing the Defensive Player of the Year race.
For much of the season, the Defensive Player of the Year debate has been centered around San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Golden State’s Draymond Green. This is understandable since both players are fantastic defenders, and are leading their respective teams to terrific heights. It also makes sense since they finished first and second in an extremely close Defensive Player of the Year race last season (with only 16 voting points separating them), and there was controversy at the time since Leonard won the award despite Green receiving more first-place votes (45) than Leonard (37). Nobody is arguing that Leonard and Green are outstanding, game-changing defenders.
With that said, shouldn’t Whiteside at least be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year as well? He’s literally leading the NBA in Defensive Rating and is near the top of just about every relevant defensive stat category, yet there are people who act like Defensive Player of the Year is a two-player race between Leonard and Green.
Last season, Miami ranked 19th in the NBA in defense (allowing points per 100 possessions). This season – Whiteside’s first full year with the HEAT – Miami has the NBA’s sixth-best defense (allowing 101.1 points per 100 possessions). Coincidence? I think not.
Regardless of the recognition Whiteside receives for his strong play, one thing is clear: He’s going to get a huge pay day this summer. NBA executives are noticing just how dominant the seven-footer has been and he’ll have a long list of potential suitors this offseason.
Whiteside will be an unrestricted free agent in July, and he’s hitting the market at the perfect time since the salary cap is set to skyrocket due to the NBA’s new television rights deal. As our Steve Kyler recently noted, 17 teams currently project to have enough cap space to offer a full maximum contract (and five teams will have the ability to offer two full maximum contracts). There could be as many as 24 maximum salary slots available this summer, and Whiteside will certainly be one of the top free agents on the market.
This season, Whiteside is making just $981,348, making him one of the best bargain contracts in the NBA. In all likelihood, his next contract will be a max deal – especially with so many teams with money to spend. Big men get paid, especially 26-year-olds who put up the kind of stats Whiteside is this season.
That has to be exciting for Whiteside, who has only made a little over $2 million in his NBA career. This will be his first big contract. But give him credit because as his free agency approaches, he is saying all the right things and trying not to become a distraction.
“I just try to focus on the season,” Whiteside told the Sun-Sentinel. “I can’t control anything that’s going to happen in free agency. I just try to be the best teammate and the best guy I can be and I think everything else is going to take its place.
“[My inner circle and I] really don’t talk about it. It’s really like, ‘Whenever the time comes, it comes.’ We focus on making a deep playoff run and everything else is in due time.”
However, HEAT team president Pat Riley recently made some candid comments about Whiteside’s development and free agency – seemingly making it clear that re-signing Whiteside this summer is one of his priorities.
“I’ve never been around that kind of turnaround,” Riley told reporters, according to the Palm Beach Post. “We’ve had some players that we’ve opened our eyes up on, but I think what Hassan did last year and what he’s doing now, his level of play – it’s just all about more experience, more reps, understanding how important he is for us.
“But in my 50 years in the NBA, I have never seen that kind of phenomenon. I know this is hurting me right now as far as his free agency goes because I’m complimenting him, but he’s grown a lot.”
Complicating things for Miami is the fact that they don’t have Whiteside’s Bird Rights – he only spent two years with the team, meaning they can’t offer him a longer contract than other suitors this summer and they can’t go over the salary cap to retain him. Instead, Miami will be in the same position as every other team pursuing the center, using cap space to sign him and offering essentially the same contract as everyone else. And if Miami ends up attracting a different max-level free agent (let’s say Kevin Durant, just as an example), they’ll have to decide between adding the star or re-signing Whiteside (unless Riley could somehow get extremely creative financially, but it seems very unlikely).
League sources have said that Whiteside wants to remain in Miami and his comments have suggested the same. Even when he was recently asked if he’d like to be a “leading man” rather than playing in the shadow of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he was honest in his response, but steered his answer back to loving Miami and recruiting other players to the HEAT.
“That’d be nice,” Whiteside told the Sun-Sentinel. “I feel like a lot of people want to be that. But I want to win more than anything. I don’t really want to be the face of a losing franchise. You want to be a face of a winning program. And it’s always easier to get people to come to Miami.”
This lines up with what Whiteside told our Jesse Blancarte a few months ago when asked about free agency.
“I want to go to a team that’s about winning, that has a good understanding of what it takes to win and a good city with a good fan base,” Whiteside told Basketball Insiders in January. He added that there are “a lot of good things” about playing in Miami, including the fact that “you get to play alongside NBA champions, it’s a great city and the fans really embrace me.”
Miami is currently 40-29, and they have overcome many injuries (including the still-unclear status of Bosh) and a brutal stretch of their schedule to remain in the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed. Buyout addition Joe Johnson has thrived since joining the HEAT and provided the squad with new life as well as another perimeter scorer, making Miami an even scarier draw in the playoffs.
These next few months will be some of the most important of Whiteside’s life, with the postseason on deck and free agency to directly follow. But considering where he’s been and what he’s experienced in recent years, he’s not feeling any pressure at all. He’s essentially playing with the house’s money at this point.
“I live for big moments; I’m ready for any pressure,” Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel. “I’ve faced pressure my whole life. I feel like this pressure is a lot easier than [the pressure of], ‘If you don’t make this team, you get cut and you go back home.’ That’s the pressure I’ve faced trying to get back to the NBA.”
NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode
With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.
After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.
Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.
First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.
Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.
In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.
Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?
Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.
The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.
Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.
“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”
That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.
Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.
After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.
At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.
The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.
In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.
An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.
It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.
Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.
Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.
Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.
Fixing The Detroit Pistons
David Yapkowitz looks at how the fading Pistons can turn things around moving forward.
We wrap this week up with another installment of our “Fixing” series here at Basketball Insiders. The next team up is the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons came into this season with playoff aspirations after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign that saw them regress instead of building on their playoff appearance the season before. To begin the season, they looked like they were on their way to accomplishing that objective. Then Reggie Jackson got hurt and the season began spiraling out of control.
They tried to inject some life into the team by trading for Blake Griffin, but it hasn’t worked out as expected. The Pistons have gone 8-12 since acquiring Griffin and the postseason looks like a pipe dream at this point.
What Is Working
Not a whole lot. Despite trading for a superstar player, the Pistons have tumbled down to the point where playoffs are looking extremely unlikely.
If there’s one thing that’s a welcome sight, it’s the bounce back of Andre Drummond. After being named to his first All-Star team in 2015-16, Drummond had a bit of a let down the following season. This season, he was once again an All-Star while putting up career-highs in rebounds (15.7) and assists (3.2). Drummond is still only 24 years old and has his best basketball years ahead of him.
The Pistons have also received encouraging signs from rookie Luke Kennard. A lottery pick in last summer’s draft, Kennard he’s been one of the few bright spots at times for the Pistons. About a week ago, his playing time had diminished some and he racked up a few DNP’s, but Stan Van Gundy has since reinserted him into the rotation.
They’ve also gotten solid production out of Reggie Bullock. When Bullock came over to the Pistons in a trade with the Phoenix Suns almost three years ago, he was little more than a seldom-used wing with the potential to become a solid 3&D guy. This has been his year, however. He’s the best shooter on the team at 43.5 percent from the three-point line. His numbers, 10.8 points per game and 49.1 percent shooting from the field, are career-highs.
What Needs To Change
Quite a bit. Acquiring Griffin was a move the Pistons needed to make. On the verge of losing control of the season, they needed to make a move to try and turn things around. It’s been a disaster thus far, however. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and although they’re in ninth place, they’re falling farther and farther away from eighth.
Who the Pistons are really missing is Reggie Jackson. Ish Smith, who has proven himself beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is an NBA player, just isn’t Jackson. They desperately need Jackson’s playmaking abilities to help take the pressure off everyone else. Even if he returns this season, it’s already too late. The Pistons need to focus on getting him healthy and ready for next season.
The Pistons also need to improve their offense. They’re in the bottom half of the league in both points per game (25th) and offensive rating (24th). A big part of that is Jackson’s absence, but they could also benefit from additional outside shooting. Right now they have one long-range threat on the roster and that’s Bullock.
Focus Area: The Draft
To make matters worse, the Pistons will likely give up their draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the Griffin trade. The only way the Clippers wouldn’t acquire the Pistons’ pick this year is if it falls in the top four, and that’s not going to happen.
The Pistons will have a second-round pick though. The draft is never 100 percent guaranteed, and the second round is even more of a crapshoot, but talented players can definitely be found. That’s what the Pistons’ main objective in the draft should be. It sounds silly, but they truly need to buckle down and do their homework in hopes of finding that one overlooked guy in the second round. That’s pretty much all they have to look forward to come draft night.
Focus Area: Free Agency
The Pistons are going to have a couple of minor decisions to make this summer regarding their free agents. Jameer Nelson, James Ennis, and Anthony Tolliver are all unrestricted free agents. Out of the three, Ennis has given the team the best on-court production, but it isn’t necessary that any of them are brought back.
Bullock and Dwight Buycks have non-guaranteed contracts, and those are the two guys that the Pistons should work towards bringing back in the fold. Both should have their contracts guaranteed for the following season. Bullock is their only three-point threat. Buycks began the season as a two-way contract player splitting time between the Pistons and the Grand Rapids Drive of the G-League. He’s since been converted to a standard NBA contract and has done enough to earn his spot on the team next year.
In terms of adding new players to the roster, as mentioned before, the Pistons need outside shooting. Marco Belinelli and Wayne Ellington are possible options that the Pistons might be able to afford. Joe Harris is another option, but it will be interesting to see what the market is for him after the strong season he’s been having in Brooklyn.
It’s tough to gauge the Pistons’ true potential without Jackson. If he returns before the season ends, it will be too small a sample size to accurately assess the team. There are only 14 games left. Although things look pretty bleak right now, it can’t be argued that injuries haven’t played a big role in the Pistons disappointing season.
The team deserves a shot at seeing how a healthy Jackson, Griffin, and Drummond trio looks on the court together. If they start off next season the same way despite all three being healthy and in the lineup, then it would be time for serious changes.
Fixing The Chicago Bulls
Spencer Davies says the Bulls have a long way to go, but they’re taking steps forward. In year one without the former face of the franchise, that’s about all they can ask for.
Next up on Basketball Insiders’ “fixing” series is a stop in the Windy City.
In spite of the criticisms over last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, it feels like the Chicago Bulls at least have a sense of direction. Many members of the media—including this one—expected them to finish dead last in the NBA, yet they have 23 wins, with seven other teams worse off.
Obviously, the goal for the organization this season was to establish an identity and see what they had with their new cornerstone pieces. To a good extent, there’s optimism regarding those players because of the potential they’ve shown.
There’s still a good chunk of the year left, but the Bulls are 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with 15 games to go.
What Is Working
If it weren’t for the spectacular seasons by Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons, Chicago stretch big man Lauri Markkanen might be the Rookie of the Year. Even with some second-half struggles, the entire body of work is impressive.
The 7-foot Finnish forward continues to stay aggressive with a high usage and great mentality in snatching up those boards. It’s normal for a first-year player to go through those ups and downs. Add in a back injury that’s been bothering him as of late and the slump make a little more sense. Markkanen has shown the skill and consistent effort that it takes to be a mainstay in this league.
Bobby Portis is another member of the frontcourt who’s made a noticeable impact off the Bulls’ bench. In his third year, you can see the confidence continue to grow as a versatile offensive threat with a ton of touches. He’s taken a responsibility upon himself to lead the second unit and the proof is in the pudding. According to Cleaning The Glass, the team is a net plus-11.5 per 100 possessions with him on the court.
Second-year swingman Denzel Valentine has filled the stat sheet in multiple games as one of the most unselfish players on the roster. David Nwaba’s role from the beginning was to be a defensive menace and he’s come through for the majority of the year. Even two-way contract rookie Antonio Blakeney has shown flashes as a volume scorer in stretches.
Recently, Chicago has given a couple of cast-offs opportunities to display their skills. In 10 games, Cameron Payne looks as comfortable as he has in quite some time coming off a major foot injury. Noah Vonleh has been an effective late addition playing next to Portis and filling in for Markkanen. Let’s not forget that these two were lottery picks and are still in their early 20s.
What Needs To Change
Looking at what Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine have done, it’s been a mixed bag. With that being said, there’s clearly untapped potential between the both of them.
Dunn proved in very little time that the narrative of him being a lost cause was far from the truth. Hoiberg’s trust in him to be Chicago’s floor general has gone a long way. He’s been in attack mode with the ball in his hands, has seen his outside game get better and has been bothersome with his length defensively. It hasn’t resulted in wins, but remember—it’s this group’s first season together.
As for LaVine, it’s difficult to judge where a player is using a 23-game sample size. Yes, it’s a good amount of playing time, but let’s not forget he’s coming off a devastating left ACL tear. His defense has been subpar, but the bounce seems to still be there. The jumper is on and off, but he hasn’t been bashful at all. Starting the year off fresh in 2018-19 will benefit him.
Speaking of next season, the goal for the front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson should be simple—get younger. Currently, Robin Lopez is the highest paid player on the Bulls and he’ll have one year left on his deal going into the summer. The same applies to Justin Holiday. These are two veterans who could contribute on teams ready to win now, and it would be logical to part ways considering the direction the franchise is going.
Focus Area: The Draft
Due to the Nikola Mirotic trade on February 1st, Chicago acquired a first-round draft pick from the New Orleans Pelicans. That gives them two chances to add to their young talent pool in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft.
Typically you’d go with the best player available when you’re slotted in the top ten, but the Bulls should feel good about their backcourt and the power forward position. What they really are lacking are reliable shooters and perimeter defenders, as well as a player with a bulldog mentality.
Chicago doesn’t get to the free throw nearly enough and they don’t convert looks that they should. Considering a true wing is amiss, it’d be the ideal scenario for Michael Porter Jr. to fall right into their lap. The Missouri freshman just returned after missing basically the entire season with a back injury. He was a top name coming into the class because of his size and could be a steal with the eighth selection.
If Porter Jr. doesn’t make it to them, Miles Bridges would make for a heck of a consolation prize. Unlike Porter, he has a more muscular frame at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds that allows him to bully the opposition. There’s a relentless nature and fearlessness about him that will translate to the next level.
Using that Pelicans pick, the Bulls would be happy to see Duke sharpshooter Gary Trent Jr. fall to them in the early-to-mid 20s, but that seems more unlikely with Anthony Davis continuing to carry New Orleans to new heights. If they end up selecting towards to the back end of the first round, Arizona junior guard Allonzo Trier could end up being a good fit as well.
Focus Area: Free Agency
Entering the summer, Chicago doesn’t have too many decisions to make on the contract front.
The trade exception from the Butler deal expires on June 22nd. If it’s not used by then, the amount will be renounced if the team goes under the salary cap. The deadline to present Noah Vonleh and David Nwaba a qualifying offer is June 29th.
Everybody’s going to keep an eye on LaVine because of restricted free agency, but the Bulls have indicated they prefer him to be a part of their core. They’ll in all likelihood look to bring him back on a long-term contract. If he doesn’t approve of the terms, he can always choose to play on his qualifying offer and bet on himself.
Chicago has to decide whether or not to guarantee Paul Zipser’s $1.5 million salary for next season by July 18th. The extension deadline for Payne, Portis, and Grant is the day before the first day of the 2018 campaign and team option deadlines for Dunn and Markannen come on Halloween.
There probably won’t be too much activity on the Bulls’ part regarding free agency. The focus will lay on improving their young core and getting guys who are just getting on the upswing in the pros. There are talents out there who fit the bill. It just all depends on what comes from the draft.
All in all, Chicago has a long way to go to get back into the postseason conversation, but they’re taking steps forward. In year one without the former face of the franchise, that’s about all you can ask for.