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NBA Daily: Fixing The Chicago Bulls

After an offseason that saw major changes in leadership, Garrett Brooks takes a look at the next steps in fixing the Chicago Bulls.



It’s early in the season and the Chicago Bulls have shown some much-needed promise given fan frustration in recent seasons. It’s also the first year under leadership from the new president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas. That was step one, and a massive step itself, toward fixing the organization’s recent struggles.

Karnisovas also moved on from Jim Boylen in favor of Billy Donovan, which was another important and necessary measure in getting back on the right track. Still, they’ve struggled, so it’s time to discuss the next steps the rehabilitation of one of the league’s biggest and brightest all-time franchises.

What’s Working

Simply put, the Bulls are off to a phenomenal offensive start under Donovan. Through 11 games, they’re scoring 116.1 points per contest, 9.3 more than they averaged last season. Although a small sample size, it’s also one that has accounted for missing several significant contributors on the offensive end.

Lauri Markkanen is the biggest producer who has missed time, playing in just four of the team’s 11 games so far. He’s scored 17.3 per night healthy, so there’s offensive firepower even in his absence.

In it, two players have been integral in the offensive success, specifically when combined. The Chicago backcourt of Zach LaVine and Coby White is giving fans a reason to be excited about the roster through this tough rebuilding period.

LaVine is off to a red-hot start, averaging 27.7 points per game on efficient shooting numbers. When he and the second-year White share the court, the team is shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from behind the arc.

White is tacking on 17.3 points per contest of his own, helping the Bulls get top of the line scoring from their suddenly-promising backcourt. The two combine to average over 10 assists per game as well, showing they are willing and capable playmakers even though both are more natural scorers.

Another promising development, and certainly the most surprising in the early season, is the play of Garrett Temple. He has been a versatile piece for the team on both ends of the floor and is producing more than the team could have expected when they signed the 34-year-old veteran wing.

That’s not a knock on Temple, who has proven to be a solid NBA rotation player. It’s a matter of how the move appeared when he was signed, as Temple seemed to make a lot more sense for a team with higher aspirations this season than the Bulls. So far, he’s proven he can make a big impact on a lesser team too, not just playing with the game’s elite players.

Finally, back to the offensive success. The Bulls are getting great shooting out of multiple players that is certainly a big part of what’s going well for them on the court. Otto Porter Jr., Markkanen, Patrick Williams, Denzel Valentine and Temple are all shooting above 40 percent from behind the arc so far.

What’s Not Working

While the team’s offense has been working smoothly, the team’s defense has failed to play at a respectable level thus far. It’s not surprising to see this roster struggle defensively, but they’ve been worse than just a bad defensive team.

The Bulls hold the second-worst defensive rating in the league at 115.9. It’s not just bad, the defense is flat-out terrible. While they lacking the ability to thrive on that end of the floor right now, they’re not showing any promise as a team moving forward. Schematically, something needs to be altered in an impactful way to help cover for the individual defenders the team needs overall.

Far too many good looks are being given up from behind the arc on a nightly basis, which will lead to problems in today’s NBA. Combined with the team’s tendency to commit shooting fouls, they’re surrendering over 120 points per contest through 11 games.

Another problem is the team’s lack of a rim protector so far. No one on the team is blocking shots at a good rate outside of rookie Patrick Williams, which is a big ask at this point in his career.

Worse, Wendell Carter Jr. has a tendency to commit defensive fouls currently, struggling to keep up with the constant opposing onslaught. Not ideal from a center expected to play alongside teammates that aren’t the greatest of perimeter defenders in LaVine and White.

What Needs To Change

The good news first: The most important changes from an organizational standpoint have already taken place by the team overhauling their front office and coaching staff in the offseason. The culture of the team needed a face-lift and moving on from the previous regime was necessary in order to successfully overhaul the culture.

Now, of course, the team must take the next steps. It’s not out of the picture to see this group fighting for a playoff spot, and best-case scenario they are certainly a backend Eastern Conference team. Still, for the short and long term, changes are needed.

For starters: Player availability. Unfortunately, the Bulls can only control so much from this standpoint, especially true given the season’s current circumstances. Specifically, important is the availability of Markkanen moving forward. He is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason and the team needs to make a very important decision on him when that time comes.

Needless to say, they’ll require more buy-in on the defensive end. It’s not out of the picture as veterans like Temple set an example for the young players, but a full-on buy-in from a player like LaVine on defense would do wonders for the team. This follows along with the change of culture, and Donovan needs to be creating and developing good habits on that end.

Focus Area: Player Development

Whether the Bulls wind up being a low playoff seed or in the NBA lottery, the greatest area of focus right now is player development. That’s why creating those good habits is so important in their effort to move up the NBA ladder in the coming seasons. It’s clear this roster has more talent than the record shows – but utilizing that talent for results is something that still counts in the standings.

Markkanen’s upcoming restricted free agency leaves his future a bit of a question, but regardless of that outcome, the Bulls also have young players in Carter Jr., White, Williams, Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchinson that need to be put in a position to succeed over the coming years.

Not every player needs to be the star or can be the star, but every player is an opportunity to get a piece for when the team is competing for more. Under Boylen, it’s known development wasn’t maximized and potentially was slightly delayed, making it even more important right now.

While the Chicago Bulls still have many miles to go in their latest rebuild, this is the most exciting version yet. With crucial front office changes and the blossoming Coby White, they’re closer than ever before. The immediate chances of success likely depend on better defense and (healthy) development of Markkanen and Carter Jr., but they’ll need to continue adding strong players to the roster in the coming years.

The Bulls aren’t quite back, but it shouldn’t be all that long now.

Garrett Brooks is a contributing writer for Basketball Insiders based out of Chicago, Illinois. In addition to multiple years of covering the NBA, Garrett has also spent time in live events, analytics, and on-court training.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams



According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft



Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.

“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.

In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.

Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.

NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.

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Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons



According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.

However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.

Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.

On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.

Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.

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