Chicago Bulls delivering Christmas smiles or a lump of coal?

Chicago Bulls delivering Christmas smiles or a lump of coal?

The Bulls fan base may be split on whether they're rooting for a lotto pick or a playoff run, and depending on your camp you'll feel radically different about the last couple of games.

Chicago has shown that it's players aren't going to quit, and even if you're a tanker like myself, you still likely admire the players for going about their job professionally. You have to admire the coaching staff for keeping them engaged in a dead season. It's a lot of hard work and commitment by everyone to keep doing that, and it shows the type of character you want on your team.

I just want it in about six months not right now.

The Bulls thrashed the listless Nets after thrashing the Cavaliers, and maybe they've found the will to start thrashing these junk teams. Maybe it had something to do with Kirk Hinrich replacing Marquis Teague as well. As I noted in all of my tank columns, for the Bulls to lose some trades would need to happen.

The team cares too much and has too much talent to fall all the way to the bottom where they need with the roster intact, however, management will almost certainly chase a playoff slot rather than chasing a bottom three finish, and you can't necessarily blame them for that.

What's going on with Luol Deng?

Chris Broussard reports that Deng is all about winning and not money when he hits free agency, that the Bulls and Deng both want to work out an extension this off season. Not sure that Broussard is the most reliable guy, but it's the second report we've had recently that the Bulls want to keep Deng rather than trade him.

This goes against all the local beat writer reports stating that they felt Deng was unlikely to be back next season. It also makes little sense when it's noted that the Bulls didn't want to extend Deng this off-season when they could have done so with a year less (possibly two years less if Deng eeks five years out of a deal with Chicago this summer) commitment.

It's not like anything that's happened this season makes me think "Wow, the Bulls really should keep Luol now" that wasn't present last off-season. If Chicago is really keeping him [which isn't my preference, but isn't necessarily bad either, as they'll keep more talent than if they replace him with a mid first rounder] then they made a mistake by not getting an extension done this summer.

Deng being about winning raises two interesting questions. Will the Bulls really be in position to win next year? Will he sign for a discount? I'd say the answers are "Yes in theory but no No in practicality" to the first, and "No, probably not at all" to the second. We'll see how it plays out though.

Bulls one game back of the last playoff slot

The question now is whether or not the Bulls can sustain what they're doing. Without any trades, I suspect they can. They'll still lose to the Pacers, the Heat, and 10 out of the 15 teams in the West, but I think Chicago can win 3/4 from everyone else. That "everyone else" still makes up the majority of the schedule which means Chicago (without further injuries) could go around .500 the rest of the way.

Such a finish is likely to put the Bulls smack dab where we don't want them. In the 7th-8th range in the playoffs. The Bulls are reportedly not looking to make any moves to improve the team for this season (which makes sense) but aren't necessarily looking to move any pieces on the roster either.

I'd still be of the mindset that if you can move Deng/Hinrich for anything (or even nothing) do so, and get yourself a shot at Jabari Parker, but we'll see what happens.

Jimmy Butler's knee gives out, stays in the game

In a theme running for several years, the Bulls continue to show that they're not particularly proactive about making sure their players stay healthy. Matt from blogabull, wrote up an interesting piece on the topic.

In short, he notes the only reason we're not incredibly pissed about the number of injuries, the bringing guys back too soon, Thibodeau not using any minute management on guys returning from injury and instead using a pass/fail test is simply because Derrick Rose is out so nothing really matters.

He's probably right.

Luol Deng comes back and immediately aggravates his achilles injury after a couple of games while playing big minutes. Jimmy Butler's knee gives out on him, and he still finished off the game. Maybe Butler's knee is nothing, and athletes are definitely used to pushing through pain to play, but someone should step in and try and get a hold of this thing.

I have to agree if Derrick wasn't hurt, if this season could amount to something? It'd be one more year where Chicago limps to the finish line while putting its players through the meat grinder and wondering why they aren't fresh in the playoffs.

Coming up...

The Bulls host the Mavs then travel to Memphis for a couple of games that look like losses. They then follow up with three interesting home games. Toronto, Boston, and Atlanta. The pedestrian of the East. We'll see if the Bulls look like they can really make a playoff run by how they perform over that stretch, as those are the teams they'll need to beat out to get a slot.

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  • Doug,I don’t know why you mention Jabari Parker’s name. He’s a lock to be the 1st or 2nd pick in the upcoming draft. Even if the Bulls removed Deng, Hinrich, and Boozer from their roster for the remainder of the season (without taking anything back), I still don’t think they’d be worse than Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, Utah, or Sacramento.

  • In reply to RichG:

    The 5/6 teams in the lottery have definitely won several times. If you remove Hinrich/Deng, I think the team could get down to sixth, possibly 4th/5th.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I’ve already said the Bulls should be tanking. But even if Deng and Hinrich are removed from the equation, I still don't see the Bulls cracking the Top 5. With teams like the Knicks, Nets, Raptors, and Celtics, even the #6 position is shaky. The bottom line is that landing Parker would take a large stroke of luck, perhaps not far off from what was experienced in 2008. Coach Thibodeau, his culture for winning, and the addition of Augustine just won’t allow for anything better.

  • In reply to RichG:

    It would take a lot of luck, though it doesn't just have to be parker. It could be Wiggins, it could be Randle. There are other guys viewed as future stars.

    The Bulls don't need to be a bottom three team necessarily to get lucky. If they get to spot #5 they'd have a 30% change (roughly) of a top three pick. Not the best, but not a bad shot either.

    I don't think it'd be hard to get there if they moved Hinrich/Deng.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    As a KU alumnus, it's been a great joy watching Andrew Wiggins and even more so Joel Embiid this season. If you ask me, Embiid has outshined Wiggins so far this season. The comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon are becoming more and more legit as the season progresses, and each Bulls win brings me more and more agony.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    I haven't watched the guy play, but the tidbits that I have heard so far, he seems like a guy that will skyrocket up the draft boards as the draft approaches. I doubt that he goes #1, but he could make the top 3. As a guy who loves centers with legit size who rebound and play D(offense is always a bonus), I am very interested in seeing what this guy has to offer, even though the Bulls have no realistic shot at him.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Parker, Wiggins are 1 & 2. Smart, Randle are 3 & 4. Embiid, Gordon are probably 5 & 6. The Bulls already have 11 wins, which means they're 3 wins ahead of Utah, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Orlando, and those teams don't have Tom Thibodeau coaching them. I didn't even mention Brooklyn, a team Chicago annihalated yesterday without Deng. I don't think the Bulls can crack the Top 5 unless Deng/Hinrich are traded soon, and Noah gets hurt. If the Bulls wait until the trade deadline, they're going to accumulate too many wins. Spots 6 - 10 is still not a bad place to be in this year's draft, but the potential superstars are in the Top 5.

  • In reply to RichG:

    The other chance and its much more likely than GarPax sucking up their pride and trading Deng and Klank is that injury bug hits hard. Seems to me all this offseason propoganda of we are taking injury management seriously now was complete BS. Wouldn't surprise me in the least to see major injuries destroy the team just like last year. This whole grind guys into the ground is getting really old really fast. Why the f*** is Jimmy Butler playing major minutes in a meaningless game with a screwed up knee? I get Thibs hard nosed style but WTF is the medical staff doing??? Bunch of "Yes Men" morons IMO.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Thibs really seems to have a "Pass/Fail" mentality towards injuries and it's something that needs to change. Thibs always says "If he can go, he'll go" but what he means is, "If he can go, he'll go at least 35 minutes and maybe more". There is no half speed with him so guys should probably be held out longer.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I think most coaches in most sports are like that, if not the vast majority, if not all.

    You can give a guy a minutes limit, or a pitch limit, or a play limit- but that has to come from the trainers/doctors. And I assume Thibs, like most coaches not named Del Negro, would respect the minute limit.

    But if a guy can go, he can go. The coach and the other players have to feel this way as well. And that means going 48 minutes if it comes down to it.

    Now of course, Thibs seems to abuse that privelage instead of saving it for a really, really important game- but I know MJ and Lebron and Magic and Bird and whoever all had games where they played all 48 minutes.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Dario Saric to replace Deng, baby.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yep.

  • In reply to RichG:

    It seems that there are a generally accepted bottom 5 consistiting of Sacto, Philly, Milwaukee, Orlando and Utah. Brooklyn looks to be threatening to join them with Lopez out for the season, although it still seems hard to believe that they are really that bad with their remaining talent. The Knicks are stlll tied with Brooklyn, but they have to get better with Chandler back, don't they.

    So if the Bulls lost Deng and Hinrich without adding current talent, they would seem to be competing for the 6th worst record. I can't see them dropping into bottom five territory without losing more, like Butler and/or Noah.

    If everyone is actually healthy, as opposed to half ass pretending to be healthy like they are now, they are almost certainly a playoff team.

  • It is hard to dramatically improve a team with mid-range picks, because they rarely turn out elite. Simple. So, the majority of fans will sacrifice a year that where the team is going nowhere for a high draft pick that "might" help build an elite team. Then the team can challenge for the next decade.

    The problem is the word "might." The Bulls have had a number of top five picks since the MJ era. Only two turned out elite, Rose and Brand. Neither had the staying power of MJ or Pippen. So the tank strategy might not bring an elite player.

    So, if we assume tanking would have only a very small possibility of success, then would it make sense to keep Deng at, say, $12 million per year? I would say, No, because the Bulls have a high probability of getting more for less money.

    If Deng is traded for a pick, to the Suns for example, then the pick will get $1 million or a bit more next year, which saves $11 million over Deng. And that will continue for four years! So the cost/benefit is far more favorable to the Bulls with the extra pick.

    When Boozer leaves, the Bulls, perhaps with a S & T to lose the salary of Taj or someone, might just have enough cap space to sign an elite like Love. If Mirotic also turns out to be elite, that tea is a perennial contender, even is Rose is only an above average G.

    The cap and tax is the other factor. If the team misses the tax this season, it will have the ability to sign an elite FA down the road without the extremely punitive repeater tax.

    There is close to 2 months left to trade Deng. I hope the FO is looking around for the best offer. Only an elite FO can build an elite team!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Really depends on what keeping Deng at 12 million a year means to the rest of the roster. If the Bulls are willing to spend whatever it takes, then it makes sense to keep him.

    Otherwise, I don't think it does. I think ultimately that's what it comes down to.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls and Deng already have a deal pretty much agreed to, and they are just waiting until after July 1st to announce it.

    I don't think I'll ever believe that Deng was pushing for the extension now, when it screws him out of 2 years of contract, and I refuse to believe the Bulls wouldn't want to even negotiate now, when waiting means they "have" to give him more than 3 years.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Eh...

    If the Bulls let him go then it will be easy to believe they didn't negotiate with him last summer.

    I also don't think they'll do a five year deal. I think they'll look at a four year one. No one else can offer five years, so they don't need to extend an extra year.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I think it will be obvious if they don't resign him.

    We all know they didn't negotiate very long, I'm just saying it's possible they came to an understanding when they did.

    If they don't sign him, obviously they didn't come to an understanding, which means they really didn't negotiate. And that Deng's camp really was pissed that the Bulls wouldn't negotiate when all Deng could get was 3 years.

    I can see doing a five-year deal only if the last year isn't guaranteed, or if there's deferred money (which means the Bulls don't actually pay the entire $$ amount of the deal).

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Keeping Deng basically means being over the cap/tax for all/most of the next 4 years, so the Bulls can do no more than add MLE and MMLE players, regardless of how much they are willing to spend.

    So the question becomes, is the current team minus boozer, plus Mirotic plus some MLE and MMLE guys good enough to win a championship. Unless Mirotic instantly becomes Dirk, the answer has to be no, which dictates getting rid of Deng at a minimum.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Absolutely agree. Deng at $12 million per for 4 years, or a pick for $1.5 million per for the same 4 years. Choice 2 gives the team an extra $10.5 per year for 4 years to use on other players! Like Love.

  • It really time to give taj Gibson the starting spot.

  • I'm sure I'm not alone in having mixed feelings about the Bulls winning games. I admire the guys for fighting, I want them to fight. I don't want to see my team roll over. At the same time, for the long term, I think it's best they lose as often as possible. Even a pick around 9 or 10 could potentially have a huge impact, much more impact than a first-round playoff exit IMO.

    I'm sure this is all in some way related to Reinsdorf's greed and cheapness (sarcasm).

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I agree with you. You want the guys to fight and appreciate it because that's one of the reasons you can like this team, but it's not helping hte long term picture any.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I totally agree with your sentiment, but if I am watching a starting front court of Mirotic and Saric next year instead of BozoHole and Deng I will gladly sacrifice the pain of watching a little more nauseating basketball this season.

  • Bulls can't win when really need it, and can't lose when need it too. It look like a bad dream for people with vision longer than 3-4 months...

  • Thinking can get rid of boozer...strong possibility with the east teams ...the nets may be willing to take on boozer to salvage their season...maybe p. Pierce, m teletovic for boozer and Murphy..pierce contact is expiring teletovic is young stretch 4 that can actually shoot...nets pair reunite boozer wit dwill. Boozer wud actually be better big man than what nets have now.. Need more scoring since Lopez is injured

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    The problem with Boozer for Pierce is Pierce makes so much extra money, and the Bulls have no salary to throw back, otherwise I'd think that'd be a real possibility.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Not sure how legit espn trade machine is or if there are errors but salaries seem to match. I even threw Marcus Teague in the deal just for the heck of it. Trade works with or without Teague. Bulls Nets trade: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=k5qyoqe

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    Pierce salary is jus a shade over 15,300,000

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    Don't really see where the Nets think that they "need" boozer. Not sure any team with Kevin Garnett, even this Garnett could/would ever tolerate boozer on his team. Though it might be fun to finally see somebody punch him in the face on a daily basis in practice and in games.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Because Lopez is hurt and Garnett is OLD!!! Where do they get points from their big men?!! Boozer and dwill have a history and believe it or not Boozer is better than the big men Nets have available right now..so yes there's others more pathetic than boozer!!

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    So the Nets are already hurt, old and defensively challenged, so to that mix they want to add a clownlike defensive sive to their frontcourt. Even Billy King and the Russian money bag had to learn something from this summers spending binge, and I doubt it was lets double down on that kind of move by trading for Carlos the Bamboozler.

    Guarantee that the Nets laugh in our face(if they even pick up the phone) if we offer them boozer. Maybe they might consider a swap for Joe Johnson, since he and Amare are the only guys with worse/longer contracts than boozer.

    On the other hand, if Pierce is in the last year of his contract he might make some sense for the Bulls as a stopgap replacement for Deng if we can move him for picks if the Bulls were in semi-tanking mode.

  • Are the Bulls the only team that can play defense in this league?

  • I hope they have a four year deal already in place for Deng. With Deng, Noah, Hinrich, Augustin, Butler, Gipson, Dunleavy, and an experience Snell along with Rose and possibly Aldridge. Chicago would be awesome. Only one problem remains--that involves having a coach that doesn't burn out and cripple the whole team. The draft is deceptive, and I mean extremely with a bunch of 18 year olds leading the pack. Look at last year's #1 who's struggling--most of those guys from that draft won't even be in the league just 2 years from now. So proven players are important to have. There's a film with Mirotic on draft express--and if one watches it closely he looks like another Boozer--that's good for him but is that good for Chicago?

  • In reply to penwit1:

    Who in that lineup are the guys to step up in the playoffs and take out Miami, Indy, and the west teams? In the playoffs, Deng has not had a solid run in years, ditto Rose, Noah is maybe 50/50, and certainly no one else is elite -- except Aldridge, but how will the Bulls get him? Resigning Deng will make it much harder to get a top FA because the team will not have the cap space.

    You are correct, the draft is deceptive. Cleveland has had, what, three #1 picks in the last decade? They should have a banner by now! This year the draft is much stronger than usual. There may be 5 or more elite players who will go in the top 10. Still, the FO has to make the right pick.

    The Bulls need 2 elite players. That should be the priority, because at the moment they have none.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    without even watching that film I would bet my life that the similarities between boozer and Mirotic are about the same as between a 3 toed sloth and a cheetah.

  • Rustyw,
    This is basically the same team that won 62 games just 3 years ago with Noah, Deng, Gibson, and Boozer and only 45 games last year. They play excessive minutes during the regular season as if there are not playoffs. Given a fair number of minutes routinely Deng, Noah, Gibson, and the rest of the team can be very effective during against any team. Granted they do need another super star but I don't see that in Mirotic--but he may be cost effective. Aldridge's camp stated he wanted to come to Chi last summer--but, the FO did not want to lose Noah for a player who did not want to play center. So this summer he may be available if Portland does not meet his expectations. If Butler's toe ever heals we just may have the other player we need at SG. If not, a solid FA at that position will be available this year and Chi can get him without losing Deng and any other player. Any way we look at this Chicago has to spend some money.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    How quickly they forget.

    Deng, Boozer, Noah, Gibson went 38-22 last year when HInrich played. That's a 52-win pace, with Belinelli or Hamilton at SG.

    Without Deng and Hinrich, those guys with Nate, Marco, Butler won the organization's first ever Game 7 on the road.

    Dump Deng and Hinrich for scrubs, this team still isn't going to suck. Butler scores 15 a night (guessing) when Deng doesn't play, DJ is every bit as good as Nate, Dunleavy and Snell can shoot 3's.

    Taj is much better on offense than last season.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Whatever the reasons(I'll let you speculate if you like), this years team has looked significantly worse without Deng and Hinrich than they did in the last seasons playoffs, and Butler seems to have joined the Thibs induced chronically injured brigade. It can't be long before Taj and Noah rejoin them all. Augustin certainly helps(or hurts depending on which side of the tank argument your on), but that is only because he is taking away some or all of Teagues(the Patton or Rommel of tank commanders) minutes.

    The Bulls as currently constituted are clearly not a team on an upward arc, so going with the status quo doesn't seem to be a solution for a team that claims to have championship aspirations.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    But what happened in the playoffs, Penwit1? The 4 front court players you mentioned are all 3 years older, and none are elite. In fact, not one of them, except Noah rarely, plays better than during the regular season.

    Plus, next year Rose will likely not be equal to what he was before his rash of injuries began. This team has no elite players, thus the team is not elite and cannot contend.

    The Bulls need 2 elite players. This year, the Bulls are paying Deng, Noah, Boozer, and Taj about $50 million! Keep doing that and they will never be elite! But they may get to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Is that what you want?

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