Posts Tagged ‘draft

07
Feb
08

Sefolosha should continure to start, Gordon should go

Bulls 97 – Blazers 100

Good effort last night by the Bulls.  They were extremely shot-handed, which I’ll get to in a  moment,  but still stuck with a surprisingly solid Blazers team.  The Bulls story of the night in my opinion was Thabo Sefolosha.  Sure it was only one game, but he had 22 pts on 9-17, 6 assts, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 4 boards and only 2 turnovers.  Those are some good, starter-worthy numbers.  Here’s to hoping we see Thabo starting at the 2 guard for the foreseeable future.

One of the main reasons I want to see Thabo starting at the 2 is that I now want Ben Gordon off of this team almost as much as I want Paxson gone.  Of course Gordon isn’t going anywhere until Pax does because we all know John isn’t trading any player he drafted or signed.  I have to admit that my comments these days are the result of my extreme frustration with this season and I probably won’t agree with them all a couple of months from now.  Nevertheless, a lot of Bulls have been missing games with injuries lately and I don’t think most of them would be missing some of these games if the Bulls were in third place in the East.  Chief among these offenders, I believe, is Ben Gordon.

Ben Gordon recently said,

It has been hard watching, especially because we have been having
trouble scoring, but I need the wrist to be 100 percent
so I'm not thinking about it and it doesn't affect my shot.

After making these comments he came back for two games and averaged 26.5 points while shooting 49% from the field including 75% from behind the arc.  It doesn’t look like his shot was affected too much.  However, after pulling out prior to last night’s game he said,

I probably need to stay off it for a little while, especially with it
being my shooting hand. Say we make a playoff run. I
don't want to be worrying about it down the stretch."

When he says, “Say we make a playoff run.  I don’t want to be worrying about it down the stretch”, I take that to mean, “If we were contending I’d play through the pain, but right now I just need to make sure I only play when I’m 100% so my numbers look as good as possible going into contract negotiations this summer.”

That would be an acceptable stance from, say, Vince Carter.  With Carter you know what you’re getting and know what his personality is.  However, these Bulls players were supposed to be different.  They were drafted or signed over more talented players because they are supposed to have more character and desire to win.  I believe Gordon started out this way but has since grown more selfish.  At this point BG7 and his expiring contract should be traded to another team where he can become somebody else’s sixth man prima donna.  The Bulls already have Ben Wallace to fill that role and it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.

Answer me this Gordon, how exactly is the team going to make a playoff run if you and your 20 ppg (and only 2.9 assisst/game) are sitting out while the team is already missing Luol Deng?

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02
Feb
08

Angry rant about John Paxson/Bulls management

Ever since I found out about the Gasol trade this afternoon I’ve become more and more pissed off. John Paxson pulled the franchise out of futility and made them fun and respectable again. However, not a single move he’s made since the 2004 draft has worked out with the possible exception of re-signing Nocioni this past summer. As much credit as he deserves for turning the worst team in the league into a team that won 138 games over the three previous seasons, his more recent ineptitude has become completely unacceptable.

I’ll give Paxson a pass on signing Ben Wallace because nobody could have guessed how quickly Wallace would give up after receiving his final big payday. Ben was coming off of his 4th Defensive Player of the Year Award in 5 seasons and was known for his effort. If the Bulls needed anything at that point it was a veteran.

Trading Tyson Chandler was acceptable too because it became clear that while Tyson was skilled and athletically gifted, Skiles wasn’t going to accept him or let him be. It’s unlikely Chanlder would have turned into the quality player he is today if he stayed with the Bulls. HOWEVER, wasting what he got in return for Chandler by dumping J.R. Smith and letting P.J. Brown’s contract expire was as unacceptable as missing on Garnett, Gasol and Randolph.

The Eddy Curry trade was a disaster and although I’ve been guaranteed by multiple Bulls reporters that it isn’t true, I’m still convinced Paxson used Curry’s refusal to take a DNA test as a way to get rid of one of the last Jerry Kraus headband-wearing players without having to take blame from the fans. Eddy had a heart condition and Paxson claimed he wasn’t going to give him a guaranteed contract until he had a DNA test. The thing is that multiple doctors cleared Curry to play and everyone knew the players’ association would never have allowed him to set a precadent by being the first player to take a DNA test for his team. Paxson only required it because he knew it would never happen.

At the time of the Curry trade it looked like the Bulls might have done well. Two first round picks from the woeful Knicks sounded, and was, pretty good. The problem was Paxson blew one of them and came up with a weak draft year on the second. I like Tyrus Thomas coming out of LSU that year, but I like Brandon Roy a lot more and LaMarcus Aldridge a bit more. I know it sounds like 20/20 hindsight, but I thought at the time that the talent level seemed similar for all three players and the two Paxson didn’t pick fit the Bulls needs and character type much more than Thomas. They needed a low post scorer and an athletic, big 2 guard. Aldridge was only slightly higher on my list than Thomas because he wasn’t a clear low post player, but then Thomas was a 3. Roy was my first pick because he was the guard we clearly needed and, fitting Paxson’s somewhat irrational obsession, was a key player on a team that went deep in the tournament. But Paxson picked the wrong guy.

Joakim Noah looks like a keeper and there wasn’t a better player available, but he’s still going to be nothing more than an effort player with good defense and rebounding. I’m high on Noah, but he and Thomas don’t replace that hard to find low post game Paxson gave up with Curry.

Then finally a chance arises to pluck a star low post player for next to nothing and where’s Pax? The Bulls had more young talent than the Lakers and the between Duhon’s deal ending this year and Ben Gordon becoming a restricted free agent, they had the cap flexibility to offer as well. The Bulls are young enough that they have no need for an ’08 or and ’10 first round pick. Yet nothing happens? And now there’s nobody else available except maybe Jermain O’Neal who’ll make almost $10 million a year more than Gasol and is perpetually injured.

Enough is enough. It was time for new blood on the coaching side of things and this proves it’s time for new blood at the top.

03
Jan
08

Paxson and Boylan must pick a path to take with Thomas

Chicago 109 – Charlotte 97

First I have to say, great game by Joakim. I’m not sure why he hasn’t been playing more. Much like Aaron Gray’s huge game a little over a week ago, Joakim’s success tonight was largely based on the fact that most of the people guarding him were significantly smaller or slower than he is. However, the cause of his success should not discourage Bulls fans. First of all, it’s an asset to have a 6’11” C/F (or a 7’0″ C for that matter) no matter what. Are they going to have better games when 6’7″-6’9″ guys are guarding them? Yes, that’s the point. Second of all, while Joakim doesn’t have the dominant low post skills the Bulls desire, he has amazing skills for a 6’11” player. He’s a good ball handler for his size, a great passer, and brings instant energy to the entire team whenever he enters the game. Plus, he showed some patience in a couple of low post plays last night that I didn’t think he had.

So the Bulls now have to figure out what to do with Tyrus Thomas. Boylan seems to have settled in with a rotation at the C/PF position of Wallace, Smith, Gray and Noah. This rotation has been working well, but Tyrus is too talented and was too high of a draft pick just last season in order to bury him on the bench. The way I see it, the Bulls can pick one of two paths. They can do whatever they can to win it all – not just make the playoffs – now, or they can continue to build/grow the team for the future. I’ll be fine with either strategy, but it’s pointless to just let Thomas waste away next to Demetris Nichols.

Boylan seems to think that the players up front who will help the team win the most are Wallace, Smith, Gray and Noah in that order. You can’t blame the coach for playing the players who give the team the best chance to win. Boylan and Paxson discussed who would get more or less playing time after Skiles was fired. Therefore, we can assume that they are on the same page regarding not playing Tyrus and regarding winning now. If that’s the case, they must trade Tyrus Thomas for something. His trade value isn’t through the roof right now, but he’s shown enough for other teams to realize he has a high upside. Paxson needs to identify what position he thinks is the weakest and fortify it by trading Thomas out of a spot that is currently log jammed.

Tyrus has this great upside and the Bulls problems right now seem to be more about concentration and motivation than a lack of talent, so why not just hold on to him for a rainy day, right? Wrong. I don’t think Thomas has the right mentality to wait a couple of years for his turn and still get better as a player everyday. Very few players probably have that mentality, and being a college superstar and former #3 pick don’t make things any easier for Ty. Trade him before the deadline and get something useful back, even if it’s a first round pick.

If the Bulls are indeed playing just to make the playoffs and thus really attempting to allow this same core to continue to mature together and get better, then they must play Thomas more and Wallace less. If this is the strategy John Paxson handed me, I would still start Wallace and Smith, play Smith about the amount of minutes he’s currently getting, and play Wallace less. That way the veterans still get their respect, but the young players get the minutes they need in order to develop.

It seems to me that the problem is the Bulls are stuck right in between the two strategies. Paxson and Boylan both desperately want to make the playoffs in order to keep and earn their jobs respectively. However, I think they both believe that this team is not going to make it to the finals this year, therefore they’re not willing to trade potential future talent for 1-2 year serviceable players. If I were in either of their situations I’d probably do what they’re doing. Self-preservation, right? But as a fan this approach is maddening. Either do what’s right for today or tomorrow, not half of each. We’ve been to the first round and second round of the playoffs, I want either third round this year or finals within two years. Preparing Thomas to either be dominant two years from now or trading him for more helpful pieces this season is vital in accomplishing either of those two goals.

I know that Deng, Gordon and Duhon all would need new contracts after this season in order to keep things going. I know that being the GM is not an easy job and things are always more complicated than they seem. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that Tyrus Thomas can be an influential player in this league and the Bulls are currently wasting his potential.

17
Aug
07

Would the Lakers trade Kobe for Joakim Noah?


Luol Deng is now a British
citizen so he can play on the
2012 UK Olympic team.

Bulls news is as slow as ever. I found this article today about Luol Deng and the 2012 British basketball team. It’s a little hard to get excited for a team that will exist 5 years from now, though if you’re a basketball fan in the UK I guess you take what you can get. I love Lu and have every confidence that he’ll be an all-star very soon, but this description is a bit optimistic in terms of his potential even if you are a Bulls fan:

But the 22-year-old hopes it will be the first step on the road
to the 2012 Olympic Games, and the start of a revolution in British
basketball.
When the London Games come around, the Sudan-born player
will be 27, and on the basis of his current form, would
walk into any Olympic team in the world.
Last season he was the National Basketball Association's
Sportsman of the Year, and is poised to sign a new four-year
contract, which would put him above Premier League stars
such as Wayne Rooney and John Terry in terms of earnings.
But for £70 a day, Deng has chosen to play for Britain, a
country which, in its one previous Olympic basketball
tournament - also in London, in 1948 - lost all three games.
The burning question is - why?

Manute Bol and Luol Deng are both from
the Dinka tribe in The Sudan. Manute
taught Luol how to paly basketball.
Fortunately Deng is a bit taller than Mugsy.

Somebody needs to tell them across the pond that the NBA’s Sportsman of the Year has nothing to do with the winner’s basketball abilities. If Deng were an American it looks like he’d have a shot at the 2012 Team USA. But walk on to any team in the world? Hopefully, but it certainly doesn’t look like a given yet.

Luol Deng is to British basketball as Luol Deng is to
these two guys next to him.

Let’s talk about a Kobe to the Bulls trade since there’s nothing else to focus on and Kobe hasn’t backed off his trade demand despite multiple opportunities. Remember, Bryant has a no trade clause and has made it clear several times that Chicago is his #1 option.

Let me start off by making it clear that I don’t think this trade will ever happen. If the Lakers demand anything over Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas I don’t think Paxson would go for it. Paxson has put several years and a lot of effort into composing a team of his type of players. High character guys from winning backgrounds who won’t rock the boat. He believes in his plan and his team. He’s shown in the past two seasons that he won’t deal his players even when he has a great opportunity. I’m not saying that he should or shouldn’t trade for Kobe, just that he won’t.

If I’m running the Bulls I engage in serious trade talks with the Lakers, even if I’m going in thinking there’s a 1% chance anything is going to get done. Ben Gordon is definitely on the table because Kobe would replace everything BG7 brings to the team and more. I love Little Ben, but Kobe is Kobe. I could give up either Tyrus or Noah, but not both. The team needs one quality big man for the future, at least. I could include Ben Wallace but they wouldn’t want him. Duhon would have to be a part of the trade because he only has 1 year left on his contract and would add PG depth to a Lakers team that desperately needs it. I don’t think Nocioni could be included because his contract is brand new, but if he could be I would make him part of the deal. I’d have to include a lot of spare pieces because Kobe makes so much and his contract would have to be offset.

Basically I’d offer everything except the below players and throw in every first round pick for the next 5 years. Considering how strong the team would be and the youth it would still have, I’d have no use for the draft anyway.

Ben Wallace – The Lakers wouldn’t want him and he’d help a lot in what would be the first of several inevitable Finals runs.

Kirk Hinrich – As the Celtics will find out this season, you can’t win a championship without a quality point guard. Duhon is good but I don’t want him in charge of a championship team.

Tyrus Thomas OR Joakim Noah – Since the Bulls don’t have any superstars, exciting young players are what the Lakers would demand in return for Kobe. Tyrus is as exciting as they come and Noah was a huge college star. Both would be appealing to LA. The Bulls have to keep one in order to secure a well-rounded team 5 years from now.

Luol Deng – Because he’s still only 22 and clearly getting better by the day I wouldn’t involve him in any trade. Sure, Kobe is better than Deng probably ever will be. Nevertheless, if I’m running the Bulls, Deng is not in this trade.

Thabo Sefolosha – I would only throw Sefolosha in at the last second if he was a deal breaker. As Kobe gets older and doesn’t have enough energy to play 100% at both ends of the floor this team would need a defensive stopper like Sefolosha. Also, it’s looking like Thabo could spell Hinrich at the point, which would be important if Duhon was included in the trade. Sefolosha could also play the two and the three making him an ideal 6th man. He would bring very necessary depth to the team.

We’d be looking at a team that not even Tim Donaghy could touch. It would line up like this:

C – Ben Wallace
PF – Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah
SF – Luol Deng
SG – Kobe Bryant
PG – Kirk Hinrich

6th Man – Thabo Sefolosha
Bench – Anything left after the trade. The Bulls are one of the deepest teams in the NBA right now and a couple of quality players would be left after a trade, even with the boatload of spare change they’d have to give up.

That’s what I’d present to the Lakers organization. That’s probably similar to what Kobe is imagining when he pictures himself in a Bulls uniform. However, Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak would turn it down and I’d go into the season perfectly happy with what I have.

Paxson won’t even go that far. I’m sure of it, not mad about it, just sure of it. Kobe might imagine the Bulls giving up that package + Deng and still think he brings enough that he could make up for what the team is losing. As great as he is, that Bulls team seems too similar to his current Lakers team.

So what you see right now when you look at the Bulls roster is what you’ll see on opening night and very likely what you’ll see the day after the trade deadline. Personally, I’m happy with what I see.

30
Jul
07

Garnett to Boston makes sense but . . .


Just give Joakim Noah a couple of years in
the NBA and he’ll look pretty like this too. 

Things are still slow out there in the world of NBA news.  At least there’s a new rumor today that doesn’t have anything to do with Tim Donaghy.  Kevin Garnett might be traded to the Celtics!!!  Essentially it’s the same trade that was on the verge of happening prior to the draft but with a couple more players thrown in to replace the pick. 

The details vary based on the report but Minny would definitely be getting Ratliff’s expiring contract and Al Jefferson.  Beyond that, reports are all over the board.  The Boston Globe’s reports seem very optimistic for the Celtics.  One even has Al Jefferson not included in the deal, being replaced by a #1 pick.  Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo and Gerald Green are the other names floating around. 

Basically the deal is all of the Celtics young talent and maybe a future #1 pick or two for Kevin Garnett.  It’s a high price for the Celtics to pay.  Garnett is one of the premier players in the game and with someone to carry the scoring load he’d be even more valuable.  As sad as it will be for Minnesota fans to see a loyal, hard-working fan favorite go, this is an opportunity that Kevin McHale has to jump at. 

If McHale can get back 3-4 quality young players, an expiring contract and maybe a pick or two he will have gone a long ways (well, maybe just a ways) towards making up for all the terrible, terrible general managing he’s done in Minneapolis.  Sure, nobody wants to lose KG but McHale has put the team in such a bad spot that he could never surround him with half of what the Wolves will have if they make this trade. 

The situation is a bit more complicated for Boston.  They’d be giving up every asset they have for the future (beyond the next 2 years) and possibly any ability to rebuild if draft picks are included.  If they make this trade they are taking a one year shot at an NBA title.  The team they’d have will only be worse in ’08-’09 than they will be in ’07-’08 and they’d continue to decline from that point while other strong young teams in the East (Bulls) improve.  Because of the bleak future beyond the next season or maybe two it seems like it would be a bad idea for the Celtics to make this trade.  However, Danny Ainge already jumped on board the bad idea bus when he traded for Ray Allen and as long as he’s already stuck he may as well take KG along for the ride. 

Ainge gave up on building a team around the wealth of young talent he had when he traded the #5 pick and Delonte West for Ray Allen.  Ainge had been trying to keep veteran Paul Pierce around while slowly building a young contending team.  Pierce finally had enough of it and made his feelings known this past season.  At that point Ainge should have traded Pierce and continued with his youth movement.  Instead he decided to make the team older and picked up Allen.  

Once he made the Ray Allen trade there was no turning back.  He had to try and win it all with Pierce and Allen in the next year or two.  He probably figured because of his poor track record he’d be fired before his young team came around anyway.  Once you know you’re on the edge of losing your job why think about the future?  Therefore if Ainge gives up everything on his team that will have any significant value in 5 years he’ll have a one year window and a decent shot to win the Eastern Conference.  There’s no turning back, he needs to make this trade desperately.  The team as it currently stands won’t beat the East’s best.  The price he faces for Garnett is high – especially if they don’t work out a contract extension prior to completing a trade – but it’s Ainge’s last and only shot at success. 

 As we’ve said, McHale has to make this trade.  However, letting Garnett slip away from Timberwolves fans will go down as his biggest failure.  Garnett is the ultimate team player and the wounds this trade would leave on Wolves fans can not and should not heal quickly.  What we want to know is, if Ray Allen was available prior to the draft why didn’t McHale go after him?  Sure, his pick was two lower than Boston’s (#7 vs. #5), but he could have sweetened the deal with other pieces.  Allen and Garnett would have been a better duo than Sprewell and Garnett ever were.  Most importantly Minnesota could keep Garnett while giving him some help.  Ultimately rebuilding with what youth they have combined with what they get from Boston will probably be best for the Wolves.  Nevertheless, you have to believe that there was something that could have been done to keep KG in Sota with his faithful.

With the trade Minnesota will join Portland and Seattle as teams in the West that are extremely young but have very bright futures.  Those three teams should be able to peak right around the time the current powers in the West start to go downhill. 

 Assuming Boston is able to hold on to a halfway decent point guard they should be a very fun team to watch as well.  Allen, Pierce, Garnett at the 2, 3, 4/5 will be hard to stop.  They’ll need to jell soon however because the East is getting better.  See any other entry on this blog for the current improving state of the Bulls.  The composition of the Knicks is flawed but they’ll have enough firepower to cost some good teams regular season wins this year.  Atlanta may finally have enough pieces to make something out of their tremendous depth of talent.  The Pistons look to have one more good year in them.  We have to assume the LeBron will only be better this year than he was when he single-handedly carried the Cavs to the Finals last year.  Orlando might be better than last season, with an improved Dwight Howard and added help from Lewis.  The Wizards remain intact and if Arenas can fully recover from his injury they should regain the strong form they showed the first half of last season.  Toronto is bound to be a top tier team for the next several years along with the Bulls.  The Heat and Nets are on their way down, but other than those two the East is getting stronger.   The Celtics better win now if Ainge’s master plan has any chance.

The Kevin Garnett trade probably will happen because it makes sense and will help two teams in desperate situations.  With Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge running the show, however, you never know if the move that makes sense is the move that will happen.

16
Jul
07

The blog that’s not afraid to root for the Bulls

We’re not afraid to root for the Bulls around here and why should we be?  It’s the offseason, a time of excitement and optimism.  There are a lot of good things being said about this team by those lucky reporters who are paid to follow and watch the NBA.  So we say, “Go Bulls!” and we hope you’ll join us.

John Denton recently summed up the Orlando summer league for ESPN.  While he said the league was not particularly exciting, two young Bulls did make his all league team:

Here are the players who separated themselves from the relatively no-named
pack this year:
Power forward: Tyrus Thomas, Bulls -- Even in the low-key offseason,
Thomas was as prickly with the media as ever. But that couldn't detract
from the fact that he was hands down the best player on the floor in the
three games he played. The Bulls are convinced that his basketball skills
will eventually catch up to his off-the-charts athleticism, and he
certainly showed signs of that this week. His ability to make the
midrange jumper now made him almost impossible to guard off the dribble.
If he can hit that shot, he said, it would make it harder for coach Scott
Skiles to keep him out of the starting lineup next season. And no player
drew more oohs and aahs than Thomas this week with his jaw-dropping
blocked shots. His stuffing of Indiana's Shawne Williams a foot above the
rim will undoubtedly be one of the lasting memories of the week.
Small forward: Thabo Sefolosha, Bulls -- Sefolosha didn't always shoot
the ball particularly well, but his nifty passing and decision-making
clearly made him a favorite this week. The Switzerland native bounced
back from a stinker on Thursday with a dazzling 25-point, seven-rebound
effort. He routinely snaked his cat-quick frame into the lane and got to
the free throw line 10 times.
With Thomas, Sefolosha and JamesOn Curry all playing well this week, it
reaffirmed Bulls GM John Paxson's abilities as a top talent evaluator.
And when Noah, who worked out furiously twice a day during the camp,
mends there will be an even greater logjam of young talent on the roster.
With Kirk Hinrich's extension and Andres Nocioni's new contract kicking
in, and Ben Gordon and Luol Deng up for new deals, don't be surprised if
Paxson soon peddles some of his young talent for a player who can give
the Bulls some pop in the low post.

These comments are further support of our statement that the Bulls are possibly the deepest team in the NBA.  Paxson does know how to draft and has made the right choices in every draft he’s been in charge of.  We can see how his stockpile of young talent may make it look like he’s getting ready for a trade and we believe that earlier in the summer he was.  However, with what’s available now Paxson will probably keep quiet and let his young team grow together for the time being.  A big trade may take place during the season, but who could Paxson go after today?  Jermaine O’Neal is still available but Paxson probably isn’t biting on him with the injury issues and huge salary.  It seems that the Gasol deal has already been explored and won’t happen.  The Milicic signing may change things but don’t look for Gasol to end up on the Bulls this summer.  The only way he’ll make it here is if the Grizzlies get off to a slow start and he starts to complain again. 

NBullsA is not blindly optimistic.  We’ll call out Paxson or the Bulls when we feel they miss a good opportunity, as we did when they let Zach Randolph go to the Knicks for nothing.  However, we do take issue with bloggers and columnists who complain, complain, and complain about what the team is doing wrong without offering better options.  Too many out there were unhappy with the Noah pick because he didn’t address the need for low post scoring, yet they didn’t go on to explain what they should have done.  Many have complained about re-signing Nocioni, but what should the Bulls have done with the money?  Who was there to get who would help the team more than Noce?

Oh well, on to more good news.  Marty Burns recently referenced the Bulls offseason success in his mailbag:

The Magic and Grizzlies seem to be the big winners so far in free agency. What
other teams have been the biggest winners?
-- J. Evey, Valparaiso, Ind.
It's still too early to tell, since not all the moves have been made yet.
But the Bulls could turn out be one surprise winner. And not just because
they managed to re-sign Andres Nocioni to a very reasonable five-year,
$38 million deal. GM John Paxson has to love the Milicic signing. For one,
it takes the 7-foot prospect off a fellow Eastern team. More important, it
leaves the door open just a crack that Chicago might be able to revisit
those talks for Gasol. With Milicic on board, Memphis now has a decent big
man to replace Gasol in the event the Grizzlies were to decide to move him
later.

 Again, we don’t think the Gasol thing is happening this summer, (though we wouldn’t mind if it did for the right price) but the significant item that Burns points out is that Nocioni’s contract is very reasonable.  It allows the Bulls flexibility to extend the contracts of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon and it makes him even more appealing should they decide they do want to trade him.  Once more Nocioni comes across as likeable to Bulls fans because he made this reasonable deal possible while more money sat on his table from Memphis.  He only needed to demand a no-trade clause to reach Mark Buehrle status (OK, he’d need a little more talent too). 

The interesting thing to watch in the coming months will be how Paxson approaches possible extensions for Gordon and Deng.  He’s made it clear that Deng is untouchable.  That would seem to imply that if he does offer extensions to both players Deng’s will be more lucrative than touchable by defult Gordon’s.  He’s claimed that all the offseason moves so far do not limit him from working out fair extensions for Deng and Gordon under the luxury tax, so we can infer that he’d like to extend them both.  However, what if he gives Deng an extension but not Gordon so as to keep little Ben cheaper and thus more appealing to potential trade partners?  It doesn’t seem like something Paxson would do but extending him won’t help any trades get done.  What if he offers extensions to both but Gordon’s is significantly lower than Deng’s?  How will BG7 react?  Watching the potential soap opera play out will be interesting.  However, with the characters and personalities that Ben Gordon and Luol Deng have it’s unlikely much will be public or messy. 

13
Jul
07

Some of last year’s doormats much improved for ’07-08

The offseason is a time for limitless optimism when looking at your favorite team, or any team for that matter. For most teams the 2007-2008 season won’t go as well as they’re picturing now. For a few teams it will go even better than they’re imagining. We can’t say for certain what will happen but here are 4 teams we expect to improve significantly compared to last season.

Should be better in ’07-’08:

Charlotte Bobcats



The Cats should be much better this season, but it probably won’t be due to
Morrison’s play. He’s likely to see more time on the bench this season.


When the Cats selected Bandan Wright it immediately looked like Michael Jordan placed his UNC affinity above the good of his team. However, a short time later when news came out that Wright was being traded for Jason Richardson things started to look better. Richardson does come with some question marks. Will Richardson get hurt again? Will he play the way he’s played for most of his career and like he did at the end of last year? Or, will we see the same underwhelming player the Warriors saw for the first 3/4 of last season? Sure, it was a risky trade but it’s a risk Charlotte needed to make.

They’ve amassed some exciting young talent in Okafor, Felton and Wallace who has turned out to be an amazing pickup from their expansion draft. Sean May is still a question mark due to his frequent injuries but he could turn out to be very good as well. The problem facing the cats going into this draft is that all of their core players were 25 and under. They needed a veteran to stabilize the team and step up in crunch time. They found one in Richardson. The result looks to be a very well-balanced team. They have a great true point guard in Ray Felton, a Michael Jordanesque player in Richardson (don’t get pissed off, all we’re saying is their STYLES of play are similar), an incredibly athletic slasher in Wallace and a dominant defensive player and post presence in Okafor. If May can stay healthy and add some low post scoring this could be a very, very good team in a year or two.

Portland Trail Blazers


Brandon Roy should have a much easier time
this season with more help around him.

A lot still has to shake out before we know what the ’07-’08 Blazers team will look like. They currently have about 20 players on their roster and a ton of untested rookies whose performance will be hard to project. However, they do have a few core players who will give them a similarly balanced attack to the Bobcats.

Greg Oden had some trouble in summer league but everyone seems to agree that he will still be a great, great player in the NBA. His limited offensive game as of now shouldn’t hurt the team much because fellow post player LaMarcus Aldridge has shown some great offensive talent in summer league to complement his strong rookie season. Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is a solid all-around player and traditional two guard. All this team needs to become a perennial powerhouse in the next couple of years is a very solid point guard. Many rumors circulated just prior to the draft that the Blazers were shopping Jarrett Jack hard, which raises questions about the guard that add to his so far inconsistent play. However, Oden, Aldridge and Roy combined with the wealth of young talent on the Portland roster should be enough for them to compete right away while looking for an improvement at the point.

Memphis Grizzlies



Rudy Gay will be one piece in a well-balanced attack for Memphis this season.

There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Grizz fan, especially compare to what you had to be excited about 3 months ago after you didn’t win Oden or Durant.

It looks like Memphis isn’t letting Pau Gasol go anywhere. They picked up Milicic who as we all know still has a lot to prove. However, Darko only just turned 22. New Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni is looking to run an up-tempo offense that should cater to Darko’s skills. He’ll work the high post while Gasol works the low post. They should form an intimidating big man combo and be hard for smaller teams in the league to stop.

Memphis also has sweet shooting 2 guard Mike Miller in the fold, plus #4 overall pick Mike Conley. Conley is looking strong in summer league and likely will get the starting job as a rookie. Finally, add SF Rudy Gay to the mix, coming off a solid if unspectacular rookie season, and the Grizzlies have a very solid starting lineup. The odd man out would seem to be Kyle Lowry, who is also doing very well in summer league. However, the Grizzlies can dangle Lowry as trade bait in order to pick up a scoring spark off the bench from a team that needs a young point guard (Portland?). The bottom line is Memphis should be better right away and have a lot to look forward to years down the line.

Chicago Bulls – You had to know this was coming


Viktor should see more playing time this season and
the Bulls will be better. We’ll see if Khryapa gets credit
for the improvement or if it happens in spit of him.

While the Bulls were anything but a doormat last season, they look like they’ll be significantly better this year. We’re projecting 55+ wins for Chicago in ’07-’08.

The biggest difference this coming year should be the continued development of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Both Deng and Gordon showed significant progress to their games last season. Both are still very young, especially Deng. Look for Gordon to again average in the 20’s with Deng reaching that level as well. Hinrinch will continue his stellar point guard play and should put up similar numbers to his last two seasons.

Tyrus Thomas has been tearing up the Orlando summer league. He’s shown a hugely improved mid-range jumper he developed in the offseason (see below post for details on Tyrus offseason development). Pair his new found shooting ability with his incredible athleticism and he should be in intimidating offensive and defensive force in the league this year.

The Bulls also should have possibly the best bench in the NBA this year. They’ll feature either Andres Nocioni or Tyrus Thomas depending who starts at the 4. Either one should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Thabo Sefolosha should build on his very solid rookie season while seeing more minutes this year. Joakim Noah is a perfect bench player at this point in his career. While he won’t bring much scoring he will bring a ton of energy and great defense. Chris Duhon, if he’s still on the team the start of the season, is an incredible point guard for a backup. Viktor Khryapa should see more minutes this year with the departure of several former Bulls power forwards and should display the form that made him a starter a couple of years ago in Portland. Seriously, what other team will feature a bench with 5 players who would be a starter on at least one team in the NBA?

Chicago is still lacking that dominant low post scorer that so many teams covet. However, in addition to their deep bench they will also feature one of the league’s premiere defenses. This D, which will be particularly strong in the key – should make up for their relative lack of consistent low post scoring. Ben Wallace, super-blocker Tyrus Thomas, Jaokim Noah and Andres Nocioni will be one of the better defensive rotations at the 4 & 5 positions in recent memory. Last season Luol Deng took one of his weaknesses, his defense, and made it one of his strengths. His long arms and increased defensive awareness have made his a similar defender to Tayshaun Prince. Hinrich was all-defensive second team and will be that or first team this year. Thabo Sefolosh quickly earned a reputation as a “stopper” for subduing Kobe in the regular season and Dwayne Wade in the playoffs. Finally, Duhon is also a superb defender on smaller guards. The Bulls scoring may be inconsistent at times, but their defense, effort and energy never is.

Barring any unforeseen major changes the Bulls will be one of the top 5 teams in the league this year.




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