Tag: Zach Lavine

Can The Bulls Win A Lavine Trade?

lavine_closer_look_thumb(credit NBC Sports Chicago)

Ian Begley of SNY sports reported earlier that the Knicks and Nets have looked into the idea of trading for Zach Lavine if he were to become available. And while this may never happen, the idea of trading Lavine is an interesting one. It may or may not be the best direction for the Bulls, but as far as optics it is a likely no win situation. The Bulls 3 years ago were in a somewhat similar situation with Jimmy Butler.

On June 22, 2017 the Bulls traded 3 time All Star Jimmy Butler and their 2017 16th overall pick to the Timberwolves for their 2017 7th overall pick, Kris Dunn, and Zach Lavine. The value of Butler allowed the Bulls to move up 9 spots in 2017 draft while getting two former lottery picks Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine. At the time Jimmy Butler had two years remaining on his contract.

Zach Lavine, who so far has no All-Star appearances, also has 2 years left on his contract. Lavine’s contract is worth 18% of the current projected salary cap, Butler’s at the time was worth 19% of the salary cap. Both contracts were respectively on “bargain deals”, Butler more so than Lavine. Lavine a borderline All-Star is on a nice deal as well though. But clearly Butler is the better player, and would demand more in return. While there are two different front offices negotiating these deals in different markets, you can at least get an idea of what a player on Butler’s level will get you. And understand Lavine will likely get you less.

The new rumor of the Knicks and Nets brings an interesting perspective. The two respective teams are in two totally different situations, as one is rebuilding and the other when healthy is a top playoff team in their conference. The two teams give you an interesting perspective on what those two types of teams would be willing, and could offer.

hi-res-624f0152e3c51169223338d2db3a6ad9_crop_north(credit Bleacher Report)

The Knicks are a rebuilding team. Draft pick wise, they have all their picks like most rebuilding teams do. And have either high lottery pick type players like RJ Barrett, or players like Mitchell Robinson who have exceeded their draft position. There are also players like Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr who are former lottery picks still trying to find their way. A team like the Knicks is similar to a team like the Timberwolves who traded for Butler. A young team looking to find a more established player to put around their young core. Difference is though Lavine isn’t as good. Realistically players like Barrett and Robinson would be off limits. A rebuilding team is going to value their ymore controlled talented young players versus trading for a player like Lavine who can leave in 2 years and arguably wouldn’t be worth their value. It would likely include expiring contracts, Knox/Smith type talent, and draft picks. Maybe like the Butler trade, you can move up in 2020 draft? Based on current lottery odds that wouldn’t be much though with the Knicks but something to keep in mind if that opportunity were to better itself.

The Nets are a good example of a contending team. It goes without saying, but their better players are off limits. You know, the Durants and the Irvings. Contending teams will look to trade rotational level talent with upside. Caris LeVert? Spencer Dinwiddie? Jarret Allen? And most don’t have draft picks with high potential. Ideally turning rotational players into a more dynamic talent would be the ideal scenario for a contending team that lacks draft compensation.

What would a potential trade between both teams look like?

Chicago Trades: Zach Lavine,

Brooklyn Trades: Caris LeVert, Jarret Allen


Chicago Trades: Zach Lavine,

New York Knicks Trade: Bobby Portis(salary filler), Dennis Smith Jr, Kevin Knox, future lottery protected 1st

hi-res-f46c98b963268475a8fee9f3645ffb4b_crop_north(credit Bleacher Report)

I think either trade from an optics point of view, would not sell(though I like the Nets offer a lot if they could do that). And I don’t see a trade that would end up much different with another team than these in terms of value. The biggest issue is the Bulls are trading arguably their best asset to a team that won’t value Lavine the same way. And while perhaps there is one GM out there that does, the likely hood of that is slim. And maybe the optics shouldn’t matter, but would it be a trade that would turn the pressure up on the new Chicago Bulls front office right away. At least from the fans perspective. Especially if they kept a certain coach around over Lavine. Clearly the results moving forward would be all that would matter but until then a lot of fans will be frustratingly waiting. But I guess what’s new?


Which Teams Have the Cap Flexibility to Make Lavine a Serious Offer?

Chicago Bulls guard Zach Lavine will become a free agent July 1st, 2018. The Bulls can make Zach Lavine a restricted free agent, which is all but expected by offering him the qualifying offer by June 29, 2018. Restricted free agent basically means if Zach signs another contract with another team, the Chicago Bulls will have two days to match that contract and retain him. The Bulls are expected to resign Lavine, but John Paxson has also made it clear “the market dictates a lot on how things go”. Translation the Bulls will likely see what others are offering, and make an offer based around his market.  The 2018 market will be rather dry, as many teams will be over the salary cap. To offer Zach Lavine a max contract, teams will need to have about 25 million in cap space. Let’s take a look at all 29 teams and see if they have the cap space to make a significant offer.

(Teams are in alphabetical order)

1) Atlanta Hawks

Hawks 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: About 25 million

Max Space: About 40 million

Atlanta will be one of the few teams with the ability to open max space for Lavine this summer, but I’m not sure how much it makes sense for Atlanta to pursue Lavine at this point in their rebuild. If they like Lavine the option is there to make a significant offer for Lavine, but I would guess this is not a route they want to go at the moment.


2) Boston Celtics

Celtics 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -29 million

Max Space: about -6 million

Boston is a team that will be over the cap and likely wouldn’t be interested in Lavine anyway. 

3) Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about 11 million

Max Space: about 16 million 

Brooklyn can open cap space this off-season, but at this point can only open up to about 16 million. They could however stretch someone like Mozgov or Carroll and clear about 10 million in space, and that would be enough to offer up to Lavine’s max. The Nets a team depending on how they want to go about their rebuild is another team who has the flexibility to make Lavine an offer.  

4) Charlotte Hornets

2018 Hornets Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -22 million

Max Space: about -17 million 

Charlotte won’t have cap space this off-season. Unlikely to have any interest in Lavine.

5) Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavaliers 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -40 million

Max Space: about -4 million

Cleveland a team that will be over the cap, with or without LeBron. Cleveland unlikely to be interested in Lavine.

6) Dallas Mavericks

Dallas 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about 26 million

Max Space: about 35 million

Dallas is a team that has cap flexibility this off-season. Cuban has said he wants to win next season, and besides last off-season has always tried to make big splashes in free agency. I assume Dallas will be a busy team this off-season, and I could possibly see them showing interest in offering Lavine a contract. 

7) Denver Nuggets

Nuggets 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -17 million

Max Cap Space: about 12 million

Denver has no need for Lavine, along little cap flexibility. And if Jokic and Barton get extensions, a team that will have luxury tax issues. Denver won’t have interest in Lavine. 

8) Detroit Pistons

Pistons 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -20 million

Max Cap Space:  about -14 million

Detroit a team that will be over the cap. Little flexibility here.

9) Golden State Warriors

Warriors 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -32 million

Max Cap Space: about -6 million

Warriors clearly won’t have serious interest in Lavine.

10) Houston Rockets

Rockets 2018 Off-Season Cap Sheet

Projected Cap Space: about -36 million

Max Space: about 17 million

Houston can open up space but it’s unlikely. It would require them renouncing their rights to Chris Paul and players like Capela, which they would then lose their bird rights. Also no need for Lavine. Not a team that will be interested. 

11) Indiana Pacers

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about 38 million

Max Cap Space: about 55 million 

Indiana a rare team that can open up a ton of cap space this off-season. Luckily for the Bulls they have Oladipo which makes Lavine somewhat unnecessary. But Indiana is a team looking to stay competitive. They barely have any salary commitments beyond next season. A team that could look to use space now because of their flexibility moving forward. Which makes them offering Lavine a contract,a possibility. But a team I see being more interested in players like Aaron Gordon and Jabari Parker. 

12) Los Angeles Clippers

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about 23 million (Jordan opting out is necessary for this)

Max Cap Space: about 40 million 

The Clippers are an interesting situation. The ability to have space is there, but so much will rely on DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers’ player options. Mainly Jordan’s option. If he opts in the space will no longer be there. But also if opts in so he can be traded(similar to Chris Paul last off-season), then Clippers are likely taking back additional salary. Only way for space to be there is if Jordan opts out. Until those situations are figured out, Lavine isn’t really an option here. But if those players opt out, then the Clippers could be a team that could show interest in Lavine. The flexibility is there but it’s out of the Clippers’ control.

13) Los Angeles Lakers 

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about 47-60 million

Max Cap Space: about 60 million

The Lakers will have the most cap flexibility this summer. It is known their targets are LeBron and Paul George. Magic Johnson has said if Lakers do miss on top targets this 2018 off-season, they will preserve space for 2019. Not sure who else they consider a top target, but if the Lakers want to offer Lavine a contract they easily could. At this point it just depends on how high Magic Johnson value’s Lavine. If Magic believes in Lavine, this is a team that could make things interesting for the Bulls and offer him up to his max easily.

14) Memphis Grizzlies 

Cap Sheet coming soon….

Projected Cap Space: about -13 million

Max Cap Space: about -2 million

Memphis has little cap flexibility. A team that will likely not be a factor in Lavine. 

15) Miami Heat 

Cap Sheet coming soon,

Projected Cap Space: about -19 million

Max Cap Space: about -18 million

Miami has no cap flexibility and close to being in the tax. Unlikely. 

16) Milwaukee Bucks

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about -20 million

Max Cap Space: about 2 million

Milwaukee has little cap flexibility, unlikely. 

17) Minnesota Timberwolves

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about -20 million

Max Cap Space: about -12 million

Minnesota will have no cap flexibility, unlikely..

18) New Orleans Pelicans

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about -27 million

Max Cap Space: about 3 million

New Orleans will have little cap flexibility, unlikely.

19) New York Knicks

Cap Sheet coming soon….

Projected Cap Space: about -3 million

Max Cap Space: about 31 million

New York a team that could have about 31 million in space, but that heavily relies on Enes Kanter declining his player option worth 18 million. I think that is unlikely, however even if he does with Hardway not sure where Lavine fits. 

20) Oklahoma City Thunder

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about -18 million 

Max Space: about 9 million

The Thunder could have cap space, but what it would take for that to happen is unlikely. Which is Melo opting out and the Thunder not retaining George. Losing George is likely but not Melo leaving. At this point, the Thunder will not have space to offer Lavine a contract. 

21) Orlando Magic

Cap Sheet coming soon..

Projected Cap Space: about 500,000

Max Space: about 20 million

The Magic can have cap flexibility if they decide not to bring Aaron Gordon back, which could happen. I’m not sure they would be interested in Lavine at that point, but the flexibility to make an offer would be there. 

22) Philadelphia 76ers

Cap Sheet coming soon..

Max Space: about 30 million 

Philadelphia can technically open max space for Lavine this off-season. It requires them renouncing their rights to JJ Reddick mainly, which would clear his 27.6 million cap hold. Philadelphia wouldn’t likely do that until necessary, but Philadelphia does have flexibility this off-season to create max space. 

23) Phoenix Suns

Cap Sheet Coming Soon..

Projected Cap Space: about 19 million

Max Space: about 28 million

Phoenix has cap flexibility moving forward, but with Devin Booker it is unclear if they would be interested in Lavine. If they are interested they can make a significant offer, but I think for now there is no interest. 

24) Portland Trail Blazers

Cap Sheet coming soon…

Projected Cap Space: about -31 million

Max Space: about -13 million

Portland is way over the cap, unlikely. 

25) Sacramento Kings

Cap Sheet coming soon..

Projected Cap Space: about 20 million

Max Space: about 32 million

Sacramento a team with cap flexibility this summer. A team that could show interest in Lavine depending on their interest in him. I think one of the few teams Chicago could have to worry about. 

26) San Antonio Spurs

Cap Sheet Coming Soon

Projected Cap Space: about 250,000

Max Space: about 18 million

San Antonio can have significant cap space, but it requires Danny Green and Rudy Gay opting out of their player options. I would assume for now that won’t happen, maybe Gay, but if it did then San Antonio could be an option. I would say unlikely at this point though.

27) Toronto Raptors

Cap Sheet coming soon..

Projected Cap Space: about -26 million

Max Space: about -26 million

Toronto will be way over the cap, unlikely. 

28) Utah Jazz

Cap Sheet coming soon 

Projected Cap Space: about 6 million

Max Space: about 22 million

Utah will have cap flexibility this summer. It mainly depends on how they want to handle Dante Exum’s restricted free agency, and his 15 million dollar cap hold. Same with Favors and his 18 million dollar cap hold. But point being Utah can open space for Lavine if they wanted. With Mitchell not sure where he fits though. I say unlikely. 

29) Washington Wizards

Cap Sheet Coming Soon

Projected Cap Space: about -27 million

Max Space: about -17 million

Washington is way over the cap, unlikely. 













Bulls Are Not Tanking, They Are Developing

The Chicago Bulls aren’t very good this season, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Bulls’ 2017 off-season was an off-season of a team who is rebuilding, going in a completely new direction. The Bulls as of the All-Star Break were 20-36 and went public with the fact they will sit veteran starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, and play younger players like Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne. Many would call this a “tank” move, which you could argue it is. It is a move decreasing the Bulls chances of winning, which is pretty much what tanking is. Tanking values loses over wins, with the results being a better draft pick and a higher percentage of winning the draft lottery. But what the Bulls have demonstrated since the All-Star break is they are not a team that is tanking, but a team focused on development.

The Bulls have been 2-6 since the All-Star break, both wins coming over teams with worse records in Dallas and Memphis. Not great, but a good record for a tank team. But those two wins were against teams they needed to lose too. I mean if the Bulls are tanking of course. Those two games could have helped the Bulls in draft positioning. The way the Bulls finished those games suggest they aren’t necessarily tanking, but focusing on player development. The Bulls have finished not only those two games, but most of these last 8 games with their best available players. A team that is tanking would likely finish the game with their bench, a line up that would decrease their chances of winning in the most important quarter. The Bulls have chose to play Dunn, Nwaba, Lavine, Markkanen, and Portis to close games. That’s arguably the Bulls best lineup, why would they finish games with those players if they were tanking? It’s because they aren’t tanking.


The front office made it clear to Hoiberg not to play Lopez or Holiday, Hoiberg listened. If the front office wanted Hoiberg to lose games, it would only makes sense they mandate the bench to finish games. But seeing how the Bulls have finished games with their best lineup, it is clear the Bulls aren’t necessarily tanking. The core of Dunn, Lavine, Markkanen must develop chemistry with another. The only way that can happen is if they play. The Bulls made that obvious when they sat other starters Lopez and Holiday, but chose to keep those 3 instead. They want those 3 to get as many minutes as possible with each other the rest of the season. They never played a game together until January 13th. The trio didn’t even train together in training camp. At this point, they have only played 10 games with each other. They are being forced to learn each other on the fly, which is not easy. This to me makes sense as to why the Bulls are wanting these 3 to finish games. They do need as much time as possible to get better playing with each other and finishing games with each other as well. The Bulls still really don’t know how their core trio works together, let alone with the other players. The other young guys are simply playing to show their value to the team moving forward. To see who can work with their current core, who can’t.

I understand this approach, but I also understand the consequences. Playing yourself out of a better chance at a higher pick seems counter productive. The higher the pick, the better chance you have at drafting the players you really value in the draft. You could argue the Bulls could still finish games with their bench; while Lavine, Dunn, and Markkanen would still see around 25 minutes a game. Which is true. But there is also the argument that learning how to close games, and going through the growing pains of that this season could really benefit them moving forward. Experience makes you better, experience is what helps slow the game down. You don’t get experience on the bench or in the off season. The Bulls are valuing the minutes those 3 get together over the possibility of losing the game, and gaining better draft position.

I tend to agree with this way of thinking. The Bulls do have 3 young players who do have potential to be 3 good players. Arguably they can be great as well. It would be different if that were not the case. The Bulls seem to believe they can afford to drop down a few spots in the draft because of this. The Bulls also recognize how bad the bottom 5 really is this season. The Bulls could arguably finish these game with their bench players and still end up with better record than those teams. But a part of me still wants the Bulls to try and give themselves the best chance to lose games, but I don’t mind the approach the Bulls are taking as well. Creating good habits now, over creating a losing culture has it’s benefits. I guess the question is, what do you value more. Do you value player development or do you value draft positioning more? The Bulls seemingly for now value development. Focusing on player development could help you in both development and draft positioning. Just focusing on draft position could delay player development, Bulls at the moment aren’t risking that.







Chicago Bulls Game #59 Review

Let’s grade and breakdown how each player did Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kris Dunn (D+)

Dunn struggled offensively in this one. 2nd game since the break and 2nd time Dunn has struggled. Dunn missed all his shots in the paint, 0-5. Was 1-4 from 3 but did make all 3 mid-range shots. Dunn had 4 turnovers as well, just struggled creating opportunities for others with only 2 assists. Dunn also had 5 fouls, had trouble with Jeff Teague last night.

Zach Lavine (B-)

Lavine had two different halves. In the first half you saw Zach not only score the basketball but create for others. Had 15 points and 5 assists. Shot 60% from the field. In the 2nd half had 6 points with only 2 assists. Forced shots more and didn’t shoot efficiently. Zach continues to show his scoring potential but must continue to show he can make his teammates better. He gets in the paint with his quickness, scored 14 of his 21 points in the paint. Must look for his teammates more often, make game easier for Lauri.

David Nwaba (B)

Nwaba had another solid all-around game. Like Lavine, was more effective in the 1st half. But Nwaba played with an energy that was contagious. Nwaba scored 8 of his 15 points on the break. Nwaba led the team in rebounds with 9. Nwaba continues to show his offensive improvement this season, making it harder and harder not to bring him back next season.

Lauri Markkanen (F)

Lauri continues to struggle, and really has looked bad the last two games. Lauri only had 3 points on 1 of 8 shooting, 0 of 2 from 3. Lauri is missing short on a lot of his shots and has overall looked fatigued the past two games. Still arguably not getting enough shots, but clearly struggling right now. This was one of the worst games we have seen all season from Markkanen.

Crisitiano Felicio (C)

Felicio was able to stay out of foul trouble in his 2nd start. Felicio really looked good in the pick n roll with Lavine. Felicio scored 8 of his 11 points in the pick n roll with Felicio. That was encouraging to see. The biggest difference you see in Felicio from Lopez is his athleticism. He can run the floor on both ends, in transition and getting back on defense. His pick n roll defense tonight could have been better though.

Denzel Valentine (C+)

Valentine had an efficient offensive game. Didn’t hurt you, had 4 assists. Shot the ball well 5 of 9. But really struggled defensively guarding his man. Lacked height to guard bigger SFs. Had 2nd worse defensive rating on team tonight with 125.5. Valentine’s weakness showed tonight, hard to find a position for him. Plays solid team offense but what position can he guard effectively?

Bobby Portis (B-)

Hard to follow a big game like Bobby had last game. He scored 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting. Played with confidence offensively and was effective. Just wasn’t much of a factor defensively. Bobby’s confidence offensively is clearly growing and is comfortable in his role off the bench.

Cameron Payne (C)

Payne scored 11 points, 4 in garbage minutes. Payne shows talent but shows low shot IQ and doesn’t see the floor well. A few times misses open man, one bad one with Portis wide open underneath basket last night.  Defensively struggled as well. Needs to have better floor game if he wants to get consistent minutes in the future.

Noah Vonleh (B)

Vonleh looked good tonight. He shot the ball well 3 of 4 from the field, 2 of 3 from 3. Hustled out there and ended up with 6 rebounds. This was an encouraging game for Vonleh and should get him more minutes moving forward. He looked real comfortable out there and played with confidence.

Jerian Grant (INC)

Barely played. Garbage minutes. Took bad shot but irrelevant.

Omer Asik, Justin Holiday, Antonio Blakeney, Ryan Arcidiacono were not active.

Overall: Bulls again played tough but fell apart in 4th. Really struggled finding ways to get easy buckets late. Bulls had trouble with Jeff Teague all night. Crawford shot the ball well for Minnesota, and Taj Gibson had a good game. The Bulls losing isn’t really the issue, but the struggles of Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen are. But encouraging was David Nwaba and Noah Vonleh in this one. The Bulls continue to focus on player development while helping their draft stock.

Valentine Must Find Confidence With 2nd Unit

Denzel Valentine has had an up and down season. It has been two different Valentines this season. Starting Valentine, and then off the bench Valentine. On November 17th Hoiberg announced Valentine as a full-time starter until Zach Lavine returned. Hoiberg had lost confidence in Zipser and allowed Valentine an opportunity to start. Before being named full-time starter; Valentine was averaging 10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He shot 38% from the field and 39% from 3. He did this in 12 games, starting 1, while playing 26.4 minutes a game. Valentine would go ahead and start the next 30 games, and you started to see Valentine’s confidence grow. In those 30 games Valentine averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. But the biggest improvement was the FG%. Valentine went from 38% to 44% and shot over 40% from 3. And in those last 19 games he started in, Valentine shot even better. Valentine shot 48% from the field during that stretch, while the Bulls went 12-7 during that stretch. That was the best basketball we saw from Denzel Valentine since becoming a pro. It was also the best basketball we have seen from the Bulls all season, and Denzel was a factor in that run. Denzel was shooting with confidence and seemed to find his rhythm with the team. But things changed once Zach Lavine became healthy.


On January 13th Zach Lavine made his return, which demoted Denzel Valentine back to the bench but mainly hurt his confidence. Denzel’s stats since the benching isn’t much different but two things stand out. He is shooting below 40% from the field again, shooting 39% from the field in the past 15 games. But more alarming is he shot 28% from 3, while still shooting 4.7 3’s a game. Valentine’s shot has not only abandoned him, but his shot IQ has gone down as well. He has taken some questionable shots the past 15 games and isn’t shooting them well. Everybody goes through slumps, I don’t want to make a big deal out of the bad stretch. The fact Valentine hasn’t looked the same the minute Lavine started playing to me isn’t just coincidence. But I don’t blame Valentine for losing his confidence and rhythm.




The Bulls must help Valentine find that confidence. Valentine is a good shooter. And is better than 28%. But he doesn’t seem the same on the 2nd unit. Part of the reason is talent around him. Valentine’s lack of athleticism limits him offensively. He is better when baskets are assisted for him. 59% of Valentine’s made field goals this year come from an assist. Compared to Lavine, where 70% of his made field goals are unassisted. Valentine struggles when the ball in his hands more. Where he is put in situations to create. On the first unit the ball isn’t in his hands as much, while on the 2nd unit the offense is ran through him more. And I do think Valentine is a good team player who sees the floor well. But he can’t beat his man off the dribble enough and create passing lanes to use his vision or score effectively. But the 2nd unit is where Valentine belongs. He shouldn’t start over Lavine at shooting guard, and in the big picture probably won’t be able to hold is own against good NBA starting small forwards. Valentine coming off the bench playing good team basketball, while shooting near 40% from 3 can be helpful moving forward though and is something he is more than capable of doing. Valentine is on a cheap rookie contract, if the Bulls can develop him into that solid 7th/8th guy off the bench it will be a big plus moving forward the next two seasons.


The Bulls announced David Nwaba will start over Justin Holiday, which I love. The Bulls are valuing player development the last 25 games. At this point why should Holiday see more playing time than Denzel Valentine as well? The Bulls invested a first-round pick in Valentine. The Bulls only invested 9 million for 2 years in Holiday. If the goal for the next 25 games is player development, then Valentine should see more minutes than Holiday as well. At least show Valentine they are invested in developing him moving forward. The Bulls are trying to find who can work around the core of Markkanen, Dunn, and Lavine. Valentine is a player capable of making 38%-40% of his 3s, he plays good team basketball, he attacks the boards, and has nice pass vision. The Bulls need to start helping Valentine develop into that role player they could use the next 2 seasons. And possibly, more.



The Two Main Goals for the 2nd Half


With the 2nd half of the season beginning Thursday, the Bulls find themselves 9.5 games back of the playoffs with a record of 20-37. The Bulls to little surprise, have a slim chance to make the playoffs at this point. But the Bulls still have a lot to play for the last 25 games. What they do these next 25 games will be a factor in where they will draft. The goals for the last few months should clearly be two things, player development and draft positioning.


The rotation moving forward should be focused more on player developing and draft positioning over winning. By this, I mean the Bulls need to value playing younger players over veteran players with little upside. Let’s cover the starting lineup. Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez will likely be the starting lineup moving forward, if healthy of course. This line up is fine if the minute distribution is divided properly. There are two players in that lineup whose minutes should be cut dramatically. I’m speaking of Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez.  Lopez the first half of the season averaged 28 minutes a game. That needs to be cut to no more than 20 minutes a game, then Felicio and Vonleh should be given more minutes. At this point we know exactly who Lopez is, and will be 30 by the end of the season. If the focus is player developing and draft positioning, playing Lopez more could hurt those two things. Felicio was given 32 million guaranteed over 4 seasons this past off season but has only played in 31 out of 57 games. Also, in those 31 games has only played 12.8 minutes a game and isn’t even top 10 in total minutes played this season for the Bulls. He hasn’t played well, but at this point moving forward Felicio should be given 18-20 minutes a game. Giving the 25-year-old center every opportunity to succeed with the current goals makes sense. Vonleh also only 22 years old and former lottery pick should be given some minutes as well. 10-12 minutes a game also makes sense if again you are focusing on player developing and draft positioning.




Justin Holiday as well should see a dramatic minute cut. Holiday is currently playing 34 minutes a game. Which I could argue never made sense but going into the 2nd half makes even less sense. Again at this point we know who the soon to be 29 year old Holiday is, and like Lopez their future’s with the team moving forward aren’t high when their contracts end. Players like David Nwaba and Denzel Valentine need to be given more opportunity to play in the 2nd half.  David Nwaba is heading into possible restricted free agency this off season. Nwaba has shown he can make your team defense better, but has shown he has work to do offensively. Giving him more minutes the last 25 games again just makes sense in the current state the Bulls are in. The Bulls also invested a 2016 first round pick in Denzel Valentine. Having Holiday playing more minutes than Valentine is just counter productive.


Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and Lauri Markkanen should be locks in most starting lineups. Those 3 will likely be the core of next year’s team. Giving them as much opportunity to grow together only makes sense. I wouldn’t mind if they give those players a few rest games moving forward, especially if it is clearly helping draft position. But with 25 games remaining, those 3 should play in at least 20 of them.


As for the bench, there are some more changes that should be made there as well. Besides allowing Vonleh to play about 12 minutes a game, Cameron Payne should be given more playing time as well. I think I speak for most Bulls fans as I have seen enough of Jerian Grant this season. Grant has had plenty of opportunity to shine and has mostly been a disappointment. He hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been average either. I am mainly disappointed in the lack of development. Look at how much Kris Dunn developed in one off season, now look at Grant. The Bulls traded for Cameron Payne last deadline, and he hasn’t had much time to play due to injury. The 2nd half of the season is a perfect showcase for Cameron Payne and for the Bulls to see what they have in their young point guard. Another player I like to see more is Antonio Blakeney. I admittedly don’t know where he is in terms of his 45-day limit on the NBA team, but I do know once the GLeague season ends that limit no longer exist and Blakeney can be on the team the rest of the season. That date is March 24th, which at that point the Bulls should give the young guard some playing time while decreasing Holiday’s minutes more.


Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers


The Bulls are in position to develop their young players, while helping their chances at a better pick in this upcoming draft. If the Bulls do all this and still win, you can’t be mad. If anything could be a great thing because that means their younger talent played well. But if the Bulls continue to play their veterans all to squeak out a few more wins while worsening their draft position, it would be a mistake in my opinion. This could be the best draft pick the Bulls see in a while, while playing the younger players to help them get that great pick. Hopefully they don’t screw it up.