Chicago Bulls Rumors

Extension Candidate: Jimmy Butler

August 25 at 10:34am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Bulls scored a major coup when they drafted Jimmy Butler 30th overall in 2011. A team that compiled the best record in the league in the previous season, as the Bulls did, isn’t supposed to be able to find a starting-caliber player in the draft. That’s exactly what Chicago has, and then some, in Butler, who became a full-time starter just last season but had already established himself as a future building block the year before, when he started 20 regular season games and all 12 playoff games for an ailing Luol Deng. Now the task for GM Gar Forman and his staff is to keep that building block in place and ensure the embodiment of that draft-night success from three years ago doesn’t turn into either an overpaid burden for Chicago or, perhaps even worse, a former Bull.

A report from last autumn indicated that the Bulls were higher on retaining Butler for the long term than they were on Deng, and that was born out when the team traded Deng to the Cavs at midseason. Chicago isn’t alone in its affection for the 24-year-old Butler, as there was reportedly wide belief that the Wolves would ask for Butler as part of Kevin Love trade talks with the Bulls. Love appears safely on his way to the Cavs, but there’s little doubt that other teams would relish the chance to snatch Butler away.

Butler endured a tough shooting season on a Bulls team that struggled mightily to score once Derrick Rose went down with yet another injury. The subtraction of Deng didn’t help matters, either, allowing perimeter defenses to focus more keenly on stopping Butler, Chicago’s remaining wing threat. Butler’s three-point shooting percentage dropped from 38.1% in 2012/13 to 28.3% last year, even as he nearly tripled his number of attempted treys per contest. His shooting percentage from the floor as a whole dropped from 46.7% to 39.7%, reflective of his greater focus on three-pointers.

The Bulls asked Butler to do much more this past season than he’d ever done in the league, and his efficiency dropped as a result, with his PER sinking from 15.2 in his second season to 13.5 in year three. Still, it would have been difficult for just about any player to have been effective offensively on last year’s Bulls, one of just four teams in the league to score fewer than a point per possession in 2013/14, according to NBA.com. Butler isn’t capable of single-handedly carrying a scoring attack, at least not yet, but he’s defined himself as a key part of one of the most well-coordinated defenses in league history. The Bulls gave up 1.5 points fewer points per 100 possessions when Butler played, as NBA.com shows, and while Butler alone didn’t influence that statistic, Chicago has been at least slightly better defensively when he’s played in each of his three seasons with the club.

The Bulls were also more effective defensively with Taj Gibson on the floor in each of his first three seasons in the league, which was no doubt on the minds of Forman and company when they reached a deal with Gibson on a four-year, $33MM rookie scale extension two years ago. It stands as an example of the team’s willingness to lock up a player who’s a mainstay but not quite a star, a description that also fits Butler, but there are differences between the two cases. Gibson came off the bench at a position that the highly paid Carlos Boozer occupied, while Butler is a starter on the wing, where the Bulls are thin. Butler is also a more integral part of Chicago’s offense than Gibson had been when he signed his extension. Those factors combined with rising salary cap projections for years to come make it unlikely that Butler will settle for salaries anywhere in the neighborhood of what Gibson is making.

It appears as though Chicago would like to keep Butler around, as I surmised last month when I predicted that the Bulls and the Happy Walters client would come to terms on a four-year, $42MM extension. That’s $9MM more than Gibson saw, but there’d still be a decent chance that it would end up a relative bargain for the Bulls, particularly if the deal is backloaded. Chicago already has about $58.6MM in commitments for 2015/16 and $43.8MM for 2015/16, so creating enough wiggle room as possible beneath the tax threshold will be important as the team attempts to contend in the next few years.

There’s a case to be made that the Bulls should hold off on an extension to see whether Butler’s offensive efficiency improves with Rose back in the lineup. Butler and Rose have only shared the floor for 273 total minutes over their careers, so surely Chicago is curious to see how they mesh in more significant time together. That question mark shouldn’t dissuade the Bulls from committing to a reasonable extension this offseason, lest Butler’s negotiating power increase commensurate with his continually expanding role on the team. Restricted free agency proved more kind this year to Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons, a pair of wing players on the market’s second tier, than it has for point guard Eric Bledsoe and big man Greg Monroe, seemingly more attractive options. That would bode well for Butler, even though there are few certainties in restricted free agency, as this summer’s surprises have shown.

It’s quite a risk in today’s NBA for a team to commit an average of more than $10MM a year to a swingman who’s just a 30.9% three-point shooter, but for the Bulls, it appears worth it to do so with Butler. Chicago’s primary focus is on defense, anyway, where Butler has proven valuable, and Gibson’s blossoming offensive game is evidence that coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff are adept at continually developing players well into their careers. Butler needs to improve for the Bulls to have reaped a bargain with such an investment, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest he’ll do just that.

Eastern Notes: Cavs, Rautins, Heat

August 23 at 11:00am CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Cavaliers‘ roster overhaul this offseason is reminiscent of what the Celtics did back in 2007, including obtaining a star player from the Wolves, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Here’s more from the east:

  • Former Knicks second-round pick Andy Rautins has signed with Pallacanestro Varese of the Italian League, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Rautins only appeared in a total of five games for New York, averaging 1.6 PPG. His last NBA action came for the Bulls‘ Summer League team back in 2013.
  • If Dwyane Wade can stay healthy, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel believes that the Heat‘s roster this season is better than the one they had prior to LeBron James‘ arrival.
  • Former NBA player Terrel Harris has signed with Maccabi Ashdod SCE of the Israeli League, the team announced via their Facebook page (hat tip to Basketball Insiders). Harris has played for the Heat and the Pelicans, with a career average of 2.3 PPG. He spent last year in the NBA D-League, most recently with the Bakersfield Jam.

Knicks Notes: Fisher, Cleamons, Anthony

August 18 at 7:35pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Carmelo Anthony‘s former college coach, Jim Boeheim, believes that if ‘Melo had based his free agency decision purely on basketball reasons, then the Bulls would have been a better destination than the Knicks, writes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Boeheim said, “Just from a basketball point of view it would have been better to go to Chicago because they’ve got better players. But he wanted to be in New York and he wants to see if they can turn it around there. I think that’s a great thing.”

Here’s more from New York:

  • Boeheim also believes that Anthony would have left if Phil Jackson hadn’t taken over as team president. Boeheim said, “I would think so. He stayed because he believes Phil. Derek Fisher, he knows the game. If you’re going to pick a coach who hasn’t coached, he would be the guy I would pick. I think he’s a great choice. I talked to Derek a little bit. I think he’s really smart. I think he’ll be a really good coach. I think they’ll show significant improvement this year. If they get a couple of guys down the road, I think they’ll be good.”
  • The Knicks are adding Jim Cleamons to Derek Fisher‘s coaching staff, reports Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Cleamons had coached Fisher during his two stints as a Lakers assistant, and will help teach the Knicks players the triangle offense, notes Iannazzone.
  • With a new head coach, and the team installing the triangle offense, it’s not clear what starting lineup the Knicks will take to the court with. In a separate article, Begley examines some of the possible combinations that New York could utilize.

Derrick Rose On Bulls, Gasol, Carmelo

August 14 at 10:59pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

Bulls star Derrick Rose looks well and confident about his upcoming return to NBA action this season after a long recovery from knee surgery, observes Sam Smith of NBA.com. In addition to saying that he has no fears and has developed into a more controlled player, the one-time MVP shared his thoughts on the upcoming season and some of the player movement this summer. You can find a handful of the highlights from the above piece below:

On the Bulls roster for 2014/15:

“I think we have a solid team. We’re definitely contenders in the East. But we know it’s a long year and we have to gel pretty quickly, knowing that we’re not going overseas like we did at the beginning of the season with Brazil like we did last year. I think we’re going (staying here) so we get a lot of time here to really go at it in training camp.”

On the team’s highly-touted free agent signing, Pau Gasol:

“We needed him. Pau (adds) another dimension to our team that we didn’t have and I think I never had since I’ve been in the NBA. I think (Taj Gibson) did a great job last year (being) a low post presence. But with (Pau) being seven feet (and) (Joakim Noah) with Taj on the other side cleaning up everything else, I think that we just need shooting and just one other playmaker. But I think we have that.”

On losing out on Carmelo Anthony in free agency:

“I always say when a player like Carmelo doesn’t sign with you, of course you’re going to be kind of devastated. But at the same time, the world (doesn’t) end and basketball (doesn’t) end just because someone doesn’t come to your team. I think (Bulls management) did a great job with pursuing Pau. And we got it done.”

On LeBron James heading back to the Central Division:

 “ (I feel the) same way I would if anyone else was in my division. Just because it’s him it’s not going to get me to play even harder. I know that every night that I step on the floor, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win the game no matter who is on the floor. Just knowing how great he is and the game, I hope the fans appreciate the game even more.”

On Kevin Love likely being traded to Cleveland:

“(That’d be a) great move (to get) a player like KLove. He’s very, very skilled (for) a big. I work out with him every summer. I didn’t work out with him this summer. But every summer I’ve been in the league, I’ve worked out with him in the offseason. If he does go (to the Cavs), I’m just happy he gets an opportunity to go somewhere and actually play and feel good about playing to win. I think that he deserves it. I think they should have a great team if he was to go there.”

Bulls Expected To Sign E’Twaun Moore

August 14 at 6:26pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

Former Magic guard E’Twaun Moore is expected to sign with the Bulls in the next few days, reports Mary Stevens of SportsTalkFlorida.com (hat tip to HoopsHype). Moore held off on signing a deal with Olimpia Milano in Italy earlier this month after reportedly receiving interest from two NBA teams; the 6’4 guard was linked to the Cavaliers just last week.

Moore played in 79 games for Orlando last season, averaging 6.3 PPG in 19.1 MPG while shooting 42.8% from the field and 35.4% from long distance. The former Boilermaker put on quite a shooting display over the final month of the season, scoring 9.1 PPG on 52.9/47.1. Moore also matched his season high in points during a game against the Nets in early April, netting 17 points while going a perfect 6-for-6 (including 5-for-5 from downtown) in 18 minutes.

Eastern Notes: Bulls, Raptors, Ayon

August 4 at 10:15am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Eastern Conference playoff field for the upcoming season is difficult to predict. The Cavaliers and the Bulls seem like locks, but beyond that, all bets are seemingly off. A majority of Hoops Rumors readers believe the Pacers, conference finalists the last two years, will miss the postseason entirely this time around in the wake of Paul George‘s injury. Here’s the latest from the East:

  • Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is prepared to move on after a report of discord between the team and star Derrick Rose, as Reinsdorf said Sunday in a radio appearance with Bruce Levine and Barry Rozner on WSCR-AM, notes Blake Schuster of the Chicago Tribune. Reinsdorf vehemently denied the existence of any tension, and Rose has also walked back some of his comments in the report. 
  • The Raptors are assisting DeAndre Daniels in his efforts to find a team in Europe where he can play this season, tweets Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has indicated that he’s anxious for Daniels, whom Toronto drafted 37th overall in June, to see playing time overseas, as Wolstat reported a month ago.
  • Free agent center Gustavo Ayon has dropped hints in the past that seemed to indicate that he envisioned a return overseas, but he tells the Mexican news agency Notimex that he’s prioritizing an NBA deal this summer over playing in Europe (translation via HoopsHype, hat tip to Gigantes del Basket). Ayon indicated that he’s turned down NBA offers and plans to choose a team after the FIBA World Cup concludes in September. The Hawks declined to tender a qualifying offer last month, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Fallout From Paul George Injury

August 2 at 9:22pm CDT By Cray Allred

Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard tells Bob Kravitz of USA Today that he first thought Paul George‘s horrific leg injury would be career-ending when he saw it live at last night’s Team USA scrimmage, but has since grown confident in George’s eventual return.

“What I’ve learned through this process is that it’s not [career-ending],” said Pritchard. “We’re not trying to project when he’s coming back, just trying to get him through this week and then we’ll know more…I have no fear he’ll be back and back in a big way. We’re not going to put a timetable on it but I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll be back.”

Aside from concerns about George’s long-term health and the impact for his team, the injury has sparked an NBA discussion about the drawbacks of international play. Here’s a rundown:

  • George’s father tells Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star that his doctors believe the star will make a full recovery to the same level of athleticism he had prior to the injury.
  • The NBA is determined to reshape the FIBA model to its own interests, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes. Wojnarowski says teams have long been more wary of NBA players participating on national teams outside of the US, where they have no control over the conditions and medical services available. Aging players are also pressured to play more for other nations with thinner talent than Team USA, Wojnarowski notes.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes it’s time for the NBA to push for an under-21 international competition model, he writes on his personal blog (H/T Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group).
  • Lee Jenkins of SI.com cautions that a ban on international competition for NBA players would also mean unregulated summer basketball at fan-favorite events like Drew League would be outlawed.
  • Frank Isola of New York Daily News thinks that a mass exodus of NBA players from international competition would be an overreaction to George’s “freak accident,” as he describes it. Isola suggests that athletes are no more safe from harm during their off-the-court summer activities than in FIBA tournaments and the Olympics.
  • Bulls GM Gar Forman told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that the team still supports Derrick Rose‘s involvement in Team USA basketball in the wake of George’s injury. Rose has a well-documented history of catastrophic injuries over the last few seasons.

Wolves Owner Expects He’ll Trade Kevin Love

August 2 at 7:54pm CDT By Cray Allred

Wolves owner Glen Taylor tells Charley Walters of St. Paul Pioneer Press that the team expects to trade Kevin Love shortly after August 23rd, when Andrew Wiggins‘ contract with the Cavs can be moved. “I’m saying it’s most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that’s what he wants to do,” said Taylor, who would still prefer Love to remain in Minnesota.

Walters reports that while Cleveland is still the front-runner to acquire Love in a trade, the Warriors and Bulls are still pitching offers to the Wolves as well. The Sixers are expected to facilitate a three-team deal, should one occur. While the acknowledgment points to Wiggins as Minnesota’s primary target in a Love trade, it’s unclear if the Wolves are assured that the No. 1 pick will be made available by Cleveland. There have been conflicting reports as to Cleveland’s willingness to part with Wiggins, as well as some suspicion regarding Flip Saunders‘ leaking tactics.

Previously, Taylor had insisted it would possible to keep Love in Minnesota for at least this season, but the owner’s statement adds to the growing sentiment that the power forward has played his last game for the Wolves. A trade to Cleveland has been described as “when, not if,” and Love has reportedly made his preference to join LeBron James as a Cavalier known to the Minnesota front office. A trio of James, Love, and Kyrie Irving would immediately make Cleveland one of most dynamic offensive teams in the league, at least on paper.

Central Notes: George, Butler, Rose

August 2 at 10:32am CDT By Eddie Scarito

Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird issued a statement via press release regarding the injury to Paul George last night. Bird said, “Our first thoughts are with Paul and his family. It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery. Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic. We are hopeful at some point next week Paul will return to Indianapolis to continue his recovery. There is no question about the impact this will have on our team but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back. Our franchise has had setbacks in its history but has demonstrated the ability to recover.”

Here’s more on George and the Central Division:

  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on George’s injury via NBA.com, Silver said, “It was difficult to watch the injury that Paul George sustained tonight while representing his country.  The thoughts and prayers of all of us at the NBA are with Paul and his family.”
  • With the horrific injury suffered by George there will be many who think that star players should cease their participation with Team USA, but Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News disagrees. Sefko is against legislation banning players to take part, and believes it should still be left up to each individual player to decide if they wish to play in FIBA events.
  • Out of all the moves the Pistons made this off season, the one that might pay off the most is bringing in Caron Butler, writes Kirkland Crawford of the Detroit Free Press. Crawford believes that in addition to his outside shooting, Butler will bring a toughness and strong work ethic to the team.
  • Derrick Rose has changed his stance on the reports regarding a potential rift between he and Bulls management, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Rose acknowledged speaking to Chicago’s chairman Jerry Reinsdorf by phone after the story broke and also said, “He [Reinsdorf] told me don’t worry about it, just stay focused and, like I said, it’s the past. It’s funny just hearing so many stories about what’s going on, and they’re coming out of, like, kind of nowhere, so it’s funny to hear about them, but it’s nothing that’s going on.’’

Rose Trying To Smooth Tension With Bulls

July 31 at 9:15pm CDT By Chuck Myron

9:15pm: Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf released an official statement disputing Cowley’s report.

“I am confounded by the irresponsible report in the Chicago Sun-Times suggesting there is anything approaching discord or confusion between the Bulls executive office, coaching staff, and Derrick Rose or any other Bulls player,” the owner said. “To the contrary, I can remember no time when the organization has been any more focused, optimistic, and cohesive. I’ve got to assume suggestions otherwise are intended to undermine the goals and objectives, spirit, and reputation of the Chicago Bulls. I am deeply disappointed that unnamed sources and totally inaccurate statements and assumptions can be used to foment nonexistent friction. The report is totally without basis or fact. It is pure malicious fiction.”

Rose is on the record in acknowledging the tension in Cowley’s story, but perhaps Reinsdorf takes issue with the specifics of the disconnect portrayed by the Chicago Sun-Times scribe’s sources.

5:03pm: Derrick Rose acknowledged tension between his camp and the Bulls organization and is working diligently to heal the wounds, as he told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. The discord, which has resulted in a growing lack of communication between Rose and the team, stemmed from potshots that Rose’s camp, one that includes brother Reggie Rose and agent B.J. Armstrong, took at the franchise, according to Cowley. It boiled over with Rose’s seeming reluctance to recruit Carmelo Anthony, as Cowley writes.

A source tells Cowley that Rose resisted the team’s efforts to get him to talk to Anthony after a workout Rose conducted at the United Center on the day of the team’s meeting with the star free agent. Rose ultimately had a conversation with Anthony, and this week Rose detailed what he told the high-scoring forward, seemingly casting it as somewhat more than the brief hello that one of a few conflicting reports about the meeting suggested it was.

Cowley hears that Bulls officials didn’t know that Rose wouldn’t show up at the team’s dinner with Anthony that evening and were “irate.” Rose was nonetheless an enthusiastic recruiter of Pau Gasol, Cowley notes.

“That’s someone that I knew I could play with,’’ Rose told Cowley about why he recruited the Spanish-born center. “You think about Pau, him now being in the East, what he’ll be able to achieve with the way we play, the way we dump the ball in the post a lot. It could be great.’’

Armstrong is a former Bulls executive who, Cowley hears, harbors ill feelings toward Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, though Armstrong vehemently denies such an assertion. Rose’s contract with the Bulls runs for three more seasons, and it doesn’t contain any option clauses, so Armstrong would be unable to take his client to free agency until 2017.