Al-Farouq Aminu

Bulls Notes: Lottery, LaVine, Simmons, Dinwiddie, T. Young

The Bulls were among the unluckiest teams at the draft lottery, losing their first-round pick to the Magic when it failed to land in the top four, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Chicago wound up sending the No. 8 selection to Orlando as part of the trade deadline deal involving Nikola Vucevic, and it owes another first-rounder to the Magic in 2023.

With only the No. 38 pick remaining in the July 29 draft, the Bulls will have to explore other ways to improve, Mayberry adds. They’re short on trade assets after investing so much in the roster makeover in March, and they may not have enough cap space to add a meaningful free agent.

Mayberry suggests the Bulls may try to trade back into the first round on draft night, using the expiring contracts of Thaddeus Young ($14.19MM) and Tomáš Satoranský ($10MM), both of which are non-guaranteed, as well as Al-Farouq Aminu ($10.183MM).

They may also reach out to a couple of division rivals who had better fortune at the lottery. The Pistons landed the top overall pick and are likely to draft Cade Cunningham, which could make point guard Killian Hayes available in a trade, Mayberry speculates. Meanwhile, if the Cavaliers get Jalen Green at No. 3, they might be willing to part with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland or Isaac Okoro.

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Zach LaVine‘s inclusion on the Olympic team could be good for the Bulls’ future, states Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. He notes that many star pairings in the NBA began when players got to know each other as Olympic teammates. Cowley cautions it might work the other way, and LaVine, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, could get recruited to go somewhere else.
  • Ben Simmons‘ playoff struggles and Spencer Dinwiddie‘s decision to turn down his player option for next season create two intriguing options for the Bulls in their search for a point guard, writes Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune. Simmons would be an ideal backcourt partner for LaVine, Collier notes, but it would be hard to put together an enticing offer for the Sixers without giving up LaVine in return. Dinwiddie will be seeking more than the $12.3MM he opted out of, but Collier expects concerns about his partially torn ACL to keep the price tag down.
  • Thaddeus Young has been chosen as this year’s winner of the NBA Hustle Award, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The honor goes to the player who makes the most energy and effort plays during the season.

Bulls’ Al-Farouq Aminu Opting In For 2021/22

Bulls forward Al-Farouq Aminu will exercise his $10.2MM player option for next season, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

While most veterans with player options for 2021/22 won’t have to make their decisions until the summer, Aminu’s decision was due within seven games of Chicago’s final regular season game, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

Acquired in late March from Orlando in the Nikola Vucevic deal, Aminu saw limited time in six games for the Bulls. He averaged 1.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per night.

Chicago is the sixth team for the 30-year-old Aminu in his 11-year NBA career. The Clippers made him the eighth pick in the 2010 draft, and he also played for New Orleans, Dallas and Portland.

Aminu’s decision gives Chicago eight players with fully guaranteed contracts for next season, along with Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, who both have partial guarantees.

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Theis, White, Satoranský

Lauri Markkanen has played a diminished role since the Bulls overhauled their roster at the trade deadline, but he was on the court for the closing minutes of Saturday’s win over the Cavaliers, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Markkanen poured in 16 points, ending a five-game stretch of single-digit scoring, as Chicago picked up an important victory in the race for a play-in game.

Markkanen’s status is being closely watched ahead of his impeding restricted free agency this summer. He has played 21 minutes or fewer six times since the trade deadline and was limited to 11 total shots over three games last week.

“It’s a new role. I think a lot of guys have sacrificed. I’m not going to do anything that jeopardizes the team. I’m going to play my role as well as I can,” Markkanen said. “… I try to stay as positive as I can. But then it’s not really affecting me off the court. At the end of the day when I go home to my family, it’s all good. I wasn’t losing my sleep over it. It was frustrating to lose (my starting job), not being out there and closing out games. But I always say, control what you can control. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Newly-acquired center Daniel Theis will also be a free agent this summer, and coach Billy Donovan hopes the Bulls can find a way to keep him, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Donovan added that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley share his opinion on Theis. “With free agency coming up and guys having the opportunity to make their own decisions, I understand that,” Donovan said. “But he’s someone we really like a lot and feel like could be somebody that could be really good for us going forward.’’
  • Coby WhiteTomáš SatoranskýThaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu and Markkanen are the five players most likely to be traded as Chicago continues to remake its roster, contends Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Aminu will make $10MM next season, Mayberry adds, and his contract could be useful for salary matching.
  • Zach LaVine‘s absence due to health and safety protocols will give other players a chance to redefine their roles, Johnson writes in a separate story.

Bulls Notes: Vucevic, Aminu, Theis, Markkanen

Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine have been All-Star teammates, but Thursday’s trade that brought the veteran center to Chicago has made them the core of a Bulls team that hopes to make some noise in the playoffs, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic believes he and LaVine can eventually become an effective combination.

“He’s a hell of a player, and I’ve heard a lot of great things about him off the court as well. I’m looking forward to getting to know him. On the court, I think our games fit each other,” Vucevic said. “A lot that Zach likes to do, I can help him with that. He can help me with a lot of things. I think our two-man game can be very good. It’s going to take some time for us to get to know each other and build that chemistry. But I think when you have two high-caliber players and players with high IQ that know how to play the game and play to win, I think it won’t take us long.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, who was acquired from Orlando in the same deal, will bring a veteran presence to a young squad, notes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports. The 30-year-old forward, who is joining his sixth team in an 11-year career, is ready to adopt a leadership role. “Everybody don’t want the voice always coming from the head coach or the coaches or whatever the case might be,” Aminu told reporters after this morning’s shootaround. “At the end of the day, we the guys out there. And we can explain what to younger players exactly needs to be done and how it needs to be done.”
  • The Bulls overhauled their roster Thursday, bringing in five new players through trades. They were all available for tonight’s game except for former Celtics center Daniel Theis, who is wrapping up family issues and will join the team by Monday, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Coach Billy Donovan faces the challenge of trying to reshape his team over the final 29 games without much time to practice. “You obviously try to probably shrink a lot of things playbook-wise, try to create some clarity defensively for those guys,” Donovan said. “… All those guys were probably in some kind of system or playing with very familiar faces, and that all of a sudden has changed, not only for them but for the guys who are currently here. We have a lot to work through.’’
  • The Bulls opted to hold on to Lauri Markkanen, who is on track for restricted free agency this summer, and now he has to prove he can fit in with the new-look team, Cowley adds in a separate piece.

Magic Trade Nikola Vucevic To Bulls

4:37pm: The trade sending Vucevic to Chicago is official, according to a press release from the Magic.

“Anytime you trade a player like Nikola, it is a tough decision to make,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “‘Vooch’ will go down as one of the best players to ever wear a Magic uniform and we can’t thank him enough for all the contributions he made to the organization, both on and off the court.”


10:05am: The Magic are trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu to the Bulls, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (all Twitter links).

According to Wojnarowski, Orlando will receive Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, and a pair of future first-round picks in the deal. Those picks will be the Bulls’ own 2021 and 2023 first-rounders, Woj adds (via Twitter). Both will be top-four protected, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter links).

The agreement comes as a major surprise. While Vucevic has been mentioned in some trade rumors in the weeks leading up to the deadline, he had talked about being happy with his current situation, and there was a belief that the Magic were reluctant to move their lone All-Star and shift into full-fledged retooling mode. Wojnarowski (Twitter link) had reported earlier today that Orlando was still listening to offers for the big man, but would have to receive a substantial package to pull the trigger on a deal.

The Magic apparently believe the Bulls’ offer qualifies as substantial. In addition to the future first-round picks, which are the prized assets in the return, Orlando will also receive a former lottery pick in Carter who was highly regarded coming out of Duke and is still just 21 years old. Carter has been plagued by injury issues through his first three NBA seasons and his production hasn’t really increased since his rookie year, but he’s still viewed as a player with upside.

Orlando will also gain some longer-term salary relief in the trade. While Porter is earning more ($28.5MM) this season than any of the other three players involved in the swap, his contract will expire this summer. Vucevic is owed and Aminu are owed a combined $34MM+ next season, and Vucevic is under contract for one more year beyond that, so the Magic will have much more cap flexibility going forward.

The move also signals that Aaron Gordon is even more likely to be dealt today, with the Magic headed for a reset. The odds of the team moving Evan Fournier and/or Terrence Ross figure to increase as well. As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports tweets, Orlando will boost the odds of landing a top pick in the 2021 draft by trading away veterans — that lottery pick, combined with the return of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz next season, could help accelerate the team’s rebuild.

The Bulls, meanwhile, weren’t among the teams listed as having significant interest in Vucevic in a report earlier this month, but decided to take a big swing and will add a second All-Star to a core headlined by Zach LaVine.

The team’s front office wanted to bring in a “productive, serious-minded veteran” to be a cornerstone in Chicago, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), and zeroed in on Vucevic, who has posted a career-high 24.5 PPG this season to go along with 11.8 RPG and 3.8 APG. His .406 3PT% is also a career-best mark.

Taking on Aminu’s multiyear contract will add some money to the Bulls’ cap in 2021, but the club was projected to have plenty of flexibility, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Vucevic’s contract is also relatively team-friendly — he’s making $26MM this season, but that number will decline to $24MM in 2021/22 and $22MM in ’22/23.

It will be interesting to see whether the Bulls have more up their sleeve before today’s deadline. The team has been taking calls to gauge Thaddeus Young‘s value, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link), and remains in the mix for Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

It will take more than just Lauri Markkanen to acquire Ball, tweets Johnson. New Orleans may want Chicago to take on an unwanted multiyear contract, such as Eric Bledsoe‘s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Anthony, MCW, Aminu, Beal, Heat

With Markelle Fultz already out for the season due to a torn ACL, the Magic continue to have a hard time keeping their point guards healthy. Rookie Cole Anthony is the latest to have to deal with a health issue, as he was diagnosed with a shoulder strain following Tuesday’s loss to Portland.

As Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel details, the injury is muscular, so Anthony didn’t require an MRI. It also doesn’t sound too significant, as the rookie hasn’t yet been ruled out for Thursday’s contest vs. Golden State — he’s listed as questionable.

In another piece of relatively positive news for the Magic, veteran point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who has been on the shelf since January 4 due to a left foot sprain, has been upgraded to questionable for Thursday’s game (Twitter link). While there’s no guarantee that both Anthony and Carter-Williams will be in action tonight, it doesn’t sound like either player is far off.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu returned on Tuesday after missing over a year due to knee problems. While the plan was for him to play in both halves of that game, he was ruled out of the second half after experiencing some hamstring tightness, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Like Anthony and MCW, Aminu is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game.
  • Speaking to Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports, agent Mark Bartelstein explained why his client – Wizards star Bradley Beal – has no desire to be dealt despite his team’s struggles. “He doesn’t want to quit on something,” Bartelstein said. “He’s an incredibly loyal guy, and he wants to always feel like he’s done everything he can to help something or someone be successful. It’s the way he was raised and what his values are based upon. … It’s the team that drafted him, the team that’s invested in him, and he desperately wants to make them a championship contender.” Beal will miss Friday’s game vs. New York due to rest, the Wizards announced today (via Twitter).
  • The Heat will play their next seven games on the road, but when they eventually return home on February 24, they’ll increase the fan capacity at AmericanAirlines Arena to roughly 3,000 people, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Al-Farouq Aminu Practices, May Play Tuesday

Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu was able to fully participate in a team practice today and may even return to the floor tomorrow for the first time this season against the Trail Blazers, per head coach Steve Clifford (Twitter link via Josh Robbins of The Athletic).

Aminu been unavailable since tearing his right meniscus on November 29, 2019 in a 90-83 loss to the Raptors. The 30-year-old is on the second season of a three-year, $29MM contract he inked with the Magic in the summer of 2019.

The versatile 6’8″ forward has appeared in just 18 games for Orlando during his tenure with the club. Aminu holds career averages of 7.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2, and 1.0 SPG.

An Aminu return would be a huge on-court boon for the Magic. Orlando is dealing with a rash of injuries, including to starting forwards Jonathan Isaac (out for the season with a torn left ACL) and Aaron Gordon. (out for the next 3-5 weeks with a left ankle sprain).

Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel tweets that Magic point guard Michael Carter-Williams participated in practice as well, though injured shooting guard Evan Fournier did not partake. A sprained left foot has rendered Carter-Williams unavailable since January 4. Fournier has been struggling with back spasms intermittently throughout the 2020/21 season.

Southeast Notes: MCW, Okeke, Hawks, Wall, Hornets

The Magic will be without Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac for the rest of the season due to their torn ACLs, but the team is moving closer to getting some of its other injured players back on the court. According to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link), head coach Steve Clifford said that veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams (foot) could return as soon as Friday after missing Orlando’s last 12 games.

Meanwhile, Clifford couldn’t provide exact timetables for when Magic forwards Chuma Okeke (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) will play again, but did say that Okeke will likely be ready to go before Aminu is, Robbins adds.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • After winning 24, 29, and 20 games in the last three seasons, the Hawks are in playoffs-or-bust mode this season, prompting Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer to consider whether the team is finally on the other side of its rebuild. As Tjarks notes, Atlanta has barely gotten anything out of its veteran free agent additions so far, so the emergence of De’Andre Hunter as a capable running mate for Trae Young has been huge.
  • Rockets guard John Wall, who suggested earlier this week that he was disappointed by how the Wizards handled his exit from the franchise, got a chance on Tuesday night to show his old team what it’s missing, as Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Wall had a team-high 24 points in 24 minutes en route to a 107-88 Houston win over Washington.
  • Hornets head coach James Borrego is still experimenting with his rotation to determine which lineups work best, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. There is not going to be a set rotation for a bit,” Borrego said on Wednesday. The team sent five players to the G League this week, but Borrego still has 11 healthy players available on the NBA roster.

Al-Farouq Aminu Undergoes Procedure On Right Knee

Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu has undergone a minor arthroscopic procedure to address the continued swelling in his troublesome right knee, the team announced today in a press release.

According to the Magic, Aminu’s return to the court will depend on how he responds to treatment and rehabilitation. However, the club says the procedure went as planned and will put the veteran on track to complete this final phase of his rehab.

Magic head coach Steve Clifford said earlier this week that Aminu hasn’t been cleared for contact and is still “a ways away” from returning — today’s update provides some additional context. The 30-year-old has been sidelined for virtually the entire calendar year, having undergone surgery on his right knee back in January to repair a torn meniscus.

Aminu was one of the first free agents to come off the board during the summer of 2019, agreeing to a three-year, $29MM deal with Orlando. He was coming off a solid season in Portland in which he averaged 9.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG on .433/.343/.867 shooting while playing strong defense. However, he was limited to just 18 games in his first season with the Magic and struggled in a part-time role before being sidelined by his knee injury. His shooting line dipping to an abysmal .291/.250/.655 in those 18 games.

The Magic are also currently without Jonathan Isaac, who will miss the entire season due to a torn ACL, and Mohamed Bamba, who is believed to still be dealing with the aftereffects of his bout with the coronavirus.

Southeast Notes: Aminu, Bamba, Collins, Hawks, Hornets

Magic head coach Steve Clifford told reporters today that Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Mohamed Bamba haven’t been cleared for contact work when training camp begins, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Isaac is recovering from a torn ACL and is expected to miss the entire 2020/21 season, so his absence is unsurprising. Aminu and Bamba were unavailable for the Magic at the end of last season due to knee surgery recovery and coronavirus complications, respectively. It’s not clear if those same issues are keeping them sidelined this fall, but Clifford said today that both players are still “a ways away” from being 100%, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links).

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hawks big man John Collins is still hoping to sign a rookie scale extension before the regular season begins, admitting today that his contract situation is at the forefront of his mind (Twitter links via Chris Kirschner of The Athletic and Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
  • The Hawks issued a press release announcing injury updates on Kris Dunn (cartilage disruption in right knee), Onyeka Okongwu (inflammation of sesamoid bone in left foot), and Tony Snell (inflammation of cuboid bone in right foot). Dunn is participating in “modified” individual workouts, while Okongwu and Snell are currently limited to shooting and conditioning. Atlanta will provide another update on all three players on December 11.
  • The Hornets will open the 2020/21 season without any fans in attendance at Spectrum Center, the team announced this week in a press release. The Hornets indicated they’ll continue to work with state and local health officials – and the NBA – to develop a plan to get fans back in the building, ideally before the end of the season.
  • In the wake of the Hornets‘ acquisition of Gordon Hayward and release of Nicolas Batum, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer examines the salary cap impact of the two transactions. As Bonnell writes, despite the significant cap charges for Hayward and Batum, the club could still open up a sizeable chunk of cap room in 2021.