Bulls Rumors

Bulls Notes: Lineup Changes, Payne, Forman

With 25 games left in their season, the Bulls are focusing on the future, as VP John Paxson explained to reporters on Tuesday (link via Sam Smith of Bulls.com). That means that Cristiano Felicio will move into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of veteran center Robin Lopez, while David Nwaba will supplant Justin Holiday.

“The hard part from our standpoint is you can’t play 12 guys. Nine or 10 is the most,” Paxson said. “We’re going to start looking at blocks of games where we’ll be having a few guys who haven’t been playing much or at all have a significant role. The whole goal in our position is to evaluate what we have on this roster.

“The hard thing when you do things like this is you’re asking certain people to sacrifice roles and minutes,” Paxson continued. “It’s veteran guys. That’s never an easy thing. As I told them, I, along with [GM] Gar [Forman], we’re entrusted with the future of the organization. So these last 25 games, we’re going to evaluate what we have on this roster by playing more the guys we haven’t seen much this year.”

Let’s round up a few more Bulls notes…

  • Cameron Payne, who has missed the entire season with a foot injury, is set to make his 2017/18 debut on Thursday, writes Madeline Kenney of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne figures to cut into Jerian Grant‘s playing time.
  • With John Paxson once again addressing reporters on Tuesday, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times explores where Gar Forman has been “hiding” this season. According to Cowley, Paxson comes across as more “honest and transparent” than Forman, which is why the VP has handled most of the team’s media responsibilities this season. However, Forman is still very much involved in basketball operations and is by no means being pushed out of the organization.
  • Justin Holiday is trying to take his reduced role in stride, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. “I have to deal with it, be professional about it,” Holiday said. “Regardless of the situation or the reason, I have to carry myself a certain way because that’s how I do things. How I react and carry myself in this will be a good leadership situation for the young guys to see and follow the example if it does happen to them.”
  • The $600K fine Mark Cuban received for publicly discussing the benefits of losing is exactly why Paxson and other members of the Bulls organization will dance around the subject of tanking, says Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago.

Central Notes: Nance, Dinwiddie, Bulls

Less than two weeks after he was shipped to the Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. was back in Los Angeles for the Dunk Contest. Nance spent his first two-and-a-half seasons with the Lakers and admitted to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register that the trade still has not set in.

“It’s something that’s still kind of shocking,” Nance said. “But at the same time I can’t wait for all this to be done with so I can just get back to learning how to gel and mesh with my new teammates.”

Nance, 25, was the runner-up in Saturday’s dunk contest as Jazz rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell took home the trophy. After the All-Star break is complete, Nance is looking forward to being in a postseason race for the first time in his career.

“I like to think of myself as a very winning player,” Nance said. “Whether we were building gradually in L.A. or not, I was trying to win every single game. It just feels right. Now that we can, we’re in it, we have a chance to win every single game.”

Check out other Central Division news and notes down below:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie showed off his all-around basketball talents as he captured the Skills Challenge trophy on Saturday night, defeating Bulls’ rookie Lauri MarkkanenPeter J. Wallner of MLive.com recalls that Dinwiddie was once a member of the Pistons and now has the opportunity to shine as a member of the Nets.
  • The Bulls do not have any representatives in the All-Star game but the team’s young talent was showcased throughout the weekend, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Kris Dunn had an impressive performance in the Rising Stars Challenge, Markkanen was the runner-up in the Skills Challenge, and Zach LaVine impressed with his analysis during the Dunk Contest — he even teased performing in it for a third time.

Columnist: Team Needs To Go Into Tank Mode

The Bulls need to get more serious about tanking and start making moves to improve their lottery chances, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com argues. Cristiano Felicio, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh and Cameron Payne should receive a lot more playing time, while veterans like Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday should have their minutes reduced, Friedell says. Holding out Zach LaVine on the second game of back-to-backs would also facilitate the cause, Friedell adds.

  • Small forward James Ennis and point guard Jameer Nelson have jumped right into the Pistons’ rotation after being acquired just before the trade deadline. Ennis, who was traded by the Grizzlies for forward Brice Johnson and a future second-round pick, has averaged 9.5 PPG and 17.5 MPG over the past two games. Nelson, who was traded by the Bulls for Willie Reed and future draft considerations, has averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.0 APG in 19.5 MPG during his first two games with Detroit.

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

Now that the dust has settled on last Thursday’s trade-deadline deals and the first round of veteran buyouts and cuts has been completed, it’s worth taking stock of which NBA teams have the flexibility to add a player or two without waivers anyone else.

With the help of our roster counts page, which we update all season, here are the NBA teams with open spots on their 15-man rosters. Open two-way contract slots aren’t included here, since teams are ineligible to sign new two-way contracts at this point in the season.

Teams with a player on a 10-day contract filling their open spot:

  • Phoenix Suns
  • Utah Jazz

Both the Suns and Jazz have 14 players on fully guaranteed NBA contracts, leaving one potential opening. For now, Josh Gray is filling that 15th spot in Phoenix and Naz Mitrou-Long is doing the same in Utah. However, they’re only on 10-day contracts, so both of these teams could soon create an open spot if necessary.

Teams with one open spot:

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Toronto Raptors

The teams listed above represent a mix of playoff-bound squads and rebuilding non-contenders. Teams like the Bulls, Mavericks, and Knicks could use their open roster spots to take fliers on young players via 10-day contracts, while clubs like the Timberwolves, Thunder, and Raptors may be eyeing the buyout market for veterans who could fortify their respective benches.

Teams with two open spots:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Washington Wizards

NBA rules generally prohibit teams from carrying fewer than 14 players on their 15-man squads. However, clubs are permitted to dip to 13 – or even 12 – in special circumstances, as long as they get back up to 14 within two weeks. Roster moves made last week by the Hawks, Cavaliers, Trail Blazers, and Wizards left them below the limit, so they’ll each have to add at least one player by the end of the All-Star break.

Note: Roster info current as of Tuesday, February 13 at 2:00pm CT.

Bulls Assign Dunn, Felicio, Vonleh To G League

Bulls Notes: Payne, Vonleh, Butler, Felicio

Cameron Payne, who hasn’t played since having offseason surgery on his right foot, is expected back after the All-Star break, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Coach Fred Hoiberg and VP of basketball operations John Paxson have stated that Payne will receive playing time whenever he is ready.

Payne has appeared in just 11 games for Chicago since being acquired from the Thunder at the 2017 trade deadline. He was assigned to the Bulls’ Windy City team in the G League earlier this week to shake off some rust before returning to the NBA club.

Taken 14th overall by the Thunder in the 2015 draft, Payne has yet to find success at the NBA level. He averaged 5.2 points and 1.8 assists last season in 31 games with Oklahoma City and Chicago.

There’s more tonight from the Windy City:

  • Newly acquired forward Noah Vonleh is sitting out tonight’s game and may not play until after the break, according to Friedell (Twitter link). Hoiberg wants him to get some practice time to get used to the Bulls’ system, and there may not be an opportunity for that until after Wednesday when the team will have eight straight days off.
  • Before the Timberwolves came to town Friday, Paxson discussed the Jimmy Butler trade, saying it has worked out well for both teams, Friedell relays in a full story. The Bulls sent Butler and Justin Patton to Minnesota on draft night for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. “We’re really happy,” Paxson said. “I won’t speak for Minnesota, but you got an All-Star player in Jimmy Butler that can go along with their young core. It seems to have addressed the desires of both teams. In this business, if you can do that, that’s a good thing.”
  • The lack of progress by backup center Cristiano Felicio has been puzzling, Sam Smith of NBA.com writes in a mailbag column. After two promising seasons, Felicio was rewarded with a four-year, $32MM deal last summer. But his numbers have gone down across the board, with averages of 3.8 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 13 minutes per night. Smith believes Felicio’s reluctance to shoot has hurt his game.

Traded Player Exceptions Created In Deadline Deals

Before NBA teams started reaching trade agreements on Thursday, we published the latest entry in our Hoops Rumors Glossary, focusing on the traded player exception. As we explain in our breakdown, the traded player exception can allow over-the-cap teams to receive more salary than they send out in “simultaneous” trades.

The more common form of traded player exception is the one generated in a “non-simultaneous” trade, when a team send out a single player and takes back less salary – or none at all – in return. The team then has one calendar year to use that newly-created exception to acquire one or more players whose salaries fit into that exception.

For instance, the Raptors created a $11,800,000 trade exception in last July’s DeMarre Carroll trade with the Nets, meaning that on Thursday they could have acquired a player earning, say, $11MM without sending out any salary in return.

Not many teams took advantage of their outstanding trade exceptions on Thursday, but at least a couple teams appear to have completed trades with previously existing trade exceptions, or with disabled player exceptions. Nearly every trade completed on Thursday also generated at least one new trade exception, so we’ll round up those newly-created TPEs below.

With the help of tweets from cap experts Albert Nahmad and Bobby Marks, along with information from RealGM’s official transactions log, here’s a breakdown of the new TPEs, sorted by value. Not all of these exceptions have been confirmed with 100% certainty, but this is what we believe they’ll look like. These TPEs will expire if they’re not used by February 8, 2019:

Our list of outstanding traded player exceptions has been updated, and will be adjusted if necessary once we’re able to confirm all the TPEs listed above.

If you have any corrections or questions, please let us know in the comment section.

Bulls Waive Tony Allen

A week after acquiring him from the Pelicans, the Bulls have waived veteran guard Tony Allen, the team announced today (via Twitter). Assuming he goes unclaimed on waivers, Allen will become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.

Allen, 36, appeared in 22 games this season for the Pelicans, averaging 4.7 PPG and 2.1 RPG in a very limited role (12.4 MPG). He has been sidelined since mid-December due to a fracture in his leg, though he recently told TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link) that he has been medically cleared to return to action.

The Pelicans included Allen in last week’s trade that sent Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans in order to clear some salary and open up a roster spot. The veteran was never in Chicago’s plans, but the Bulls held onto him through the trade deadline in case they were able to include him a trade and extract a tiny bit of value, as they did with Jameer Nelson. Bulls executive John Paxson said on Thursday that the club would speak to Allen’s agent to determine whether or not he’d be waived — now, it seems Chicago is giving the 14-year veteran a chance to sign with a playoff team.

While it remains to be seen whether Allen will be scooped up right away by a contender, the Thunder were said to have some interest in him. Because he’s on a one-year, minimum salary contract, Allen could be claimed off waivers by any team besides the Pelicans. If he clears waivers, his modest 2017/18 cap hit will remain on the Bulls’ books.

Bulls Notes: Paxson, Lopez, Holiday, Allen, Dunn

The Bulls were relatively quiet as the trade deadline passed on Thursday, completing a pair of minor deals involving Noah Vonleh and Jameer Nelson. Chicago’s major move came when the team dealt Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans, which netted the team highly-coveted draft picks.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, is happy with the Bulls’ moves and is excited about the future, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. Paxson compared draft picks to gold for teams as his franchise restocks for the future. In particular, Paxson likes having future high picks to go along with the young talent already on the roster.

“We look at it this way: We got the three young guys [Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn] when we made the [Jimmy Butler] trade for last year, we’re going to have two [first-round] picks most likely in this draft, and we’ve got Bobby [Portis] and Denzel [Valentine] as young guys,” Paxson said. “That’s seven young pieces, and we just need to continue to develop them, grow, and make the smart decisions, not get in a rush.’’

Check out other Bulls news and notes below:

  • Paxson said that the Bulls were offered several multiyear bad contracts in trade talks, but the team was not comfortable taking on significant money that went beyond the 2018/19 season, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Paxson added that the Bulls were comfortable taking Omer Asik in the Mirotic trade because he is set to make just $3MM in 2018/19.
  • While the Bulls could have traded Robin Lopez and/or Justin Holiday, Paxson said their value as veteran leaders and teammates was too important to the club, Johnson tweets.
  • Tony Allen, who was acquired as part of the Mirotic trade, was reportedly set to be waived by Chicago. However, Paxson said the team will have a discussion with Allen’s agent before deciding on his future, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.
  • Point guard Kris Dunn is out of concussion protocol but he is still not ready to return, per the Associated Press. Dunn has missed the Bulls’ past eight games; he’s averaging 13.7 PPG and 6.4 APG for Chicago this season.

Trail Blazers Trade Noah Vonleh To Bulls

5:13pm: The trade is now official, the Blazers announced in a press release.

1:26pm: The Trail Blazers have agreed to trade Noah Vonleh and cash to the Bulls in exchange for the draft rights to Milovan Rakovic, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). While the deal will hardly be the biggest blockbuster of the day, it’s an important one for Portland — the team will get under the luxury tax as a result of the move.

Vonleh, 22, was the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, but hasn’t developed into the sort of impact player that the Hornets – and then the Blazers – hoped for. In 2017/18, he has appeared in 33 games for Portland, starting 12. In 14.4 minutes per contest, Vonleh averaged 3.6 PPG and 5.1 RPG.

While the Blazers sneak below the tax line as a result of dumping Vonleh’s $3.5MM salary, the Bulls will move closer to the salary floor by taking on the rest of that contract. If Chicago likes what it sees from Vonleh down the stretch, the club will have the option of making him a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer this offseason.

Portland also created a trade exception worth $3,505,233 (Vonleh’s salary) in the transaction.

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