Kris Dunn

Zach LaVine Would Like To Have Input On Bulls’ Roster Moves

Zach LaVine has arguably been the Bulls‘ most important player through the first half of the season. He’s a borderline All-Star candidate and any chance of Chicago making the postseason likely hinges on his success.

So does he expect to be involved in the team’s decisions leading up to the trade deadline? Not necessarily, though he would embrace that kind of power, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times relays.

“I mean if they come to me and let me know, I think it would be great,’’ LaVine said of the team speaking with him about potential moves. “If not I’m not taking offense to it either. It’s not something that I’m asking for.

“I know what I stand for. I’m trying to help us get there and I don’t think you can question what my intentions are.’’

Thaddeus Young and Kris Dunn could both be on the move. The Clippers have interest in each player, sources tell Cowley, though Los Angeles could simply wait until the offseason to pursue Dunn, as he will be a restricted free agent.

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Giannis, McKinnie, Cavs, Bulls

After a report earlier this week suggested the Bucks would be willing to trade starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, Jon Horst told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report in no uncertain terms that’s not the case.

“We have no talked to any teams about trading [Bledsoe], since the day that we traded for him,” the Bucks GM said. “And I think it’s evident, pretty strongly, in the fact that we extended Eric, what he means to us.

“The fact that we currently have the best record in the NBA, had the best record last year in the NBA, he’s an All-NBA First Team defender and a guy that we feel strongly should be an All-Star for the Milwaukee Bucks this year. We have not had those conversations, and we are not going to trade Eric Bledsoe.”

It’s hard to imagine the Bucks doing anything too drastic to shake up their roster at the trade deadline next month, considering the team is on a 71-win pace. Bledsoe did struggle in the postseason last spring, so he’ll be under the microscope in this year’s playoffs. If he underperforms again, perhaps Horst’s stance changes, but the veteran point guard looks safe for now.

Here’s more from around the Central:

Central Notes: Griffin, Kennard, Dunn

Pistons star Blake Griffin has struggled this season and the big man isn’t happy with his level of play, Rod Beard of The Detroit News relays.

“It’s obviously a disappointing loss with a lot of frustration for a lot of different reasons,” Griffin said. “I’ve got no excuses; I just have to play better. [Not having a rhythm] doesn’t help but I’ve never really been an excuse guy. I’ve just got to be better — that’s the bottom line.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Luke Kennard will miss at least two weeks with bilateral knee tendinitis, the Pistons announced today in a press release. The wing is expected to be sidelined for at least the team’s next six games.
  • Kris Dunn may have created a future for himself with Bulls, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago contends. The former No. 5 overall pick has embraced his role as a defensive wing.
  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic examines why the Cavaliers agreed to trade away Jordan Clarkson. Cleveland received Dante Exum and a pair of second-rounders in exchange for the guard.

Central Notes: Turner, White, Pistons, Dunn

Pacers big man Myles Turner is building confidence through production, with the 23-year-old stepping up in recent contests to help his team win five straight games, Scott Agness of The Athletic writes.

Turner has averaged 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on 44% shooting for the season, with all three metrics regressing from last year.

“He’s getting a little bit more comfortable with playing at the four position on the offensive end of the floor — where he needs to go, where he’s going to get his opportunities and taking those opportunities when it presents itself,” coach Nate McMillan said on Turner’s gradual improvement this season. “It’s not that we’ve done anything different. I think he’s getting a little bit more comfortable with playing alongside of Domas.”

Turner has averaged 13.8 points and 5.8 rebounds over the last five games, making an even bigger impact defensively over that stretch. As the Pacers continue to play without All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, it’s imperative that Turner keeps producing at a high level.

“I think it really stems from my mindset more than anything,” Turner said. “I see myself doing well, I find little ways to get myself going in the game whether it’s blocking shots or scoring, my confidence comes from production.”

Here’s more out of the Central:

  • Bulls guard Coby White has maintained a solid amount of confidence in his shot this season, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. White, who’s in his rookie season, emphasized the importance of remaining confident despite going through some tough stretches. “The coaching staff believes in me. So do my teammates. They tell me to keep shooting,” White said. “I’m a rookie. I’m only 19. I don’t use that as an excuse. But they always believe me. You’re going to go through slumps. It’s basketball. It’s how you react to it.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines the likely roster changes for the Pistons, who’ve struggled through the season’s first 30 games. Detroit currently owns the 11th best record in the East at 11-19, losing the past four games.
  • Kris Dunn has made a strong impact as a starter with the Bulls, Johnson writes in a different story for NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls have a 6-6 record since Dunn replaced Chandler Hutchison in the starting lineup, with Dunn recording nine points, four assists and four steals in a win over Detroit on Saturday. “He’s a freaking dawg,” teammate Zach LaVine said of Dunn. “He’s not scared of nothing. He’s going to talk his stuff. He’s one of the best defenders out there. He takes that challenge. He brings an energy and toughness to the team. He’ll even talk to me if I’m doing something wrong. He’ll pick me up and get me going. I love everything that he does.”

Central Notes: Sexton, Dunn, Brown, Holiday

Second-year Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton is keenly aware of his Twitter critics, who often attack his court vision and passing acumen. He is taking a promisingly levelheaded approach to fan appraisals, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“If there was no criticism then what can you work on and what can you get better at? That’s just like any job,” Sexton noted. “So, whatever they say I can’t do I’m going to do it.” The No. 8 pick in 2018, voted a second-team All Rookie for the 2018/19 season, has averaged 17.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 2.4 APG this season for the Cavaliers.

Sexton has been adjusting to a new system in Cleveland under new Cavs head coach John Beilein. He has been moved from his pure point guard position last season to a universe of shared ball-handling duties, where he splits lead guard responsibilities with new backcourt mate Darius Garland.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago takes a look at Kris Dunn‘s development in his new role as the Bulls‘ lead perimeter defender. The 6’3″, long-limbed No. 5 pick in the 2016 NBA draft struggled as Chicago’s starting point guard last season. Injuries to Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison compelled coach Jim Boylen to enlist Dunn’s services as spot starting small forward in their absence. Dunn, a 2020 restricted free agent, has been hyper-efficient, and is currently leading the league in total steals with 58.
  • During a recent roundtable conversation at Racine Correctional Institution, Bucks swingman Sterling Brown discussed his ongoing lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee. “They tried to get me to settle for it. I feel like it was just a slap in the face,” Brown told ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard. “The money is not the biggest concern. It’s not a priority for me.” Brown alleges that Milwaukee police officers were racially profiling him and employing excessive force by tasing him for a January 2018 parking violation.
  • Pacers wing Justin Holiday, signed to the team’s room exception with a one-year, $4.8MM contract this summer, has been enjoying a solid season thus far with his seventh NBA team, as the Indianapolis Star’s J. Michael observes. “I never understood why (I didn’t stick) because teams that have actually had me know what I can do,” Holiday said. He is shooting 37.7% from deep this season.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

Bruce Brown, Pistons, 23, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.9MM deal in 2018
The Pistons will have a lot of tough decisions to make prior to the trade deadline and during next off-season. Guaranteeing Brown’s $1.66MM salary for next season will be the easiest one. Brown forced his way into the lineup last season as a defensive specialist. That’s still his calling card but he’s also shown he can play the point and his offensive game is developing. The 2018 second-round pick has averaged 16 PPG over the last three games. Coach Dwane Casey believes Brown’s offense will eventually catch up with his defense, which will make him a long-term starter in the league.

Kris Dunn, Bulls, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $17.5MM deal in 2016
When Chicago acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade and drafted Coby White in the first round, Dunn entered training camp with no defined role. To his credit, the former lottery pick didn’t sulk. Otto Porter‘s injury has opened up steady playing time for Dunn in a smaller lineup. He’s an afterthought at the offensive end but he’s shown some defensive tenacity. This week, he hounded Bradley Beal into one of his worst shooting nights in recent years. The Bulls can make Dunn a restricted free agent by extending a $7MM qualifying offer (or $4.6MM if he doesn’t meet the starter criteria). That’s certainly not a given, but considering Dunn’s outlook in October, he’s at least positioning himself for a multi-year offer.

Jordan Clarkson, Cavaliers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
Clarkson signed with superagent Rich Paul over the summer entering his walk year. That should help him land a multi-year contract when he hits unrestricted free agency in July. Clarkson is basically “doing his thing” again for the rebuilding Cavaliers, providing instant offense off the bench. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer (13.9 PPG) despite averaging just 22.7 MPG. Clarkson’s 3-point shooting (35.1%) is above his career average. If can become more consistent from long range, he’ll be even more valuable on the open market.

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 27, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019
McConnell was a starter for Philadelphia at the beginning of his career. He’s now settled in as a solid second-unit floor leader. McConnell lacks a 3-point shot but he’s adept at breaking down defenses and finding his teammates. He’s averaging 4.9 APG in just 17.7 MPG. After a ho-hum stretch, he’s perked up the last three games, averaging 10 PPG and 5.7 APG. His $3.5MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed. It’s hard to see Indiana letting McConnell go at that modest rate.

Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2018
The Bucks already have enough salary commitments next season to put them over the projected cap. Milwaukee will have to decide before free agency whether to guarantee Ilyasova’s $7MM salary for next season. It’s a safe bet the Bucks will seek a cheaper and/or younger backup to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ilyasova’s 3-point shooting has picked up lately but he’s still a subpar 32.8% for the season. He’s averaging 16.3 MPG, his lowest figure since his rookie season. Ilyasova will hook on somewhere next season as a reserve stretch four but likely at a reduced rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bulls Notes: Hutchinson, LaVine, Markkanen

Chandler Hutchison‘s right shoulder contusion will keep him out through next week, the Bulls announced on their website. The wing suffered the injury in Tuesday’s contest against Golden State and there was fear that he suffered a dislocation or labrum tear.

Here’s more from Chicago:

  • While Jim Boylen has clashed with Zach LaVine more than any other Bulls’ player, the coach knows just how much the team needs the shooting guard to stay in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, Sam Smith of NBA.com writes. LaVine has been Chicago’s best player this season and several other players have taken turns going through rough stretches.
  • The Bulls shouldn’t give up on Lauri Markkanen yet, Smith contends in the same piece. While putting him on the table in a trade offer for someone like San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge or Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis may solve a short-term problem, Markkanen has too much talent and untapped upside to sell low on.
  • Kris Dunn has been a pleasant surprise for the Bulls this season, Smith adds in the same piece. Dunn was the subject of trade chatter over the summer with the team adding point guard talent, but the former No. 5 overall pick has settled into a productive bench role with the team. Smith argues that Chicago should roll out more three-guard lineups with Dunn in them.

Kris Dunn Embracing New Role With Bulls

The Bulls drafted point guard Coby White with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 draft and that meant the end of the Kris Dunn in Chicago — right? Not exactly. The former top-five pick has carved out a bench role with the club and is drawing the praise of his coaching staff.

“He just wants to win,” coach Jim Boylen said. “He’s the first guy in the breakfast room. You have to be in the building 45 minutes before [practice]. He’s in one hour, 45 minutes before. He does his workout 45 minutes before everybody else with Coach [Nate] Loenser. He is locked in. He cares. He always cared. And he’s playing winning basketball. I’m really happy for him.”

Dunn’s defense has become a real asset for the club. He leads the league with 25 steals (Ben Simmons ranks second with 23 steals despite playing 69 more minutes than Dunn) and has helped the team level out at about league average on that side of the court (Chicago was 25th on defense last season, per NBA.com).

“I take pride in my defense,” Dunn said. “The second unit, I think we have good defenders in our group. Archie [Ryan Arcidiacono], he’s a dog. Thad [Young], he’s a dog. Coby, he’s a dog. I could go on and on. We try to come in and bring great energy and try to maintain the lead or, if we’re down, try to get it back.”

Chicago had talks with several clubs over the offseason about Dunn trades. Rival teams interested included the Grizzlies (in what would have been a sign-and-trade involving Justin Holiday). Dunn heard all the rumors, but says there are no hard feelings between him and the Bulls.

“It’s a good team we have. I just wanted to be a part of it. We have a lot of talented players, a good group of guys. I wanted to buy into what Coach is preaching, buy into the system,” Dunn said. “All in all, I feel my game can go anywhere — starting, coming off the bench. Wherever you put me at, I’m a hooper.”

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Central Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

Entering the season, the Central Division appeared to feature two contending teams (the Bucks and Pacers) and two more teams with playoff aspirations (the Pistons and Bulls), leaving just one Central club (the Cavaliers) that looked like a lock to be a seller at the trade deadline.

While it’s still possible that will be the case, Cleveland has exceeded expectations in the early going, playing hard for new head coach John Beilein and currently holding the No. 7 seed in the East at 4-5.

As we wait to see whether the Cavs’ early success is sustainable enough to alter their trade-deadline plans, let’s round up a few potential trade candidates from around the division…

Tristan Thompson, C
Cleveland Cavaliers
$18.53MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

One of five Cavaliers veterans on an expiring contract this season, Thompson entered the year looking like a logical trade candidate. After all, he’s a reliable veteran with a championship under his belt, making him a better fit for a contender than a lottery-bound squad.

However, the Cavaliers value Thompson’s locker-room presence and he’s posting some of the best on-court numbers of his career so far in 2019/20. His 16.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.6 BPG would all be career highs over the course of a full season. A solid rebounder and defender, Thompson spoke last month about wanting to make an All-Defensive team, but he has been better than expected on offense, with Beilein having shown a willingness to run plays through him.

A cynic might say that the Cavaliers are putting Thompson in position to increase his trade value ahead of February’s deadline. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if the team seriously looks into what it would take to keep him around beyond this season before putting him on the trade block.

Langston Galloway, G
Detroit Pistons
$7.33MM cap hit; UFA in 2020

When the Pistons were trying to find a way to keep both Christian Wood and Joe Johnson on their roster at the start of the regular season, Galloway was said to be among the players the team explored trading. In fact, one report suggested Detroit was “very open” to the idea of moving the veteran guard. However, no deal materialized, presumably because teams didn’t view Galloway as a positive asset.

Like Thompson, however, Galloway is off to a great start to the season, averaging 11.6 PPG on .437/.457/.912 shooting through 11 games (24.2 MPG). While the Pistons may not have expected him to have this significant a role, injuries to Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, and Tim Frazier have forced the team’s hand — as has Galloway’s strong play.

Whether or not Galloway re-emerges as a trade candidate may hinge on the Pistons’ ability to remain in the playoff mix in the East. If the club is in position to make a win-now move at the deadline, Galloway’s expiring contract would make a logical salary-matching chip. If not, it may be in the club’s best interest to just let his contract expire at season’s end — unless he plays well enough to gain positive trade value.

Kris Dunn, PG
Chicago Bulls
$5.35MM cap hit; RFA in 2020

Dunn, who has also been the subject of trade rumors before this season, has seen his stock dip drastically since he was acquired by the Bulls in 2017. His offensive numbers this season are especially modest, and his usage rate is down to 15.1 through 10 games, well below the 22.5 mark he posted in his first two years in Chicago.

However, head coach Jim Boylen likes how the former top-five pick has played so far this season, as Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. While he has taken on a more passive role on offense, Dunn has been strong on defense, averaging 2.2 steals in just 20.4 minutes per game. That’s important for a Bulls team that has been up and down on the defensive end so far this season.

Despite a decent start, Dunn could end up back on the trade block within the next few months due to his contract situation and the Bulls’ roster situation. Tomas Satoransky and Ryan Arcidiacono signed three-year contracts with the team in July and Coby White was the seventh overall pick, so Chicago has more invested in its other point guards than in Dunn, who will be a free agent in 2020.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eastern Notes: Celtics, Satoransky, Lowry, Aminu

A Wednesday report suggested the Celtics have offered Jaylen Brown a four-year, $80MM contract extension and that the young swingman passed on that offer in search of a more lucrative deal. Appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston on Thursday, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge referred to that report as “not accurate,” though he declined to offer any real specifics on the team’s talks with Brown.

“We are working to come to some result by Monday as our deadline, and the negotiations have gone well,” the Celtics’ top decision-maker said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “It’s just not an accurate report, that’s all. We’ve given him numerous offers. We’ve been negotiating for a little while. So, that’s all.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote earlier today that multiple teams are watching the Celtics’ negotiations with Brown closely, since the soon-to-be-23-year-old would be a prime candidate for a big offer sheet if he reaches restricted free agency next summer. However, Ainge said that neither Brown nor the C’s are “too stressed” about the situation, as Forsberg notes.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • After assuming most of the scoring and play-making responsibilities in Charlotte, Kemba Walker is enjoying playing on a Celtics team that has players capable of sharing that burden, writes John Karalis of MassLive.com. “It takes a lot of pressure off me,” Walker said earlier this week. “I’m getting a lot of different shots as well, but I’m loving it, not having to do so much all the time. Hopefully my usage rate might be going down a little bit. It allows other guys to make plays and I can appreciate that for sure.”
  • The Bulls officially named offseason free agent addition Tomas Satoransky their starting point guard this week, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details. Satoransky beat our fourth-year guard Kris Dunn, who is entering a contract year. However, Dunn is staying positive as he prepares for a reserve role, Johnson writes in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story.
  • After signing an extension with the Raptors this week, Kyle Lowry said that both sides “worked extremely hard to get it done” and that he’s glad to remain in the place he wanted to be. GM Bobby Webster, meanwhile, said working out a new deal with Lowry before opening night was always the goal. You don’t want to go into seasons with anything hanging over the team,” Webster said. “We knew it was something that was really important to him and it was really important to us (Twitter links via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Al-Farouq Aminu‘s new teammates in Orlando have been raving about his versatility, work ethic, and ability to adapt quickly to the Magic‘s system, writes John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. Aminu was the team’s big offseason addition, signing a three-year contract worth nearly $30MM.