2014-15 Chicago Bulls: So far, so good

In his contract year, 4th-year SG Jimmy Butler (with ball) has been the Bulls' best offensive player to date. Pay the man, GarPax.  Tom Szczerbowski -- USA Today Sports

In his contract year, 4th-year SG Jimmy Butler (with ball) has been the Bulls’ best offensive player to date. Pay the man, GarPax. Tom Szczerbowski — USA Today Sports

At 17-9, the Chicago Bulls currently sit in first place in the NBA’s Central Division, three-and-a-half games behind the Toronto Raptors (yes, the freaking Toronto Raptors) for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference. With an expected win-loss record of 16-10, it appears the Bulls are about where they should be in terms of play. One-and-a-half games behind the Bulls in the Central are the reloaded Cleveland Cavaliers (15-10), and once again, the East looks fairly weak, especially when compared to the West.

Backcourt.

Obviously, the most compelling story behind the 14-15 Bulls has been, and will be, the return of PG Derrick Rose. Even those who resided under a rock this past summer were most likely made aware of Rose’s each move on the basketball court, whether it was for Team USA during the FIBA Basketball World Cup or Bulls, during the preseason and regular season. Before missing the last two games due to illness, Rose had started and finished ten straight games. In 16 games, playing just over 27 minutes a night, Rose has posted this line:

16.8 PPG, 3.3 TRB, 5.1 AST, .421 FG%, .281 3P%, .776 FT%, 3.3 TOV, .522 TS%, 17.1 PER

While 17/3/5 in just 27 minutes a night would be wonderful for just about anyone, Rose isn’t just

Derrick Rose, doing Derrick Rose stuff.

Derrick Rose, doing Derrick Rose stuff.

about anyone. A career 46% shooter from the field and 31% from long distance, Rose has never been a sharpshooter, although he’s improved as a shooter since entering the league in 2008. Factoring into Rose’s paltry shooting numbers this season is his shot selection. So far, Rose has attempted a career-low 38.6% of his shots from ten feet and closer. What makes this number so frustrating is that he’s shooting just over 59% in that space on the floor, a career-high mark. From deep, Rose has put up more shots (nearly 6 a game) than any other time since his second year in the league and this season. Not only is this problematic because Rose is shooting terribly from three-point territory, but also because the Bulls are currently second in the league in free throws per field goal attempt. When Rose chucks from deep, he misses nearly 75% of the time, creating easier opportunities for the opponent to get into their transition offense and score quick, efficient baskets. Rose is still knocking the rust off of his game, but he’s been well above-average thus far and should find production at a higher level easier as the season goes on.

Twenty-five year-old shooting guard Jimmy Butler entered the 14-15 season needing to improve on a disappointing 13-14 campaign that saw his value plummet and questions arise whether or not Butler could be the Bulls’ off guard of the future. Through 24 games (all starts), Butler has been pretty damn good, and the dreaded “m” word may get thrown around when/if contract negotiations come up this offseason. Averaging a shade under 22 points per night while shooting a very respectable 49% from the field and 33% from deep, Butler has also maintained his status as one of the league’s better defenders. With a VORP that has already reached 5.1, Butler seems on track for an All-NBA caliber season.

I never expected Kirk Hinrich to do much when he was re-signed this offseason. And, you know what, he certainly hasn’t on the offensive end. On the defensive end, however, he’s been surprisingly average and dare I say, on most nights, above-average. This still doesn’t negate the fact that he’s shooting 36% from the field (actually down from last year’s 39% and 12-13’s 38%) and has posted a PER of 8.2 and VORP of -0.1, making him damn near valueless in the 28 minutes a night he’s playing. The man who should be most angered by the Bulls’ loyalty to Hinrich besides myself is fellow backup point man, Aaron Brooks. The 6’1″ Oregon product can be added to the list of smaller, backup point guards (Nate Robinson, DJ Augustin) who found a home, and success, with the Bulls. While playing nearly 20 minutes a night, Brooks has averaged almost 11 points a night and just over 3 assists. With a shooting line of (FG%/3P%/FT%) .470/.446/.857 to boot, Brooks has proved to be a wise investment, although he does average 4 turnovers per 36 minutes.

Tony Snell probably doesn’t have much of a future with the Bulls, and his performance in limited time this season has not changed that opinion. After a strong summer performance, Snell has apparently fallen out of the rotation and has posted a PER of a measly 5. Backup point guard E’Twaun Moore was signed to essentially fill out the roster and has done just that, picking up some minutes occasionally.

Frontcourt.

Reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year and 1st-Team All-NBA center Joakim Noah has been slowed by injuries thus far, but has still managed to post (PPG/RPG/APG) 8.7/9.9/4.3 a night and produce at a high level on the defensive end. His field goal percentage and True Shooting percentage have both dropped for the fifth consecutive season, however. Fellow starting big Pau Gasol has been nothing short of spectacular in his first season with the Bulls, averaging 18.2/11.7/2.3 a night. Gasol is also averaging 2 blocks per game and has been much more of an interior defensive presence than I was willing to give him credit for when he signed as a free agent in July. Playing nearly 36 minutes a night, though, could spell doom for the 34 year-old big when April rolls around.

Sixth-year power forward Taj Gibson appeared set to be the Bulls’ starting power forward once Carlos Boozer was amnestied, but Gasol signed and Gibson was once again relegated to the bench when Gasol and Noah are healthy. Despite another season of limited opportunities and lack of appreciation, Gibson has been great this season, averaging 12.6 & 7.2 in just over 30 minutes a contest. Still an excellent defender down low and on the perimeter, Gibson has in addition become more aggressive on the offensive end, attempting well over half of his shots at the rim and making 67% of them. Small forward Mike Dunleavy has appeared and started in all 26 games and while he never really gives me cause for excitement, he also never really disappoints me, either. You could probably put Dunleavy on any NBA roster and he’d manage to average 10 points and 5 rebounds a night while shooting close to 40% from three-point territory. Eerie.

Nikola Mirotic will inevitably become my favorite NBA player. Of this, I’m sure. Yes, I am fully aware that Mirotic is not yet Dirk Nowitzki, or even Toni Kukoc. However, dare I say that Mirotic will wind up being better than the two? Saving that opinion for later… Mirotic’s line so far:

8.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.2 AST, .441 FG%, .400 3P%, .809 FT%, .603 TS%, 17.7 PER

That’s not a line we usually see from Rookie of the Year winners, but generally, rookies who contend for the award aren’t playing for teams that are legitimate title contenders. Head coach Tom Thibodeau seems to have an aversion to rookies, but most of his rookies weren’t “Niko.” Already a competent defender and very good rebounder, all Niko needs to do is become more aggressive on the offensive side (almost half of his field goal attempts have come from three-point territory), giving the Bulls another weapon on that end.

I’m still holding out hope that rookie small forward Doug McDermott will eventually become a productive NBA player. The problem is that I’m not quite sure he will ever be a productive player for the Bulls. Marquis Teague, “McD” is not, even on his worst day. Yet, it’s not a stretch to predict that as a Bull, McD may not give the team much more than Teague did. Out for another 5 to 7 weeks after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, McDermott had limited opportunities before he was felled by injury, but even in those chances (11.6 minutes per), he was pretty awful:

3.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG, .423 FG%, .231 3P%, .500 FT%, .488 TS%, 4.1 PER

Now, I don’t believe McD is as bad as that line shows. However, when he returns later this season, he’s going to have to contribute on the offensive end, because I simply don’t see him providing much in the way of meaningful value on defense.

Nazr Mohammed, a CPS and Kenwood Academy product, can do no wrong in my eyes, so long

Cameron Bairstow, NBA player. No, seriously.

Cameron Bairstow, NBA player. No, seriously.

as he doesn’t have to play more than a few minutes per game. As for rookie big man Cameron Bairstow, I don’t know much else about him except that he makes rookie-year Carmelo Anthony look absolutely svelte, and that he needs to ditch that headbandthing and tube socks.

A semi-outlook.

Presently, the Bulls are 15th in scoring (102.2 per game), 11th in scoring defense (98.4), 10th in Offensive Rating (108.4) and 9th in Defensive Rating (104.3). There are still some kinks that need to be ironed out, but most of those kinks have been related to injuries, which in my opinion is a better obstacle to have to clear than inept play. With 56 games left to play, there is still plenty of time for the Bulls to find out just what they are, which I hope is a legitimate contender for an NBA title.

2013-14 Chicago #Bulls: Derrick Rose is back, Boozer will yell, Thibs is a machine. #NBA

Easy.

Easy.

If you or anyone else you know was excited when Derrick Rose was set to play his first NBA preseason game since before the 2011-12 season, then I’ll just go out on a limb and assume that you and those people are probably currently breathing into a brown paper bag. It’s okay; I’ve gone through six already. In the last hour.

Today marks the beginning of the 2013-14 NBA season, which means at least 82 games of Chicago Bulls basketball. Last year’s team played the entire regular season and postseason without Rose. They won 45 games during the regular season and even managed to eliminate the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, in seven games. After stealing Game 1 from the Miami Heat in the second round, the Heat regrouped and swept the rest of the series.

Outgoing Bulls: PF Louis Amundson, SG Marco Belinelli, SG Daequan Cook, SG Richard Hamilton, PF Vladimir Radmanovic, PG Nate Robinson, PF Malcom Thomas

Amundson, Cook, Radmanovic and Thomas simply filled the roster last year, but the losses of Belinelli, Robinson and even Hamilton will hurt the Bulls a little bit. Belinelli improved as the year went on, especially on the defensive end, and the Bulls will miss having an offensively competent, 6’5″ 2-guard who can handle the ball effectively. Nate Robinson was seemingly every Bulls fan’s most and least favorite Bull, but I think he ultimately won a lot of folks over with his postseason heroics. While Hamilton played in only 50 games, he was still a serviceable player, but one who could never seem to avoid injury.

Incoming Bulls: SG Mike Dunleavy, PG Mike James, PF Erik Murphy (Rookie, Florida), Tony Snell (Rookie, New Mexico)

For whatever reason, there are still some Bulls fans who continue to lament the loss of sharpshooter 2-guard Kyle Korver, but I’ve been over it since the day he was officially no longer a Bull. Belinelli was looked at as a replacement for Korver by many, and wrongfully so. I don’t think Dunleavy is as high caliber of a player as those two, but his shot is close to Korver’s, and he can make a play every once in a while, a la Marco. Good enough for me. James will be an emergency/garbage time player, and being 38 years young, that’s suitable for him. Snell, the Bulls’ 2013 first-round pick, probably won’t play much at all in 2013-14, but he’ll turn just 22 in less than 2 weeks and comes from a solid basketball program. Murphy will play even less than Snell, but with the NBA essentially wiping out prototypical power forwards and replacing them with “stretch 4s” who can shoot the long ball, Murphy will certainly have a role on this team going forward.

Good times...

Good times…

The Backcourt: DERRICK ROSE IS BACK! Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to look at what’s in the Bulls’ guard stable. Obviously, things start with Rose. He looked great throughout the preseason and appears to be the most confident he’s ever been during his pro career. I truly hope that along with working out and shooting during his idle time, that Rose was watching the game and attempting to learn as much as he possibly could. Rose is the Bulls’ clear-cut floor general, and if he can become more of a point guard who’s a scorer rather than a scorer who’s a point guard, things could get very ugly, very quickly for the rest of the NBA. Kirk Hinrich is back for another dance and really, the Bulls just need him to be average. Hinrich is still a capable ballhandler, distributor and defender (let’s not foray into his shooting woes), so as long as too much isn’t heaped on his plate, he should do just fine. Jimmy Butler will be the starting shooting guard this season, and everyone and their grandmother is predicting that Butler will be one of the NBA’s breakout stars this season. I doubt he’ll come remotely close to All-Star recognition, but he will easily be the best 2-guard the Bulls have had in several years. I’m still not a fan of the Marquis Teague pick in 2012, but I suppose that if he can push Hinrich for playing time this season, the pick was at least somewhat worth it. The world would be a better place if Teague were 2 inches shorter, but then again, the world would be a better place if Krause and Co. hadn’t screwed the Bulls’ dynasty out of potentially another title or two.

The Frontcourt: Yeah, so Omer Asik is a Houston Rocket, and has been since the beginning of the 2012-13 season. The Houston Rockets made him an offer the Bulls probably never intended to match, and the most promising (in my opinion) big the Bulls had was as good as gone. Center Nazr Mohammed is back and should get quality minutes as a a valuable frontcourt reserve the Bulls so desperately need. Power forward Taj Gibson will be playing under his new contract for the first time this year, a 4-year, $33 million extension he signed last Halloween, and the pressure is on Taj to not only produce, but produce at a level high enough that would make the Bulls’ brass feel comfortable in amnestying Carlos

Scream on, 'Los.

Scream on, ‘Los.

 Boozer over the summer of 2014. Gibson’s production dropped in 12-13 slightly, but I believe that he’ll be relied on more in 13-14 than any other time since his rookie year, and that reliance will utlimately pay off. Boozer, on the other hand, will probably end up averaging close to 16, 17 points and 8, 9 rebounds per game and most fans will still do everything in their power to obliterate him. I get it; he’s become the Bulls’ convenient whipping boy. He frustrates the hell out of me plenty (How about instead of screaming for Jo to give a little help D, you provide the help yourself, Carlos?!), but I’m objective enough to admit that with a healthy Boozer, the Bulls are a better team than they are without Boozer at all. There was a time when I couldn’t stand the sight of Joakim Noah. It was bad enough that I felt he was an unbridled idiot at the University of Florida. Hearing NBA commissioner announce that the Bulls were selecting him with the ninth pick of the 2007 NBA Draft about damn near sent me over the edge, figuratively. The feelings didn’t get any better during his tumultous beginning with the Bulls, either. But now, he’s my favorite Bull, with all due apologies to fellow Chicagoan, Derrick Rose. Simple and plain, Noah is the Bulls’ engine. He was the best all-around center in the NBA last year, and those who weren’t already aware got to see the greatness that is Noah’s passing ability on a nightly basis. Granted, Noah did miss 16 games and was plagued by that damn plantar fascitis in the playoffs, but I’d still take him over any other center in the NBA, no bias involved. I don’t hate Luol Deng. I just don’t think he’s an elite NBA player, or has ever been one. I’ll readily admit that he is one of the better small forwards in the NBA, but one of the best? That, would be a stretch. Deng is in the last year of his ridiculous contract, and if he wants a new deal that also includes a hefty amount of dollars, he’ll perform like the good all-around hooper that he is in 13-14. I believe that Deng is capable of so much more than he produces, and has all too often faded into the background when there’s a play to be made. With Rose back and on a mission, Deng won’t hit that 20/8/4 line that I’ve been waiting for, for years. But if he can stay healthy, and not tail off on the defensive end where he is most highly valued, he’ll help the Bulls rack up Ws and himself rack up dollars in free agency.

Too much swank, Tom, Too much damn swank.

Too much swank, Tom, Too much damn swank.

The Coach: Tom Thibodeau enters the 2013-14 season with a regular season winning percentage of .683, which obviously includes a mere .549 percentage from the 12-13 season. In their first two seasons under “Thibs,” the Bulls finished with the NBA’s best regular season record before being eliminated in the playoffs. It’s true that injuries played a part in those premature exits, but Thibs didn’t help matters as much as he could, especially on the offensive end. Since 2010-11, the Bulls have been a top-five team, defensively, but just mediocre when it comes to the other side of the game. When you’re a stout defensive team, there isn’t the impetus to score 115 points a game. This is clear. However, the Bulls aren’t without some talented, versatile weapons. Fortunately, Rose will lead a new Bulls’ offense that will hopefully be able to score more points, more efficiently. Some will be quick to opine that a new offense will be the difference between another early playoff exit and a NBA title, but I would disagree on the grounds that regardless of scheme, missing players or being forced to suit up ailing ones takes an expert offensive scheme and marginalizes it. Besides X’s and O’s, Thibs could probably not seemingly drive Deng into the ground in terms of minutes played, which would benefit both parties. Other than that, I really don’t see any glaring flaws in Thibodeau’s coaching abilities. The Bulls will come out and play 48 minutes just about every night, and that goes double for the defensive side of things. Hopefully, the controversy surrounding the departure of one of his top former assistants is nothing to acknowledge, and Thibs does his (semi) madman thing and guides this team to even greater things.

In Summation: DERRICK ROSE IS BACK! Yes, you were made aware of this earlier, and I felt I should remind you again. No NBA team had a better offseason than the Bulls, because Rose’s return could basically be viewed as an offseason acquisition. The Houston Rockets acquired a new, top-5 player in center Dwight Howard, but I’d still argue that the Bulls had a better offseason because I feel the Bulls are closer to a title than the Rockets, even with Howard and shooting guard James Harden. Supposedly, Deng feels disrespected because he hasn’t been re-signed, or even offered an extension. Touch cookies. I’m sure we’ll get the customary “walk year” play from him, which means we could see an elevated Deng or deflated one. Hinrich will likely be okay and won’t make me pull my hair out, but I’m sensing some epically frustrating play from Boozer this year. It’s okay, ‘Los. Nikola will relieve you, starting with the 2014-15 NBA season. Noah is over the plantar fascitis, and sore groin that plagued him this preseason, and I believe he’ll come close to matching his per36 numbers from last year. The first person to tweet “The Butler Did It” will be blocked, without prejudice. Dunleavy won’t draw my ire as much as fellow Dookies, Deng and Boozer, but that’s because he wasn’t an overhyped media creation in college that benefitted from playing for a diminutive bully. Hit a freakin’ jump shot, Mr. Teague. For the love of everything that is good, hit a freakin’ jump shot. I think Snell will ditch the  cornrows in favor of a Gumby fade, and show Thibs late in the season that 14-15 will be his coming-out party. Murphy will connect on at least 35% from 3 and be confused for Kyle Korver about 1,273 times even though the two don’t really favor each other all that much. Nazr Mohammed will cement his status as the greatest Kenwood Academy alum to ever play in the NBA. We’re just going to ignore the fact that Mohammed is the only Kenwood Academy alum to ever play in the NBA, okay? Thibodeau will become the spokesman for Ricola, and, during testy negotiations with the company, leave them for Hall before realizing that both just wanted to objectify his damaged vocal chords. It will finally be recognized that no fanbase in all of professional sports is greater than the Bulls’ fanbase. Now… SEE. RED.

Save us, Chicago Blackhawks, you’re our only hope!

Chicago Blackhawks, 2012-13 NHL Western Conference Champions

Chicago Blackhawks, 2012-13 NHL Western Conference Champions

Except for my college years, I have had the privilege to live in the city of Chicago. I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and also lived on the north side for a spell, specifically in the Lakeview area. My entire life, I have been a fan of Chicago’s major professional sports teams, except for the White Sox. No, I do not hate the Sox, even though I am a (currently, and not always) diehard Cubs fan. I was actually a Sox fan until the 1994 strike, and at the time, Frank Thomas was my favorite baseball player. In my household, sports and an affinity for them were almost mandatory, thanks to my mother. Admittedly, I have nothing on Bill Swerski’s “Superfans,” but I have no qualms with letting anyone know where my pro sports loyalties lie. Yes, this includes my allegiance to the mostly hapless Cubs.

Get some, Kaner. Get some.

Get some, Kaner. Get some.

Saturday, June 8, the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings from the playoffs, winning the Western Conference Finals, 4 games to 1. After right winger Patrick Kane scored what seemed to be the winning goal with just under 4 minutes left in regulation, Kings center Mike Richards, playing in his first game since Game 1 due to a concussion, notched the equalizer with just 10 seconds left to play. After a scoreless first overtime, Kaner completed the hat trick 11:40 into the second extra session, sending 22,237 fans at the United Center into a frenzy. The rest of the team swarmed Kane, captain Jonathan Toews didn’t touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl, the team took the customary picture surrounding a guy in a suit and their trophy, and Blackhawks fans from Chicago to Uranus celebrated like it was 1999. For a brief moment, the victory made most Chicagoans forget about their love for other Chicago pro sports teams and how much they have frustrated us of late.

Chicago Cubs: With a current record of 25-35 after yesterday’s 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs are still at least a year or two from being legitimate title contenders. It’s wonderful that the Cubs have a top-10 farm system, but farm systems don’t win ballgames. The St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pirates are the class of the National League Central at the moment, but the Cubs haven’t been as bad as their record. Their Pythagorean W-L record is 30-30, which for this group of 25 would be reason to celebrate if it weren’t just the Pythagorean W-L. Even though this squad has been a bit better and more competitive than the 2012 version, this is still a bad Cubs team that will probably finish 2013 in the neighborhood of 100 losses. Bright side: Another high draft pick. Not-so-bright side: More mostly craptastic baseball to watch through this summer.

Chicago Bulls: Nearly everyone and their grandmother got tired of the hoopla surrounding point guard Derrick Rose and his possible return from a torn ACL, which he suffered at the end of Game 1 in the first round of last year’s playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. It got to the point that even the most ardent Rose supporters didn’t want to hear his damn name anymore. Playing without Rose for the entire ’12-’13 season, the Bulls grinded and finished 45-37. They also actually won a first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat ain’t the Nets and dispatched the Bulls in 5 games, winning their second-round series, 4 games to 1. I had serious questions about this team before the season, and they still exist. There are nights, when fully healthy, that the Bulls look like legitimate title contenders. There are others, when fully healthy, that the Bulls look like a very good team that won’t ever get over the hump. Rose should be ready for the start of the ’13-’14 season, thankfully. Still, I’m not sure this is a team that can consider itself better than the Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and even a healthy and properly-coached Los Angeles Lakers team. I actually expect some fairly large moves to be made this offseason, hopefully involving small forward Luol Deng and/or power forward Carlos Boozer.

Chicago Bears: For some strange reason, tons of Bears fans were fooled by the Bears’ performance during the first half of the 2012 season. I assume they totally disregarded the weak schedule and at times, anemic and inconsistent offense. In addition, an opportunistic and not necessarily elite defense that made all sorts of wild plays in the first half wasn’t nearly as effective in the second half, which put more pressure on the Jay Cutler-led offense. Oy vey. After the Bears missed the playoffs despite finishing 2012 with a 10-6 record, Lovie Smith and Co. were shown the door. Replacing him at the helm is renowned quarterback guru and former CFL head coach Marc Trestman. Cutler will probably be better under Trestman, but he’s still Jay Cutler. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher retired after failing to re-sign with the Bears and not getting much attention from other teams. 2011 first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday…for a sixth-round pick. The Bears defense got a bit younger, but I’m not sure if they’ll be any better than they were last season. 2013 could be better for the Bears, but they’ll need more than a little bit of luck to even reach the Super Bowl, in my opinion. Bear Down, though!

Chicago White Sox: To the delight of more than a few White Sox fans, Kenny Williams left his general manager position to take a higher one within the organization. Replacing him was the highly respected Rick Hahn, who probably actually values building a decent farm system and not being the pretentious maverick that Williams was. Granted, Williams did make moves that partially led to the Sox’ 2005 World Series title, but he has also made moves that can be attributed to the team’s awful list of prospects and current state of mediocrity. I’d also like to assume that Hahn would never blame poor attendance on the recession and make bold proclamations that make even residents of a mental ward chuckle. The Sox currently have a record of 27-34, Paul Konerko is hitting .235, Adam Dunn is hitting .165 with a slugging percentage of .398, John Danks is still overpaid and manager Robin Ventura would probably relive his “fight” with Nolan Ryan than suffer through being the skip of a team that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But, hey, there’s still southpaw Chris Sale…

Besides the Cubs, the other teams I mentioned aren’t really all that terrible. However, they’re not even in the same stratosphere as the Blackhawks. This can be written with confidence even though the Blackhawks didn’t even make it past the first round in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs. The Hawks have a great mix of young and older talent, and are led by a great head coach, Joel Quenneville. They’re also a very deep team, with scoring punch on lines 1-4 and a solid stable of defensemen. Oh, and starting goalie Corey Crawford and his backup, Ray Emery, are pretty damn good, too.

It’s true that the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Finals matchup with the Boston Bruins will be tougher than any of their previous playoff series this postseason, but I don’t see them wilting under the pressure in the same fashion that the Pittsburgh Penguins did in the Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, I think a team that has won 7 of their last 8 games is amped to play for their Stanley Cup title since 2010. As frustrating as this team can be at times, they’re also very exciting to watch. It’s also exciting to think about their future, with young established players at the pro level and some of the best prospects in the game waiting for their shot to skate with the big boys. Ignoring the future and concentrating on the present, the Blackhawks are the hottest and best ticket in town, and could salvage what may be a very disappointing 2013 for fans of Chicago’s major pro sports teams. *looks around, ends transmission*

P.S. No shade to the Chicago Fire and Sky. I love y’all, too.

Going forward with the Bulls “core…”

Probably the last time these four were all 100% at the same time...

Probably the last time these four were all 100% healthy at the same time…

Recently, Bulls general manager Gar Forman threw out a stat that I was completely unaware of. While I wasn’t foreign to the fact that a healthy foursome of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer gave the Bulls its best chance of winning ballgames, I had no clue that the team wins almost 9 out of every 10 games when those four are on the floor and healthy. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the 2010-11 NBA season, that hasn’t always been the case. All four players have missed a substantial amount of time due to injuries, and 2012-13 was no different. Obviously, there was Rose’s mangled ACL, but both Deng and Noah dealt with various injuries this past season as well. Only Booz went through the regular and postseason relatively unscathed.

The Centerpiece.

Derrick Rose is by far the best offensive threat on the team, and if it weren’t for Joakim Noah, he’d be the best all-around Bull, too. However, I was skeptical of his health before the end of Game 1 in last year’s playoffs. He missed 27 of the team’s 66 games in the lockout-shortened ’11-’12 season because of injury. His shooting proficiency dropped (he wasn’t exactly Stephen Curry before, mind you) and he wasn’t the same attacker that he was in his MVP year. Rose was a better distributor, but 8 assists per game over 66 games would have helped more than 8 per over 39. Still, the Bulls finished ’11-’12 with the best regular-season record and had a very good ’12-’13, considering Rose missing every second of it. One would assume that Rose has used this time on the sidelines to improve his game, most notably from the perimeter and on defense. And please, for the love of my sanity, I am very hopeful that Rose’s decision-making has improved greatly. He isn’t guilty of many of the unforced turnovers that OKC’s Russell Westbrook commits, but sometimes his shot selection is Jamal Crawford-bad. I think it is safe to say that Rose will get over this large rash of injuries in ’13-’14 and be the dominant player that he was. If he doesn’t approach where he was before being felled by a torn ACL, though, the Bulls are up the creek without even a semblance of a paddle.

“JOOO!!!”

Center Joakim Noah is the heart and soul of the Bulls, but he’s also a damn good basketball player, too. No other Bull contributes as much as he does on both ends of the floor, and he is a joy to watch as well. Unfortunately, like Rose, “Jo” is prone to catch the injury bug and has missed 70 regular-season games since the start of 2009-10. He was also slowed in this year’s playoffs by plantar fascitis, which slowed him a bit. The eclectic big man is what he is and his ’12-’13 line of 14 pts/11 reb/4 ast/2 Blk per game while playing all but a quarter of them is fine with me. On a defense-first team, he is the perfect player. With 3 years and a little over 36 million left on his contract, he has a very team-friendly deal, too, when you take into account his overall production. He’s not a great jump shooter and doesn’t operate from the low block as well as I’d like, but his offensive rebounding and passing more than make up for it. But, because I am a realist: Is that effing plantar fascitis ever going to go away?

The glue…

Luol Deng aka “the glue guy,” is the most overrated of the bunch, to no fault of his own. The small forward just goes about his business, whether going for 25 points and 10 rebounds in a win or 10 and 5 in a loss. I believe that fellow wingman Jimmy Butler has shown enough to be a viable replacement for Deng, regardless of popular opinion, whatever it may be. Deng has shown a knack for disappearing in key games, especially in the playoffs. I completely disregard this year’s playoffs, because he was unable to play in over half of it due to complications from a spinal tap procedure. If you watched him before this postseason, though, you may wonder how anyone would think he’s among the elite at even his position. Please, don’t think I am a “hater” of Deng or worse. I just feel he’s a good player in a system that doesn’t heap a ton of responsibility on him, on either end of the floor. Head coach Tom Thibodeau loves the hell out of Deng, which is why he’s on the floor more than any other Bull. Has the added playing time since Thibodeau’s hiring in the summer of 2010 contributed to occasional injuries? Probably. Probably not. Deng’s contract expires after ’13-’14, and it will be interesting to see happens with the two-time All Star in the near future.

Mr. Booz.

Carlos Boozer is the Bulls fanbase’s whipping boy. He was essentially a consolation prize in some eyes in the summer of 2010, and that was before he broke his hand and missed time at the beginning of 2010-11, not after. Defensively, Boozer is downright bad. I credit him for constantly communicating with his teammates, but there have been dozens of times in which he has simply looked lost or somewhat apathetic on that end. Yes, the Bulls are a great defensive team, but how often have you seen an opposing player make an easy layup or dunk because Boozer was late giving help defense? Offensively, Booz is the best and most consistent option the Bulls currently have. One issue I have with the Bulls bland offense (I’m sick of watching that crap, Thibs) is that Booz doesn’t get enough touches, especially early in the game. I’ve realized that Boozer is like a power running back. You can count on him to give you 100 yards on 25 carries, which is nothing really flashy. In all of my years watching football, however, it seems to help those kinds of backs more when their team looks to establish the run early. Booz no longer plays for Jerry Sloan and his flex offense in Utah, and no longer plays alongside a point guard, Deron Williams, who runs the pick-and-roll as well as any point man since John Stockton. Boozer’s number of possessions with the Bulls have also taken a hit because of Rose’s astronomical–for a point guard–USG% numbers. Despite the fact that I have defended Boozer more than most, I wouldn’t mind the Bulls amnestying him, just to free up cap space. No other team wants a soon-to-be 32 year-old, undersized defensive liability who has barely average athleticism, so the amnesty option is probably the best route for the Bulls to take if they want to be rid of Boozer. Of course, I’m writing about the Bulls, so that means in the spring of 2015 I’ll be screaming at Boozer from my living room to rotate on defense properly and go to the rim like a man who is 6’9″, 260, and not 5’9″, 160.

And now?

With the exception of Rose, everyone on the Bulls roster should be available to acquire via trade. Since no one in their right mind would give up anything of significant value for Booz, the best remaining assets are Noah and Deng. Losing Noah would cripple an already thin frontcourt, and again, he has a somewhat extensive injury history. So, if the Bulls want to make a splash in the trade market, Deng will be the one to go. In my opinion, he has peaked in terms of ability, and I worry that he won’t take the pay cut that I hope the Bulls ask him to after next season. He’s still technically in his physical prime and was an All-Star last season. I’m sure at least 3/4 of the teams in the league would love to have him. I wouldn’t advocate essentially giving up on a good 28 year-old wing, but the Bulls are in a bit of a precarious situation heading into the 2013-14 regular season. As presently constructed, the Bulls aren’t as safe a bet to win a title as the Heat or Thunder. Part of this is due to the Bulls’ inability to maintain a certain level of health, especially as it pertains to their top four players. The Bulls are in a better position than most other teams, but this offseason, we could see a shakeup to the team’s core, and they would probably be better off in the long run for it.

“Go Boozer Go,” and precious SEC football fans.

Boozer excited. Boozer scream.  Gregory Shamus -- Getty Images

Boozer excited. Boozer scream. Gregory Shamus — Getty Images

Carlos Boozer doesn’t suck.

When the Chicago Bulls signed then-free agent power forward Carlos Boozer to a 5-year, $75,000,000 contract on July 8, 2010, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. With other free agents on the market such as LeBron James, A’mare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and even Rudy Gay, I viewed the signing as more of a consolation prize than huge get for the Bulls. Perhaps I felt this way because the Bulls’ pursuit of James and Wade was so highly publicized, and it appeared that the team went all-out in an effort to sign one of the two, or both. Carlos Boozer was a good player and filled a need for the Bulls, but essentially the Bulls cleared a bunch of cap space to sign an undersized, injury-prone defensive liability who could score the basketball better than most frontcourt players in the league, but never actually carried his two previous teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz.

Boozer’s first season with the Bulls brought out the detractors, especially after he missed a chunk of the beginning of 2010-11 with a broken hand, which he suffered after tripping over a bag in his home. He averaged close to 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, but if not for point guard Derrick Rose’s MVP-level play, the Bulls would have been just another above-average team. Averaging less than 13 points per game in the playoffs won’t get you much love, either, as Boozer also shot an awful 43% from the floor in the 2011 playoffs. The 2011-12 regular season wasn’t that much better for Boozer, as his scoring and rebounding averages decreased rather significantly. Once again, he faltered in the playoffs, and the top-seeded Bulls were eliminated by the 8th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.

There weren’t too many folks who didn’t clamor for the Bulls to amnesty or trade Boozer in the following offseason, and I was one of them. I didn’t believe he was horrible like so many others, but that he just wasn’t a great fit with the team. Once it became apparent that the Bulls weren’t going to amnesty or trade “Booz,” all I could do was hope that he’d somehow turn it around in 2012-13, even though that would be a tall task without the services of Rose, who was expected to miss most of 12-13 with a torn ACL.

Somehow, some way, Booz has pleased more than disappointed during the 12-13 campaign. No, I’m not writing this because of his efforts in the Bulls’ last 3 games, in which he has averaged 27.3 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor, all Bulls wins. Simply put, Boozer has been more of a pleasure to watch, all around. Sure, there have been moments where his lack of attention to detail on the defensive end has cost the Bulls, and he has definitely had a crappy game here and there. Booz has committed costly turnovers, missed too many damn free throws and still relies a bit too much on perimeter play when he is built like a bulldozer in human form.

However, Booz has played fairly well in spite of his shortcomings. I believe this can be attributed to two factors: Head coach Tom Thibodeau leaning on Boozer more late in games, and more offensive touches. Initially, it was a shock to see the high-paid PF on the bench in the fourth quarter in close games, but then we realized it was due to his defensive inabilities. Also, with Derrick Rose in the lineup, everyone’s touches were down, including Boozer’s. I screamed at my TV and newspaper for Thibs to at least play Booz 30 minutes a game, and his numbers in those games in 12-13 prove that it should happen more often. When Booz plays 30+ minutes, the Bulls are 10-6 and he averages 19.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 53% from the field. Who knows if this trend will continue. Center Joakim Noah has had something to do with it, as his passes have led to some easy buckets for Booz. And obviously, without Rose, Booz is the clear go-to option on offense, giving him more opportunities to make plays. It helps that Booz has been healthy, too. All I know is that I have defended Booz more than lambasted him, and it feels good to see him succeed more than fail…for now.

Just give 'em the trophy for the next few years to come.  US Presswire

Just give ’em the trophy for the next few years to come. US Presswire

Everyone gets a trophy!

I’d like to begin this portion of the post by stating that I do not hate SEC football. The attention it gets from the media is a little unnerving, but I’m more focused on regular foes of Sparty. I don’t watch college football games with SEC participants and pray and hope for the other team to obliterate them. While I do feel the conference is overrated, I have admitted on numerous occasions that no other conference in the country can boast that it has at least three teams (Alabama, Florida and LSU) that are perennial national title contenders. Alabama head coach Nick Saban will forever be on my shit list, but damn, can that man recruit and coach his stern ass off.

Last night marked the end of the college football season. The 2nd-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS title game, 42-14. I assume the outcome could have been worse, too. Bama jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back. The score was 28-0 at halftime, and what more than a few people figured would be a close game was starting to look more and more like a laugher. It was clear from the start that Notre Dame was outmatched and that Bama is just a damn machine on a college football field. Bama running back Eddie Lacy was named the offensive MVP of the game and his teammate, linebacker C.J. Mosley took home the defensive honors. This was the Crimson Tide’s third national title in four years, and it doesn’t appear that they will be knocked off of their perch by anyone, any time soon.

I grew up cheering for Michigan football, and thus, disliked Notre Dame. Once I became a student at Michigan State, my disdain for the Domers ratcheted up even more. So while a part of me wanted to see ND lose, a bigger part of me wanted to see the Tide fall (I can’t stand former Sparty HC Saban), even though I knew there was a slim chance of that occurring. When the game was over, there was no denying who the best team in college football has been all year. What struck me as amusing were the plethora of SEC football fans on my Twitter timeline who began to profess SEC dominance. I’m talking about South Carolina, Kentucky, Ole Miss and even a Vanderbilt fan who used every opportunity they had to let us non-SECers know that their conference is better than ours.

My problem with that terrible logic is that Alabama won the national title, not the entire SEC. Yes, an SEC team has won the last seven national titles, but again, the trophy is not shared by the entire conference. In fact, unless you are a fan of Bama, LSU, Florida or Auburn (Cam Newton and Nick Fairley were beasts, weren’t they?), you don’t really have much to brag about, if anything at all. The last seven champs are as follows: Florida, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Alabama, Alabama. How exactly can a conference scream utter dominance when only 4 out of 12 teams (I exclude SEC newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri) have not only won, but appeared in the last seven national title games? You have to go back to 1998 to witness another example of SEC greatness, when quarterback Tee Martin and wide receiver Peerless Price led Tennessee to the national title over Florida State. To further let any SEC football fan who isn’t a fan of the last four national champs know that they have nothing to brag about, those same four schools have won the last seven SEC conference title games, as well.

Another terrible argument was the SEC’s 6-3 record in bowl games this season. It’s impressive unless you actually watched the games or looked at the final results. Quickly, now: Vandy beat a North Carolina St. team that finished .500…in the ACC. Despite losing by only one, LSU was thoroughly dominated by Clemson, another ACC school. Mississippi St. lost by two touchdowns to Northwestern. Georgia struggled with Nebraska (who gave up 70 points in the Big 10 conference title game) through 3 quarters before finally pulling away. South Carolina needed its last possession to beat Michigan. Florida got spanked by the Big East’s Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. TAMU beat up on an overrated Oklahoma. Ole Miss whooped Pittsburgh in the Toilet Bowl. Aaand…ALABAMA. 

Collectively, there is not a more talented football conference in the country than the SEC. I am intelligent enough to admit that. Big 10 football was clownshoes this year, and I have stated as much all season long. There was a time when I seriously disliked any SEC football fan I encountered, but now I can only chuckle at the majority of them. Please subscribe to this next piece of logic I am going to propose. If you are a fan of Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi St., Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee or Auburn (2010 was an aberration, we have learned) football (again, I exlude conference TAMU and Mizzou), you are in the same boat as just about every other college football fan in America. You head into each year looking up to Alabama, Florida and LSU, and really don’t have more than a puncher’s chance at beating them. Everyone does not get a trophy; this isn’t tee ball. The sooner you realize this, the better off you will be. Make sure to thank Alabama, Florida and LSU for making you relevant, too.

Marquis Teague, the Cubs in the second half and Jabari Parker in green and white.

Marquis Teague.

I am not a University of Kentucky fan, regardless of sport. However, that has nothing to do with my displeasure regarding the Bulls’ selection of 6’2″, 180-lb point guard Marquis Teague with the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. I know the 19 year-old who helped lead the Wildcats to a national title in April is extremely talented and if not for a certain fellow by the name of Derrick Rose, would be a lock to be the Bulls’ starting point guard for years to come. In spite of Teague’s ability, I just don’t feel it was the right pick.

Of course, everyone and that one sports-hating friend they have knows that Rose could possibly miss the entire 2012-13 NBA season because of a torn ACL. Anyone familiar with the Bulls roster knows that neither CJ Watson or John Lucas III are barely capable replacements for Rose, if that. Clearly, the point guard position is a very important one, and it certainly needs to at the very least be stabilized if a team wants to have any sort of success.

Still, ignoring that, the Teague pick nearly infuriated me. Again, I acknowledge that Teague is talented. I’d even go as far as to call Teague “a steal”, mainly because many mocks and “experts” had him being drafted well before 29th. In a deep draft, though, you can afford to go for need late, and unfortunately, the Bulls didn’t do this.

Basically, the Bulls need help at every position. I briefly discussed the point guard spot. At the 2, Rip is not the answer and it appears that Kyle Korver may be on his way out. Luol Deng is merely an above-average small forward and his backup, Jimmy Butler, showed glimpses during his rookie 11-12 campaign that he may be more than a bit useful if he can manage to get more minutes in the rotation. Power forward Carlos Boozer‘s lack of production and care to play defense have been well-documented, and while backup Taj Gibson is a crowd favorite, he is yet another Bull who most likely won’t get much better than he is right now, already at the age of 27 and only 3 seasons into his NBA career. Joakim Noah has definitely grown on me, but the center provides more based on his competitiveness, energy and general attitude than his talent. He’s also, like Deng and Gibson, a not-exactly-young 27. Defensive specialist and backup center Omer Asik has reportedly been offered a 3-year, $25 million contract by the Houston Rockets, with a whopping $15 mil to come in the third year of the deal. The Bulls plan to match, from what I’ve read, but would probably be better off not risking having to pay a 26 year-old $15 mil when he’s still literally a one-way player.

More than anything, the Bulls need a player who can handle the ball and create his own shot, preferably at the wing position. At 29, there were a few players who fit this description; Draymond Green, Will Barton and Doron Lamb, to name a few. Even if the Bulls were hellbent on selecting a guard, combo guard Tyshawn Taylor was available.

When Rose is healthy, Teague will be his backup. Rose will not become a shooting guard and anyone who suggests as much is not bright. It would keep some of the wear and tear from affecting Rose, but Andy Reid would be a moron to move Mike Vick to the H-back position and name Vince Young the starting QB. Vick would be a more healthy and possibly effective player, but not as productive, and opposing teams would have an easier job defending him. Teague will not play the off-guard spot, mainly because of his size, or lack thereof. If he’s not big enough to play the 2 at the NBA level, there’s no need to examine his chances of manning a frontcourt position.

So essentially, GarPax used the team’s only draft pick in a rather deep draft to select a backup point guard. Perhaps Teague will become a highly productive sixth man and great second-unit floor general. In my opinion, the point guard position was not one that needed to be addressed in the draft. Alas, this is the Bulls way.

Starlin in front, LaHair in the back.

The second half of the ’12 Cubs season.

A 33-52 record at the All-Star break is more than enough reason to cause a fanbase to want to fast forward to the next season, but unfortunately, that type of technology doesn’t exist. (Blame Steve Jobs?) Anyway, the Chicago Cubs stink. Disregard their 8-4 record since first baseman Anthony Rizzo‘s promotion on June 26, and the sudden bit of enthusiasm surrounding the team going into the break. This is still a team that has holes that no patch can fix easily.

Shortstop Starlin Castro and outfielder Bryan LaHair were named All-Stars, but it’s hard to get too excited about that when the Cubs are one of the worst teams in baseball. Starter Ryan Dempster has a miniscule ERA of 1.99, but again, the Cubs have the third-worst record in the majors. Theoyerleod plan to move as many big contracts as they can in order to help build for the future and Dempster is definitely a candidate, along with left fielder Alfonso Soriano.

Prospects like outfielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters continue to develop, as does pitcher Alberto Cabrera. Fans will undoubtedly grow more impatient as the losses continue to pile up, and will probably clamor for the first two to be called up well before the date MLB rosters can expand to 40 men. Starter Jeff Samardzija is nowhere near as awful as he was in June, but we shall see if he continues to improve as he racks up the innings in his first season as a full-time starter. The Cubs will play 42 home games compared to 35 on the road, so I guess that’s a plus? If the Cubs can put more smiles on my face than looks of utter disappointment in the second half, I will consider their 2012 season a huge success.

I predicted that this would be a lost, craptastic season for the Cubs and so far, I have been proven right. Nevertheless, there are still 77 games left on the calendar and I will see it to the dreadful end.

Jabari Parker, on the banks of the Red Cedar?


My ties to South Side Little League and the Kenwood Academy baseball program practically prohibit me from cheering for Simeon Vocational in any way, shape or form. However, I am a huge Jabari Parker fan. The 6’8″, 215-lb small forward is widely regarded as the nation’s best high school basketball player in the class of 2013 and I have been lucky enough to see him play a few times already.

You can believe the soon-to-be senior has been recruited by every major college program in the country. Yesterday, Parker created a bit of chaos on the Twitters, tweeting the ten schools that he hopes to narrow down to a final selection before November. One of them is my alma mater, Michigan State University.

Early reports are that Sparty is the leader at this point, and I most definitely hope those reports are accurate. MSU head coach Tom Izzo has been in Chicago earlier this year, and I’m guessing that he wasn’t there just for the great food. Obviously, Parker to MSU isn’t a lock. Parker, a devout Mormon, listed BYU among his final 10 and it’s totally viable that he end up a Cougar. I doubt that will happen, but he appears to be cut from a different cloth.

More important than MSU being among Parker’s final 10 is that no other Big Ten school made the list, not even UofI at Champaign-Urbana. How hilarious is it that Big East cellar-dweller DePaul, and not Illinois, made Parker’s list? Very. Regardless, Jabari Parker is one ridiculously talented individual and would, by himself, make any basketball program an immediate national title contender. Put him in a green and white jersey with “State” on the front of it, and I will jump for joy…while celebrating their 2014 national title victory.

2012 NBA Draft. #TradeDeng. Bulls are sure to blow it.

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One of these five won't be a Bull next year. If you think DRose, you're an idiot.

Tonight at 6 PM CT, the 2012 NBA Draft will be held somewhere in New Jersey. The location isn’t at all important. What are important are the players who will be in attendance.

Former University of Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis is expected to be selected first by the New Orleans Hornets, and after that…nobody knows. University of Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal could go second to the Charlotte Bobcats. However, the Bobcats have let it be known that they would be interested in trading out of the spot to acquire more picks. Kansas University power forward Thomas Robinson could also wind up being a Bobcat if they hold onto the pick. As I stated before, after Davis,anyone from Beal to Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to possibly UConn’s Andre Drummond could be selected second…by whomever holds the pick.

The 2012 draft class is deep, but there are no franchise players in my opinion, and that includes Anthony Davis. Drummond will either get a GM a raise or fired, Ohio State PF Jared Sullinger has been red-flagged because of injury, and Fighting Illini center Meyers Leonard is going to wish in about 3 months that he had stayed a member of the Fighting Illini men’s basketball program.

Since the Bulls hold the 29th overall pick, there’s really no need to try to figure out which lottery prospect fits in best with them. Rumors flurried that the Bulls might have been interested in moving small forward Luol Deng and his sizable contract for a lottery pick, but I’m starting to get the feeling those rumors were bunk. I’d love to see this year’s first-round pick and the future Charlotte pick the Bulls own, plus Deng moved to perhaps, the Sacramento Kings for Tyreke Evans and the 5th pick. Or nearly that same package (remove the Charlotte pick) to the Golden State Warriors for the 7th pick? Same package to Toronto for the 8th pick?

As you can probably tell, I’d like to see Mr. Deng traded. No, I am not a hater. I believe Deng is a good player. I’m 99.9% sure that if the Bulls selected a small forward with the lottery pick they got in return to replace Deng, he wouldn’t be as good, initially. However, the dude has peaked. I simply can’t see Deng getting any better than he is right now. And right now, he is no more than a #3 option on a very good team. He is a solid, but not elite defender. Deng has a good jumper, but when you’re not aggressive on the offensive end, it doesn’t mean much or become masked by his so-called elite defensive abilities. Luol Deng, despite being the somebody-anointed “glue guy”, is after 8 seasons, still just a role guy.

Alas, I am writing about the Bulls. They of the 5-year, $45 mil contract for Hinrich and 5-year, $75 mil contract for Boozer. They will likely stand pat, give Deng the captain’s “C” once and for all, and take the best player available with the 29th selection.

The Bulls could conceivably use either an upgrade or backup for every position on the floor. With point guard Derrick Rose out for possibly all of 2012-13, the most glaring immediate need is a replacement for the 2010-11 NBA MVP. Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague come to mind, but at 29, you’re more than likely not getting someone who will be a smash from jump. Taylor isn’t the ideal point guard and Teague, while having the potential to be a good NBA player, is certainly not the defender that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau wants in his system. Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins could be an instant improvement over Rip Hamilton at the 2, which is definitely a need. Small forward Will Barton of Memphis would be a steal at 29, so I assume he’ll be gone at 28. Syracuse center Fab Melo could also be around at 29, but the Bulls don’t need anymore bigs who can’t score.

Yet, I hope the Bulls select Michigan State’s Draymond Green, a 3/4 combo player; poor man’s Charles Barkley. Green is a great rebounder despite not being a very good athlete, and can handle and distribute the ball extremely well for a “power forward”. There is bias in this sentiment, perhaps. It would be surreal to see Green take minutes from Deng, admittedly. Besides all of my selfish reasons, he’s a good basketball player who spent four years in East Lansing getting yelled at by one of the best coaches in the country, Tom Izzo. Thibs should be a cakewalk for the Saginaw native.

Regardless, I just don’t want the Bulls to screw up tonight. Everyone on the team except Rose can be had, and no drafting any players from Duke. Those are the rules. And no Evan Fournier. No, it’s not because he’s French. Well…