Who is the key player for the #Bulls to become this year’s pleasant surprise? What should concern Bulls fans the most headed into the season? Will the Chicago shock the #NBA with a playoff berth? Is there any hope for the Bulls future? All of these questions & more will be answered on Spectator Sporting!
Kawhi Leonard was finally traded! We’ll also talk about NBA teams (other than the Warriors & Lakers) that had the best off-season and which teams had the most disappointing off-season. How does Jabari Parker fit with the Bulls? Boxing Connoisseur, Byron “The Byronness” stops by to talk Anthony Joshua avoiding Deontay Wilder and Manny Pacquiao’s legacy. Bears analyst Boon Apata makes a guest appearance to talk Mitch Trubisky, Roquan Smith and position battles at training camp. Plus, stay tuned for “Gone in Almost 60 Seconds” at the end of the show! Spectator Sporting Episode #13.
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CliveNBAParody. “DEMAR DEROZAN DUNKS ON ANTHONY TOLIVER! Raptors vs Pistons” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Mar 7. 2018. Web. Jul 18, 2018.
DaBearsProductions. “Mitchell Trubisky ‘Zone’ 2017-18 Rookie Season Highlights” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jan 1. 2018. Web. Jul 18, 2018.
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ESPN. “Is Jabari Parker a Good fit for the Chicago Bulls? The Jump ESPN” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jul 16. 2018. Web. Jul 18, 2018.
Global Boxing TV. “Manny Pacquiao VS Lucas Matthysse Highlights (HD)” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jul 14. 2018. Web. Jul 18, 2018.
Golden Hoops. “Lauri Markkanen – 2018 Bulls Highlights – On the Rise” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jul 17. 2018. Web. Jul 18, 2018.
When searching through the Bulls 52 year history, you’ll find that most of their greatest players were acquired through the draft. Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose, Artis Gilmore, Jimmy Butler and Toni Kukoc were all drafted by Chicago. Then there’s a couple more guys that the Bulls acquired through a trade who are definitely on the top 10 list of greatest Bulls of all-time, Bob Love from the Bucks and Dennis Rodman from the Spurs. Also, a draft night trade which is the best trade in Bull’s history as Jerry Krause traded Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippen during the 1987 NBA Draft.
But you’ll have a tough time finding great Bulls who were acquired via free agency. There’s two requirements that a player must fulfill in order to make the greatest Bulls of all-time, acquired through free agency list:
This top 5 list does not factor in how the player performed prior to joining the Bulls or what he did after he left Chicago. This list only takes into consideration how the man performed as a Chicago Bull.
The player had to play at least 2 seasons for the Chicago Bulls.
Without further ado, here’s the list of the Chicago Bulls top 5 players of all-time, acquired through free agency.
#5. Ron Harper –Before signing with the Bulls, Harper was a dynamic scorer with the Cavaliers and Clippers averaging 19 points. But his offensive role reduced dramatically after signing with the Bulls in the summer of 1994 as Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc were the main scoring options while Michael Jordan was taking some swings in the White Sox minor leagues. Harper’s role on the team became even less significant when Jordan came back wearing #45 on March 19, 1995.
However, when the Bulls were eliminated by the Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs, Phil Jackson got an idea on how to use Ron Harper. In an interview with nba.com’s Ian Thomsen, Ron Harper said, “When we got to the playoffs and we played Penny Hardaway, a big guard, Phil said, ‘You’re going to start. I want you to guard Penny.’” In the next season, the Bulls had a record breaking 72 wins, swept the Magic and won their 4th NBA Championship.
Harper’s statistical output significantly declined due to him averaging 16.5 shot attempts with the Cavs and Clippers but all the way down to 6.5 with Jordan and Pippen on his team. His recovery from ACL surgery prior to joining the Bulls also slowed him down. But his re-focused energy on the defensive end to contain the tall 6-7 superstar point guard Penny Hardaway and his harassment of hall of fame caliber smaller point guards like John Stockton, Gary Payton and Tim Hardaway with his 6-6 frame helped the Bulls establish themselves into a lockdown defensive squad on all levels.
#4. Steve Kerr – The sharpshooting Kerr is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage with 45.4% and he shot 46.6% from downtown as a Bull. His presence in the Bulls second 3-peat run allowed Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc plenty of space to operate with due to the opponent’s reluctance to double team and leave Kerr open. John Stockton made that mistake in the closing seconds of game 6 during the 1997 NBA Finals when he left Kerr open to double Jordan then came the assist to arguably the best spot up shooter of all-time to give Chicago their 5th ring in 7 years.
In the closing seconds of game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Stockton wisely decided not to leave Kerr to double Jordan. But Byron Russell was left on an one-on-one island with the greatest hooper of all-time and Jordan flamed that jumper in his face to hand the Bulls their 6th championship. After tough times with Cleveland and Orlando, Steve Kerr resurrected his career in Chicago and played a significant role in the Bulls second 3-peat.
#3. John Paxson – Some Bulls fans may think John Paxson was always a Bull during his career in the NBA but he played 2 years with the Spurs before signing with Chicago in 1985. You might be wondering why Paxson is ranked ahead of Kerr on this list? The answer is, Johnny Pax was better than Kerr in the Playoffs. Steve Kerr was a better regular season player than Paxson averaging 8 points, 50% from the field and 46% form downtown vs Paxson’s 7 points, 49% from the field and 36% from downtown. But Steve Kerr’s level of play dropped off in the playoffs as he averaged 5 points, shot 43% from the field and 37% from the 3-point line. While Paxson’s level of play remained consistent in the payoffs as he averaged 6 points, shot 49% from the field and 38% from the 3-point line.
Both guys have game winning shots to clinch a NBA title under their belt: Kerr’s game winner vs the Jazz in the 1997 Finals and Paxson’s game winner vs the Suns in the 1993 Finals. But John Paxson had more clutch moments than Steve Kerr in the playoffs. Paxson led the league in 3-point percentage for the 1993 NBA Playoffs by shooting an astounding 62.5%! Also, I’ll never forget how Paxson caught fire in Los Angeles vs the Lakers in game 5 of the NBA Finals by shooting 75% from the field while scoring 20 points. That clutch performance helped the Bulls celebrate their 1st ever championship.
#2. Carlos Boozer – The Booz Cruise gets a lot of flak in Chicago due to his lack of ability or effort on the defensive end. However, he was a solid offensive threat as a starting power forward on the Bulls best team since their dynasty ended in 1998. The Bulls finally made it to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 playoffs and Boozer averaged 17 points, 9 rebounds and shot 51% from the field that season. Booz played his low post scorer role well with the Bulls for 4 seasons.
#1. Pau Gasol – During the summer of 2014, Bulls fans were getting excited with the anticipation that Carmelo Anthony would join D. Rose, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. But just like other superstar free agents in the past, he was just using the Bulls to ink a bigger contract from the Knicks. So, the Bulls turned their attention to the 34 year old Pau Gasol.
Gasol was pass his prime but he still put up some very respectable numbers in his 2 years as a Bull. Pau Gasol averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assist and 2 blocks and made the all-star team in both his years in Chicago. He’s the best player acquired through free agency in the 52 year history of the Chicago Bulls.
Will the summer of 2019 finally be the year that the Bulls sign an all-star caliber free agent in his prime? Or do they have to stick with just finding great players through the draft and trades? The Bulls must develop their young core of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Wendell Carter Jr. because according to the Bulls history books, help is not on the way through free agency.
You may be wondering why the Bulls matched the King’s 4 year $78 million dollar offer to restricted free agent Zach LaVine. He’s a player who tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in February of 2017 with the Timberwolves and only played 24 games last season as a Chicago Bull. In those 24 games, his minutes was restricted to 27 per game, he averaged 16 points but only shot 38% from the field. However, there are 9 logical reasons why Bulls Vice President John Paxson and friends matched the Sacramento King’s offer.
The Bulls want Zach LaVine to grow and build chemistry with the young core of Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Last season was all three of those guys first season with the Bulls but they only played 12 games together. Markkanen missed 14 games, Dunn 30 and LaVine 58 due to injuries and tanking purposes. Their talents should blend in together as Dunn is a proven defender and drive to the basket type point guard, Markkanen is a stretch four with All-Star potential and LaVine is a scorer with highlight reel leaping ability.
Before LaVine tore his ACL, he averaged 19 points, shot 46% from the field and 38% from the 3 point line. LaVine put those numbers up at the age of 21 in his 3rd season. He only played in 47 games that season before tearing his ACL in February of 2017 but before he went down he was a legitimate rising star.
Zach LaVine is only 23 years old. No one knows if Zach LaVine is going to be a 20 plus points a game leading his team in scoring type of guy or a shell of his old self. It’s too early to tell. The only players on the Bulls roster younger than LaVine are Lauri Markkanen and the two rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison.
Aaron Gordon got 4 years $84 million from the Orlando Magic as a restricted free agent. Both players
were lottery picks in the 2014 draft, they will be 23 years old at the beginning of the season and both guys have a similar career high in points per game (Gordon 17 and LaVine 19). Not only did the Kings set the market for LaVine but the Orlando Magic assisted the Bulls in determining his value with that Aaron Gordon contract.
ACL surgery is not as bad as you think. I know Derrick Rose and the Bulls has never been the same since he tore his ACL in the 2012 payoffs. However, former Bull Jamal Crawford tore his ACL in the 2001-02 season but missed only 4 games in the next two seasons and had a breakout 2003-04 year averaging 17 points and 5 assists. Kyle Lowry suffered the same injury at Villanova but now he’s a 4-time All-Star. High flying Corey Brewer tore his ACL in his rookie year with Minnesota in 2008 but he maintained those springs in his legs after the surgery. Just to name a few. Players who are disciplined with their physical therapy program can overcome Anterior Cruciate Ligament surgery with the assistance of the advancements in modern medical technology.
The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and their 2017 first round pick (#16 overall Justin Patton) for Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. Letting LaVine go to Sacramento would have hindered the Bulls chances of winning the Jimmy Butler trade. Not having LaVine in Chicago would put too much pressure on Markkanen to be a perennial All-Star and Kris Dunn would have been forced to be the number two scoring option. The Bulls have kept that core of the three young guys intact with a legitimate shot to be contenders in the East through significant player development and an addition of an impactful free agent next off-season, now that King James is gone.
There’s an Injury protection clause in LaVine’s contract. The Sacramento Kings were inappropriately confident that the Bulls was not going to match a $19.5 million per year deal for LaVine, so they put an injury protection clause in the deal. It turns out that the Kings were wrong about the Bulls willingness to pay up and they did the Bulls a huge favor by adding that injury clause in the contract. This could save the Bulls organization loads of money if Zach LaVine is hit with another serious injury.
The Bulls have plenty of salary cap space. According to Spotrac.com, the Bulls have the 3rd best practical salary cap space in the entire league. Plus, another $18.5 million will be freed up in 2019 when Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday become unrestricted free agents. Also, another $8 million will be available in the 2019 off-season when the Bulls decide to exercise their early termination option on Omer Asik. Even though the Bulls overpaid for LaVine, they can still offer max deals to highly coveted players during the 2019 off-season.
NBA stars in their prime don’t sign with the Bulls in free agency. Some guys may have thought that the Bulls should have pocketed that money and offered it to Klay Thompson, Karl Anthony-Towns, Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins or Terry Rozier during the 2019 free agency. The problem with that is the fact that superstars in their prime like Tracy McGrady, Carmelo Anthony and 2010 Dwyane Wade like to pretend that they’re coming to Chicago just to negotiate for more money from the team they really want to join. Why?! You can blame Bulls management, cold weather, the Chicago crime rate or whatever. The fact of the matter is, the 34 year old Pau Gasol is arguably the best NBA free agent to ever play for the Bulls. So, Johnny Pax knows that he must keep those young guys with potential on his team at damn near all cost.