UNC’s Barnes an intriguing scenario for the Bulls
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Harrison Barnes has been perhaps the most scrutinized player in college basketball after coming in as the nation’s top prep player. And then last week at the NBA predraft camp, he became something of a curiosity after a meeting with executives of the Bulls, who hold the No. 29 pick in the first round. Barnes is expected to be taken in the top five.
It’s not that unusual for a team to meet with a top prospect assuming the player is willing. Everyone talks about trading up. And the Bulls love to share Michael Jordan stories, which you can do with North Carolina guys.
But Barnes is an interesting figure, as he’s been described with an upside somewhere between Luol Deng and Glen Rice. There’s a potential scenario in which the Bulls could trade Deng for a top five pick to select Barnes, or if he is taken, Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. The Bulls would have a potential young star to develop with Derrick Rose upon his return and then enough money with Deng traded to get a point guard to play much of next season for Rose, someone like Jason Kidd, Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller, Steve Nash or Ray Felton.
It’s highly speculative, of course, but perhaps not inconceivable.
From talk at the draft camp last week, my exclusive sources tell me Kentucky’s Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick of the New Orleans Hornets. They also have informed me the sun sets in the West. I’m checking the latter, which seems less certain.
So the draft, in effect, begins at No. 2 with Charlotte. The hottest rumor/speculation/reporters making things up was a trade of the pick for Memphis’ Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies pooh poohed that, though the Bobcats did talk to a lot of teams about a possible trade of the No. 2 pick. And while a trade for Gay would seem an upgrade for Charlotte, it would be a huge mistake and in the end I see Charlotte using its pick for Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Though Gay is an All-Star level player and closer, he’s also a ball stopper who doesn’t fit well with Zach Randolph. It’s like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, but with no media paying attention. Charlotte is on the right track, even if there is no light in the tunnel yet. They went for Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Corey Maggette. Enough with the isolation scorers. They need to stick with the draft and be patient. Kidd-Gilchrist is a hard working, love-the-game gym rat with talent. Those are the kinds of players you build with. They should take him in the end.
Washington is using its pick and is done with knuckleheads. After acquiring Nene, a rugged, hard working power forward like Thomas Robinson from Kansas makes sense. They have to show John Wall what they had was not the NBA.
Cleveland has Nos. 4 and 24, so there have been all sorts of scenarios. They could trade for someone like Deng as they need a three with Antawn Jamison a free agent. But the way they’re going and with a young, mature leader like Kyrie Irving they don’t need veteran help as much. By the way, the larger issue with moving Deng — and the Bulls have yet to indicate they care to — is his potential post Olympic surgery. A team like Charlotte cannot afford to trade for him needing to show its fans something. Cleveland might be able to wait a few months for someone like Deng with Anderson Varejao also coming back from injury. But you figure they want to hit the ground running. I can see them taking Barnes, who would be a good fit with Irving and Tristan Thompson for a developing nucleus.
Then comes Sacramento at No. 5, and the pickings aren’t that great. They’re not about to take talented but young and raw big man Andre Drummond to add to their developing big man, DeMarcus Cousins. Shooting guards Bradley Beal and Jeremy Lamb generally come next, but they have Marcus Thornton on a long contract and like him. What they most need is a small forward, and given they’re not yet in any West contention, they could wait a month or so if Deng were to have surgery.
There’d been speculation the Bulls might want to go for Tyreke Evans, who lost his point guard job. But he’s a restricted free agent after next season and will cost a lot of money. If the Bulls were dealing, it would make more sense to trade for the pick and get either Barnes or Beal, the latter a shooting guard who could grow with Rose, and then have enough money with Deng’s salary off the books to substantially bolster point guard this off season.
Deng would be an ideal leader and role model for a young and talented team like the Kings. But the Kings would probably want the Bulls to take one of their bad contracts, like John Salmons’. Most teams with lottery picks for sale are asking for that sort of contract relief, which basically kills almost every deal.
There’s been talk Toronto would give up. No. 8 for an athletic swingman like Gay or Andre Iguodala. Deng isn’t an athlete in their class, but might cost less. Danny Granger and Josh Smith also are wing players said to be available in the right circumstances as the Pacers want to move Paul George to small forward while Smith has talked about wanting to leave Atlanta. And none of those players face the potential surgery issues that someone like Deng does.
Though at No. 8 maybe you don’t get as good a prospect, though Duke’s Austin Rivers should be there and supposedly has been moving up. The Warriors with No. 7 are also said to want a veteran small forward assuming you’d take Dorell Wright’s contract, which has one season remaining.
Most teams, though, end up using their lottery picks. There generally are few such deals. But there are possibilities.
Where do Spurs and Celtics go from here?
-- If you were the Spurs or Celtics after the seasons they had and the playoff runs, you might say to keep the teams together, especially in the weaker East. You can see Tim Duncan and perhaps Boris Diaw returning and the Spurs making another run. It doesn’t seem so with Boston. They did have an extraordinary season given the losses through illness, injury and retirement of Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Jermaine O’Neal and Avery Bradley. Doc Rivers’ faith in them was remarkable and they competed. Yes, they lucked out with the Bulls’ injuries. But they had injuries as well, though not to their core players. With Brandon Bass likely to opt out, they have about $30 million in salaries next season. They could be one of the major free agent players, though they’re not getting Deron Williams and likely not Dwight Howard. Hey, maybe they can finally get Tim Duncan! They need size and could take a shot at center Chris Kaman, probably the next top big guy. The consensus seems to be they let Ray Allen go. And then it’s whether Kevin Garnett wants to return or would he get a big offer somewhere else after an impressive playoff run. The way the East is they could certainly patch something together good enough to take another run at Miami with Garnett’s return. There’s no point wasting Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce yet for youth. You assume at this point and despite all the goodbyes Saturday, that’s what they’ll do and they’re not quite done yet.
Rotation level players will be available at No. 29
-- Most team executives seem to feel you can get a rotation level player even at the end of the first round in this draft. But it’s hardly a guarantee. The Bulls have No. 29. Here’s a look at the No. 29 picks back from when it became a first round selection:
2011: Cory Joseph. Spurs. Spent much of his rookie season in the D-League.
2010: Daniel Orton, Magic. Didn’t play a minute in the NBA until late in his second season.
2009: Toney Douglas, Knicks backup point guard who seems mostly out of favor.
2008: D.J. White, Now a bench player with the Bobcats after playing little for the Thunder.
2007: Alando Tucker, Suns. Playing overseas.
2006: Mardy Collins, Knicks. Playing overseas.
2005: Wayne Simien, Heat. Played overseas and then went into ministry.
2004: David Harrison, Pacers. Out of basketball after drug issues.
2003: Josh Howard, Mavs. Probably the best No. 29 ever. Now with Jazz trying to come back after knee surgery.
2002: The Timberwolves forfeited and Steve Logan went next. He didn’t play in the NBA.
2001: Timberwolves forfeit and Bulls took Trenton Hassell, who had an 11-year career as a reserve.
2000: Mark Madsen, Lakers. Had a nine-year career as a little used Scalabrine-type backup and now a Stanford assistant.
1999: Leon Smith, Mavs. The troubled Chicago kid who had psychological problems.
1998: Narz Mohammed, Jazz. Now with Thunder, his seventh team in 14 seasons mostly as a reserve. That was the first year with a 29th pick in the first round. The season before the Bulls selected Keith Booth 28th, the final first round pick. Booth is now assistant women’s coach at the University of Maryland.
NBA news and notes
-- Since Isiah Thomas and LeBron James took so much heat for leaving a conference finals loss early or not staying to shake hands after the loss, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett should as well after they left before Game 7 was over Saturday in Miami. It’s probably not that much of a surprise given Garnett and Rondo have never been your most sportsmanlike citizens. But maybe James gets a break if the celebrated Boston players could do so with impunity. ... As for James, the Heat has a chance in the Finals because he is now Michael Jordan. I saw enough of Jordan to know those James Game 6 and 7 performances were as good as Jordan could give in taking responsibility for his team when no one else was capable. That is what made Jordan special and different, and if James continues like that Miami might overcome with lesser talent. ... Jerry Krause said they’d be in the Finals. Last year, Tyson Chandler was and this week Eddy Curry is going to the NBA Finals. Yes, we’ll see plenty of him on the Heat bench as he doesn’t play and won’t in the Finals. But there’s a good chance he’ll be back with the Heat. LeBron James was the one who tried to persuade the Cavs to acquire Curry when the Bulls traded him to the Knicks in 2005. James was believed to have suggested to the Heat to take a chance on Curry, who looks in good condition. ... It was amusing to see the comments of the genius Stephen Jackson on the ESPN site Grantland saying he didn’t care for Scott Skiles in Milwaukee because “To me, he was more of a college coach. Me, personally, I need a coach that I can respect, that’s proven in this league.” Besides Skiles being proven in the league and one of the better coaches, what would Jackson know about college coaches since he went to college for just a few weeks, a junior college in Kansas (Butler County) where he didn’t play basketball.
-- One team that may be in the middle of draft day dealing (they always are talking and making minor deals) is Houston with Nos. 14 and 16. The Rockets have a roster filled with mid first round picks and have 2011 first rounder Donatas Motiejunas expected to join the team this season. They might make for an intriguing trade partner for the Bulls, though you’d assume it would cost the Bulls Omer Asik or Deng. Maybe you can persuade Houston to flip you Courtney Lee or Kyle Lowry and the picks, which it would seem the Rockets would be only too glad to move. ... One of the least mentioned stories of the playoffs is the lame duck status of Thunder coach Scott Brooks. The assumption with that team is they’d tie him up after the season, like Dallas did with lame duck Rick Carlisle, and Brooks wouldn’t leave that talent. But new Portland GM Neil Olshey is a huge fan of Brooks’, and you wonder if the holdup in hiring a new coach in Portland is that he is waiting to see if Paul Allen’s money could sway Brooks. ... There is just one candidate who should be considered for the Charlotte job and that is Jerry Sloan. Because the Bobcats are at the bottom and rebuilding, they need patience and professionalism. If you hire a young coach and he’s saddled with all those losses, his coaching career is probably over. If you hire a veteran like Nate McMillan, he’s going to be pushing you to trade your youth and picks for veterans because he doesn’t want those losses. Sloan’s legacy is intact: He’s in the Hall of Fame, so his credibility is not in question. His ego isn’t an issue as he’s worked with losing teams before. He’s anxious to work and at the same age the Grizzlies made the best coaching hire with Hubie Brown. Sloan is the perfect candidate. Really, the only one who makes sense. ... The San Francisco Chronicle said in a story the interview process could make or break a candidate. One was quickly rejected, the paper said, when he asked where is the best place for parties in Oakland. But the paper said Warriors execs were knocked over by Epke Udoh, who wore a suit and tie to his interview and took notes. Too bad they apparently didn’t ask if he could shoot. He was traded to the Bucks in the Monta Ellis/Andrew Bogut deal. ... If the Clippers want to be serious about a new GM, they’ll take a look at Bulls basketball operations director Jim Paxson, brother of John and the former Cavs GM.
-- The flopping and being rewarded continues to become epidemic in the playoffs with 12 charges called in the Heat/Celtics Game 4 and the most egregious one in the Spur closeout loss when Manu Ginobili found Kawhi Leonard for a three and after passing off was so smart to set a screen. Nick Collison flopped and drew the charge to offset the turning point three. The refereeing isn’t bad. It’s the league’s mandate to make that call, which suggests little feel for the actual game. ... The Kevin Durant/LeBron James matchup figures to be one of the best ever in a Finals with Nos. 1 and 2 in MVP voting, the MVP against the scoring leader. According to ESPN stats, in the first such 34 of these attempts through Game 4 of each conference finals, the 16 teams were 4 for 34 in shots in the last 24 seconds to tie the game or go ahead. Miami was zero for seven. Durant was three of four with the only other such make Orlando’s Glen Davis. Durant’s shots were, the 16-footer at the buzzer that beat Dallas 99-98 in Game 1, the runner that rolled in with 18.6 seconds left in Game 2 against the Lakers and the three with 13.7 seconds left to give the Thunder a 101-98 lead in Game 4 against the Lakers. Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: “He’s arguably the best player on the planet.” It will be much debated over the next two weeks.