By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)
Welcome back, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the holiday break as much as — what?
There’s no holiday break in the pros?
My bad. Seriously, I do apologize for the break in Bulls columns, but it was needed time off. Besides, we can use this time to bid a fond farewell to the former name of this column! “Champagne and Cam Payne” was fun while it lasted, and while Cameron Payne himself didn’t give us too many highlights aside from his 21-point onslaught against the Hornets in October, he symbolized the Bulls this season: struggling hard against a tide of foibles and deficiencies.
It’s only fitting Payne went to Cleveland, one of the only teams in the league worse than the Bulls. Godspeed, Cam. May you be remembered for more than your shooting stance and your handshakes with Russ.
So welcome to the first edition of “Bullies on the Block.” No, the Bulls aren’t bullies of the Central Division yet, and probably won’t be for a few seasons, but let’s just say we’re putting that into the universe.
In today’s column, we’ll say goodbye to those players who moved on since we last saw each other, and greet those new faces on the roster.
Out With the Old…
It was a foregone conclusion the Bulls were going to trade Holiday, as the veteran shooting guard was never part of their plans going forward. However, the surprise is the quality return John Paxson was able to get for him.
In exchange for Holiday, Memphis sent the Bulls Wayne Selden (more on him later), MarShon Brooks and most importantly, two second-round draft picks, one for this year and one for 2020. The Bulls only had their first-round pick before that trade, and according to Tankathon, the 2nd rounder from Memphis is #40. Not a bad spot.
(Note: the 2020 2nd round pick was subsequently traded to Houston, but it’s top-55 protected, so the Bulls should keep that, barring another trade.)
I don’t want to say good riddance to a player that wasn’t trouble off the court and wasn’t on a contending team, but Cam was frustrating as all hell most of the time.
Payne did score 10 points in his debut with the Cavaliers, so maybe a change of scenery will upgrade Cam’s game. For now, let’s reminisce about his one night in the sun against Charlotte earlier this season.
Light a candle for my guy Dan, who has liked Ulis since he graduated from Marian Catholic. Arthroscopic hip surgery limited him to one appearance for the Bulls this season, and he was released on December 27.
Ulis’ height will always be a hindrance to him sticking on an NBA roster, but he has the talent and defensive tenacity. Hopefully he gets back into the league soon.
…And in With the New
The 6-5 Selden went undrafted in 2014 and hasn’t played more than 35 games in a season so far in his NBA career, so there are probably no hidden treasures to unearth with him — he did shoot 40 percent from three-point range with the Grizzlies last season when he played 35 games and averaged 19.8 minutes, both career-highs.
However, that long range average dropped to 31% this season. Selden’s length and size should be a good challenge for the first team in practice. Any production the Bulls get from him will be a bonus.
A midseason addition to the Bulls’ G League affiliate wouldn’t usually merit interest, but Sampson is an intriguing player.
The 6-5 LSU grad posted a 42-inch vertical leap at the 2018 NBA Pro Combine, best of all the players there. In 18 games with Rio Grande this season, he averaged 17.6 points on 43 percent shooting and 39 percent on threes, and he’s kept up that pace in two games with Windy City. NBC Sports Chicago writer (and WARR alumnus) Michael Walton put together an in-depth look at Sampson and what he brings to the table. Sampson’s on a two-way contract, so I would not be surprised to see him make a handful of appearances after the trade deadline.
Any Bulls moves in the coming weeks will most likely hinge on receiving either first-round draft picks or cash considerations. Fortunately, there are a number of teams in the thick of the playoff race in both conferences who should be looking for help before th/e February 7 deadline.
Here are the players most likely to bid farewell:
Jabari Parker (Possible suitors: Miami, Detroit)
Jabari was demoted to the bench following the Bulls’ trip to Mexico to play Orlando, and the Bulls have been shopping him since. While his disinterest in defense won’t endear him to many teams on the cusp of the playoffs, both the Heat and Pistons are contenders who could use scoring punch, especially off the bench.
Parker’s one-year contract would normally be enticing to teams, but the Bulls are trying to keep money off the books, which is an obstacle to any deals.
Normally, the idea would be to play Parker so his value increases, but he got plenty of minutes before his demotion, and the Holiday trade shows the Bulls are committed to seeing what their youths can do.
Robin Lopez (Likely suitors: Houston)
Lopez’s contract expires at the end of the season and he’s a veteran who knows his strengths and weaknesses, which can be a boon for a playoff team (remember Nazr Mohammed)?
However, he’s mainly a rim protector and hasn’t shown the aptitude for shooting threes that his brother Brook has, which significantly lessens the value he can add to a roster. Believe it or not, I think Houston might see him as a better alternative to Nene or Isaiah Hartenstein, the two centers they currently have backing up Clint Capela. It’s a long shot that Rob’ll be sought out in a trade, though.
Cristiano Felicio (Possible suitors: ?)
Felicio would be a throw-in for any deal rather than the main piece, as he’s disappointed since signing a four-year, $32 million deal in 2017. The Bulls owe him approximately $26M through 2021 and you can be sure they are desperate to get that money off the books.
Beast of the Week: Lauri Markkanen has shown very positive signs as he continues to round into shape following his return from injury. Over the last six games, Markkanen’s averaged 17 points and nine rebounds, shooting better than 40% from the field in all but one of those games, he also appears to be regaining his eye from long distance, going 11 of 22 on threes in the last four contests.
Predictions: The circus trip is a thing of the past, but the Bulls’ are engaging in a similar type of stretch, their next five games will be on the road in the West, starting with yesterday’s loss against the Blazers. Fortunately, next up are the Warriors who are still missing DeMarcus Cousins, who plans to make his season debut January 18, but don’t look for any surprise upsets against these teams. Let’s just hope Klay Thompson doesn’t make any more history at their expense.
Friday at Warriors – L
Saturday at Jazz – L
Jan. 15 at Lakers – L
One Last Thing: Some interesting (if somewhat disconnected) thoughts from Jim Boylen on if the team’s pace will increase in the coming weeks, courtesy of 670 The Score, and The D & Davis Show’s, Tony Gill.
Until next time, watch out for bullies.
Chris Pennant covers the Chicago Bulls and basketball in general for WARR