Jimmy Butler leaving Chicago Bulls Soon?

Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy ButlerFew NBA players improved their stock as much as Jimmy Butler did this past season. The 6’6″ shooting guard averaged 20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.3 APG. Given his impressive performance, which landed Butler his first All-Star Game appearance, the Chicago Bulls are expected to present him with a maximum 5-year, $90 million deal. But on the same token, the 25-year-old is expected to reject their max offer and seek a better deal after the 2016-17 season, when the salary cap increases.

Butler will instead be looking for a short-term offer that would allow him to become a free agent some time after the 2016-17 campaign. There could also be a trade kicker included in Butler’s contract, meaning there’s a very realistic possibility that the Bulls lose him to free agency.

Much of the talk surrounding his free agency centers on Los Angeles, where Butler has been living this summer. Rumors suggest that he’s liked staying in L.A. and could be the big-name free agent that the Lakers have been looking for in recent years.

jimmy-butler-bulls-free-agent-1However, Chicago has the ability to match any offer sheet, meaning, at least in the short term, they can keep their All-Star guard. As Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, the likely short-term deal for Butler would be a 3-year contract worth $50 million, with an option on the third year that enables him to enter free agency again. Assuming Butler goes this route, he could sign for as much as $190 million through a 5-year deal.

Given the $100 million difference between what the Bulls want to offer Butler and what he could get in two more seasons, it’s more than understandable why he doesn’t want to be locked into anything right now.

If Chicago has any chance of locking him into a 5-year, $90 million contract now, they have to sell him on their ability to win a championship. And this won’t be easy, with head coach Tom Thibodeau now gone, and new coach Fred Hoiberg coming in. Thibodeau was instrumental in helping Butler get to where he is today, so Butler will have to be convinced that Hoiberg is the right man to lead this team in the future.

Another aspect to consider here is if Derrick Rose and Butler can thrive together in the same backcourt. Both are talented, All-Star caliber players, but they didn’t always have great on-court chemistry, given that they had off-shooting nights at the same time on several instances in the 2015 postseason. If they can work out a way to mesh together, it would go a long way towards keeping Butler in Chicago for the long term. Assuming he accepts a short-term deal from the Bulls this summer, perhaps he and Rose can work on building better chemistry in the future.

What’s next for the Chicago Bulls in 2015?

chicago-bulls-20152014 was an odd year for the Chicago Bulls, that’s for sure. They came into the season with championship expectations, but that took a hit when Derrick Rose suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. They then seemed to be conceeding the season when they shipped Luol Deng to the Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and cap space.

Interestingly enough, the Bulls actually played better after trading their star small forward and rose up to grab the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed. It was looking good too because they were facing a postseason-inexperienced Wizards squad. Then came a 4-1 series beating that leaves the Bulls with a first-round playoff exit and plenty of questions to answer.

Many of these questions start with Derrick Rose. After a 2011 season where the point guard won the MVP award, he’s since had three injury-plagued seasons in a row. There’s good news lately in that he’s recovered enough to play two-on-two games in practice. However, the Bulls must decide how much stock they can put into the 25-year-old’s knees moving forward.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau also presents another puzzling scenario for the Bulls. He’s definitely a good coach, but even the best have a difficult time dealing with the lofty year-in, year-out expectations put on Chicago. And there have been plenty of rumors that he’s unhappy with the front office and wants out, or the Bulls’ management wants him gone because of the friction. But then again, this team would have a difficult time replacing such a respected coach.

chicago-bulls-boozerOne guy who may not present any questions at all is Carlos Boozer. Although he equally split minutes with Taj Gibson during the regular season, Boozer was often benched in favor of Gibson in the playoff series against Washington. And for good reason too since Gibson averaged 18.2 PPG on 56.1% shooting while Boozer averaged 9.6 PPG on 42.6% shooting. Even worse is how poorly Boozer performed outside of the numbers, continually conceding offensive rebounds and easy buckets during the 4-1 series drubbing. Set to make $16.8 million in 2015, it seems like the Bulls may amnesty him to take $16 million off their salary cap.

Doing so would put Chicago in line to land Carmelo Anthony, one of the prized recruits of this summer’s free agent crop. In fact, many rumors have Anthony seriously considering the Bulls since they have the framework in place to be a championship contender. This team has strong inside players like Joakim Noah and Gibson as well as perimeter shooters like Jimmy Butler and Kirk Heinrich. They just need a go-to star like Anthony to make them a serious contender again.

Of course, the possibility of Rose once again emerging to be this player isn’t totally crazy. But Chicago can’t simply rely on this vision to come true, especially with three straight seasons marred by injury. Signing Anthony takes chance out of the equation and pairs him with an exceptional center in Noah.

carmelo-anthony-1The one roadblock that’s been discussed is money because, even after amnestying Boozer, Chicago would only be able to offer a $16 million starting deal. On the other hand, he opted out of his final year in New York, which would’ve paid $23.3 million, so he could test the market. But based on what he’s been saying lately, money isn’t the issue.

‘I’m going to make money. I have money,” Anthony said. “I’m good if I want to retire right now….As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern. My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level.”

It’s pretty clear that Chicago will do what they can to remain as attractive as possible to Anthony. And if they can land him, they’ll no longer just be a middling East team with a very good center and solid role players.

5 NBA Benchwarmers who are getting paid Big Bucks

Andris-biedrins-benchwarmerThe NBA’s minimum salary for rookies is almost $500,000, so every player in the league is making some nice money, regardless of whether they’re an 8-time All-Star or twelfth man. In regard to the latter, you normally expect the last man on the roster to be the lowest-paid player on the team. After all, the most energy that they normally exert during games is leaping off the bench to waive their towels when a teammate hits a big shot.

But the truth is that some twelfth men actually make some surprisingly high salaries. These benchwarmers can thank years of collective bargaining for this, with minimum contracts going over the $1 million mark for players who’ve been in the league at least five years. Old contracts that were made at a point when players were much better than their twelfth-man status also weigh heavily into this as well. Taking everything into account, let’s look at five NBA players who rarely see the court, yet make more money than some starters.

1. Andris Biedrins, Utah Jazz – $9 million

In the 2009 NBA season, Andris Biedrins had a career year where he scored 11.9 PPG, grabbed 11.2 RPG and had 1.5 BPG. Based on his numbers, the Latvian wonder seemed to be worth every penny of the 6-year, $54 million deal that he signed the previous summer. But then the injuries started… Biedrins’ 2010 season was derailed by groin and back problems along with criticisms by then-coach Don Nelson. Now on the Utah Jazz after several more injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaging 0.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in the last year of his lucrative deal.

2. Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons – $8 million

charlie-villanueva-benchwarmerFor the first six years of his NBA career, Charlie Villanueva was a solid power foward who had a pretty good outside touch for a 6’11” guy. It was after his fourth year that Villanueva signed a $35 million deal, thanks in large part to the 16.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 34.5% three-point shooting that he averaged in 2009. Now in his ninth season, Villanueva’s production has declined considerably. He’s played in just 13 games so far, and in those games, he’s averaging 9.1 minutes. If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Connecticut product can still score, putting up 4.8 PPG in these limited minutes.

keith-bogans-benchwarmer3. Keith Bogans, Boston Celtics – $5 million

For a guy who was drafted late in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, it’s impressive that Keith Bogans has managed to stretch his marginal talent into an 11-year career. But that career seems to be coming to a close since he’s averaging just 2.0 PPG and 0.5 APG in six games for the Celtics this season. However, Bogans is still making some decent money from the deal he signed with the Brooklyn Nets a year ago.

4. Joel Anthony, Miami Heat/Boston Celtics – $3.8 million

Coming off a 2010 season where he played in 80 games and tallied 1.4 BPG, undersized joel-anthony-benchwarnercenter Joel Anthony signed a 5-year, $18 million deal with the Heat. Anthony continued to be an important reserve for Miami, until the 2012-13 season, when they brought in Chris Bosh. Since that time, he’s been an overpaid benchwarmer who only sees minutes when the game has gotten out of hand. Perhaps he might start getting back onto the court a little more now that he’s been traded to the Celtics.

5. Jannero Pargo, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.4 million

jannero-pargo-benchwarmerAfter several years where he was an important reserve for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, Jannero Pargo has been warming benches for the past two seasons. Pargo played on three different teams before finally looking like he’d found a home in Charlotte, where he averaged 8.4 PPG in 16.2 minutes a game. No such luck this year, as he’s only appeared in 11 contests, playing 5.5 MPG while backing up Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pargo found a way to get paid since he once landed a fairly nice one-year, $3.8 million contract with a Russian team.

Will the Luol Deng Trade push Cleveland into the Playoffs?

luol-deng-cavs-tradeOver the past couple of weeks, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum has been the league’s hottest trade commodity. And no, it’s certainly not Bynum’s 8.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG that had teams clamoring for his services. Instead, teams merely wanted to sign him and waive him to save salary cap room.

Well, Cleveland finally found a taker for the disappointing center as the Chicago Bulls gave up two-time All-Star Luol Deng in the deal. In exchange, the Bulls save $15 million in salary and taxes this season by trading Deng and cutting Bynum. They also get a bevy of draft picks from the Cavs, including a first-round pick (via Sacramento), and 2015 and 2016 second-round picks (via Portland). It’s clear that Chicago did a good job of at least getting something in return for Deng, who wasn’t expected to re-sign with the Bulls this summer.

But the immediate winner here is no doubt the Cavaliers. This team came into the 2013-14 NBA season with high expectations. Not only did they sign a former All-Star in Bynum, but they also drafted UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one overall. These two additions, along with Cleveland’s core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, were expected to produce the club’s first postseason bid in years.

Instead, what they’ve gotten so far is a 12-23 record and a top pick who’s averaging 2.2 PPG and shooting 27.8% from the field. But the good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around with Deng on the roster.

luol-deng-cavs-trade-1Despite a .343 winning percentage, Cleveland is just 2 and a half games out of a playoff spot. Their chances of making the postseason look even more optimistic when you consider that only three teams really appear to be locks in the weak Eastern Conference.

It’s also worth mentioning that Deng fills the biggest hole on the Cavs’ roster. Irving (22.8PPG, 6.1APG) is a star at point guard, Waiters (15.2PPG, 3.2RPG) is having his best season at shooting guard, Thompson (11.9PPG, 9.8RPG) is a more-than-solid power forward, and Varejao (8.1PPG, 9.6RPG) is still a serviceable center. But their gaping hole has always been Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee trying to fill the small forward role. Both players are shooting less than 40% from the field, and they’re forced to play out of position too.

Enter Deng, who’s averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG from the small forward spot. Getting somebody like this to plug in the missing piece of your lineup is huge. More than that, Deng seems to be the guy who’ll finally make Cleveland into a postseason-worthy team. Of course, there’s just one catch here: Deng could only be in a Cavs uniform for half a season.

He’ll definitely test the free agency waters when his contract is up this summer. And with Deng being a 9-year veteran, he’s likely going to want to play for a title contender. But then again, Cleveland could convince Deng that they’re capable of competing for a championship with him in the lineup. Sure this seems like a stretch now, but sometimes one player can dramatically turn around a team’s chemistry.

Above all, the Cavaliers will have plenty of cap space to sign Deng to a long-term deal. Seeing as how many people think that he’ll fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of the 4-year, $48 million contract that Andre Iguodala signed with Golden State last summer, Cleveland can definitely afford to front this bill.

Does Derrick Rose’s Injury spell end for Chicago Bulls?

derrick-rose-knee-injury-againFollowing his first three seasons in the NBA, Derrick Rose was looked at as the savoir of the Chicago Bulls franchise. After all, the 22-year-old was coming off a season in 2011 where he became the youngest MVP in history (25 PPG and 7.7 APG).

Hopes were high in 2012 since the Bulls won 62 games the year before and made the Eastern Conference Finals. But a torn ACL in his left knee cut Rose’s 2011-12 season to just 39 games, which essentially took Chicago out of serious title contention. What was really bad is how the Bulls missed their franchise player all of the 2012-13 season because he wasn’t able to fully rehab the knee before the year ended.

So that meant Chicago fans waited for their star point guard until this season, which was expected to be a big one for the Bulls. Unfortunately, the Windy City may have seen their title hopes dashed once against because Rose has torn the meniscus in his right knee.

derrick-rose-knee-injury-again-1The 6’3″ guard does have some options ahead of him, including snipping the meniscus so he could get back on the court sooner. However, the more secure and safer full-repair option would take six months to heal. Given that this is Rose’s second major knee injury in the last three years, it’s likely that he and the Bulls would choose the full repair.

If he chooses the six-month option, this means that Rose wouldn’t be ready until late May, in the midst of a postseason run. Assuming this is the case, Rose certainly wouldn’t be the same player he was in 2011. He wasn’t even close to that player this year, which his averages of 15.9 PPG, 4.3 APG and 34.5% shooting strongly indicated.

What was holding Rose back didn’t seem to be his previous knee injury. Instead, it was timing, shot selection, court awareness, and basically everything that slips away when you don’t play meaningful games for a year and a half. That would have all come back at some point in the season, though. Unfortunately, it looks like Rose is going to undergo the same thing all over again, which is a crucial blow to any title hopes that Chicago may have harbored this year.

2013 NBA Playoffs Betting – Second Round Matchup Analysis

tony-parkerThe first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs won’t exactly go down in history. Seven of the first round series ended after six games or less. And the only series that did go the distance – Bulls vs. Nets – was loaded with injuries, thus preventing a great matchup between two full-strength teams.

Fans will no doubt be hoping for some closer series in the second round of the playoffs, though we’re sure some of the matchups look prime for more blowouts. Assuming you’re betting on the 2013 NBA Playoffs, hopefully you’ll be on the right side of these potential blowouts. With that said, let’s take a closer look at all of the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Dwyane Wade JaVale McGee#1 Seed Miami Heat vs. #5 Seed Chicago Bulls – The Bulls overcame a rash of injuries to pull out an emotional Game 7 win over the favored New Jersey Nets. Unfortunately, Chicago also comes out of this series with a large number of bumps and bruises. Kirk Hinrich is day-to-day with a calf injury while Luol Deng is coming off a major illness.

Miami, meanwhile, is entering this matchup relatively healthy. Dwayne Wade (knee) is slightly banged-up, but participating in full-contact practices. Seeing as how the Heat already have the three best players in this series with Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Chicago doesn’t stand a chance. However, Joakim Noah and the Bulls might pull out one game in a gutsy performance.

Prediction: Miami wins the series 4-1

paul-george-pacers#2 New York Knicks vs. #3 Seed Indiana Pacers – The Knicks look to continue their success after winning the club’s first playoff series in 13 years. However, they face a very tough matchup in the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers. This pairing is so tough, in fact, that all of the experts are divided on who’ll take the series.

New York didn’t exactly look dominant in beating the Boston Celtics four games to two. But they do have a lot of offensive weapons in Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymon Felton and Tyson Chandler. Expect Indiana to limit some of these weapons, while scoring plenty of points themselves with Paul George, David West and George Hill. But in the end, home court advantage may be the deciding factor for New York.

Prediction: New York wins the series 4-3

Western Conference

zach-randolph#1 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Seed Memphis Grizzlies – Don’t expect Oklahoma City to use not having Russell Westbrook as an excuse. They still feature one of the league’s best scorers in Kevin Durant along with solid players in Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin. However, the Thunder were built heavy at the top and don’t have a lot of firepower beyond these three.

Along with Indiana, Memphis is one of the league’s top two defensive teams. Marc Gasol and his Defensive Player of the Year award are a testament to the Grizzlies strong D. Overall, you can expect a pretty low-scoring series where Memphis comes out on top, thanks to the Westbrook season-ending injury.

Prediction: Memphis wins the series 4-2

stephen-curry#2 Seed San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Seed Golden State Warriors – Golden State pulled off the biggest upset of the playoffs when they defeated Denver 4-2, despite David Lee getting injured. They did it with exceptionally hot shooting and will be hoping the momentum caries over against the Spurs.

San Antonio comes into this series relatively fresh after destroying the Lakers in four games. However, they do have some minor injuries issues to key contributors Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. However, the trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili should have no trouble leading the Spurs to victory. Expect Stephen Curry and Lee (if he plays much) to help Golden State pull out at least one win though.

Prediction: San Antonio wins the series 4-1