Detroit Pistons in a bit of a holding pattern this off-season

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The one time Eastern Conference power Detroit Pistons missed out on the post-season for a third straight season.  Coincidentally enough, that streak started when general manager Joe Dumars wasted his abundant cap space by overpaying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to long-term deals.  The franchise is still in recovery mode from those signings and doesn’t figure to make any major moves this off-season.

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Deng possibly the missing piece in Bulls puzzle after all?

Luol Deng’s 39 points on Monday night can not be ignored.

He’s the X-factor. If Deng shines this season or even comes close to the potential the Bulls envisioned when they handed him a contract potentially worth up to $80 million, Chicago has a chance to seriously compete in the much-improved east.

Ifs, ands, or buts aside, this is not the first time Deng has flashed his scoring abilities since signing his contract in 2008. However, his inconsistency to shoot efficiently on a nightly basis has caused the love -hate relationship fans have with the oft-injured yet talented forward. Let’s face it, Deng’s play since 2008 has had more flip-flops than a spring break pool party.

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NBA Power Rankings East 12-3

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1.Boston Celtics (14-4)

Center Kendrick Perkins has a higher FG% on the season than FT%. A rarity in this league. Also a complement and an insult at the same time.

2. Orlando Magic (15-4)

Everyone talks about the big three of Carter, Howard and Lewis, but the true keys to them winning the conference again lie in Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes

3. Atlanta Hawks (13-5)

How far they can do depends on how fast their young bigs Al Horford and Marvin Williams develop.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5)

Seven different players scored in double figures last night versus Phoenix (arguably the league’s best team). This practice is how the supposedly “Cleveland LeBrons” will shed the practices holding them back from winning a title

5. Miami Heat (10-7)

Michael Beasley is showing a lot more self-assuredness and attacking the rim often this year. He’ll need to keep that up, in order to draw doubles off D. Wade.

6. Chicago Bulls (7-9)

When seeing Derrick Rose touch the sky like Kanye on numerous dunks last night, I noticed his ankle is finally 100%. Then I heard Tim Legler say it on ESPN’s “NBA Fastbreak” so only now is this truth confirmed.

As for Ben Gordon’s return to Chicago as a Piston, Bulls C Joakim Noah had this appropriate soundbite “It’s a business. It’s not like college, that’s for sure. There’s just so much money involved. That’s just the way it is.”

7. Milwaukee Bucks (9-8)

Like TSB’s Jake McCormick said Andrew Bogut’s absence and return can be likened to the Crystal Pepsi fad of the early 1990s; people didn’t realize the little things they loved about Pepsi (like its color) until they were taken away. Now clear cola is celebrated as if it were a walk of shame, and Bogut’s presence on both sides of the ball should help the team understand just how long of a walk that can be.

8. Charlotte Bobcats (7-9)

Don’t look now, but they actually won 4 in a row. But don’t get too excited, inconsistency is to this franchise what infidelity is to Tiger Woods.


9. Indiana Pacers (6-10)

By far the least inspiring and interesting team in NBA history to garner a #9 in a power rankings segment

10. Washington Wizards (7-10)

Gilbert Arenas exploded publicly saying “what do they expect me to score 30 every game”. Well yes, when you’re a narcissist and play for one of the league’s worst teams, that’s exactly what’s expected of you.

11. Detroit Pistons (5-7)

Ben Gordon on getting massively (and I think grossly unfairly) booed in his return to Chicago. “It’s not like I won the championship while I was here or anything. I just had a couple good years so I wasn’t surprised at all”

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12. Toronto Raptors (7-13)

What a disappointment! At least try and give Chris Bosh an incentive to stay

13. Philadelphia 76ers (5-14)

A.I.’s playing a Brett Favre is the EXACT reason I was so IRRITATED by all the Tiger Woodslike media overkill of Iverson’s “retirement”. I knew the answer wasn’t done. Now he can join MJ, Clemens, Favre and Jay-Z in that “I’m going to fake my retirement so you can PLEASE LOOK AT ME” club

14. New York Knicks (4-15)

Who exactly is Danilo Gallinari? Not just a one trick pony, I guess. He followed up his breakout game vs. Phoenix with 20 against Orlando.

15. New Jersey Nets (0-18)

One of the most embarrassing records in NBA history? Check! The 1972-73 76ers 9-73 awaits. With a new coach in place, and Devin Harris and Courtney Lee back, they’re running out of excuses for this horrible losing streak.

Ben Gordon gets no Love in Return to Chicago

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By Paul M. Banks

See the video below to watch Ben Gordon meeting the media following his first game in Chicago as a member of the opposition. Not just any opponent, but the Bulls’ biggest rival, the Detroit Pistons.

The Chicago crowd was full of boos for Ben Gordon as he returned to where he played his entire career prior to this season. Perhaps those boos were far from being deserved. Nevertheless, Gordon led the Pistons with 18 pts on 6-16 shooting, but just 2-8 from beyond the arc. The Bulls beat their rival Detroit 92-85 to end a 5 game losing streak. Joakim Noah on the Chicago crowd booing BG,

“It was kind of weird. I feel like he made people happy here but its just the way it is. I had a lot of fun playing with him and he did a lot of great things for this organization.”

Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro “I think the fans respect what he did here. He is with the Pistons now. It was nothing that I did not expect from the fans.” If this reminds you of Jerry Seinfeld’s famous “rooting for sports is like rooting for clothes” routine. Noah had this appropriate soundbite “It’s a business. It’s not like college, that’s for sure. There’s just so much money involved. That’s just the way it is.”

Detroit Pist-ing Their Money Away

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By: David Kay

Heading into the NBA free agency period, the Detroit Pistons were one of the few buyers in the market willing to shell out the cash to sign a big name free agent.  As the clock struck midnight on July 1st, Joe Dumars wasted no time in courting his desired targets as both Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva flew to Detroit to meet with the Pistons general manager.  Reports have now surfaced that both former UConn Huskies will indeed call Motor City home for the next five years.  Detroit and Bulls free agent shooting guard Ben Gordon have reportedly agreed to a five-year, $55 million deal while Villanueva’s contract is for the same length at $40 million.

Personally, I am not in love with either signing.  Gordon, who turned down a similar offer from the Bulls last off-season, is developing into a big-time scorer, but has yet to show consistency in his game-to-game performance.  He was one of the top free agents in the 2009 class and it is now evident that he had little desire to return to Chicago.  But where does Gordon fit in Detroit?  Rip Hamilton is already on the roster and sulked last year when he was forced to come off the bench.  And it’s not like Rip is going anywhere as he has four years, $49.5 million left on his currently deal.  That poses a dilemma as that contract will not be easy to deal in a market where most teams are looking to dump long, expensive contracts than take them on.

My biggest concern with the Gordon signing is the fact that, in my opinion, Piston starting point guard Rodney Stuckey is a poor-man’s version of Gordon.  Neither has the capability to be a true point guard and are more shooters than creators.

charlie20072As for Villanueva, I have seen him play in Milwaukee for the past couple of seasons and I’m not a fan of his game.  Chaz V. can light up the scoreboard every once in a while, but for every 40-point game, he has four ten point performances in a row.  He was not a favorite of Bucks head coach Scott Skiles, moving in and out of the starting line-up partially because of his minimal effort on the defensive end (and partially because he likes to tweet during games.)

Detroit has always been a defensive-minded team which makes Villanueva’s signing a bit perplexing.  Plus, for a 6-11 “power” forward, Villanueva is softer than Lance Bass at the Playboy mansion and spends most of his time on offense wandering around the perimeter rather than trying to be a factor underneath.  With Chaz V, Tayshaun Prince, and Austin Daye all in Motown, the Pistons now have three tall, lengthy but physically inferior forwards who have similar styles of play.  Interesting.

The re-building process has officially begun in Detroit with familiar faces like Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace (who almost certainly will not be re-signed) being shown the door in the past few months.  Now Gordon and Villanueva will be faced with the task of ushering in a new era of Piston basketball.  Next up; find someone to coach these guys…

What’s Going to Happen with Ben Gordon?

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By Anthony Zilis

Remember those few days after Christmas when you were a kid? The excitement for weeks leading up to the big day was palpable. You could hardly sleep the night before, and then it finally came.

That’s what the days following the NBA Draft are like for me. I’m an NBA Draft fan, plain and simple.

It’s time to get back to reality. After drafting forwards James Johnson and Taj Gibson, the Chicago Bulls have to answer the question of whether they’ll re-sign Ben Gordon. Before I delve into the details, let’s look at how the Bulls’ rotation would shake out without Gordon.

PG – Derrick Rose 38 mpg, Kirk Hinrich 10 mpg

SG – John Salmons 28 mpg, Hinrich 20 mpg

SF – Luol Deng 30 mpg, Salmons 10 mpg, James Johnson or Tyrus Thomas 8 mpg

PF – Thomas 30 mpg, Joakim Noah 10 mpg, Taj Gibson or Johnson 8 mpg

C  – Noah 25 mpg, Brad Miller 23 mpg

So where does Gordon fit in to the equation? The answer, in short, is nowhere. Having Deng back in the lineup moves Salmons, a much bigger, better defender to shooting guard. That would leave Hinrich and hypothetically, Gordon, on the bench left to split playing time at shooting guard.hinrich_getty

Detroit, reportedly is ready to offer Gordon $11 million per year. With Hinrich making an average of $9 million over the next three seasons, it would be unheard of to have two backup guards making over $20 million. Signing Gordon would effectively put the Bulls near the salary cap for next year’s mega-free agency period. Having Gordon would put in jeopardy any chances of the Bulls signing Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or any other free agents in next year’s class.

The Bulls would most likely, have to trade Hinrich if they re-signed Gordon. With Hinrich on the team, though, the Bulls are saved having to sign a backup point guard. He can score although he isn’t the scorer Gordon is. But Hinrich is a premiere defensive player, and can guard three positions. With Salmons at shooting guard, the Bulls are looking at a much-improved, bigger and better defensive team.

If the Bulls commit to Gordon for five or six years, as they did with Deng, they’ll quickly regret it. And the Deng contract is obviously a regrettable decision.

The popular opinion seems to be that Hinrich is overpaid. Maybe the Bulls should just trade Hinrich and re-sign Gordon. But, crazily enough, having Gordon gone makes the Hinrich contract seem very reasonable.

Yes, $27 million over three years is a lot to pay a backup point guard. But his versatility and ability to play, and guard the shooting guard position makes him worth it. If he can give the Bulls 30 quality minutes per game, this contract seems very reasonable. The numbers are in the ballpark of guards like Jose Calderon, Maurice Williams, TJ Ford, Jamal Crawford, and Jason Terry. Hinrich absolutely belongs in that group.

Just think if he, and not Gordon, was guarding Ray Allen throughout one of the most exciting playoff series in history.

Yes, they would have missed Gordon’s scoring spark, but Allen would have been smothered by Hinrich’s defense. The series wouldn’t have been as exciting, but the Bulls may have actually won. Isn’t that the goal?

If the Bulls re-sign Gordon, they’ll win some exciting games. But when they’re not relying on his streaky scoring to dig them out of holes created by his own bad defense, they’ll probably win more.

So comment below…Do you think the Bulls should re-sign Gordon or trade Hinrich? Does Gordon’s offense make up for his defensive deficiency? What team do you think he’ll go to if he doesn’t re-sign?

Will the Bulls Draft a Backup Point Guard?

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By Paul M. Banks

If there’s one position the Chicago Bulls don’t have a pressing need at, it’s point guard. The incumbent starter, Derrick Rose is the only player on the roster even remotely close to developing into a franchise player, and (SAT scandals and gang sign gestures aside) is the guy to build the team around. But the Bulls might see backup Kirk Hinrich move on soon and in today’s NBA, the “Golden Age of Point Guards” that we currently live in, it’s good to have two reliable point guards.

As former UCLA point guard and current draft prospect Darren Collison said at the NBA Draft Combine: “This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that.”

For teams currently needing a point guard, this crop of prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly all-time. It could produce a couple players with the same impact as current young NBA floor generals Rose, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

On Tuesday, the Bulls looked at (among others) Maynor, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, Greece’s Nick Calathes, St. Joseph’s Tasheed Carr, the 5’6” David Holston from Chicago State and Bryan Mullins from Southern Illinois via Downers Grove High School.

UCLA’s second, and more hyped point guard prospect, Jrue Holiday has also met with the team and expressed a strong interest to join the team at combine media day. However, he should be long picked by the time the Bulls are on the board.

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Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, one of the hottest point guard prospects around, figures to likely be gone by the time the Bulls pick at #16 on June 25th, and long gone when the Bulls pick again at #26. However, he worked out for the Bulls, met with the front office and was extremely vocal about his desire to play for the Bulls at the NBA Draft Combine. Flynn told the media how much he enjoys the Bulls up-tempo system and their young nucleus. He also described his game:

“I think I have some characteristics of Chris Paul. His tenacity, he’s hard as nails, fiery, fires his teammates up, he really knows how to get his teammates in position to where they can score, where they don’t have to do much to score. Look at David West and Tyson Chandler; where would they be without Chris Paul?”

As much as the Bulls need a scoring big, as much as point guard is the team’s strongest position, they have needs at guard- especially someone to be a backup running the point and/or provide scoring at the off guard position given the (increasingly likely) case that Ben Gordon departs.

Rating NBA Shooting Guards

There are a ton of good two guards available this NBA offseason. Who are they and where will they go?

Click here to find out

http://www.walterfootball.com/nbafreeagents2009sg.php

2009 NBA Off-Season: Chicago Bulls

By Paul M. Banks
When the magical Bulls-Celtics first round playoff series started, most of Chicago just wasn’t very excited. I mean who gets all warm and tingly about a 41-41 team sneaking into the playoffs? This was the same squad that resided in the bottom rung of the league in February, and had a joke of a head coach and an ugly home loss to the OKC Thunder on their resume.

But the Bulls transformed themselves after the John Salmons/Brad Miller trade, and that transformative process continued into the postseason in where the #7 seeded Bulls took the #2 seeded and defending World Champion Boston Celtics to 7 games. The numerous extra sessions effectively made it the best playoff series of all time.

It also further accentuated the only true positive of the regular season, (that #1 overall pick, hometown hero and now NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is a true superstar in the making) Despite the loss, the playoffs made Chicago care about the Bulls because it told us, “hey the Bulls are truly back.” Even though it was the longest series in NBA history, it went by too quick.  Moving forward, everything starts with stability in the front office as GM John Paxson’s successor will have plenty of questions.

2009-10 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Joakim Noah/Brad Miller/Aaron Gray/Jerome James
PF: Tyrus Thomas/Tim Thomas//
SF: John Salmons/Loul Deng/Linton Johnson
SG: Ben Gordon/Anthony Roberson/
PG: Derrick Rose/Kirk Hinrich/Lindsey Hunter

Free Agents:

Ben Gordon
Lindsey Hunter
Aaron “The White Panther” Gray

’09-’10 Team Salary: approximately $68.5million
’09-’10 Expected League Salary Cap: $57.3 million

Draft Picks:
# 16
# 26

Off-Season Needs:

1.    A SCORING BIG MAN- In Chicago, the need for a scoring big has existed almost as long as the Bears deficiency at the quarterback position. Since the Bears recently traded for Jay Cutler, maybe this second historically bad Second City position will also receive an upgrade. Joakim Noah’s arc is finally trending upward. As awful as I thought his acquisition was on Draft day (and he didn’t help him himself with the infamous Dean of Clown College outfit), he’s kind of fulfilling the roles (interior defense and rebounding, unfortunately horrendous foul shooting as well) that Ben Wallace was supposed to during his brief and disappointing stay in town. Noah’s even started to act like less of an immature thug off the court, and says he’s serious about bulking up to augment his game. Even if that happens, he’s not a big time scorer and the Bulls will best be served in the free agent market trying to complement him down low.

2.    Getting up Front About It-
The Bulls’ biggest need is obviously a coach who cares about strategic substitution, game-planning and decision making, since Vinny Del Negro did little of those things during this season. (To his credit, he did get better down the stretch and in the postseason, but he still has miles to go) After that, the team obviously needs front line consistency. Some people think Tyrus Thomas might still one day be a star, but they must be drinking red Kool-Aid, or be wearing LSU-colored goggles, because he’s progressed into just being mediocre, not actually good. Thomas developed a good jump shot and does dominate the league’s weakest caliber of players at the four, but he doesn’t seem interested in obtaining an actual post move and he’s still clueless as to what is going on within the offense much of the time.

3.    Back court scoring-
This need disappears if Ben Gordon stays put. If he goes, they’ll need somebody to take the scoring load off Rose to let him be more of a distributor. It’s hard to say what this team definitely “needs” because they have a big collection of average to slightly-above-average players. There are needs, but other than low-post offense, it’s not centrally glaring. Other than Derrick Rose, they have no superstars or anyone with superstar potential. (Luol Deng’s contract, which will pay him $10 million+ through 2014, is superstar, but his talent certainly is not) This team has plenty of young players and “projects,” so they should be concentrating on veterans, not rookies to help them. Can they package their picks and excess amount of jump-shooters into something special?

4.    Defense- Vinny doesn’t care if his players defend, or even seem to care if the Bulls even look like they’re trying to defend. Pax fired Scott Skiles in a Dickensian manner on Christmas Eve 2007, and the team has severely lacked any sort of quality defensive play since then. Ben Gordon doesn’t play defense, yet he looks All-Defensive team next to Derrick Rose. DeJuan Blair or a really physical defender in his mold would be a good fit.