Chicago Bulls reader mailbag: What's the future of Niko, Cousins, Leonard and Cavs?
The last time there was a Chicago Bulls reader mailbag, fans were in a grumpy mood.
But that was when the team got off to a horrible start.
Now that the Bulls are 15-9 since Dec. 8, are people feeling better or are they angrier since the chances of landing DeAndre Ayton in the draft have dropped below 3 percent?
To find out, let's go straight to the questions:
Would you pursue DeMarcus Cousins if you were in control of personnel decisions for the Bulls? I believe he is a perfect fit for Hoiberg's offense as he's an unselfish player with great handles, quickness, and strength. He is also a good shooter and post player. -- @thegeorgeyou
What you say is true, but my answer is no.
Cousins could be headed to the NBA playoffs for the first time in his eighth season, but there are so many questions about his value as a teammate, he could just as easily ruin the Bulls' rebuild as help.
It will be interesting to see what happens this summer, since Cousins demonstrated with his 44-24-10 game against the Bulls -- the first in the NBA since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1972 -- that he's a unique talent. New Orleans seems most likely to take the plunge.
Kawhi Leonard seems a little unhappy in San Antonio. Do you think Bulls might make a run at him if he becomes available? Nikola Mirotic, Jerian Grant and this year's first-round pick sounds like a start. Thoughts? @Rudens23
Leonard would be a dream acquisition. The Spurs will face some difficult choices with their aging roster, but are smart enough not to make any hasty decisions on Leonard.
Look at it this way: if the Bulls got Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen for Jimmy Butler, what would San Antonio want for Leonard?
Answer: LaVine, Dunn, Markkanen and the Bulls' first-round pick, most likely. Hard to see the Spurs holding a flash sale like OKC did with James Harden.
Player most likely to be moved at the deadline who's not named Mirotic? @Merk256
Depends on what the Bulls could get in return. They'd love to add another first-round pick in 2018.
If Nikola Mirotic, Robin Lopez, Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant or other nonessential pieces could bring back a midrange first-rounder, the Bulls likely say yes. The chances of that happening swing to the unlikely side, but you never know.
Any chance with the never-ending turmoil in Cleveland the Cavs would send Kevin Love to Bulls for Niko? @bullscribe
Doubt it. The Cavs aren't sure what to do now with the team struggling and LeBron James' future in limbo.
That's a good argument for the Bulls keeping Mirotic and all other potential trade assets on the roster through the summer. With Markkanen already a long-term piece, Love wouldn't be a great fit at age 29.
How do I know what to root for anymore? Bulls are kind of fun to watch and improving, but nowhere near good enough and are falling out of the early lottery. @chwtom
Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen playing so well this season is a huge positive for the rebuild. So go ahead and root for those guys to do well.
The best player in the 2017 draft has been Utah's Donovan Mitchell (13th). The last two drafts have been deep, so it's reasonable to think the Bulls can get a good player in the 2018 draft at No. 9 (where they are now) or below.
Mirotic to trade or not to trade that is the question? @bullsfr
Yes, it is. I think the Bulls could get more for Mirotic next year when he has a true expiring contract. It appears the Bulls do not see Mirotic as a long-term piece in the rebuild, in part because he's similar to Markkanen and because he has rubbed some people the wrong way.
What isn't clear is if the Bulls are set on dealing Mirotic before the Feb. 8 trade deadline or if they'd keep him around into the summer and next season in the best interest of the franchise, as John Paxson stated after the practice altercation with Bobby Portis.
The Bulls were confident the bad feelings from the fight would blow over, and it appears they have.
Which team or teams do you see as a potential trade partner for Robin Lopez? @nervousmuffins
I'm not sure there is a trade partner. While Lopez has been good this season, there isn't a high demand for traditional 7-foot centers. He's under contract for next season, so he's no use to teams trying to clear cap space.
The Bulls think he is a great fit as a mentor, so I wouldn't be shocked if he stays through 2019 and beyond. But next year, with his expiring deal, he will be a more valuable trade asset.
What are the chances David Nwaba stays around long term? @heircircumstance
In theory, the Bulls could include Nwaba as part of a blockbuster trade. But there's no point in trading him for a draft pick since he's a young guy who already is outperforming most low first-rounders.
I think he stays awhile.
Bulls have a $15M trade exception from the Butler trade. Will they do anything or waste another asset like always? @iLLiPinO
The Bulls already are below the salary cap, so they don't need a trade exception to absorb salary. And since a trade exception can only be used to take on a player unwanted by another team, plenty of them go unused.
Why is Hoiberg still the coach? Is it because he does whatever GarPax tell him? Why do GarPax still have jobs? Do the Reinsdorfs no longer care? @Asiancutie_5
These questions seem a little dated. Hoiberg is going to get coach-of-the-year votes if the Bulls finish close to .500, and he has done well with a team that fits his style.
It's easy to pick out the GarPax mistakes, but the Bulls have made the playoffs 11 times in 13 seasons since John Paxson took over for Jerry Krause, so things have been mostly positive.
Jerry Reinsdorf's role with the team hasn't changed much, but son Michael has been running the Bulls full-time for several years. So, yes, they still care.
Is Cam Payne able to work on his game yet and if not, are his dance moves NBA ready? @mkbaumbach
Payne has returned to noncontact practice after having foot surgery last summer, and I'd say unless he can get Russell Westbrook back as a partner, Payne should retire from dancing.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls
Scouting reportBulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center, 6 p.m. Wednesday
Radio: WLS 890-AM
Outlook: Sixers center Joel Embiid (23.8 points, 11.0 rebounds) has never played against the Bulls, but he seems on track to suit up for this one. He has played in the last eight games, and this is not the start of a back-to-back for the 76ers. Second-leading scorer J.J. Redick is out with a leg injury. Rookie-of-the-year candidate Ben Simmons is averaging 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists, with PF Dario Saric at 13.8 ppg. No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz (shoulder) hasn't played since Oct. 23. The Sixers (22-21) are coming off a loss at Memphis on Monday but have won seven of their last nine. The Bulls have won seven straight in Philadelphia and beat the Sixers 117-115 at the United Center on Dec. 18.
Next: Los Angeles Lakers at the United Center, 7 p.m. Friday
-- Mike McGraw