It’s that time again! CAN or KEEP! If you’re not familiar with CAN or KEEP, you can read last year’s here and here (at my old home, The Bulls Charge). What a strange season. For all of the promise of the “big three” and how surreal it was to see Dwyane Wade in a Chicago Bulls jersey, the end just felt inevitable. The team was never going to truly gel or play Hoiberg’s style and it’s been clear that he isn’t the type of coach that can adapt to his players. But in typical fashion, the Bulls provided some excitement by winning the first two games against Boston before crushing us by losing the next four after Rajon Rondo was injured. The tumultuous season is mercifully over and now, it’s time to dish out some grades.
It’s unfathomable to me that Isaiah Canaan was thrown in to “save the Bulls’ season” in the Playoffs. Canaan hadn’t played a meaningful NBA minute since February (against Golden State due to a number of injuries) and for good reason: He appeared in 39 games total, shot 36.4% from the field and a pathetic 26.6% from three. He was brought in because of his ability to shoot and couldn’t do that. He did perform in the Playoffs, which is what I bumped his grade up to a D-. He was pretty good: 11.7 points per game, 50% from the field, and 35.7% from three and did a solid job on Isaiah Thomas. But there’s no reason to keep Isaiah Canaan. He just isn’t a consistent player and he should never be called upon to “save your season.” Somehow, he’s under contract next season for $1.5 million. He’ll probably be back.
CAN or KEEP: Can
Anthony Morrow came over in the Taj Gibson deal, but never really got an opportunity to show what he could do. However, he was 6 of 14 from three during the regular season (42.9%) and has been a consistent shooter throughout his career. He may not be an impact player, but in a league that demands shooting and for a team that so desperately needs consistent shooting, I’d try to keep Anthony Morrow. Further helping his case was his 8 points in Game 5 against the Celtics. Morrow is a piece moving forward and a veteran presence that could help this team. I’d keep him.
CAN or KEEP: Keep
The Taj Gibson trade was arguably centered on Cameron Payne, who subsequently came in and performed so badly that he rarely dressed for the Playoffs even with an injured Rajon Rondo. His 4.9 points per game, 33% shooting, and 32.4% from three are enough to make the biggest Taj Gibson/Doug McDermott fans vomit. I basically argued that the real Taj Gibson/Doug McDermott trade wasn’t what the Bulls received, but that they opened up opportunities for players that were a better fit for Hoiberg’s system. Looking at the trade in that light isn’t nearly as painful, but the bottom line is the Bulls could have gotten more for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. Payne just didn’t produce when brought over from OKC. However, he was injured the first part of the season and played his first game in January for OKC. He’s also all of 22 years old and is under a dirt cheap contract with this new CBA ($2.2 million next year, team option for $3.2 million the next). So, what’s the harm in keeping him? You give the young guy a chance and see if he can turn into some kind of bench scorer or more. I don’t see him being a starter, but an energizer off the bench? Who knows. He could also spend more time with the Windy City Bulls next season and see if he can develop his game.
The real reasons the Bulls will keep Payne are simple: 1) He’s on a cheap deal and 2) If they let him walk, they officially look like idiots in the Taj Gibson trade. Payne is staying. Hopefully, he becomes something more than what he is.
CAN or KEEP: Keep?
I actually like Joffrey Lauvergne! He showed flashes of competence throughout his 20 or so games with the Bulls. He had nice touch around the rim and seemed to be a nice big man presence for the Bulls. With OKC, he was able to show some three-point range (34.6% before the trade) . However, he’s 25 and he’s an expiring contract. Lopez is clearly the best center on the team and the Bulls would be better off finding a young, athletic rim protector instead of rolling with Joffrey Lauvergne another season. Sorry, Joffrey. It’s been real.
CAN or KEEP: Can
I may be in the minority, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Felicio. Bulls management have been high on Felicio for years, thinking they’ve got a diamond in the rough. I simply don’t see it. He’s 24 and averaged all of 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. His defense looked average at best and I felt like he didn’t offer any rim protection, even though analytics suggest otherwise. However, this is only year 2 for Felicio. He could totally develop into a nice player. However, I feel like the Bulls need a different player as a backup to Lopez. They need someone who’s crazy athletic and can protect the rim (i.e. Nerlens Noel) or someone who can provide shooting and spacing. Also, what’s the asking price for Felicio? He was on a minimum contract last year and he’s sure to get more than that in the open market. Can the Bulls afford to keep him or would they be better off spending money elsewhere? I opt for the latter. Can.
CAN or KEEP: Can
Bobby Portis – Chicago Bulls” width=”260″ height=”190″ />
I expected more from Bobby Portis this season. He had a promising rookie campaign and really brought intensity every night and then had a nice Summer League campaign averaging 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds and led this team to a Summer League championship. However, this didn’t translate into the regular season. Portis’ averages this year were roughly the same as last year and he didn’t improve at all defensively, which became a huge problem in the Playoffs. How many times did we see Isaiah Thomas beat his man and get into the paint and Portis flash over to distract him instead of challenging him at the rim? Portis is billed at 6’11 and Thomas at 5’9. He has to challenge that shot and be aggressive. Portis has to put in the work and become an average defender. He doesn’t have to be a great defender, just not a liability. In that way (and other ways) he reminds me a little of Carlos Boozer. For all of Bulls’ fans hatred towards Carlos Boozer, he really was a good offensive player and provided a necessary skill to this team. If that’s Portis’ ceiling, count me in. Boozer was routinely an All-Star/borderline All-Star. But Portis has to continue to work and gain consistency and improve. He still has 2 years left on a team friendly contract (capping out in 2018-2019 with a team option of roughly $2.5 million).
There were also signs of hope after the Taj Gibson trade. Portis averaged 10.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 49.5% from the field. However, the Bulls registered a -1.1 with Portis and he shot a mere 31.7% from three. He was pretty good in the Playoffs averaging 6.7 points, 6 rebounds, shooting 51.5% from the field, and a nice 46.2% from three, but the Bulls were still -1.7 with him on the court. For Portis to be a productive player, he has to get better defensively. Hopefully he will put the work in this offseason.
CAN or KEEP: Keep
When the Bulls announced they were trading Tony Snell to Milwaukee for Michael Carter-Williams, Bulls fans were flabbergasted. We didn’t expect to get a free sub from Subway for Tony Snell much less a former rookie of the year. Bulls fans were ecstatic, including myself. Fast forward to the end of the season and it’s hard to fathom that the Bulls came out on the losing end of the Tony Snell trade. Michael Carter-Williams was abominable all season long and a detriment to this team. He averaged 6.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and shot an embarrassing 36.6% from the field and 23.4% from three. On a recent Bill Simmons Podcast with Haralabos Voulgaris, he stated that a Michael Carter-Williams shot was so bad that it literally couldn’t be tracked. Thankfully, he’s a free agent this summer so the Bulls can just walk away and let him go. Good riddance.
CAN or KEEP: CAN!
Feelings around Jerian Grant seem to be mixed. I liked Jerian Grant before the draft last year and was thrilled that he was included in the Derrick Rose trade. He really gained some consistency after the All-Star break averaging 6.2 points, shooting 48.1% from the field, and 40.5% from three. This is only year 2 for him and hopefully his improvement will continue. As we saw in the Playoffs, he isn’t ready to be a starter, and frankly, he may never be. But he does have unique attributes that make him an interesting player for the Bulls. He’s 6’4 and can play both guard positions and be a secondary ball handler or the primary ball handler. If he gains consistency and confidence in his jumpshot, he could be a nice rotation player for the Bulls moving forward. I’m hoping the Bulls keep Rajon Rondo next season to continue mentoring Jerian Grant for the future. He has two more years left on his contract (second years a team option) and the Bulls could really have something with him.
CAN or KEEP: Keep
Brandon Pence is the co-founder of B2 Hoops and the founder/editor emeritus of “The Bulls Charge.” Follow him on Twitter here.