Yesterday was a sad day for the Chicago Bulls and those who follow them with the team’s recent trade of Luol Deng, longest tenured Bull, humanitarian, and all around beacon of everything right with the NBA. It was also the deadline for non-guaranteed contracts to become guaranteed, which precipitated the panic Cleveland had to get rid of Andrew Bynum, which they did. Perhaps most importantly, it was also the start of 10 day contracts, which generally signals the rise of D-League call ups for teams looking for rotation players. Given that the Bulls only have 9 active (11 with Boozer healthy and Marquis Teague in Iowa), it stands to reason that they would and should be looking for a few stop gaps. Who knows, they might even find a cheap piece to fill out next season’s roster. Here’s a look at a few guys they might want to look at.
James Nunnally, SF. 6-7, 205. 23 Years Old.
A swingman out of UC Santa Barbara, where he was the teammate of current Pacer Orlando Johnson, James Nunnally is the exact sort of player the D-League was made for. After going undrafted, he latched on with the Heat in Summer League, impressing enough there to get a training camp invite with Phoenix. After being cut, he signed with the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League, where he’s posted averages of 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists on .445/.409/.846 shooting. A smooth athlete, Nunnally is the type of guy who guard both swingman positions, hit open threes and make intelligent passes. He doesn’t really stand out, but his game is as well rounded as you expect a 23 year old’s to be at this point, and at the very least he’d make for a good practice and emergency guy at a position of great need for the Bulls. His inclusion on this list is something of a formality, considering he’s already been linked to the Bulls. Gar Forman is in Reno for the D-League Showcase, so you have to imagine he has someone in mind.
Othyus Jeffers, SF. 6-5, 210. 28 Years Old.
If the Bulls wanted to go for more of a veteran presence, they could do worse than area product Othyus Jeffers. A veteran of three NBA teams, Jeffers is an undersized three who nevertheless is a relentless, sometimes terrifying rebounder, defender and burgeoning slasher who is every bit a Tom Thibodeau player. After catching on with the Wizards, he tore an ACL in a freak workout accident just before the NBA lockout, and has been fighting his way back every since. Arguably the best player in Iowa Energy history, Jeffers has finally gotten back into form and is posting averages of 23.5 points, an obscene 11.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals a game while shooting .492 from the floor and .742 from the line. While his three point percentage (.269) is nothing to write home about, he doesn’t shoot it very much and generally has a great understanding of where he is most efficient offensively. While his NBA ceiling is still as a role player, his ability to lead a very good team offensively perhaps makes him a threat as a ballhandler at the NBA level. His offensive rebounding numbers in his short NBA career are bewildering for a player his size, and his effort is undeniable. Admittedly, his inclusion is a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but Othyus Jeffers is almost certainly an NBA contributor, and, as I said, Thibs would probably love him.
Patrick Christopher, SG. 6-5, 220. 25 Years Old.
A current teammate of Othyus Jeffers and former Bulls camp invite, Patrick Christopher is the best shooter of the three swingmen listed here. A graduate of Cal, Christopher went undrafted in 2010 and, after bouncing around Europe and a few Summer League squads, latched on with the Iowa Energy this season, posting averages of 12.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists on .449/.422/.846 shooting. He’s got good size for the two and is an respectable defender. A potential 3 and D guy in the making.
Pierre Jackson, PG. 5-10, 180. 22 Years Old.
The leading scorer in the D-League, Pierre Jackson would step in to being the best scoring point guard on the Bulls roster. While his rights are owned by New Orleans, recent reports have the Pelicans granting permission to Jackson’s representatives to seek a trade, as he doesn’t seem to be in line to get any playing time there this season. While it might be risky to give up any assets for a D-Leaguer, the Bulls did just come into some second rounders. Jackson, while playing for the Idaho Stampede, is averaging 30.1 points and 4.8 assists per game, so he’s not exactly a distributor. He’s shooting over 45% from the floor and 38% from three, so it’s not as though he’s an awful shotjacker. He’s probably not the most likely call up candidate in the world for this team, but he’s almost certainly going to crack an NBA rotation this season.
Jorge Gutierrez, PG. 6-3, 190. 25 Years Old.
The closest thing to Kirk Hinrich in the D-League, Jorge Gutierrez is a jack of all trades in the making (who also might be better than Kirk Hinrich). Another Cal product, Gutierrez, the starting point guard for the Cleveland affiliate Canton Charge, has posted averages of 13.0 points, 7.0 assists, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals on .478/.275/.758 shooting, very solid splits indeed for a guy with limited athleticism. If the Bulls go ahead and move on the rumored offers for Hinrich’s services, Jorge would be a good guy to step in and take up his role in the offense on a trial basis.
Jarvis Varnado, PF. 6-9, 230. 25 Years Old.
Another member of the Iowa Energy, Jarvis Varnado is a shot blocker’s shot blocker. Blessed with a wingspan well over seven feet, Varnado is the best shot blocker in the D-League. Offensively, he’s a work in progress, and probably won’t ever pan out to be much of anything. As a weakside defender, he’s as good as you’re likely to get off the scrap heap, and he spent last season with the Heat, making him the only NBA champion you’ll find on this list. Despite his limitations, his decent touch around the rim has allowed him to tally 14.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 4.9 blocks per game, the latter of which is easily tops in the D-League.
Richard Howell, PF. 6-8, 255. 23 Years Old.
What value does a rebounder bring? If you’re Richard Howell, it might bring an NBA contract. Undersized in height, Howell is nonetheless an absolute monster on the glass, averaging 18.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on .570 shooting. Doing the bulk of his work at the rim, where he shoots nearly 68%, Howell is, without contention, one of the most bruising post men in the entire D-League. A graduate of North Carolina State, Howell spent training camp with Portland, and now plays for the Idaho Stampede, their affiliate. Where Varnado is a defensive stalwart, Howell compares favorably to former D-Leaguer and current Charlotte Bobcat Jeff Adrien, though more of a traditional big man and somewhat less of an athlete. He’d bring a physical presence to the Bulls bench and might even become a decent defender.