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How Spurs’ Bryn Forbes went from afterthought recruit to NBA starter

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Bryn Forbes‘ 2014 transfer from Cleveland State to Michigan State was well-covered in the media. Nearly every article on it explained Forbes’ reasoning: The Lansing, Mich., native wanted to be closer to his son, who was born the year prior, and his sister, who was suffering from what would be a fatal illness.

And those explanations weren’t wrong. Family was Forbes’ primary concern.

But he had another reason: He wanted to better prepare for the NBA.

Forbes kept that one close to the vest. After all, he was a 6-foot-3 scoring guard with unexceptional athleticism. He ranked third in his 2012 recruiting class… at Cleveland State. He didn’t even make the All-Horizon League first team.

“People would have thought I’m crazy,” Forbes said. “They honestly would have thought I’m crazy.”

But Forbes’ self-confidence paid off. He’s now the Spurs’ starting shooting guard, averaging 12.4 points per game on 43.6% 3-point shooting.

It’s incredible how far he has come in just a few years.

Forbes worked hard in East Lansing, developing into a college star. Not bad for someone the Spartans initially offered only a preferred-walk-on spot despite Forbes playing in their backyard with Michigan State commit Denzel Valentine (now with the Bulls) at Lansing Sexton High School. Still, Forbes looked like the archetypical good shooter without the size or athleticism to make the NBA.

Leading up to the 2016 draft, DraftExpress ranked the top shooters in the draft. Forbes’ name appeared once – to note why he wasn’t otherwise included:

Please note that this is not an exhaustive study including all of the best shooters in college basketball or even in the 2016 NBA Draft Class. The only players included in this subset are those deemed to “draftable” NBA prospects. Players like Max Hooper (6-6, SG, Oakland, 3.3 3s made per game, 46% 3P%), Max Landis (6-2, SG, IPFW, 3.8 3s made per game, 46% 3P%), Bryn Forbes (6-3, SG, Michigan State, 3.2 3s made per game, 48% 3P%) for example were excluded, amongst others.

Jonathan Givony’s projection wasn’t exactly wrong. Forbes went undrafted.

He signed a barely guaranteed contract with San Antonio and quickly impressed Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich with his work ethic, coachability and 3-point shot. Against all odds, Forbes made San Antonio’s regular-season roster and earned an NBA salary.

Forbes still spent much of his first professional season with the Spurs’ minor-league affiliate playing point guard. He’s more of an off guard, but that time helped him develop his ball-handling and passing.

In his second season, Forbes became a rotation regular and spot-starter. He played 1,517 minutes on a 47-win team. After the season, he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Spurs.

Now, Forbes is one of just six full-time starters this season who went undrafted. The other five: Robert Covington, Joe Ingles, Wesley Matthews, Garrett Temple and Rodney McGruder.

“He’s carved out an NBA career,” Popovich said of Forbes.

Though Forbes has expanded his all-around game, that merely got other facets to tolerable levels. He remains a 3-point specialist, and his 43.6% 3-point percentage ranks 12th in the NBA:

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Maybe Forbes wouldn’t be in this position if San Antonio didn’t suffer so many backcourt injuries this season. Dejounte Murray is missing the entire season. Lonnie Walker just got healthy. Derrick White was sidelined for the start of the year.

Forbes has considered similar “what ifs” in the past. What if he stayed at Cleveland State? Would he have had the platform to showcase himself for the NBA? Eventually, he decided not to dwell on that.

“I think, one way or another,” Forbes said, “I would have found a way.”

Bulls biding their time, except forced into action with Zach LaVine

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Bulls have a type.

Young volume scorer with suspect complementary skills who tore an ACL in February 2017.

The Bulls matched the Kings’ four-year, $78 million offer sheet to Zach LaVine and signed Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40 million deal with a team option.

Great for those players considering their injury histories. Good for Chicago?

LaVine could be worth $78 million over the next four years. The 23-year-old is a talented outside shooter and at least was an electric dunker. Those tools coupled with his age certainly give him a chance.

But he’s so far from that level, I wouldn’t have matched Sacramento’s offer sheet. That would have been a bitter to swallow after LaVine was the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade, but throwing good money after bad is a mistake.

LaVine just too rarely puts his athleticism to good use in NBA games. He settles for too many jumpers, especially off the dribble. He doesn’t add anything as a defender or rebounder. Last year was a lost season for him, and while maybe that shouldn’t count too much against him, it certainly wasn’t encouraging.

The Parker signing looks much better. He showed more of an all-around game offensively before getting hurt, and he displayed his defensive potential in last year’s playoffs. He brings more functional talent to the table.

But he was available for less of a commitment because his ACL tear was his second. That’s a scary injury history, though Parker eased fears by showing his bounce after he returned last season.

I’m hardly convinced Parker will be worth $20 million either of the next two seasons. I would have preferred making the trade the Nets did with the Nuggets, absorbing bad contracts to gain draft picks. But even if it wasn’t their best option, the Bulls still helped themselves by betting on Parker. If it doesn’t work, they can drop him in a year.

Chicago’s most important decisions of the offseason weren’t LaVine and Parker, though. The big moves were drafting Wendell Carter Jr. No. 7 and Chandler Hutchison No. 22. Those are just too difficult to evaluate yet.

I was down on Carter before the draft, but I always liked his fit next to Lauri Markkanen. And Carter meaningfully impressed in summer league, reducing concerns about his defensive mobility.

If Carter and Hutchinson hit, they’d nicely complement Markkanen and send the Bulls in the right direction. Maybe even some of Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine come along.

Chicago is still figuring out what it has, and this season will be another year of evaluation and probably losing. Markkanen is the only clear keeper, which means this rebuild is still in its early stages.

The Bulls can swing big in 2019 free agency or continue their slow progress. I’d just rather move forward without LaVine’s deal, but even that could work out.

Offseason grade: C-

Jabari Parker agrees to deal with Bulls after Bucks rescind qualifying offer

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Jabari Parker got his wish — he is going to be a Chicago Bull next season.

Saturday morning the Bucks rescinded their qualifying offer, making the former No. 2 pick and Chicago native an unrestricted free agent.

Parker quickly reached a two-year, $40 million deal with the Bulls that eats up their cap space for the summer, something broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That is an overpay for Parker. Even so, the box lost a former No. 2 pick for no compensation. They did not want to trade him and now lost him for nothing.

A couple of seasons ago he was a 20-point a game scorer, but since then Parker has had a second ACL surgery, plus he was never much of a defender. This is a tight free agent market, they could have paid less and used some of that money for a free agent rotation player (although the market is slim).

The Bulls now have more than $38 million invested next season in players coming off major injuries, the other being Zach LaVine (the Bulls matched the offer sheet the Kings had for him).

The Bulls want to play Parker at the three (he spent 40 percent of his time at the three last season in Milwaukee), pared up front with Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez, and Wendell Carter Jr. The starting backcourt is Kris Dunn and LaVine. How well this group can fit in a selfless, move-the-ball Fred Hoiberg offense remains to be seen. Parker can play a small forward slot on offense, he’s good on the catch-and-shoot (better than a point per possession), can get out and score in transition, and is a better pick-and-roll ball handler than people realize. his minutes should be better than those of Paul Zipser or Denzel Valentine.

But Parker is going to get torched defensively by opposing threes.

If everything comes together for the Bulls next season, they should be interesting, but they have made a lot of big bets on players with question marks. It’s going to be an up-and-down season in the windy city.

Reports: Bulls working toward Jabari Parker offer sheet

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How much money is Jabari Parker worth a season?

The former No. 2 pick is coming off two ACL surgeries, which has given teams — including the Milwaukee Bucks, who have his rights — pause. Can he return to the form of a versatile a 20-point-a-game scorer? Will that make up for his defensive deficiencies?

The Chicago Bulls may be betting the answer is yes to both of those questions, something reported by Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago.

That has been backed up by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Restricted free-agent forward Jabari Parker and the Chicago Bulls are progressing on an offer sheet deal, league sources told ESPN on Friday.

A deal could be finalized as soon as Sunday, league sources said.

One of two things is going on here.

1) The Bulls are putting this out there to create leverage on Oklahoma City to give up more sweeteners in a Carmelo Anthony trade. After a couple of recent moves, the Bulls have the cap space to do an Anthony for Cristiano Felicio deal (with most of Anthony’s salary going into the Bulls’ cap space), then waive Anthony (allowing him to become a Rocket). The question is what sweeteners are going to the Bulls in such a deal, and this could be Chicago management putting a little public pressure on OKC to up the offer.

2) The more likely reality seems to be they really do like the idea of the Chicago native Paker as the three, with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. rounding out the frontcourt (all paired with a Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine backcourt). Parker has played more than a third of his minutes the past couple of seasons as a three, he’s good on the catch-and-shoot (better than a point per possession), can get out and score in transition, and is a better pick-and-roll ball handler than people realize. It’s not a bad fit, especially compared to the Paul Zipser/Denzel Valentine options.

I’m not sure how well all of those guys fit together in a Fred Hoiberg selfless/move-the-ball offense, but it’s not a gamble — at the right price. And for the right number of years.

Which brings us back to the original question at the top of this article:  How much money is Jabari Parker worth a season? More than $15 million? How much and how many years will the Bulls be willing to put out there to see if this works (and they have to go big enough that the Bucks will not match, go too low and he stays in Milwaukee).

We’ll find out over the weekend, it looks like.

Denzel Valentine undergoing season-ending knee surgery

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The Bulls shut down Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for the rest of the season.

Now, Denzel Valentine will join them on the shelf.

Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago:

Denzel Valentine joins the Bulls’ permanent inactive list after the team announced he’ll have an arthroscopic debridement on his left knee after experiencing swelling, ending his promising second season with five games remaining.

Valentine will undergo the procedure Wednesday, his third procedure in his career. He underwent surgery in high school and in college at Michigan State, his last in December 2015.

A source close to him called it “a minor clean-up” as opposed to something that could affect him long-term.

People close to players are usually incentivized to paint the situation in the most favorable light. Whether or not this is actually minor, the messaging would probably sound similar.

Valentine showed nice progress in his second season, but the biggest concern about his game is athleticism. Another knee surgery only exacerbates that.

With the Bulls tanking, there was no reason for Valentine to delay this surgery. Better to take care of it now and maximize recovery time before next season. Plus, losing Valentine will only help Chicago lose more and get a higher draft pick.