Dennis Smith Jr., Saben Lee Showing Promise

Hoops Rumors

Zach LaVine is enjoying a career year in Billy Donovan‘s first season with the Bulls, and the success of that pairing bodes well for the team’s long-term outlook, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and word around the NBA suggests that LaVine won’t be either, Johnson adds.

With LaVine expected to be unavailable on the trade market in the coming weeks, the Bulls’ most valuable trade chip could be Thaddeus Young. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) says a handful of league executives identified Young as a player who could impact the playoff race if he’s moved, noting that he’s a versatile big man on a reasonable contract who has plenty of postseason experience.

The Bulls currently hold the sixth seed in the East and figure to be in the mix for a playoff spot – perhaps via the play-in tournament – but Marks argues the club should take a big-picture view and consider moving Young, especially if a team is willing to give up a first-round pick for him.

Johnson, on the other hand, contends in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story that moving Young for anything short of a lottery pick or a very promising young player might be a mistake. As Johnson explains, the veteran forward has had a positive impact on LaVine on and off the court, and LaVine and the Bulls’ other young players need to get some postseason experience at some point — Young could play an important role in helping get them there.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • It has been a full year since Jeremy Lamb suffered a torn left ACL, and while it takes some players a while to get back to 100% following that injury, the Pacers guard has thrived since making his season debut on January 20, writes Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. Lamb is averaging 12.2 PPG in just 24.7 minutes per contest, and has made an even 50% of his three-point attempts through 17 games. “It’s great to see how far I’ve been able to come,” Lamb said. “I’m still getting stronger, still working on it, but it’s encouraging.”
  • Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., who underwent surgery on his hand earlier this month, is making positive progress and recently had his cast removed, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Nance was ruled out at least six weeks when he underwent the procedure, so we won’t see him back until sometime after the All-Star break.
  • Missing their top two point guards, the Pistons are seeing some positive signs from Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Lee, who has averaged 15.3 PPG and 4.3 APG in his last three games, is showing why GM Troy Weaver referred to him as part of Detroit’s “core four” of rookie building blocks, despite the fact that Lee was a second-round pick who signed a two-way deal, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

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