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Chicago’s Quest for a Shooting Guard
Posted By Joel Brigham On June 1, 2011 @ 5:00 am In All,NBA | No Comments
Since the Chicago Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs this past Thursday night we media have found ourselves asking the same thing over and over again: what can Chicago do to get better?
It’s an odd question to ask since they already won more regular season games than anyone else (62) and put up both the Coach of the Year (Tom Thibodeau) and MVP (Derrick Rose), but other than Game 1 they were absolutely railroaded by a better Miami team in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now the Bulls are at home watching the Finals instead of playing in them.
And nobody is saying the better team lost.
That means Chicago has some work to do this offseason if they hope to find themselves even deeper in the playoffs next year, and unfortunately, that’s not going to be easy work to do.
Changes are hard to make when literally every rotation player on the roster is signed on for another year, and in most cases these players are signed well beyond that. In other words, free agency isn’t an option, especially with a new collective bargaining agreement that probably may not offer the mid-level or bi-annual exceptions with which to exceed the cap and add new players. Unless Gar Forman and John Paxson are able to finagle a major trade using the pieces already under contract, things might not look particularly different next season, even though they need to.
Assuming a trade were in the works, however, a quick look at the team’s assets don’t inspire much confidence for what could get accomplished. Assuming only Derrick Rose is truly unmovable (although the team is very, very, very high on Joakim Noah, as well), the team’s most desirable assets are Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, both of whom make under $2 million in 2011-2012. The team’s not likely to trade both, so what does a $1 million contract return you? Not a whole lot, unfortunately.
The Bulls would definitely explore moving Carlos Boozer were anyone interested, but he’ll be 30 in November with 4 years and $60 million left on his deal. Not a lot of teams are going to bite on that. Same thing with Luol Deng’s three years and $40 million, despite the good year he had in 2010-2011.
And while players like Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, and C.J. Watson don’t have those same off-putting contracts, what exactly is the market for any of them? Similarly, what real value do the 28th and 30th picks in this year’s draft really hold for potential trade partners?
It’s a bit of a grim outlook for a team that most agree really needs to make some sort of splashy move, specifically one for a starting two guard that can score, knock down threes, and help spread the offense for Rose while also taking some of the pressure off of him in big-game situations.
There are guys like that out there. Free agent Jamal Crawford, who started his career in Chicago, would be a great fit in that spot. Detroit’s Richard Hamilton would be extremely ideal were he ever bought out and made available for an inexpensive free agent signing with a contender, but he could even be worth trading for as is. Trades for Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, or O.J. Mayo all are worth considering, and even veteran free agent Mike Redd could be worth taking an inexpensive flyer on.
Options exist for this team; it’s just a matter of finding a willing trade partner that’s happy with what the Bulls have to offer. And as we’ve already discussed, that seems more unlikely than likely.
Of course, there’s also the issue of whether or not Chicago’s front office feels the same way about changes that the media and the fans do. Paxson and Forman are known for valuing their own players very highly and shying away from risky trades. It would be easy for them to say that this was the first year under Thibodeau, the first year in which all but four players were new to the organization. This was a highly successful team, after all, and one with great locker room chemistry. The Bulls may feel that another year with this same group is worth trying, especially because their financial situation might not allow for drastic change.
It would be hard to turn down someone like Hamilton were he bought out and telling the media Chicago is a perfect fit for him, but short of that it seems extremely likely the Bulls will come back more or less the same team next year. Some vets will be needed to round out the end of the bench with Kurt Thomas, Brian Scalabrine, Jannero Pargo, and John Lucas III all expiring, but they’re not likely to find someone game-changing at those prices.
So what can Chicago do to get better next year? It might be as simple as just bringing back the same group, a year older, wiser, and more experienced. Of course, that doesn’t solve the shooting guard problem, but they might not have a lot of options. They very well may have to get better with what they’ve already got.
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