Six Moves the Chicago Bulls Should Make
In about two weeks, teams are simultaneously going to open up training camps and free agency, which means we’re a mere twelve days away from finally getting the opportunity to see all those roster moves we’ve been waiting nearly half a year to see. We’ve wanted trades, we’ve wanted free agency signings, and most importantly we’ve wanted to see how our favorite teams would address their most pressing roster needs.
Well, the time has come, and as we gear up for what promises to be a crazy and compacted free agency period, various writers on-site will tackle different teams by offering suggestions for logical moves teams could make if and when things open up on December 9th.
We’re starting with the Chicago Bulls, who really only have one seriously pressing need, and that’s to find a starting shooting guard. That being the case, most (but not all) of Chicago’s “Six Things” are going to center around possibilities along those lines. There are other things to discuss, and you can count on us discussing them at length sometime in the coming month. For now, however, here are six things the Bulls could do in December to make themselves a better team:
#1 – Extend Derrick Rose. Sometime in the coming months, the Bulls will extend Derrick Rose, and not a single person on the planet will have any confusion as to why. What’s interesting is that a provision in the new CBA allows for superstars to make significantly more money for being amazing while still on their rookie deal. If a player in his first three seasons makes two All-Star teams (check), wins an MVP award (check), or makes two All-NBA teams (no check), he gets a bump. In Derrick’s case, that means seeing his salary rise from $14.5 million to $17.5 million in the first year of his new deal, and from $84.2 million to $101.6 million overall. In short, D-Rose is about to make some serious bank.
#2 – Stand pat with amnesty. Because D-Rose is about to make the aforementioned serious bank, the Bulls need to be careful about how they use their amnesty provision. Some fans already are clamoring for the team to use it on Carlos Boozer immediately, but that isn’t what Chicago is going to do. For one, the team isn’t going to just eat $60 million so they can spend it all over again on another player, but beyond that, when Rose’s extension does kick in, the team might have a difficult decision to make. In 2013-2014, most of the salary cap will be spent on four players (Rose, Boozer, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah), so that may be the time to use amnesty on either Deng or Boozer. But they won’t use it now, nor should they. There’s no guarantee they could find a player better than Boozer in free agency, anyway. Besides, if healthy, he can still be a huge help for a championship-caliber team, which Chicago is.
#3 – Do not pick up the second, non-guaranteed year on Keith Bogans’s contract. It’s not much—only $1.26 million—but if the Bulls let Bogans walk instead of picking up the option for this season, they’ll be within that $4 million bubble over the salary cap, allowing them to use the full $5 million midlevel exception this year. The team needs to acquire a new shooting guard, which means they’d be replacing Bogans, the former starter, anyway. It makes sense to just let him go and try someone new.
#4 – Make a run at a legit free agent shooting guard with the midlevel exception. While it’s not likely, the easiest way for Chicago to upgrade at the two is to grab one of the top-tier free agents at the position. The three best are Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, and Arron Afflalo, any of whom would be an amazing fit with the Bulls. However, Afflalo is restricted and Denver is very unlikely to let him walk, and Crawford and Richardson are both accustomed to making quite a bit more than the $5 million per year that the MLE would allow. The hope is here is that one of those latter two would give up some cash for an opportunity at a championship. While Crawford has the history in Chicago, Richardson seems the more likely player to potentially consider the pay cut. But even that’s not particularly likely.
#5 – If those guys pass, look into players cut loose via the amnesty provision. Since those guys probably will pass, this is perhaps the most likely way the team will get an upgrade at shooting guard. While we still don’t have a definite idea of who will be available in the pool of players released, we can make a few guesses. Mike Miller, for example, is almost certainly going to be amnestied by the HEAT, while the Suns are very likely to buy out Vince Carter for $4 million. Both are options for Chicago, but they’re probably hoping that Detroit uses their amnesty provision on Richard Hamilton, who would have to be the team’s top overall choice (including the guys listed in #4) to start at shooting guard. Detroit has players that make more sense to cut via amnesty, though, which means he’s not the most likely candidate, even if he is the most desirable candidate.
#6 – If no guys free up there, explore a trade by dangling second-tier players. Should Chicago pass on Vince Carter or Mike Miller, there’s always the possibility of trying to work out a trade. Memphis’s O.J. Mayo is a name that continually comes up, but it would likely take Omer Asik—a player the Bulls really, really like—to start a conversation for him, and even then only if the Grizzlies lost Marc Gasol in free agency. This option doesn’t feel like the way the Bulls are going to go, but that’s why it’s last on the list. Trading Asik for Mayo probably makes the team better, but if there are other ways to get a comparable two without sacrificing frontcourt depth, rest assured that they’ll do it.
At least two of these things have to happen. No more than four ultimately will, and if those four come to fruition the Chicago Bulls will be in a much better position to make a more fruitful trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. We’re talking about a team that’s traditionally been pretty fiscally responsible here, so don’t expect anything outrageous, but legit upgrades are more than possible. Hopefully soon, “possible” will become “probable,” and things will only get better from there.