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Dwyane Wade to the Bulls: Not as Flash-y as it Sounds

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The signing of Dwyane “Flash” Wade makes no sense for the Chicago Bulls.

Younger and more athletic, or older and more arthritic? Merely a week and a half ago, Gar Forman had us all believing that the Bulls were heading down the path of the former. But, as Forman (and John Paxson) has proven time and again throughout his preposterous seven-year reign as General Manager of this once proud franchise, what he says and what he does are two completely different things. The signing of Dwyane Wade last night just adds more fuel to the white-hot fire that Forman’s adversaries (and there are A LOT of them)  lit for him many years ago.

To be perfectly blunt, the signing of Wade (and Rondo, for that matter) is an absolute joke. It’s a classic example of two guys (Forman and Paxson) trying to save their jobs by making a splash for a former superstar in order to justify striking out with him six years ago and praying that the “talent” works itself out. It’s also a classic example of a geriatric owner, yet again, refusing to hit rock bottom and not allowing his organization to enter into a much needed rebuild. He’s done it with the White Sox for the past five years, and he’s doing it with the Bulls now. At 80 years old, Jerry Reinsdorf has zero interest in undertaking a franchise overhaul, holding on to any sliver of hope that he can take one more ring with him to his grave. It’s the sad reality of a franchise being owned by a stubborn old man who is blinded by his enormous bank account and keeping fans in his seats, and a franchise being run by two incompetents who are lagging 10+ years behind the brilliant analytical minds that have taken over the sports landscape. Recognizing and understanding the loads and loads of data that’s out there, much of which is open to the public, and demonstrating any sort of soft skills when it comes to actually conversing with players and agents, can go a long way towards building a legitimate, sensible roster and keeping it in tact for the foreseeable future.

From a pure basketball standpoint, we are now entering a period where we can already crown an undoubted champion 11 months before the NBA season even begins, and signing Dwyane Wade makes little to no sense whatsoever for a non-contender like the Bulls. Why? It’s easy.

In a world where premier three-point shooting is as valuable as having stock in Apple just four years ago, the Bulls have found a way to piece together a starting back court containing three of the weakest three point shooters in the game. While Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler combined for a mere 133 made threes last year, 30 other players in the NBA were busy making at least that many threes on their own. Not only that, but these are also three very ball-dominant guards, each of whom actually needs the ball in his hands to be effective offensively. Fred Hoiberg was hired to install his pace-and-space system, which relies heavily on versatility, athleticism and shooting. With three non-shooting, ball-dominant guards running the offense (one of which is a 34-year-old who has missed over 20% of games the past five seasons due to various knee ailments, the other of which is literally afraid to shoot or get fouled because he sucks so much), there will be no pace, and there will certainly be no space.

Last season, Wade’s advanced statistics were either career lows or his worst marks since his rookie season. He shot a career worst 46.8% on twos, and the lack of explosion he once had has strapped him from getting to the basket on a frequent basis. According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, during Wade’s peak 2008-09 season, 17.8 percent of his shots came from within the 3 to 16 foot range. By last season, that figure had grown to 40.9 percent, and Wade sunk just 37.8 percent of those attempts. He still ranked fifth in the league in usage percentage last season but managed a measly .517 true shooting percentage, which ranked 11th among the 12 players with usage rates of 30 percent or greater, ahead of only Kobe Bryant (.469).

From a defensive standpoint, Wade is nowhere near the lockdown defender he once was. He posted the lowest steal rate of his career last season and, discounting his rookie season, he has posted his three lowest block rates over the past three seasons. What was once a staple of Wade’s game on the defensive end has rapidly gone from fully expected on a nightly basis to “where did that come from” due to age and mileage on his legs. ESPN’s real plus-minus* even rated Wade in the bottom-third of shooting guards defensively and a below average player overall – worse than guys like Kyle Korver and Monta Ellis.

If you want to take the half-glass full route, go for it – everyone is entitled to their own opinion. There’s no question that Dwyane Wade is one of the four or five greatest shooting guards of all time. He’s a three-time NBA champion, one-time NBA Finals MVP, ten-time All-NBA player, four-time NBA All Defense, 12-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA scoring champion, and the leadership he’ll bring to the locker room could be invaluable – especially when an overwhelmingly negative presence like Rondo is roaming around. There will be some incredible moments, to be sure, that will excite fans in spurts. But for every incredible moment, there will be many head-scratching moments, too – ones where Wade has to miss time because his knees are aching, something us Bulls fans should not be naive in foreseeing. The Hall of Fame-caliber Dwyane Wade is now in the rear-view mirror, and there’s no sugarcoating what little value Pat Riley saw left in him by letting the greatest and most accomplished athlete in Miami sports history walk out without regret.

 

Trading Derrick Rose was ultimately a good decision for the Bulls, but signing Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade was not. It’s not that the Bulls can’t be better than last season’s 42-40 record – in fact, they probably will. They’ll make the playoffs in a crappy Eastern Conference, bow out early, and earn themselves another bad draft pick. But there’s nothing worse for any sports franchise than toiling in mediocrity, and that’s where the Bulls have found themselves, to no fault but their own. Sure, with the salary cap projected to go up another $8M or so next summer, the Bulls will get a chance to recruit one max free agent , but so will a lot of other teams. Given the track record our front office has when it comes to signing big time free agents, and the bad rap it has received throughout the NBA over the years, whose to say Chicago will be everyone’s top choice?

Gar Forman had a vision that “younger and more athletic” was a necessity for re-tooling the most disappointing team in the NBA last season. Turns out that vision was just another one of his blurry, pixelated pictures that he painted for the rest of the fan base in order to save face. Wade coming back home sounds cool in theory, but envisioning him meshing with the current pieces in place leaves me shaking my head over what lies ahead.

*ESPN’s real plus-minus is a player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors.

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Filling Out the Bulls’ Roster: Options at Backup Center

Should the Bulls try luring Elton Brand back to where it all began?

With the Mike Dunleavy Jr. (full mini mid-level exception) and Nazr Mohammed (veteran’s minimum) signings now official, the Bulls’ roster is nearing full capacity. Tony Snell and Erik Murphy agreed to contracts yesterday, meaning 12 players will make up what should be one of the two or three best rosters, from top to bottom, in the Eastern Conference (Rose, Butler, Deng, Boozer, Noah, Gibson, Dunleavy, Hinrich, Teague, Mohammed, Snell, Murphy), with room for one more. The back court, as expected, will be a bit crowded, so it’s fair to presume that the final roster spot will go to another big man. With all do respect to Mohammed, he’s 35-years-old, slow as molasses and simply can’t be relied upon to solely backup Noah and his lingering plantar fasciitis anymore. He gave some solid minutes here and there last season, but the only thing anyone truly remembers was his legendary shove of Lebron in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semis; the backup center market is horrific, but it’s painfully obvious that the Bulls need another big body in the front court to come off the bench. Who’s available? Who makes sense? Let’s take a look.

Elton Brand

The night the Bulls traded Elton Brand to the Clippers for Tyson Chandler was one of the worst moments in my sports life. Constant pouting and wall-punching for days, minimal sleep and happiness. Twelve years later, the 34-year-old Brand finds himself looking for work after a very successful NBA career. He’s nowhere near even a shell of his old self, but he was still able to give Dallas a solid 21.2 minutes per game last season.

  • Pros: Because of his ability to rebound and block shots, Brand fits into the Bulls system fairly well. He averaged nearly a career high in blocks per 36 minutes (2.1; career high is 2.3), steals per 36 minutes (1.2; career high is 1.3) and rebounds per 36 minutes (10.1; career high is 11.0). Although his ability to score has diminished over the years, Brand was able to convert 54.17% of his shots from the right elbow and 48.28% from the right baseline, highlighting his effectiveness in the pick-and-roll on the right side of the floor. Of course, the Bulls won’t be counting on Brand to score much from anywhere outside the restricted area, where he was able to make 58.6% of shots.
  • Cons: Brand is still a pretty terrible shooter (47.3% last year as a center – not good), and his rising foul rate is a major concern. He committed a career high 4.5 fouls per 36 minutes last season, almost a full foul more than his previous season (3.7). With Joakim Noah continuously battling through injuries and Taj Gibson missing 17 games last season, members of the Bulls front court can ill-afford to get into significant foul trouble.
  • Bottom line: Any team willing to give Brand anything more than the veteran’s minimum ($854,389) is dumb as rocks. Given the Bulls’ salary cap situation and Jerry Reinsdorf’s cheap tendencies, it’s almost impossible to see them signing anyone for more than that. Brand somehow posted a higher Player Efficiency Rating (PER) than Taj Gibson last year and would provide some value from a defensive standpoint. Those reasons, along with Brand’s veteran presence in the locker room, lead me to believe that the Bulls really can’t do much better than that.

Samuel Dalembert

The 32-year-old Dalembert is the best center available left amongst the weak free agent crop. He’s had a very productive career but is coming off a season in which he became the 78th player to make it to Scott Skiles’ unnecessarily large doghouse.

  • Pros: Dalembert is a fantastic defender, even at his age, and can alter shots in ways that many centers around the league cannot. He has career per-36 averages of 2.6 blocks and 11.5 rebounds and converted an incredible 54.2% of his shots last season in Milwaukee. Like the other players on this list, he won’t be counted on to score (although he did put up 35 points in a game against Denver back in February) in Chicago, but his defensive presence in the paint can be very impactful for any team. Additionally, Dalembert had a higher PER last season (18.60) than both Joakim Noah (18.16) AND Roy Hibbert (17.32). That should at least count for something.
  • Cons: Dalembert’s value is a little too high for Reinsdorf and his checkbook. The Bulls are already over the luxury tax line of $71.748 million, so it may not be sensible to go after a backup center who made nearly $7 million last year and is likely looking for a deal around half of that. He also played a majority of last season somewhat out of shape, which is probably the reason why Skiles benched him so often.
  • Bottom line: Most teams interested in Dalembert are presumably targeting him as a mini mid-level exception candidate, which the Bulls already used on Dunleavy. He will also be looking to play more minutes than the Bulls will be able to provide him, so this speculation is more wishful thinking than anything else. It’d be relatively shocking to see Dalembert sign with Chicago for the veteran’s minimum or see Chicago throw any more money at him than that.

Jason Collins

Jason Collins? The 34-year-old veteran who came out of the closet back in April and claims he still has some basketball left in him? Yes. Yes indeed.

  • Pros: I couldn’t give a crap less whether Collins is gay or straight. Anyone who does should go take a look in the mirror and reassess the life he/she is living. All I care about is whether or not he can still play basketball. For a team like the Bulls, who are looking for another guy to spell Noah and provide 5-10 minutes off the bench, some believe Collins can. He defends very well, plays as hard as anyone, has a ton of postseason experience, and he can be signed for the veteran’s minimum. Against a team like the Pacers, whom the Bulls play five times a year, Collins’ physicality and mental toughness would be a great asset.
  • Cons: As sad as it is, some teams are shying away from Collins because of the potentially negative attention his homosexuality (not that there’s anything wrong with that) will draw from a number of fans around the country. If the Bulls feel that Collins’ defense and leadership trumps all of that, they’ll probably take a look at him. However, he has absolutely no offensive skills anymore and is very one-dimensional. He’d be signed to strictly guard opposing teams’ centers and set hard screens for ball handlers and shooters – nothing more, nothing less.
  • Bottom line: It’s difficult to see the Bulls going after Collins, as he’ll likely draw interest from a number of Western Conference teams looking to beef up their front lines to better defend Dwight Howard. Nevertheless, he’s a solid fit for the defensive system Tom Thibodeau has in place and has proven to hold his own down low, so Bulls fans shouldn’t be totally opposed.

Ronny Turiaf

Another one-dimensional center. The 30-year-old Turiaf can’t score, but he can be relied upon to defend the post.

  • Pros: Defense. Turiaf only played about 11 minutes a game last season as Deandre Jordan’s backup in LA, but he was able to put up per-36 averages of 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He works hard, and he has played on six playoff teams in seven seasons. You know what you’re getting with Turiaf; whether or not that effort remains sufficient for most organizations remains to be seen.
  • Cons: Offense. A large majority of Turiaf’s points come from deep inside the paint – generally layups, tip-ins and dunks – as opposed to anywhere else on the floor. Like Collins, there’s really not much to him offensively. He’ll do some of the dirty work and set some screens, but he will not be counted on to score at all. Period.
  • Bottom line: Given the fact that Turiaf really isn’t any better than Mohammed, it’d be mildly surprising if the Bulls show any interest at all. They’d probably be better served signing another guard for cheap.

Chris Andersen

The Birdman. Why not?

  • Pros: He’s extremely irritating for opponents, every opposing fan despises him, and his hair is kind of awesome.
  • Cons: He’s a total douche, looks like a complete idiot, can’t do a damn thing offensively unless Lebron James is dropping him a dime, and I hate him. That’s why not.
  • Bottom line: I threw him in here just to emphasize how big of a jackass he is. The Heat will re-sign him anyways, which is fine. They can have him.

Other options: Brandan Wright (likely to re-sign with Dallas), Chris Wilcox (eh), Cole Aldrich (eh), Joel Przybilla (bum)

The Deng Dilemma

What should the Bulls do with Luol Deng?

Few Chicago athletes of this generation have ever had me at “Hello.” Brian Urlacher, Derrick Rose, Anthony Rizzo – they qualify. But Luol Deng? He certainly did not. Although I hated Duke, he was a great talent out of college, and in all honesty, I was quite satisfied when the Phoenix Suns agreed to draft him with the 7th pick and then trade him to Chicago.

During the first three seasons of his career, Deng continued to get better and transformed himself from a somewhat raw offensive talent into a very reliable, very productive NBA small forward, improving his field goal percentage from 43.4% to 51.7% over that span. But once the 2007-08 season came around, I started to lose trust in Deng, as he rejected a pretty generous contract extension, missed 19 games because of a lingering Achilles injury and saw a dip in his numbers across the board, including minutes (37 mpg in 06-07 to 33 mpg in 07-08).

By the end of the 2008-09 season, I began to genuinely dislike Deng. He had signed a major six-year contract extension worth $71 million before the season started, yet ended up missing 33 games plus the playoffs due to some mysterious injury. At that point, I self-proclaimed myself as the conductor of the “Luol Deng is a Straight Up Pussy” bandwagon, and many people started hopping aboard. I personally felt that Luol had no interest in trying or caring, and I looked at him as another one of those athletes that got his money and just said “f**k it.” I wanted him out of Chicago, and I wanted him out fast.

The 2009-10 season proved to be a decent turnaround for Lu, but it wasn’t until the 2010-11 season, after the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, that I did a complete 180. Deng has been a different player since then. He’s led the NBA in minutes per game two of the past three seasons (and finished fourth in the other), he made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2012 as well as the last two all-star teams, and he’s battled through literally every injury he’s been plagued with. Now a premiere small forward in the league, Deng is considered the ultimate glue guy. His work ethic is one in which you cannot teach, he’s as tough, mentally and physically, as they come, and he has made himself invaluable to the success of the Chicago Bulls. Call me crazy, but there are few athletes, if any, that I currently love more than Luol Deng, and I can’t imagine him in another uniform – it’d be devastating.

But let’s be honest – the Bulls cap situation going into next season is nothing short of horrendous, as evidenced by this fantastic cap breakdown. Since you’re probably too lazy to click on that link and read what’s within, allow me to sum it up: the Bulls are already into the luxury tax with just eight players (Rose, Boozer, Deng, Noah, Gibson, Hinrich, Butler, Teague) plus the likely Rip Hamilton buyout. Eight players, as you know, isn’t going to cut it, since each NBA team kinda needs at least 13 players on its roster. The 20th overall pick is going to cost $1.472 million by itself, and minimum salary players will cost another $884K each. By now, you hopefully get the point – there is basically no flexibility and no hope for any significant free agent signings this summer. Nate Robinson ain’t coming back, and the chances of a Marco Belinelli re-signing are slim to none. If Cheap Ass Reinsdorf can’t stomach this already uncomfortable salary cap situation, what in god’s name can be done to relieve it?

Insert the Cleveland Cavaliers. They happen to have the first overall pick in one of the worst drafts (stardom-wise) in recent memory. There’s a lot of depth, but to even the most casual of basketball fans, no one screams potential superstar. Cleveland is as open as any organization will ever be to trading that pick away, and what they desperately need is a scoring small forward with veteran experience and the ability to anchor a defense. Luol Deng fits that bill perfectly. However, a two-time all-star isn’t going to be enough to covet the first overall pick. Throw in an asset like Marquis Teague to back up Kyrie Irving and the 20th overall pick? Now we’re talking.

If I’m Chris Grant (Cleveland’s GM), I’m thinking long and hard about this deal. My team just invested the fourth overall pick last year on a shooting guard in Dion Waiters, so why would I want to make that situation even more complicated by drafting Ben McLemore? Sure, I could draft Nerlens Noel and stash him for a year while he recovers from ACL surgery, but what good will that do? We have Anderson Varejao locked up through 2015, plus we’ll be atrocious again next season yet have no chance at winning another lottery (you know, because it’s rigged and all), meaning Andrew Wiggins will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

If I’m Gar Forman, I’m not even thinking about this deal – I’m ready to sign some papers. Not because I don’t want Deng anymore – it would be heartbreaking at first to see him go – but because it’ll make Jerry Reinsdorf get down on his hands and knees thanking me for coming up with a genius way to save him money, and because of two words that every basketball fan will likely be muttering in their dreams in a few years: Victor Oladipo.

Call me biased towards my precious Hoosiers – I don’t care. Victor Oladipo will be the best player to come out of this draft when it’s all said and done for three reasons, and nothing anyone can say or do before June 27th will convince me otherwise:

  1. His unfathomable work ethic and energy 

    Before Oladipo took the college basketball world by storm last season, he wasn’t what one would consider a household name. In three short years, he went from an under-recruited player in high school known for throwing down hellacious dunks in the backyard of my fraternity house (in jeans, mind you) and failing to crack ESPN’s top 100 recruiting rankings to National Player of the Year candidate and potential top-three draft pick. He is the epitome of a gym rat, having spent hours and hours upon end working on his game and improving upon his significant weaknesses. His first two seasons at IU saw him combine for 18/74 from three; in his junior season, he made 30 of 68 threes, good for 44.1%. He led all guards, not just in the Big Ten, but in the entire country, with a 60% field goal percentage. He won Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors, leading the Big Ten in steals per game (2.2). Oladipo is always hungry, constantly trying to raise his game and making the players around him better. He’s the full package, and that much can’t be said about most of the players in this draft.

  2. Nothing phases him

    When the lights are on and the drunken fans are screaming, Oladipo rises to the occasion. Check out these stat lines:
    vs. MSU: 21 points on 8/12 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 blocks (WIN)
    @OSU: 26 points on 8/10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 steals (WIN)
    @MSU: 19 points on 7/11 shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 steals with the go-ahead put back, dunk and free throws in the final minute, albeit on a sprained left ankle (WIN)
    @Michigan for the Big Ten title: 14 points, 13 rebounds, including 7 offensive (WIN)
    vs. Temple in Round of 32: 16 points, 8 rebounds and the heroic game-winning 3-pointer with 14 seconds left (WIN)I can keep going, but you get the picture: Oladipo thrives in big moments, a characteristic that almost always translates well at the professional level.
  3. The writing is on the wall

    A number of GMs have said that Oladipo is hands down their favorite player in the draft. As one GM said, “I know he’s the one guy in this draft that my head coach would love to have right now. He’s an impressive young man on and off the court.” Chad Ford noted that GMs are impressed by his mixture of candor and intensity in interviews. Another GM stated, “Athletically he’s so gifted. And he combines that with hard work both in the game and in practice. He keeps working on his game and getting better. His attitude was just special in the interview we had. He’s humble, but confident. He doesn’t draw attention to himself, but when he speaks he sounds like a leader.” And the best quote of all from Will Perdue (added to this post on 6/7):

    “If you’re talking about the guy who is going to come in and be the most effective player from day one, it’s Oladipo. He’s got that ‘It’ Factor,” that it takes to be successful in the league. A lot of guys in this draft don’t have that. There’s no doubt he plays with an edge. Watching him play defense this season, I wouldn’t have any hesitation putting him into an NBA game and letting him guard Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant from day one.  I think he’s that good defensively.”

    Honestly, what more needs to be said?

Turning Deng, Teague and the 20th pick into Oladipo will do two things for the Bulls:

  1. It will save them a little over $12 million in cap space for the 2013-14 season (Deng’s $14.125M + Teague’s $1.075M + 20th pick’s $1.135M minus Oladipo’s $4.287M), getting them to roughly $10 million under the projected luxury tax threshold of $71.6 million (Cleveland is roughly $15 million under that threshold at this point in time). What does this mean? They can potentially make a run at the highly sought after shooting guard, O.J. Mayo, and fill the rest of the roster out with minimum salary players, giving them, if all goes as planned, a projected starting lineup of Rose, Oladipo, Butler, Boozer, and Noah, with Mayo, Hinrich, and Gibson to round out a fantastic eight-man rotation. How realistic a scenario like this is, I’m not sure. But it does make sense for both the Bulls and Cavs, and if the Bulls aren’t able to sign an impactful free agent this summer, they’ll have all the flexibility in the world next summer, with Carlos Boozer likely to be amnestied just in time for the arrival of Nikola Mirotic and an extremely deep 2014 free agent class.
  2. That very class, plus the resurgence of Deng’s protegé, Jimmy Butler, has suddenly made Deng expendable. A deal like this will free up Butler and allow him to take over as the small forward of the future, all while replacing Lu with Luol Deng 2.0 in Victor Oladipo, a relentless defender with the versatility to guard multiple positions and enormous upside. Although his offensive game lacks a true foundation at this point, his shooting has still improved tremendously, he’s one of the best finishers around the rim due to his unparalleled athleticism and body control, and he’s a fantastic rebounder for his position.

Heading into the season with the current roster plus a healthy Derrick Rose should hopefully be enough to beat Miami next year, but the end of Luol Deng’s contract is very near, and given Chicago’s terrible cap situation, either trading him or letting him walk in free agency may be inevitable. Trading Deng is something that would really hit Bulls fans where it hurts, but if we can replace him with Tom Thibodeau’s ideal type of player in Oladipo as the first overall pick in the draft AND give them major cap room flexiblity, it’s something that management should at least consider bringing up to Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert over the next few weeks.

Handicapping the Bulls’ Offseason Plans

Now that the Miami Heat have been crowned NBA Champions, the offseason can begin. As a result of the lockout, the offseason schedule has been accelerated with the NBA Draft and the start of free agency only four days apart. This will create a flurry of moves in the next two weeks, and we’re going to take a look at what the Bulls should do.

Consider trading Luol Deng

The Bulls face the problem of potentially playing all of next season without Derrick Rose, and if Deng elects to get surgery after the Olympics, he will be out for an extended period as well. This will surely put the Bulls out of contention, and as currently constructed, they cannot beat the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder. For this reason, the Bulls would be wise to see what Deng can get in return. Trading Deng allows the Bulls to simultaneously get younger while creating more cap flexibility down the road. There are a few lottery teams (Warriors, Kings, and Raptors) who would give up their top ten pick for more proven talent. The Bulls front office needs to weigh the benefit of receiving one of these picks and the players they could likely draft in these slots. While Deng has been one of the most consistent and best Bulls players for a long time, the NBA is driven by business decisions and the Bulls need to keep the long-term picture in mind.

Lock-up Omer Asik

Asik is restricted free-agent, and has drawn considerable attention from teams like the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics. The Bulls front office has been adamant about resigning Asik, and they have the ability to match any offer. Asik’s value overwhelmingly stems from his defensive talents, as he is extraordinarily bad on offense. If the Bulls are forced to match an offer from a team offering to overpay Asik, it would not be surprising to see them let him go. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf generally tries to avoid paying the luxury tax at all costs and will look to do so if signing Asik puts them over the tax threshold. Asik definitely is valuable to the Bulls, and coach Thibodeau loves his defensive players, so the front office will likely get creative in trying to bring him back.

Figure out the backcourt

With Rose out and C.J. Watson and John Lucas both free agents, the Bulls might potentially overhaul their backcourt. The Bulls are likely going to draft a guard filling one of the spots, but they will have to decide where to exercise the $3.7 dollar option of Watson. I think it is likely the Bulls bring back Watson due to his familiarity with the system and the players. Adding a combo guard in the draft will help the Bulls down the road, but for now, they should stay the course with Watson. Another consideration is the luxury tax the Bulls face, which they would like to avoid. All three of C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer’s contracts are non-guaranteed, meaning they could release them to alleviate some cap concerns.

Assess the free-agents

If the Bulls do decide to go in a different direction and part ways with C.J. Watson, they’ll likely look to free agency to temporarily fill the void at PG. While they will assuredly draft some sort of guard that can run the offense, there is very little chance coach Thibs would go into the season with a rookie running the offense. There are a few options out there such as Andre Miller, Kirk Hinrich, and Jason Kidd that would give the Bulls veteran experience at the position. Kidd has reportedly expressed interest in the Bulls, and at the right price, he may be brought in. Regardless, the front-office will need to find someone who can hold down the fort until Rose is ready to return.

Extend Coach Thibodeau’s contract

I’m not entirely sure why this has taken so long as it’s obvious how positively Thibodeau has affected the team and created a winning culture. Beyond Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, there may be no better coach in the NBA. While, a first-round loss was obviously disappointing, given the injuries the team sustained over the course of the season, Thibs did a phenomenal job. Similarly to how Popovich has been able to convert most players to fit into the offensive juggernaut he orchestrated in San Antonio, Thibs has been able to do so defensively for our players. The New York Knicks recently extended Mike Woodson for 3 years, 2 of which are guaranteed at $4 million per season. Jerry Reinsdorf and the rest of the front-office should use these numbers as a barometer and offer Thibs somewhere in the $5-6 millon range over four or five years. 

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