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Impact of the Luol Deng Trade

Luol Deng will be sorely missed in Chicago, but the decision to trade him was the right one.

Crazy how fast time flies. Nine and a half years ago, Bulls nation was in the midst of embracing a new era of basketball. Elton Brand was traded three years earlier, Jason Williams had literally driven himself out of professional basketball for the rest of his life two years earlier, and the Bulls had to settle for Kirk Hinrich instead of Dwyane Wade (not that we all don’t love Kirk) the previous year. A core of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry looked somewhat promising, but there was one piece missing. That piece ended up being Luol Deng, whom the Phoenix Suns selected with the 7th overall pick in the 2004 draft and immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls for their 2005 first-round pick and Jackson Vroman’s left nut. Deng helped take that Bulls team from 23 wins in 2003-04 to 47 wins in 2004-05 and their first playoff appearance in seven years despite suffering a season-ending wrist injury late in the season.

Fast forward nearly 10 years to now. The Bulls front office had finally decided to swallow their pride and part ways with Deng and his massive expiring contract, but not before he earned himself nods to the NBA All-Rookie first team (2005), the NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2012), a NBA Sportsmanship Award (2007) and two trips to the NBA All-Star game (2012-13). Only once did the Bulls fail to make the playoffs in Deng’s nine seasons (2007-08). He poured his blood, sweat and tears into this organization and will forever go down as one of the most hard-working and charitable players of his generation; he has become one of the most beloved players to ever throw on a Bulls uniform, and it’s downright sad to see him go. However, the trade with Cleveland includes three future draft picks, along with Andrew Bynum’s corpse, and actually benefits the Bulls and their long-term future. How so, you ask? Let’s break it all down.

Standings Projections

First things first, it’s officially time for everyone to embrace the art of tanking. The worst thing you can possibly experience in the NBA is consistent mediocrity – there is no hope for short-term success, unless losing in the first round of the playoffs year in and year out is something that tickles your fancy, and there is very minimal hope for long-term success via the draft unless you get extremely lucky by having a future superstar fall into your lap (cut to the seven or eight Atlanta Hawks fans nodding viciously, as they’ve been in NBA limbo for years). Bulls fans should be thankful that a notoriously conservative front office decided do what absolutely had to be done in trading Deng as opposed to letting him walk for nothing next July. That being said, how exactly will trading Deng impact the Bulls in the NBA standings, and what kind of draft position can fans expect in June?

For those of you unfamiliar with the Pythagorean Theorem in sports, it is basically a simple measure to predict win-loss percentages based on the number of points a team scores and gives up in a given season (if you ever happen to find yourself on basketball-reference.com, baseball-reference.com or football-reference.com, you can find a team’s Expected W-L based on this equation near the top of a team’s page). Based on this measure, the Bulls, who score an average of 91.34 points per game (dead last in the league) and give up an average of 92.19 points per game (second-best in the league), were projected to win about 38 games this season WITH Luol Deng, which would have been good for a 5 seed. That’s how pathetic the Eastern conference is in a nutshell.

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With Deng now gone, the most logical way to project their record is to assess John Hollinger’s Estimated Wins Added metric which, as you could have guessed, estimates the number of wins a player adds to a team’s season total above what a ‘replacement player’  would produce. Deng ranks 8th amongst small forwards in this category with an EWA of 3.0. In other words, Deng has added three wins to the Bulls’ record by himself this season in only 23 games played. He has already missed 9 games this season, so for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Deng were to miss another 10 games of the 50 remaining. That gives him a projected EWA of 5.2 for the rest of the season. With Tony Snell set to act as the ‘replacement player’ for Deng, his woeful -0.7 EWA must all be factored in. Assuming Snell appears in the next 5o games and continues to experience that rookie learning curve, his projected EWA sits at -1.30. Add the two together and round up to the nearest whole number (6.5 rounds to 7) and you see that trading Deng will likely make the Bulls seven games worse than their projected 38-44 record, plummeting to a 31-51 record.  With Cleveland adding Deng and replacing one or two of the horrendous Earl Clark/Alonzo Gee/Anthony Bennett threesome, they’re projections go from 25 wins to at least 32 or 33 wins.

This, effectively, will move the Bulls from a top five team in the East to a bottom five team (I’m giving Brooklyn the benefit of the doubt and expect them to improve after the All-Star break) and directly into the 2014 draft lottery. I’m projecting the Bulls to end up as one of the eight worst teams in the NBA (Milwaukee, Utah, Philadelphia, L.A. Lakers, Orlando, New York, Sacramento and Chicago) and, seeing as how this is going to be hands down the best and deepest NBA draft since 2003, every fan in Chicago should be thrilled. With that said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone by any means whatsoever if the Bulls somehow made the playoffs with this depleted roster because they simply have too much pride. For the sake of this franchise’s future, I truly hope that won’t be the case.

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Short-Term Effects

Tony Snell will be the biggest beneficiary of Luol Deng’s permanent absence in the short-term. The Bulls now have 50 games to see what exactly they have in Snell and whether or not they want him as a part of their future plans. Snell has the potential to become a very solid 3-and-D (3-point shooting/defensive specialist – think of Trevor Ariza) player in this league, but there’s no denying he’s struggled mightily in limited playing time this season. Gar Forman and John Paxson have been high on Snell ever since they drafted him, so my guess is that they’ll be more than tolerant of any poor performances going forward and allow him plenty of time to grow in Coach Thibodeau’s system. After all, he’s only a rookie. Patience is a virtue.

Another story line to follow closely is Mike Dunleavy’s trade stock. With the Bulls in full tank mode, I’d expect them to deal Dunleavy down the line given his cheap contract (2 years, $6 million) and the fact that he has another year left on his contract after this one. There are plenty of playoff-caliber teams currently in need of three point shooting, and bringing in a 12-year veteran who can do just that, as well as bring some positive leadership to a playoff locker room, will never hurt. Look for teams like Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Memphis and Minnesota to be in the market.

Long-Term Effects

A quick breakdown of the package the Bulls received from Cleveland:

  • Andrew Bynum, who will be waived by the Bulls by Tuesday’s 4 PM CT deadline to clear his $12.3 million salary off the books. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, “this will enable the Bulls to get below the luxury tax threshold, which, combined with the savings from not having to pay Deng the balance of his $14.3 million salary, will save the team more than $20 million.”
  • A future first-round draft pick owed to the Cavaliers by the Sacramento Kings. The pick is top-12 protected in 2014 and top-10 protected from 2015-17, meaning the Bulls will receive the pick if the Kings fall outside the top 12 in this year’s draft or outside the top 10 in one of the next three drafts. Otherwise, it becomes a second round pick in 2018.
  • Second-round draft picks in 2015 and 2016 owed to the Cavaliers by the Portland Trail Blazers.
  • The Bulls will be able to swap draft picks with the Cavs in 2015 IF the Cavs make the playoffs next season.

The fact that the Bulls got a potential first round pick in return for Deng’s expiring contract is a near miracle. This deal was about saving money and getting under the luxury tax which, in turn, will set us up for a chance to go after some highly sought after free agents to join the Rose/Butler/Gibson/Noah core. Throwing in a legitimate draft pick on top of it? That’s huge, people. Huge.

The only way that could be possible, though, is to amnesty Carlos Boozer, which the Bulls will almost certainly do this upcoming summer. In doing so, they will pay Boozer $17 million to leave Chicago in order to free up salary cap space for free agent spending. The key, at that point, will be to sign former Euroleague MVP, Nikola Mirotic, and bring him to Chicago as soon as possible. There’s no telling who the Bulls will go after in free agency after that, but at least they’ll have some more flexibility to work with.

As for the draft, let’s not forget that Charlotte also owes us their first round pick this year if it falls outside the top-10. As of now, they’re on pace to make the playoffs, which will likely give the Bulls the 15th or 16th pick on top of whatever pick they receive. If they don’t make the playoffs, there’s still a decent chance we’d get their pick – it would just have to fall between 11-14 – giving the Bulls potentially two lottery picks in an incredible draft class (we must assume, for now, that Sacramento will keep their pick this year considering they’re awful yet again). There are a plethora of fantastic scorers likely to enter the NBA draft this summer that can easily land outside the top-10, namely Gary Harris (Sophomore – Michigan State), James Young (Freshman – Kentucky), Rodney Hood (Sophomore – Duke), Jerami Grant (Sophomore – Syracuse), Doug McDermott (Senior – Creighton)… the list can go on and on, but these are just some of the names to follow closely and keep in mind come this June. The cream of the crop should (I would hope) all be household names at this point to even the most casual of basketball fans (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid), but until the Bulls prove they’re as bad as they’re supposed to be and finally find themselves outside of the dreadful Eastern conference playoff picture looking in, it would be wise for all of us to keep our expectations tempered.

The 2013-14 season is a lost cause for the Chicago Bulls, but trading Luol Deng now was as good a move as they could have made and a monstrous step in the right direction. There are a couple more shrewd moves to be made, but for the first time in a while, Bulls fans should feel a sense of trust towards the front office. For a team like this, the quickest way to get to a championship is to bottom out and gather as many assets for the future as physically possible, not limp into the postseason as a 7- or 8-seed, get swept by the Heat or Pacers in the first round and then let Luol Deng go for absolutely nothing. Some people will disagree with the move, but it’ll be their emotions getting the best of them. Trust me – I nearly shed a tear when I heard that Luol was gone and, in all honesty, it may take me a little while to get over it. Seeing him in a gross Cleveland jersey will be weird, and it will be upsetting, but it was simply time to move on.

We, as fans, have two options. We can take the glass half-empty approach – mope about our favorite player being traded and reserve false hope that a) Rose would come back for the playoffs and lead us on a run (which he wouldn’t have done), and b) Deng would sign an extension (which he actually rejected before the trade) or re-sign in the offseason (which is highly unlikely since the Bulls would only offer him a shorter-term deal worth about 65-75% of what he’s actually going to demand). Or, we can take the glass half-full approach – cherish the great joy that watching Luol Deng brought us throughout his phenomenal Chicago career, appreciate his hard work and incredible heart, and wish him nothing but the best all while embracing the fact that the long-term future of our franchise looks a hell of a lot more promising now than it did 24 hours ago. I’ll choose the latter and look forward to the most important offseason in Chicago Bulls history. In my mind, it’s the only way to go.

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Analyzing the Chicago Bulls’ Draft Picks

Which rookie is ready to become a part of the greatest culture in professional basketball?

With the 2013 NBA Draft officially in the books, each lottery team can now get ready for, and attempt to win, the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes by praying for nothing but another season of shittiness and playoff spectating from the couch. Some teams and their fans, though, are fortunate enough to have a NBA season to look forward to, the Bulls being one of those teams. Four of the Bulls’ last eight draft picks (Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler) have given us all we could’ve asked for and more. One of their picks (James Johnson) ate himself out of Chicago, two were traded on draft night (Sonny Weems and Norris Cole; Nikola Mirotic was acquired on draft night), and one is set to enter his second season as a backup point guard who has yet to scratch the surface of his potential (Marquis Teague). Can the 2013 draft class go down as another one of Gar Forman’s milestones? Let’s assess.

Tony Snell, Small Forward, University of New Mexico; 6’7.25″, 198 lbs.

I don’t completely hate this pick, but I don’t love it either. Tony Snell comes to Chicago with a number of concerning question marks. His work ethic is mediocre at best, and he tends to disappear in games far too often. Many times throughout his college career, he would look disengaged on the court and seemed to lack an attacking mentality by settling for contested jumpers and forcing bad shots. That lack of an attacking mentality makes him a very poor rebounder for his position (averaged 3.4 rebounds per-forty minutes as a junior), so he’ll need to show that he has the ability to play with aggressiveness and focus if he wants to earn any playing time as a rookie.

In addition, Snell struggled mightily, for the most part, against some of the best defenses in the country each season. His inability to create off the dribble limits his upside, as he’s more of an off-the-ball shooter than anything else, having spent most of his time in college being run off screens or spotting up (which he is very effective at, actually). The good news, however, is that he obviously won’t be asked to do much on the offensive end (early on in his career, at least) besides come off the bench as a floor spacer and hit open three-pointers, which he can certainly do, having made 38% of his three point attempts in three seasons at New Mexico.

Despite all the intangible flaws, the Bulls didn’t draft Snell to be a leader or a playmaker. They drafted him to fill a gaping hole behind the arc and for his high potential as a wing defender. A 6’11.5″ wingspan for a man of his size is pretty unbelievable and has helped make him the solid on-the-ball defender that he is and should continue to be. He has very good defensive awareness, and his aforementioned length continuously disrupted opponents in college, allowing them score only 18.8% of the time against him when isolated. Here is DraftExpress’ scouting report on Snell’s defensive capabilities:

Defensively, Snell’s physical tools make him an intriguing piece, as he has the size, length, and lateral quickness to be a versatile defender capable of defending both wing positions. If he makes a commitment to focusing on the defensive end, it would go a long ways towards helping him solidify a role at the NBA level. He’ll need to continue to get stronger and play tougher, but he certainly has the potential to excel on this end of the floor.

While there may have been better options than Snell, this isn’t all that surprising of a pick. He was pegged as a dark horse candidate for the Bulls at 20, and picking him solidifies the fact that the Bulls are making a conscious effort to fill the three-point shooting hole that they so desperately need to fill. Snell’s defensive potential is a major plus for Thibodeau and his system, but if he doesn’t come in to camp ready to work his ass off and display a passion for playing this beautiful game of basketball, then he won’t even sniff the hardwood as a rookie. I trust Thibs and the veterans will get the most out of him, which should fare well for both Snell and the Bulls over time.

Erik Murphy, Power Forward, University of Florida; 6’10”, 240 lbs.

I’ve always been a fan of Murphy’s game. The dude can shoot the freakin’ lights out from three – he’s wetter than an adolescent’s bed sheets during puberty – by knocking down two trays per game and leading the entire SEC in three-point shooting as a senior at 45.3% (also shot 51.6% from the field overall). He’s the epitome of a stretch-four and has drawn numerous comparisons to San Antonio Spur Matt Bonner, another Florida alum. He has an extremely quick release and has proven to be very proficient shooting off the pick-and-pop. Murphy is a fun player to watch, and if you don’t close out on him in a hurry, he can single-handedly change the momentum of games with his hot hand.

As much as I like Murphy, I’m not totally sure how he fits into the Bulls’ system. I don’t anticipate he’ll play much at all, if he even makes the roster, during his rookie season, so the question remains how can he contribute to this team going forward? He’s a one-dimensional player with minimal athleticism, and he’s a liability as both a rebounder and a defender. Do the Bulls envision him playing the five in a small-ball lineup with Taj? Do they even see a future for Murphy in Chicago once Nikola Mirotic comes over from Spain in 2014? Am I completely over-thinking this like I always do? Yes. Yes I am.

Nevertheless, Murphy has a high basketball IQ and rarely ever takes bad shots, so if he does ever end up playing in a Bulls uniform, he’s plenty capable of giving them a couple valuable minutes here and there off the bench when the offense is reeling or the front court needs a spell.

As with most mid-to-late round draft picks, it will likely take a few years before we can truly determine whether this draft was a success or not. Both Snell and Murphy bring positive attributes to the table and can help quench the Bulls’ enormous hunger for three-point shooting, but it’s too difficult to say right now what kind of impact they’ll have as rookies. Don’t expect much early on, as Coach Thibs forces his first-year players to work countless hours and earn his respect before sending them onto the court. But over time, the answer to how Snell and Murphy can legitimately help this team will become more clear.

Heart and Hustle: Bulls Steal Game 1 From The Superfriends

The Bulls may have stolen Game 1 in Miami on Monday night, but they’re certainly not satisfied yet.

They fight through adversity. They never back down. They play for each other. And they have no fear. The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls are one of the greatest sports stories in recent memory whose fairy tale may end when LeBron James decides he’s had enough. But until then, what we are witnessing is a team of warriors who will give anything and everything to win basketball games, playing with an attitude and a swagger that most sports fans would die to see their teams adopt.

After Game 7 of the Brooklyn series, I couldn’t recall a prouder Chicago sports moment in my life. Jordan’s Bulls and the 2010 Blackhawks teams obviously brought joy to everyone – but those teams were great. Those teams were expected to win. This team? Forget about it. Winning just one playoff series with this roster despite Derrick Rose’s ailing ACL, Joakim Noah’s plantar fasciitis, Kirk Hinrich’s mysteriously strained calf, Nate Robinson’s and Taj Gibson’s flu and Luol Deng’s meningitis scare was an enormous accomplishment in and of itself. “Next man up” has been the recurring theme of this team, and it all starts up top. Since day one, Tom Thibodeau has brainwashed these guys into thinking that, no matter what happens, they have enough to win.

Jimmy Butler, who I felt would be something very special for our team this season, has all but earned his spot as the Bulls’ future 2 guard, playing all 48 minutes (ALL 48 MINUTES!) in each of the last three playoff games. He has been nothing short of magnificent this postseason, averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, nearly five trips to the free throw line and almost never turning the ball over in round one (0.7 TOs/game), all while guarding the Deron Williams/Joe Johnson combo AND never committing more than three fouls in a game. On top of that, he took on the impossible task of guarding LeBron James the entire game last night (only committed three fouls too) and was still able to post a 21-14-3 stat line, hitting 9/10 from the free throw line and 2/4 from beyond the arc (Butler’s 3% during 2012-13 season and postseason: 38.1% and 40.9% respectively; 3% during 2011-12 season: 18.2%). No moment is too big for this kid. In only his second year in the NBA, Luol Deng’s protegé has proved once and for all that hard work and a heavy heart can take you a long way in just a short amount of time in this league – and trust me, he’s not gonna slow down any time soon.

Nathaniel Robinson has been, quite frankly, Jordanesque this postseason. He may only be 5’9, but Lil’ Nate has a ridiculous amount of confidence and a monstrous sack of nuts. He’s never seen a shot he didn’t like, and although players like that can typically hurt your team more than help it, Robinson has been as clutch as I’ve ever seen anyone in a Bulls uniform since ’98. Whether it’s him putting up 34 points (23 in the 4th quarter) on 14-for-23 shooting in Game 4 against Brooklyn, 18 points in Game 6 while puking in between timeouts, or 27 points and 9 assists last night in Miami (11 of those points and 5 of those assists came in the 4th quarter as well) with 10 stitches in his upper lip, Robinson continues to thrive in big moments and show the Knicks, Celtics, and Thunder what could have been had they decided not to let the little Energizer Bunny walk for nothing.

Carlos Boozer has, well, disappointed again. Yes, he actually played well against Brooklyn, and I really do applaud him for that. But we’ve grown accustomed to Boozer laying postseason eggs the past few years, and last night was no different: 6 points on 3/11 shooting, 7 rebounds and 3 turnovers. He watched, cheered and yelled from the bench the final 16 minutes of the game, when the Bulls just so happened to outscore Miami 44-31. Coincidence? I think not. It won’t happen this summer, but until 2014, “‘Tis the season to be amnestied…”

Marco Belinelli has been freakin’ awesome the past few games, not just for his “Sam Cassell dance” in Game 7, but also for his ability to hit huge threes and get to the rim late in games. Belinelli has shot 50% from three (3-for-6), 3-for-3 from the free throw line and  has a +/- of plus-15 in 12 “clutch time” minutes (last five minutes of the game and leading or trailing by five points or less) of playoff basketball. To give you some perspective on how huge he has been, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were a combined 0-for-10 from three, 7-for-25 from the field and a minus-16 each  in 54  clutch time minutes last round (on the other hand, Robinson, Boozer and Noah have +/- of plus-28, plus-24 and plus-20 respectively in clutch time minutes, but they’ve all played much more during those moments). I couldn’t be happier with what Belinelli has given us, as he’s effectively replaced Kyle Korver as our Chicago Hotsauce – he’s just uglier, but at least he can create for himself once in a while.

Not enough can be said about Joakim Noah. In fact, nothing anyone can say will do that man justice. It’s clear that he has become our bona-fide leader, emotionally and physically, and Bulls fans wouldn’t have it any other way. The way he has led this depleted team on essentially one foot, dominating the likes of another all-star center in Brook Lopez and doing everything he can possibly do to help us win has been truly inspiring. Noah is the epitome of a professional athlete. He’s the kind of player that I would have idolized as a kid, and even idolize now, giving 150% night in and night out and fighting til death’s end. It’s admirable, and I feel that all athletes around the country should strive to be as tough and as passionate as he is. Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching him play basketball, and I have no doubt that one day he, along with a fully healthy Derrick Rose, will lead the Bulls to a NBA championship.

If you follow the NBA like I do, you know damn well that these kinds of things never  happen. To predict that a team led by the guys above, along with Taj Gibson, Nazr Mohammed and even Marquis Teague, can go into Miami in front of their pathetic home crowd, steal game one and shock the basketball world? Unthinkable. But here we are, in the wake of Miami’s third loss since February 2 (yes, third loss – they’re 41-3 since then), and we, as fans, aren’t just happy to be here anymore – we’re starting to “bullieve.”

Does this mean Chicago will win this series? No, but every game will be an absolute dogfight. I don’t think the Bulls can truly win this series, but I sure as hell know they’ll leave everything they have on that court each night. Like I said, this is not a great team – Derrick Rose ain’t coming back, Kirk Hinrich is battling through a painful injury, and Luol Deng is still bedridden after a spinal tap. All we can do is pray that the latter two come back soon. But whether we realize it or not, we are all witnessing something great – something inspiring. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Bulls fan right now, and what happens from here on out will just be the cherry on top of an already accomplished and memorable season.

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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Placing blame for Game 3’s meltdown

Losing Joakim Noah is not the only reason we lost Game 2.

What the hell happened last night? How did our Bulls blow that 14 point lead? The easy answer: Joakim Noah left the game with a severe ankle injury with 7:57 to go in the 3rd quarter. The actual answer: a combination of shockingly horrendous coaching and a lack of heart. The Bulls stopped playing to win and instead began playing not to lose. There was no doubt in my mind that when Philly cut the lead to 9, they were going to win. It was the same feeling I had when Tebow stepped onto the field against the Bears in the 4th quarter down 10. Chairs were thrown, and tables were nearly broken as I walked out of the room after Matt Prater’s OT field goal that night. But I digress. Here are my main reasons (other than losing Noah) that the Bulls lost last night’s game:

1) Coaching

  • I have no idea why in God’s name Thibodeau decided to put Noah back into the game in the 4th quarter. The dude’s limp was worse than Leapin’ Larry’s in Seinfeld. Thibodeau was quoted saying,  “I’m relying on (trainer) Fred (Tedeschi). The game is going on. I ask him if he can go or not go. That’s usually how it works.” Whether that’s the case or not, isn’t it ultimately Thibs’ decision to put Noah in the game? I don’t know one Bulls fan who agreed with the decision to put him in last night because within 1 minute of putting him in, he had tweaked the ankle again.
  • Ronnie Brewer has missed 1 game in the past 2 seasons. He’s a high energy guy who plays great defense and knows his role on offense. Can someone tell me why in the world he rode pine for all 48 minutes last night? I don’t understand it. Korver finished the game with a goose egg, and Hamilton couldn’t hit the side of a barn. I’m not saying he would have been the difference between winning the game and losing it, but he most definitely could have made an impact in one way or another.
  • Anyone who knows anything about basketball should be able to say, with confidence, that John Lucas is a terrible point guard. Now, I’m not saying I don’t like him – he has had some big moments for us this season, and he plays with absolutely no fear – but when was the last time he didn’t dribble out the shot clock in the half court to under 5 seconds before a) launching up a 35 footer or b) making a legitimate pass? I felt like I was watching an atrocious pickup game at the gym the way Lucas was “running the offense” last night. There’s a reason he has never found a home in the NBA besides the fact that he’s so small, and it’s because he can’t actually run an offense. Unfortunately, that happens to be the most important thing for a point guard to do. What does this have to do with coaching? Oh, I don’t know, maybe the fact that, after watching Lucas continuously run the shot clock down to 3, Thibodeau still decided to stick with him the entire 4th quarter. You’re probably thinking “but Watson was playing horrible, Thibs had no choice.” Wrong. Mike James, anyone? In the 3 games that he played 17+ minutes this season, he averaged 7 assists. The journeyman actually has a track record. He’s played about 12 seasons in the NBA, including nearly 2 full seasons as a starter in Toronto and Minnesota. He’s no rookie. He obviously wouldn’t be the difference between winning this series and not, but could it really have hurt to put him in when the lead was slowly disintegrating? He can run an offense better than Lucas, and clearly no one could trust Watson and his shot selection last night. I just don’t understand why he didn’t get a chance.

2) Carlos Boozer

  • There’s no one I dislike more in Chicago sports than Carlos Boozer and Alfonso Soriano. For the sake of this post, I will limit the text to only obliterating Boozer. For me, there has never been a more frustrating Bulls player than Boozer. Everyone knows there are players that rise to the occasion at the end of games, the guys who simply want the ball in their hands with the game on the line. Then there are the players who disappear when it matters most (think Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Chris Webber, etc.), the guys who would rather pick out some schmucky fan from the stands to take a big shot than their own damn selves. Carlos Boozer, my friends, is the epitome of the latter. There isn’t a softer player than him on this roster. We’re paying him $15 million a year to average 12-14 ppg in the postseason and disappear at the end of games? What a joke. There was no Derrick Rose, there was no Joakim Noah. We need this man to step up his game when it matters most. Going 1-6 in the 4th quarter and constantly settling for his rocking chair jump shot when he should be banging in the post and finding ways to score like he used to in Utah? He should be ashamed of himself. And don’t even get me started on his defense…

3) Luol Deng

  • Luol: what happened bro? I understand that Iguodala is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game, but there’s no excuse for 5 points on 2-7 shooting in game 3 and 8 points on 3-12 shooting in game 2. None whatsoever. I don’t even know what else to say. But Luol Deng is much better than this.

I will now stop talking before I murder someone. Game 4 tomorrow.

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