Monday Mailbag: Will Bulls be quiet at trade deadline?

CTL: Should Noah play in the All-Star Game?

Monday Mailbag: Will Bulls be quiet at trade deadline?
February 11, 2013, 6:00 pm
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With the NBA’s trade deadline quickly approaching, there’s been a lot of talk about potential moves the Bulls might make.

While I don’t personally believe that the Bulls will do anything major in the next few weeks—meaning the rumored Carlos Boozer-for-Andrea Bargani swap is unlikely to happen—around this time of year in the NBA, nothing can be ruled out.

As I’ve said before, the Bulls’ main focus is re-integrating Derrick Rose back into the lineup upon his return, which is as good of a deadline deal as you could think of, and now with Joakim’s plantar fasciitis, keeping him the All-Star center healthy.

Speculation about whether Jo will make the trip to Houston later this week for his debut All-Star Game appearance will resolve itself in the near future—I expect him to make the trip, for the experience, if nothing else—but predictions, concerns and general madness about Derrick will continue until he’s back on the court.

Even behind the scenes, nothing has changed, at least as far as I can tell, though you may prefer the Twitter rumor mill to someone who’s at games and practices on a daily basis.

I will say that things seem a lot more basketball-focused when it comes to his rehab recently—as opposed to just jumpers, the media got to see him makes explosive-type, if uncontested drives to the rim and finishes the other day at the Berto Center—but that doesn’t mean anything until he’s both cleared by actual doctors, and the organization, chiefly team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, approves his return and most importantly he feels comfortable.

As Thibs said, “When he’s ready, he’s ready. We’re not going to say, ‘It’s going to be this day or that day.’ That’s not the way we’re going to do it. When he’s ready, he’ll go.”

So don’t expect any big announcements or even leaks—I’d guess that Derrick returns in a low-profile game, probably on the road, and the only hint the media will receive is the team finally making him available for comment at the practice before he suits up—and just enjoy not only the excitement surrounding his return, but the success that the Bulls are currently experiencing.

On to the mailbag:

Given the Nuggets' roster make-up, which team do the Bulls match-up with worst in the league?

Brian, Denver is definitely up there, but I’d say the Clippers, at least until a healthy Derrick is in the lineup, is the toughest team for the Bulls to match up with. The Bulls have improved a ton since the two teams’ early-season matchup in Los Angeles, particularly their bench, but the Clippers’ blend of size, offensive firepower and athleticism are difficult for the Bulls to contend with, without Derrick’s equalizing abilities.

One of the Bulls’ slight Achilles heels are teams with similar size that can run and gun—Miami does the latter, but its size issues are why the Bulls have basically played them even, at least during the regular season, the past few years—which is why Indiana, which has the size thing covered, doesn’t quite make the cut, due to their slow pace, something the Bulls can deal with.

Where would you rank Tom Thibodeau in terms of best coaches in the league?

Robbie, before the season, I’d put Thibs solidly in the top five of NBA head coaches and now that I think about it, I think he’s probably in the top three. While the likes of Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Denver’s George Karl, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks are all excellent coaches, the job Thibs has done this season puts him a tier ahead of them—and I would have only ranked Carlisle, maybe, either even or ahead of him before—and just a notch below San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Boston’s Doc Rivers.

A Finals appearance for the Bulls in the near future could certainly change my thought process, but those titles are hard to ignore.

If you were a GM and had the first overall pick, would you take Nerlens Noel, Trey Burke or Cody Zeller?

Tim, I’m not sure I’d take any of those three players. All of them are obviously lottery-level talents, but as evidenced by the actual college-basketball season, the No. 1 status is subject to change on any given day. If I need a defensive-oriented big man with upside, I’d go with Noel. If I need a NBA-ready floor general, I’d go with Burke. If I need a solid, starting-caliber power forward with some offensive versatility and the ability to run the floor, I’d go with Zeller. However, none of them are clear-cut top picks.

I might go with Maryland’s Alex Len if I need a true center, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams or Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart for a big point guard with good size and athleticism, and UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad or Kansas’ Ben McLemore for an athletic scoring wing. Personally, I prefer McLemore right now, but it depends on team needs.

If you were the Lakers, would you trade Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, or stay put and hope it eventually works out? Paul, if I were the Lakers I’d probably get therapy. Seriously though, with Gasol being injured, it would be hard to pull off a trade and get any real value right now, so that leaves the latter two options. I go back and forth about whether the Lakers can make the playoffs, but I also understand that Los Angeles is a city that craves superstars, something even more important with the mega TV deal the franchise has in place.

However, Howard doesn’t seem very happy these days and while it would be more financially lucrative for him to stay in L.A., I don’t know if I’d be willing to take that gamble, especially given the Lakers’ current place in the standings and his ongoing injury woes. With those doubts about whether he can return to his old form, chemistry issues with Kobe and the very real question of if he’s equipped to take over the superstar mantle for an organization that expects to compete for championships, if I could get back good value for him from a team with assets that fit Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni, I’d probably move him.

What are the Bulls going to do with Nate when Kirk and Rose come back?

@bolero_san, if you had asked me this question a month ago, I would have said that Nate would see limited minutes. But with the way he’s been playing as of late, particularly as a distributor and improved defender, I could see Thibs giving him a bit more than spot minutes when Derrick returns. Thibs does like bigger backcourts, so I don’t know how much he’ll be out there with either Derrick or Kirk, but I could see him used as a situational reserve, for his instant-offense capabilities.