Tuesday, June 15, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
When the NBA Finals wrap up this week in Los Angeles, hoops fans can look forward to one of the most active trade markets in league history leading up to the annual draft on June 24th. Are you hoping the Bulls swing a deal for a high-quality player or create more salary cap room to make a run at two max free agents? Please post your comments in the section below.
Let's start with the first option. The Bulls' front office might try to improve their chances of recruiting LeBron James by pursuing another quality starter with a trade that won't significantly cut into their cap space. Think Luol Deng to Minnesota for low-post scorer Al Jefferson, or maybe Deng to New Orleans for former All-Star power forward David West. If the Bulls are able to sign LeBron, Deng becomes a 12 million dollar a year reserve, and that's a luxury no NBA team can really afford.
The Bulls also could look into the trade market to add a high-scoring shooting guard to replace Kirk Hinrich. Several players could be available in that category including Monta Ellis, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Hamilton, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Fernandez, J.R. Smith and Leandro Barbosa. Going this direction would be a lot trickier, especially considering the Bulls might turn to Atlanta's Joe Johnson as their free agent target if LeBron stays in Cleveland, or decides to sign elsewhere.
And, it's not just the Bulls looking to add a premier veteran to improve their roster heading into the start of free agency on July 1st. Cleveland is willing to offer just about anyone on their team, starting with guards Mo Williams and Delonte West, to add another impact player that will help convince LeBron the grass isn't necessarily greener somewhere else.
Look for Pat Riley in Miami to be aggressive on draft night. It's no secret he's looking to unload the 2nd pick in the 2008 draft, Michael Beasley, to just about anyone for next to nothing in return. Riley wants to create even more salary cap room with the thought of possibly signing Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson this summer.
Riley also hasn't given up thoughts of throwing his hat into the LeBron derby, but it's unlikely two strong-willed scorers like James and Wade would be able to play together on a championship team. Sure, they got along great on the Olympic and All-Star teams, but playing 82 regular season games and 20-plus playoff games requires someone to be willing to take on a supporting role, and I'm not sure either of those players is willing to do that.
Trying to make trades to create more cap room is another risky proposition. If the Bulls could trade Deng and a couple of number 1 draft picks to a team that could absorb his salary in exchange for a couple of 2nd round picks, they would be very close to being able to offer two maximum salary contracts, and then go into the free agent race with the ability to tell LeBron, bring whichever All-Star player you want with you to Chicago.
Of course, the Knicks already have that ability, and Miami might as well if they're successful in giving away Beasley. The point is, if you go with that strategy, and then fail in free agency, you've given away you're starting small forward (Deng) for nothing, and are further away from being a championship contender than ever. Part of the reason James is interested in coming to Chicago is they have the best roster in place of the teams with the ability to offer maximum contracts this summer. If the Bulls trade away Deng andor Hinrich for a player James doesn't think much of, they run the risk of hurting their chances to sign the 2-time M.V.P.
With Steve Kerr's decision to leave Phoenix, it looks like the deal to re-sign Amar'e Stoudemire might not get done, which would add another All-Star power forward to the free agent class. So, Phoenix could become an active seller on draft night, looking to move veteran players like Jason Richardson and Barbosa. Everything is pretty fluid right now, and the general managers that are the most adept at finding potential bargains on the trade market could be the real winners when all the dust settles sometime in mid-July.
So, what do you think? Suggest some trades for the Bulls in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail. We'll run some of them next week in the days leading up to the draft. My partner on Bulls' Pre and Post-game live, Kendall Gill, will join me at the Berto Center to cover all the story lines on what promises to be a very interesting night on June 24th.
Who knows? If the Bulls can add a guy like Al Jefferson, David West, Richard Hamilton or Monta Ellis, maybe they can make themselves the clear front-runner to sign LeBron next month.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.