Friday, December 4th
by Mark Schanowski
So, what do you think about the rumor suggesting the Bulls are interested in trading Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James' expiring contract to the Knicks for Al Harrington? Please post your comments in the section below.
You can put me in the "against it" camp. Harrington has been a decent scorer in his NBA career, averaging 14 points a game with the Pacers, Hawks, Warriors and Knicks, but he's been on mostly bad teams except for his early days as a teenager who didn't play in Indiana, and has never really been a guy who does the intangible things that help teams win. Right now, the Bulls are a jump-shooting team struggling to boost their field goal percentage, and I don't think adding another perimeter gunner is the right way to accomplish that.
Harrington is coming off the bench in New York, and he's a pretty good fit for Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced system. Harrington is averaging 19.5 points per game, and scored 41 in a game against Denver last week. But the 6-9 Harrington has never been a good defensive player, and doesn't like to go inside for his points.
Basically, he would give the Bulls a player very similar to Luol Deng and John Salmons, so shot attempts and touches in the halfcourt offense might become an issue. Also, the Bulls are trying to become a better defensive team this season, and Harrington just doesn't fit in that equation. He's a "tweener", not really a small forward or a power forward, so he has problems matching up defensively at either position. And, he's also been accused of being a selfish and disinterested player at various times in his career. With Harrington set to become a free agent at season's end, he'll be looking to put up offensive numbers, and probably not worry all that much about winning and losing, especially since he would be a one year rental with the Bulls.
Of course, keeping Tyrus is also a risk. Thomas will be a restricted free agent at season's end, and the Bulls would have to renounce his rights to free up enough cap room to bid on a "max" free agent next summer. So, do you hold on to Tyrus in the hopes he finally turns the corner in his career, and then let him walk for nothing at the end of the season? It's a difficult decision for the Bulls' front office to make, especially since Tyrus has never been one of Vinny Del Negro's favorite players.
Del Negro has been bothered by Thomas' inconsistency and stubborn attitude, but he also conceded during the recent road trip that the Bulls really miss the skills Thomas brings to the table. The interior defense just hasn't been the same without Thomas' shot-blocking ability, and the Western teams feasted on the Bulls to the tune of 50 to 60 points a night in the paint. Plus, Tyrus is usually good for two or three dunks a game, many of them in spectacular fashion. It's hard to measure what those kinds of athletic plays do for a team's psyche during the course of a long 48 minute game. Right now, the Bulls run a lot of extended motion sets just trying to free up Deng or Salmons for an open jumper. Tyrus isn't a great scorer, but he's one of the few guys on the team who can get easy baskets inside because of his leaping ability and timing on the offensive boards.
So what should the Bulls do for now? Thomas should be back from his broken arm in another week to 10 days. I would let him work his way back into shape, and then get him back in the starting line-up. Taj Gibson has been a nice addition, but he's prone to foul trouble and isn't a great defensive rebounder. Let Gibson learn the pro game playing 15 to 20 minutes off the bench, and reduce the work load on Joakim Noah, Brad Miller and Deng. The Bulls can use a bigger line-up at times with Tyrus playing the small forward spot along with Gibson and Noah, or even go very big with Thomas, Noah and Miller up front.
It's imperative the Bulls make an intelligent decision on what kind of player Thomas can become, and the only way they can do that is to give him extended playing time the rest of the season. If some team holding one of the elite free agents panics and decides to make their star player available in a trade closer to the February deadline, then you can use your best available asset (Thomas). We're already hearing talk that Toronto might consider trading Chris Bosh because of the likelihood he won't sign back with the Raptors next summer.
And, who knows what other players might become available. The list could include Amare Stoudemire, Antawn Jamison, David West, Elton Brand, Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton, Michael Redd and others.
That's why I think the Bulls would be making a mistake by trading Thomas now for a decent, but limited player like Al Harrington. It's tough to be patient, especially when the Bulls could finish as high as 5th in the East with a little more scoring punch. But the plan all along has been to wait until the summer of 2010 to pursue the big free agents like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.
Harrington's expiring contract wouldn't hurt the Bulls' long term plans, but they're probably better served to wait with Thomas, see how he's playing when he returns, and then make a decision on any possible deals closer to the February deadline.
The Bulls will get an up-close look at Bosh Saturday night when the Raptors visit the United Center. I'm sure he'll be asked a lot of questions about his interest in coming to Chicago next season!
Kendall Gill will join me courtside to preview the Bulls-Raptors game on SportsNite at 6:30, and you can watch all the action on Comcast SportsNet starting at 7.
As always, we welcome all your comments and e-mails. Enjoy the hoops!
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.