Tuesday, November 24th
By Mark Schanowski
After watching the Bulls get dominated in the paint against the Lakers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers, one thing is obvious........they really miss Tyrus Thomas! I know I've criticized Thomas in the past, and it's obvious the Bulls would have been better off keeping LaMarcus Aldridge on draft day back in '06, but Thomas' ability to block shots and hit the offensive glass would have been a big plus over the last 3 games. Joakim Noah's done a great job this season, but he was overmatched against the likes of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in L.A., Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen in Denver and Greg Oden and Aldridge in Portland. Tyrus could have helped change the momentum with a blocked shot or a tip dunk, and helped Noah control the defensive boards. He's still probably two weeks away from returning to action after breaking his left forearm in a weight training accident, and the Bulls will be a better team once Tyrus works his way back into the starting line-up with rookie Taj Gibson becoming a reliable big man reserve off the bench.
Which brings us to one of the many problems facing Vinny Del Negro and his staff these days. With Lindsey Hunter basically a coach who wears a uniform, and top draft pick James Johnson a non-factor, the Bulls only have 8 players in their rotation. Certainly injuries have been the main reason for the Bulls being so short-handed, but NBA rules allow teams to carry 15 players on the roster, and right now, the Bulls only have 13, and that includes mystery man Jerome James, who basically hasn't played in 2 years. I know the luxury tax is the reason behind the Bulls not adding another player or two, but would it bankrupt the franchise to add a minimum salary guy like Chris Richard or Melvin Ely? Vinny could really use another big guy to play 10 minutes a night, knock some people around and grab a few rebounds. Aaron Gray might be that guy when he returns from a leg stress fracture in the next week or two, but the Bulls might be better off with a more active big like Richard, who showed some pretty good versatility during the pre-season schedule.
Either way, it looks like adding a big man is the way to go for the Bulls down the line. Noah might be better served playing some power forward alongside a bigger NBA center. Vinny has tried playing Noah and Brad Miller together, and that line-up has worked at times. But Miller can only play well in short spurts, and the coaches have to be very careful about match-ups when they put the veteran center in the game. Miller is a good passer, and occasionally a decent outside shooter, but his best years are well behind him, and he has trouble blocking out younger, quicker players. At this point in his career, Miller is not a good defensive rebounder, and that weakness has hurt the Bulls in several games already.
So what can the Bulls do to fix the problem? As I've written before, they're not likely to make a major trade which would use up their cap space for next summer unless Chris Bosh or some other superstar becomes available. That means the coaches have to count on Tyrus to make an impact when he comes back, and hope Miller can hold it together for the rest of the season. We've heard a lot of talk about the Bulls being in the running for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade next summer, but if that isn't realistic, maybe they should target Amare Stoudemire, who's playing well again after eye surgery, and will be a free agent next summer. John Paxson and Gar Forman have a lot of balls in the air right now, including John Salmons 6.7 million dollar player option for next season, which could go either way. Because if Salmons decides to exercise that option for another season in Chicago, the Bulls won't have enough cap room to offer a maximum contract to a free agent anyway. Hey, no one said it's easy being an NBA general manager!
What would you do? Would you keep the team the way it is and put all your eggs in the Free Agent 2010 derby? Or, would you cash in your expiring contracts now and make a trade for a veteran big man who could help the Bulls right away? Or would you go for a proven scorer like Tracy McGrady, who is available, and has a big expiring contract for next summer?
Please enter your comments in the section below or drop me an e-mail.
Wishing you all a happy and blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends, and don't forget the Bulls play Thanksgiving night at 9:30 in Utah! Our next game on Comcast SportsNet is Monday, November 30th against Brandon Jennings and the Bucks. Kendall will jon me in studio on SportsNite at 6:30 to preview the game.
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.