Tuesday, June 22, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
If everything goes according to plan, the Bulls wont be picking any players in Thursdays NBA Draft. John Paxson and Gar Forman are hard at work trying to package the number 17 pick along with one of their veteran players to create more cap room for the free agent chase that starts on July 1st. It will be difficult for the Bulls to find a taker for the four years, and approximately 48 million remaining on Luol Dengs contract, but Kirk Hinrich might be attractive since he only has two years left on his deal. Do you think the Bulls should try to unload their pick, or is it important to find a young player who can add some depth off the bench? Please post your comments in the section below.
If the Bulls wind up keeping the pick, and Forman has made it clear theyre not looking to trade it unless it can be packaged with a veteran player, look for them to take the best shooter available. My prediction is they will go with Oklahoma State shooting guard James Anderson, who averaged 22 points a game last season, and is considered one of the best long range shooters available in this draft. The knock on Anderson is that hes not a great athlete, and might have trouble creating his own shot at the NBA level. But with Derrick Rose consistently driving into the paint to break down opposing defenses, Anderson could find all kinds of wide open shots on the perimeter. Hinrich and John Salmons struggled to make those open shots during the first few months of last season, and thats one of the main reasons the Bulls got off to a slow start.
If its not Anderson, the list of available shooting guards includes Dominique Jones of South Florida, Avery Bradley of Texas and Elliott Williams of Memphis. The Bulls also could go for a project big man like Marshalls Hassan Whiteside or Solomon Alabi of Florida State. But with 7-foot Omer Asik expected to join the squad this year, a 2nd developmental big might not be such a great idea. Reports from overseas indicate Asik is a pretty athletic center, who possesses some legitimate low post skills. The Bulls traded three second-round draft picks to obtain his rights in the 08 draft, and theyve been looking forward to his arrival to back up Joakim Noah. And, dont rule out the possibility of Brad Miller coming back if hes willing to sign on for the veterans minimum.
Any way you look at it, draft night figures to be more interesting because of potential trades than because of the talent pool available. My partner on our Bulls studio coverage, Kendall Gill, will be with me at the Berto Center Thursday night, and well have complete coverage on SportsNite at 6:30pm, 10pm, 10:30pm and midnight, as well as a live chat and more coverage on CSNChicago.com.
Speaking of trades, here are some of the suggestions you sent me since my last post.
Charlie C-Glenview, IL: Mark, people keep talking about the Bulls packaging their first-round pick and a guy like Hinrich or Deng to have enough cap space for two maximum contracts. On paper that sounds great, but what if we trade Deng or Hinrich and miss out on LeBron, Bosh, Wade, etc. all together?
That is the risk the Bulls have to be willing to take, and all indications are they will go all-in with hopes of landing two premier free agents. Even trading Hinrich wouldnt give them the ability to sign two max free agents, but it would allow them to do a sign-and-trade for players like Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson by just trading a lower salaried player like Taj Gibson or James Johnson, plus some future draft picks if a team was looking for salary cap relief rather than a high-priced veteran like Deng. Obviously, if the Bulls gut their roster and dont get any of the top free agents, theyre probably headed back to the lottery next season. But as I said, Bulls management is very confident they will get at least one of the top players this summer.
Matt S-Cicero, IL: What if the Bulls packaged Deng, Taj, and a first round pick in a sign-and-trade for LeBron? I dont see Cleveland letting LeBron go without some sort of compensation, and it also would guarantee the Bulls were giving up key players for a reason. That trade would give the Bulls enough cap room to offer another max contract. What are your thoughts?
Sounds like a great plan to me, but I dont know if Cleveland would be willing to trade LeBron within the Eastern Conference. If they eventually agree to a sign-and-trade, my guess is theyll make sure to get him out of the East, and send him to a team with lots of young talent to send back like Portland, Houston or Oklahoma City. Dallas will also try to get involved, but Im not sure if Cleveland would want the veteran players the Cavs would likely try to include in a deal. But from the Bulls perspective, if they could get LeBron in a sign-and-trade, you can bet theyd have their pick of Bosh, Johnson or Carlos Boozer with their remaining cap room.
Ted G-Chicago, IL: Getting a scoring guard like Monta Ellis via trade would be great for the Bulls, but his size and defensive ability may be a risk. Ellis also played for one of the worst defensive teams in the Golden State Warriors last season. How can the defensive guru Tom Thibedou help a guy like Ellis or any other defensively challenged shooting guard?
Thibodeau gets rave reviews from players who have worked under him for his creativity and defensive strategy. The Bulls are hoping he can do wonders with Derrick Rose, who hasnt really developed on the defensive end in his first two NBA seasons. Boston did a great job defending Kobe Bryant in the Finals, and a lot of credit should go to Thibodeau. He constantly double and triple teamed Kobe to get the ball out of his hands and force other players to beat the Celtics. How many times in the last two years have the Bulls been dominated by the other teams star player or been unable to defend basic screen and roll plays? Thibodeau should bring a defensive emphasis that will extend from the best player on the team to the last guy on the bench. And, if the Bulls would trade for a defensively challenged guy like Monta Ellis, he would have to work within the system to avoid being the weak link. Look for the Bulls to be a much stronger defensive team next season.
Meredith H-Aurora, IL: How much do veterans like Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton have left? Allen will be 35 next season, and Hamilton 32 going on 33 both were once the best players on their respective teams but now they are role players at best. As a fan I would love to see the Bulls keep their core young, but talented. Going after guys like West and Jefferson would seem to make more sense to go along with guys like Rose, Noah, and Deng who are all at least four years away from 30. Not to mention the possibility of signing the 25-year-old LeBron James.
I was just suggesting guys like Allen and Hamilton should be available this season, and still have the ability to score between 15 and 18 points a game. Realistically, neither of those players probably interest the Bulls at this point. Their dream scenario would be adding LeBron and Chris Bosh through free agency and sign-and-trade, but there are about a half dozen other teams that have the same plan. Recruiting will be everything since every team is offering the same money. Organizations will have to sell their ability to win with the talent on hand, the city they represent, and earning capability off the court. And, it sounds like LeBron might take a week to tour the country and soak in all the adulation. Im hoping hell make up his mind quickly, but it might not turn out that way. And, if the Bulls dont get the guys they want in free agency, then the possibility of trading for young, fringe all-star players like David West, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, Caron Butler and Lamar Odom may come into play. It promises to be a crazy week when the clock strikes midnight on June 30th. Lets hope the Bulls have the right strategy to accomplish all their goals!