Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010
Will the addition of one player from next summer's free agent class automatically make the Bulls a contending team in 2010-2011? Please post your comments in the section below. If the Bulls are able to sign LeBron or D-Wade, the answer is yes. If it's somebody else, the answer is a lot more uncertain.
For a concrete example of how cap room isn't always a quick fix, just take a look at Monday's Bulls' opponent, the Detroit Pistons. Joe Dumars has long been regarded as one of the NBA'S best general managers. But with nearly 20 million dollars in cap room last summer, Dumars wouldn't commit to offering enough money to entice Carlos Boozer to opt out of the final year of his deal with Utah. Then he looked around at what was left in a shallow free agent market, and wound up blowing all his cap room on Charlie Villaneuva and former Bulls' star Ben Gordon. Granted, both players are nice additions, but hardly worth the 18 to 20 million Dumars committed to the tandem over the next 5 seasons. Now Detroit is capped out, and has too much duplication at their perimeter spots. Dumars would love to trade Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince for a low post threat like Boozer, but so far, he hasn't found any takers. So, Detroit is loaded with small guards like Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Chucky Atkins and Will Bynum and small forward-types like Hamilton, Prince, Villaneuva and top draft pick Austin Daye. Their centers? How about former Bulls' free agent bust Ben Wallace and one of the worst number one overall picks in the history of the NBA Draft, Kwame Brown! When you add this roster mess to the infamous decision to draft Darko MIlicic instead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh with the 2nd overall pick back in 2003, maybe Dumars isn't as smart as most NBA people think.
The Pistons have lost 12 games in a row, and there aren't any easy solutions out there. First year coach John Kuester has been dealt a bad hand because of long-term injuries suffered by Hamilton, Prince and Gordon, but even with a healthy roster over the last half dozen games, the Pistons have been brutal. At some point, Dumars has to help his coach out by trading Hamilton andor Prince to get some much-needed frontcourt help. But both players are overpaid, and Hamilton is definitely on the downside of his career. It will be interesting to watch the Detroit situation over the next few months to see who takes the fall for Dumars' ill-conceived summer spending spree.
BULLS STILL TREADING WATER
Meanwhile, back here in Chicago, the Bulls are still underachieving. They followed up an encouraging 4 game winning streak by going 1-and-3 last week against the likes of Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Minnesota. You can rest assured John Paxson and Gar Forman are working the phones, looking for a trade that will add some much needed scoring punch. If the Bulls struggle for the rest of the month, the focus may change to trading veterans like Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons for salary cap relief. At some point, the Bulls front office will have to decide how badly they want to make the playoffs this season. If that's the goal, they might consider bringing in established players with remaining years on their contracts like Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand and David West, and say goodbye to the possibility of entering the free agent market. But if they decide to wait until the free agent chase begins on July 1st, we might be saying goodbye to Captain Kirk andor Salmons before the trade deadline hits on February 18th.
The Bulls' problems are essentially the same ones we've observed all season. Without an inside scoring threat or a reliable 3 point shooter, they're prone to long stretches of offensive futility. And, since the promising 6-4 start, their commitment at the defensive end seems to come and go. Derrick Rose has picked up his offensive production over the last 6 weeks, but Luol Deng is struggling right now with a fractured left thumb, and the Bulls are still searching for a reliable 2nd scoring option. They've been able to defend their homecourt pretty well with a 12-7 record, but their weaknesses become too much to overcome on the road, where they are 3-13.
With home games coming up against Detroit and Washington this week, along with a quick trip to Boston, it's important for the Bulls to go 2-1. Otherwise, that 7 game western swing that begins on January 18th starts to look even more difficult than it does right now. We haven't heard much about Vinny Del Negro's status over the last couple weeks, but a bad road trip could make Vinny and the Bulls one of the NBA's hot topics during All-Star weekend in Dallas in mid-February.
Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome. It's supposed to get warmer here in Chicago this week, and as we all know, the Bulls are long overdue for a sustained hot streak!