Tuesday, July 20, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
Now that the Bulls are just a veteran big man away from completing their offseason makeover, we can start to analyze what kind of team were likely to see next season. Taking everything into account, I would give the Bulls front office a "B" for their efforts over the last month or so. How about you? Please post your offseason grades and any comments in the section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail.
Obviously, the Bulls failed in their efforts to recruit one of the top-three free agents available: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so that made it impossible for me to give the front office an "A." But when you take into consideration those three guys had been talking about playing together since the 2008 Olympics, maybe the Bulls and all the other teams with maximum contracts available never really had a fair chance. I give John Paxson and Gar Forman a lot of credit for reacting quickly to the changing marketplace. When Wade and Bosh announced they were going to Miami, the Bulls quickly got a deal worked out with the next best player available, Carlos Boozer, that same day. And, when Orlando decided to match the Bulls offer for restricted free agent guard J.J. Redick, the Bulls quickly got Ronnie Brewer to agree to a three-year contract later that day.
Boozer is the big addition. Hes a two-time All-Star with the low-post skills the Bulls have been looking for ever since Elton Brand was traded away. Boozers experience running the high screen-and-roll with Deron Williams in Utah should make for an easy transition to the offense the Bulls are likely to run with Derrick Rose at the point. Boozer has played in high pressure playoff games with Utah, and hes an underrated rebounder, averaging double figure boards for his career. His ability to score in the post, and hit the mid-range jumper should open things up for Rose and Luol Deng. Plus, hell provide veteran leadership for one of the younger teams in the league. And, hes one of the classiest guys youll ever meet who will represent the organization well off the court.
The Bulls also made an underrated signing in Kyle Korver. The 6-foot-7 swingman is one of the best long-range shooters in the league, matter of fact, he broke Steve Kerrs NBA record by hitting 53 precent from beyond the arc last season. Having Korver available to space the floor will open up driving lanes for Rose and Deng. And, even though Korver isnt the best defensive player around, the Bulls can try to dictate the match-ups hell be facing by giving him minutes at shooting guard and small forward.
Thats why the signing of Ronnie Brewer is so important. At 6-foor-7, he has the length and quickness to defend the leagues elite shooting guards like Kobe Bryant, Wade and Joe Johnson. And, hes also a competent offensive player, averaging around 10 points a game for his career, while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Brewer isnt a three-point threat, but his length and speed make him an ideal finisher on the fastbreak, and the Bulls plan to run whenever possible under new coach Tom Thibodeau.
And, lets not forget about the most recent addition, 6-foot-2 guard C.J. Watson. As a restricted free agent, Watson was coveted by a number of teams. So, give the Bulls front office credit for working out a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State, rather than extending an offer sheet, and possibly getting their money tied up for a week like the Redick situation with Orlando. Watson is coming off his best season as a pro, and hes made a remarkable rise since working his way up from the Developmental League. Even though hes relatively small, Watson has the athleticism to play both guard positions, and teaming him with Rose would form one of the leagues fastest backcourts.
Looking at the Bulls roster now, theyve got quality depth at every position. And, we fully expect the front office will add a veteran big man like Kurt Thomas, Fernando Elson, Fabricio Oberto, Etan Thomas or Kwame Brown.
Now its up to Thibodeau and his staff to go to work trying to integrate all the new players into a cohesive system. Thibodeau is heralded around the league as one of the best defensive tacticians in the game. If he can get this young, athletic group to totally buy in on the defensive end, theres no question they can shoot for 50 wins next season. As things stand, the Bulls look like the favorite in the Central Division over Scott Skiles Bucks, and on paper, they shape up as one of the top-4 teams in the East.
Miami stole all the headlines with their signings of James, Wade and Bosh, but dont underestimate what a real team can do. Im already looking forward to the start of training camp in October, and Im sure all Bulls fans feel the same.