As NBA free agency begins Tuesday, here’s a look at some of the players the Bulls could target, by areas of need.
It’s important to note that while some of their more high-profile targets, such as Carmelo Anthony, are obvious, others are determined by the team’s present roster, which currently features Derrick Rose at point guard, wing players Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Tony Snell and last week’s first-round draft pick, Doug McDermott, and big men Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Greg Smith, newly-acquired journeyman Anthony Randolph and second-round draft pick Cameron Bairstow.
While Bairstow might seem like a long shot to make the roster, like Erik Murphy last season, his cap-friendly salary could play a factor in him beginning his professional career in Chicago come November. Randolph is certainly a player who could be dealt this offseason, but until that happens, the former lottery pick counts. Also, while power forward Carlos Boozer does have another year on his contract, for the time being, let’s assume that this past spring’s first-round playoff loss to Washington might have been the last time he wore a Bulls uniform.
The Bulls’ biggest needs are a backup point guard behind Derrick Rose, a veteran wing player and a reserve big man, which would get them up to a league-minimum 13 players, assuming the organization keeps all of its current players, with the exception of Boozer.
--D.J. Augustin: While Augustin repeatedly expressed interest in returning to Chicago, it would be unrealistic for him to wait for the Bulls to conclude their pursuit of bigger names before making a decision, especially if a bigger role awaits with Rose’s return.
--Steve Blake: A solid veteran with decent size for the position, although Blake isn’t the typical scoring point guard the Bulls have had in reserve during recent campaigns, his experience would theoretically allow him to make a fairly seamless transition.
--Aaron Brooks: Brooks fits the mold of Augustin, Nate Robinson, C.J. Watson and John Lucas III, all shoot-first floor generals, and could use a successful short-term stint as a springboard to resurrect a once-promising career.
--Jordan Farmar: Off the radar after going overseas during the NBA’s lockout-shortened campaign, then having an injury-riddled season in his return to the Lakers a year ago, if Farmar regains his health, he could be a cheap, viable option.
--Devin Harris: A Milwaukee-area native and University of Wisconsin product, Harris could have some interest in returning to his Midwest roots and his blend of size and speed would give the Bulls a different dimension.
--Kirk Hinrich: Perhaps the most likely of these names to be on the roster, Hinrich’s desire to remain in Chicago and the organization’s familiarity with him means patience and sacrifice will be the biggest factors in his potential return.
--Shaun Livingston: An Illinois native, Livingston may not be the player many expected coming out of high school, but after a horrific knee injury, his development has been remarkable and he has carved out a niche for himself, though with his success in Brooklyn last season, the oversized playmaker could have lots of suitors.
--Patty Mills: The Australian’s playoff success raised his profile quite a bit and while the postseason can often skew future expectations, Mills’ energy and outside shooting will be highly coveted around the league.
--Luke Ridnour: An experienced distributor and outside marksman, Ridnour is a steady hand at the point and is used to adjusting to new circumstances, but is more of a back-burner option.
--Ramon Sessions: Sessions has been a fairly consistent player throughout his career and his scoring-oriented game wouldn’t be a bad fit in Chicago, particularly due to his ability to play on and off the ball.
--Alan Anderson: A rugged, defensive-minded swingman, Anderson is an underrated offensive performer and has a knack for clawing his way into a rotation, despite low expectations every step of the way.
--Carmelo Anthony: Obviously the Bulls’ top target, Anthony is arguably the league’s best pure scorer and as offense is the team’s biggest need, if he were to end up in Chicago, nothing short of a title would be satisfactory.
--Leandro Barbosa: Back in the NBA after returning to his home country of Brazil as he recovered from an ACL injury, Barbosa proved he could still be an effective instant-offense scorer last season in Phoenix.
--Francisco Garcia: An underrated player throughout his career, Garcia is a team-first veteran with the ability to knock down shots, as well as having the reputation as being a solid locker-room presence.
--Shawn Marion: Hailing from nearby Waukegan, Ill., and spending his offseasons in Chicago, Marion wouldn’t mind finishing his distinguished career with the Bulls and after showing that his defensive prowess is still at a high level while in Dallas, he’d be a solid addition.
--Jodie Meeks: Although his career-best season with the Lakers can’t be considered representative of what he would do on a more talented team, Meeks is a spot-up shooting threat and has added to his all-around game over time.
--C.J. Miles: Miles’ stint in Cleveland didn’t go as well as one would have thought, but he has the size, talent and perimeter marksmanship to be a solid, role-playing swingman when surrounded by the right pieces.
--Anthony Morrow: One of the most underrated sharpshooters in the league, Morrow is one of the true sleepers heading into free agency, as his catch-and-shoot game, when playing alongside a playmaker like Rose, could be extremely dangerous.
--Chandler Parsons: Depending on how things go for Houston, Parsons could be expendable and if that’s the case, the versatile, talented young wing will be one of the hottest names on the market.
--Paul Pierce: Assuming the turmoil in Brooklyn has turned him off and a reunion with former coach Doc Rivers in his hometown of Los Angeles doesn’t work out, it wouldn’t be shocking to see ex-Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau make a pitch to the future Hall of Famer if the Bulls strike out on Anthony.
--Jeff Adrien: The active, physical undersized big man has never been in the spotlight, but the Bulls know the damage he can do and while he isn’t a rim protector, Adrien’s rebounding prowess and toughness jibes with the mentality in Chicago.
--Gustavo Ayon: The native of Mexico isn’t a big name, but he has size, has shown flashes of ability and with pickings slim when it comes to backup centers, the Bulls could do a lot worse.
--Elton Brand: Obviously a familiar name to the Bulls, Brand is still productive in the twilight of his career and would not only fill a need on the court, but as an internal leader for the team.
--Trevor Booker: Booker’s solid play against the Bulls in the playoffs gave them a taste of his defensive ability, high-energy level and improving, better-than-advertised offense.
--Pau Gasol: Linked to the Bulls seemingly forever, Gasol is now on the downside of his career, but is still one of the more skilled big men in the NBA, offers excellent size on the interior and at least on paper, would form a great post duo with Noah.
--Kevin Love: Love isn’t a free agent, but given that he’s the Bulls’ clear Plan B, he warrants being listed here, as they would certainly pursue a trade with Minnesota to acquire the disgruntled Timberwolves power forward if they fail at getting Anthony.
--Nazr Mohammed: The Bulls are familiar with the Chicago native, who would like to finish his career in his hometown, but they could be looking for an upgrade and Mohammed could be looking for a bigger opportunity.
--Patrick Patterson: If, for whatever reason, Toronto doesn’t bring back Patterson, perhaps due to having to spend a little extra to retain point guard Kyle Lowry, the young power forward’s ability to step away from the basket is intriguing.
--Kevin Seraphin: Whether the young Frenchman, technically a Bulls’ draft pick back in 2010, regressed or Washington didn’t give him a chance to blossom, a change of scenery could be in order and being mentored by his friend Noah might do the trick, as far as teasing out his potential.
--Jason Smith: Although he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, Smith’s ability to block shots, shoot the outside jumper and play both post positions would be interesting when paired with the Bulls’ current personnel.
For some perspective on the overall state of free agency in the NBA, here’s this writer’s rankings of the top 10 players at each position:
1. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns (restricted free agent)
2. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
3. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (restricted free agent)
4. Shaun Livingston, Brooklyn Nets
5. Darren Collison, Los Angeles Clippers
6. D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls
7. Greivis Vazquez, Toronto Raptors (restricted free agent)
8. Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs
9. Mo Williams, Portland Trail Blazers
10. Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
1. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
2. Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
3. Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers
4. Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics (restricted free agent)
5. Ray Allen, Miami Heat
6. Vince Carter, Dallas Mavericks
7. Rodney Stuckey, Detroit Pistons
8. Anthony Morrow, New Orleans Pelicans
9. Jodie Meeks, Los Angeles Lakers
10. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Charlotte Hornets
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
2. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
3. Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets (restricted free agent)
5. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz (restricted free agent)
6. Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards
7. Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks
8. Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets
9. Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers
10. Mike Scott, Atlanta Hawks (restricted free agent)
1. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
2. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
3. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (restricted free agent)
4. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
5. Boris Diaw, San Antonio Spurs
6. Josh McRoberts, Charlotte Hornets
7. Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers
8. Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets
9. Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors (restricted free agent)
10. Kris Humphries, Boston Celtics
1. Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards
2. Spencer Hawes, Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns
4. Jason Smith, New Orleans Pelicans
5. Chris Andersen, Miami Heat
6. Elton Brand, Atlanta Hawks
7. Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Lakers
8. Jermaine O’Neal, Golden State Warriors
9. Nazr Mohammed, Chicago Bulls
10. Emeka Okafor, Phoenix Suns