Coming off of a spectacular 62-20 regular season record, the Chicago’s new favorite team is poised to make an even deeper run in the upcoming season’s playoffs – if there is a season this year.
Ever since the NFL ended its long, grueling lockout, all eyes are now on the NBA. The Bulls are due to face the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks on opening night, known as “Ring Night” to the champs, an event that will undoubtedly inspire and put a competitive fire in the Bulls’ hearts for the rest of the season. But before that, the NBA’s players and owners will have to come to some sort of collective bargaining agreement.
However, we here at Chi Side are going to ignore all of this lockout business, and proceed carelessly as if the Bulls were able to sign free agents or make trades as they wished. Here is what the Bulls have done and should do in the upcoming offseason:
The Bulls had a few picks in this year’s NBA Draft, and used them to select spanish forward Nikola Mirotic no. 23 overall and Marquette forward Jimmy Butler no. 30 overall. Mirotic can’t leave his team in Spain until at least 2013, which is fine, considering he would rarely see the floor due to the amount of forwards the Bulls use. Both Mirotic and Butler are scouted as above average defenders who should fit well in the Bulls’ system. Butler is a 6-7 forward who may be capable of defending two to three positions and has been billed as a hard worker. His offensive game is still quite raw, though.
The obvious need for the Bulls is, once again, the shooting guard position. Derrick Rose can’t do it all by himself, and a shooting guard would take some of the heat off of him as well. In my opinion, the top three unrestricted free agents at the shooting guard position are: Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, and Jason Richardson. The problem lies in cap space. After signing guys like Boozer and Noah to huge contracts, is there any way to snag a top shooting guard during free agency? The answer is, simply, no.
Jamal Crawford got paid $10M last year by Atlanta. No way he can come here. J.R. Smith got paid $6.7M last year. He’ll probably demand more than that. Jason Richardson made an astounding $14M last year (one of the answers as to why we are locked out). Is a declining 30 year old worth that? No way. The salary cap last year was $58M and the projected one for 2011-2012 is roughly $54M. The Bulls are due to pay $61M this year. Finding the free agent SG of our dreams is going to be a problem.
It all comes down to the poor management in the last offseason. I mean, you can’t blame the Bulls for trying to win some games. The Carlos Boozer signing is what is truly killing us. Cubs fans may be familiar with this sort of salary debacle. Boozer is starting to look a lot like Alfonso Soriano (maybe not nearly that bad). But seriously, five years and $75M? That’s superstar money for someone who is merely a star, if that. Another downfall was the Joakim Noah extension. Fans covet Noah, and apparently so does the Gar Foreman. Honestly, Noah is getting slightly overpaid for what he brings to the team (five years, $60M). Yeah, the 11 boards and 1.5 blocks look nice, but we’re going to need more than 10 points per game and a little more durability. Although I suppose the lack of stud centers has something to do with that.
Want to hear something scary?
Derrick Rose is set to be a restricted free agent after this upcoming season. You know what that means? When the Bulls give Derrick that blank check, there will be less money to be spent on free agents this offseason and for quite a few after. The Bulls best bet in acquiring a stud SG may be to…
My dream scenario would be to trade Carlos Boozer, Keith Bogans, Taj Gibson, and a first rounder to Golden State for Monta Ellis and David Lee. In my head, I feel like this is nowhere near enough for Golden State to accept. A two-for-two trade of Boozer and Noah for Ellis and Lee actually works. But we all know Noah is pretty much untouchable, since we didn’t give him up for Carmelo Anthony during the deadline last year. All in all, Monta Ellis is probably out of the question unless Bulls management gets off of the Noah bandwagon.
Realistically, we can look at mid-tier SGs such as Memphis’ O.J. Mayo and Washington’s Nick Young. Young is a restricted free agent who made only $3M last season and had a career year (17 ppg). Young might demand quite a bit of cash, and the Wizards have the ability to match, so he’s not a sure thing. Mayo on the other hand, can be had via trade.
The Bulls have Charlotte’s 2012 first round pick, albeit it is protected. This means that if Charlotte misses the playoffs, the Bulls do not get it (lottery protected). If the Bobcats do make the playoffs, the Bulls get the pick. It is top 12 protected in 2013, top 10 protected in 2014, and top 8 protected in 2015, then unprotected in 2016, meaning it only gets more valuable as time goes on. This pick may be enough to snag Mayo away from the Grizzlies. Hopefully they aren’t too weary of trading him though, after getting burned by the Lakers for Pau Gasol.
If the Bulls are unable to make a move at any of these three players, then we’ll likely have to relegate to the popular Courtney Lee. He’s certainly an offensive upgrade at the position, but who isn’t? It’s not like he’s going to be leading us to championships anytime soon. Chris Douglas-Roberts is also an option, and is as efficient as Courtney Lee would be.
Although the Bulls probably can’t make a play at a top SG, look at the bright side. They finished with the best record and were only a few games away from the Finals. A significant injury or two to a contending team or even a few strokes of luck this year with the same exact team could put the Bulls in the Finals.