The devastating nature of the demise of the 2011-2012 Bulls was hard to watch. Derrick Rose collapsing on that jump-stop might have been my saddest moment as a Bulls fan outside of Jordan, Pippen, Jackson being broken up when they had at least 2 or 3 good years left at the end of the 1998 championship season. It was a terrible end to a promising playoff run. I picked them to win the whole thing. Biased? Yes. Does my opinion matter? No. Am I answering my own questions like an annoying pompous ass? Yes. But, I really thought they had enough. It didn’t happen. It was really sad, but it didn’t happen. It’s time to look ahead. What can the Bulls management do to improve a team that has had the best regular season record two seasons in a row but is yet to get over the hump? First of all, most of these moves are contingent on team using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer. If they don’t amnesty Boozer, they will have no money to make any substantial free-agent signings. Also, the success of the 2012-2013 Bulls is reliant on the health of Derrick Rose. These are my thoughts as a fan and aspiring NBA executive. The options that in bold are the ones that I think will be possible and are decent moves. Enjoy.
NEED #1- Scoring at the Shooting Guard position:
The Rip Hamilton experiment was not ideal (Played 28 regular season games). He was hurt all season and played his best basketball in two 3rd quarters in two games while losing to the 76ers in that playoff series. 24 minutes of good basketball. Bad timing to finally get healthy and play well. The fans have been clamoring for a second legitimate scorer on the perimeter. I think Rip is still a decent option but as we saw down the stretch of games he seemed to be gassed and really struggled. I think he cost them game 4. He still is a hard player to guard when healthy and in NBA professional basketball condition. It is a headache for defenders to chase him as he runs off multiple screens on every possession a la Reggie Miller (Or young Rip Hamilton). One problem is that he does not create for others. And in one-on-one situations he can’t create for himself. Neither do Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, or Jimmy Butler off the bench at the 2-guard position. This is a big need for them. The good thing here is that there are several options that they could pursue.
Shooting Guard Options:
(Fake smile, he hated being traded)
Eric Gordon– Gordon will be too expensive and will be one of the top free-agents for this off-season. I love his game and think he got a raw deal in the trade to the Hornets. He went from a contender to one of the worst teams in the league. He repaid them by not signing an extension (which everyone saw coming) and only playing 9 games due to injury. He is a nice player and would love him on the Bulls but I think someone will really overpay for him. Probably the Brooklyn Nets. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $10-12 mil)
O.J. Mayo– This is another popular choice for the Bulls. The fans have been asking Gar/Pax to add him for a while. However, there are some problems. I don’t like him because I think his price will be very high. I do like him because I think Memphis did not play him where he could be at his best. Memphis has Rudy Gay who loves to get into isolation possessions. Mayo is a very similar player. He is more of a jump shooter on the wing that can attack from time to time. I think he can be very good. Elite even, maybe. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $9-11 mil)
(“I’m going to dribble right, turn left, jump stop, and then take your starting job. Got it?”)
George Hill- Hill will probably stay in Indiana because I don’t they are very happy with the progression of the down-graded Darren Collison. I think Hill is a great fit for the Bulls. He would be a nice SG/PG that could run the offense and hit a shot here and there. He is going to want a bit of raise but I think the Bulls should make a play for him. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-4 mil)
Courtney Lee- Lee is a guy the Bulls were targeting a few years ago that is only getting better. I love his game and athleticism. Think of him as a more aggressive and athletic C.J Watson. I think the Rockets will try and keep Lee. He has emerged as one of their go to young guys and I think they will try and move the oft-injured Kevin Martin to make room for Lee to be the starter. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)
(He can make big shots. Averaged 17 points. in the finals and was guarded by LeBron a lot of the time)
Jason Terry– Another aging scorer? I know, the Rip Hamilton thing all over again. They could get him for cheap and he can still hit big shots and sometimes even get his own shot. I think Dallas will try and keep him and not resign Jason Kidd. If the Bulls could get him at a bargain (2 mil) he might be worth the risk. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $2-5 mil)
Draft Pick Possibility
(That disgusting leper looking thing next to him will no longer distract him from producing)
William Buford (Ohio St.) – Buford is another player that could fall to the Bulls at the 29th pick. He is streaky but dangerous. He would go through stretches where he was unstoppable. The knock on him is that is big games or when he has an athletic defender was put on him, he struggled. He is slightly undersized as a wing in the NBA but he is a decent defender. I have seen him play enough to think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a chance to be an energy scorer off the bench. (See pre Swine Flu Chris Douglas-Roberts)
NEED #2- Starter/Back-up Point Guard:
Derrick Rose will be out for 40-82 games next season as he rehabs his ACL. They will need someone to cover that role. I like C.J. Watson but he is really not a true point guard. Also, I hate John Lucas III getting big minutes as the backup pg. He drives me crazy against good teams. Dribble, dribble, dribble, shot at the buzzer. He is too slow to dribble around guys and too small to overpower them. I think Thibs was comfortable with him and had to use him because of all the injuries to Rose this season. But, I don’t think he will be back. There are plenty of options for the point guard position. Here are the best.
Point Guard Options:
Goran Dragic– For those of you Bulls fans that only remember him from getting posterized by D-Rose and Stacey King marking out, he is actually pretty good. When he started for the injured Kyle Lowry he averaged about 18 points and 8 assists per game. I think he could be a perfect player for the Bulls to fill-in for Rose. But, there will be plenty of teams (Knicks, Suns, Lakers, Jazz and Rockets) that will want him and that might drive the price so that the Bulls can’t get him. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)
(“Didn’t you get the memo!”…I don’t think he did. English is his second language Stacey. Even if he got the memo, he wouldn’t understand.)
Steve Nash– He is old (38) but can still play. I know he will get a lot of teams interested. I am also sick of people giving me a sob story about how the Suns should have traded him. That was the Suns mistake if he leaves because he is still pretty good and they could have gotten something for him as they rebuild. He can’t guard anyone, but that is nothing new for Nash. He is still the best pure passer in the league. If he doesn’t stay in Phoenix, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in red and black. I don’t know if he fits into coach Thibodeau’s “defense-first” coaching style. I think this has a chance to happen but he might be a little too expensive for an aging pg. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $5-8 mil)
Jeremy Lin– Possible flash in the pan? Sure. Possibly a top-10 point guard? Also sure. Lin could fit in with the Bulls. He has only played well for about a month in his entire career. There is a reason people pass on guys over and over. They have deficiencies that good coaches and teams will exploit. The Lin hype will drive up the price, but the Bulls need a quality player to hold down the fort for a while Rose is out. I think Tim Lin, I mean Jeremy Tebow could work. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-6 mil)
(The good ol’ days- Ty Thomas must have just done something amazing. Like him a 15 footer or run a set play properly. They were excited.)
Kirk Hinrich- I know, I know, that guy. But, that guy will not cost 8 million dollars per year anymore. I have to think he would like to come back and be a starting point guard in an organization he knows. He could be a solid backup when Rose returns. I think this is the most likely scenario to happen. He can still defend, which Thibs would love. He can also run the offense and hit the occasional 3-pointer. He will also dribble under the basket about 4 times a game and make you want to pull your hair out. I’d like this move. It’s a cheap and effective addition. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $2-3 mil)
Andre Miller- This is also a foreseeable option. Miller is getting older and always looks like he just woke up, but can still play. He has been a solid pro very quietly for every team he’s played for. I would like this move because he wouldn’t mind being a backup when Rose returns. He creates, is a great passer and serviceable defender. The knock on him has always been his poor shooting. He is due for a little pay cut at his age (36). I think this is a great option for the Bulls. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)
Draft Pick Possibility
(“What’s worse, my eyebrow or your mustache?”)
Marquis Teague (University of Kentucky) – According to NBAdraft.net Teague is projected to possibly fall to the late-first round. I think he has some things to learn but could eventually be very good. Two years ago he was a projected Top-5 pick. He is turnover prone and can gun a little too much for a player that can’t really shoot. Because of these reasons and a poor start to the season, he has fallen way down. He just has to fall about 5 spots to be available for the Bulls. Undisciplined Teague at 20 years old > Undisciplined LJIII 30 years old. I like his potential.
NEED #3- Athletic Offensive Power Forward/Center:
(This is how it is done)
As a Bulls fan I get frustrated by their offense often. They love ball screens. I think that is the NBA style. But as a Bulls fan, when you watch a team like the Clippers and how dangerous they are in the pick-and-roll and then watch a Boozer/Rose pick-and-roll you have to shake your head. Boozer has so many chances to just attack the rim violently. He doesn’t. It’s not his game. With Rose at the point and coach Tom Thibodeau’s tendency to run the pick-and-roll in every big spot and all late shot clock situations, they need someone that can finish. Something unlucky for the Bulls is that the available crop of “Big Men” is not something to write home about. This is one reason the Bulls will not amnesty Boozer (Gar Forman said that they will probably not amnesty him, but things change). The options out there leave a little to be desired. The free agent market might not be their only option for this position. They have to look to trade to fill this major need.
Power Forward/Center Options:
Brook Lopez- He is two seasons removed from being an elite big guy. I think he will garner some huge contracts and several teams’ interests. Not a great fit for the Bulls unless they move Noah and open up a spot for him. Neither of them can really play the 4 position. Though, a lot of the time Noah is trailing the play and ends up being the passer from the top of the high-low offense (Traditionally of 4-man’s role). Think about having a healthy Lopez alongside /Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson in the Bulls front court. They would be tough to score on and tough to stop offensively. Not likely, but possible. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $8-12 mil)
Ryan Anderson- Likely to stay in Orlando but after his breakout season. Because he had a great year he will get lots of interest across the league. I think he is a nice fit for what Orlando does. They have a big guy in Dwight Howard that demands a double team (when interested) which opens up the floor for 3-point shooting. Anderson could open up the floor for the Bulls and could be dangerous in a pick and pop type set used by a lot of other NBA teams. He could repeat what he did for the Magic this year, but I think he also has bust potential on a different team. It would be a risky move and I don’t like it. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-5 mil)
Ersan Ilyasova- Who? Ilyasova has emerged as a pretty good big man for a decent Milwaukee team. The Bucks relied on him to provide big minutes at the PF postion. He averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game which would be a nice thing to have from a backup. He is a pretty good shooter and extremely active on the glass. He had a 29 point 25 rebound game earlier this year. He could be affordable and is versatile enough to be a good fit for the Bulls. He could fill a back-up role to Taj Gibson if they can get him for a reasonable price ($7 mil/3 yrs). (Good call by my friend @KMBoxa ) (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-6 mil)
J.J. Hickson- J.J. is still young and athletic. I think he has a chance to be a contributor on a quality team. He seemed to be unmotivated and absolutely sucked for the Kings. Played ok for the Blazers as the season was lost for them as well. I think being on a contender makes everyone want to play hard (except Andrew Bynum). I think a bunch of GMs have soured on him as a prospect but I think some team is going to get him as a major contributor for a small price. Why not the Bulls? Hickson would be a cheap addition that Thibs could use for big man depth. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-4 mil)
Draft Pick Possibility
Draymond Green (Michigan State) – Green’s game might not translate perfectly into the NBA but with a late pick the Bulls could get a smart big guy that will play his ass off for coach Thibs. I think he could contribute as a back-up immediately and at the 29th pick in the draft that is all you could really be hoping for. Draymond is a good jump shooter and passer. I think he could be a guy that has a 10 year career as serviceable big man in the NBA.
Conclusion of a story and possibilities that might mean nothing
Derrick Rose is the key. If he is able to come back healthy and be himself, the Bulls will have a chance to contend for a championship. However, tearing an ACL is not the easiest thing to come back from. I know athletes have come back from ACL tears but how many of them play like Derrick Rose? He is fast, agile, and relies on his ability to cut and change directions. I don’t know if he will ever have that back. That notion makes me said. But, it is true. According to his doctor this should not be a concern physically. But, often the problem when coming back from injuries, is the mental aspect of attacking. Players get worried about hurting themselves again. This worries me. It truly is up to Rose if the Bulls can win a championship. I guess we will see.