The Bulls hinted through leaks to the press for quite some time that C.J. Watson had played his last game as a Chicago Bull. They need to reconsider this insanity
Let's get this out of the way. C.J. Watson did made a lousy decision at the end of the playoffs. He could have attempted to run out the clock and probably been fouled with three or four seconds left and then would have likely iced both free throws putting Philly in position to need a miracle to win the game.
That decision may have lost the Bulls a playoff series as I would have certainly picked them to win a game seven in Chicago. That said, Noah's still rehabbing his ankle now, and we sure as hell weren't getting past Boston without Rose and Noah, so if being a second round sacrificial lamb was more exciting than a first round one then I guess you can still be pissed off.
Of course, many people are amped up to pay the guy 24 million dollars who couldn't finish the dunk through a foul or hit even one of the two free throws in crunch time, but flaming mad about giving a guy three million dollars who passed to an open big man but didn't realize that big man couldn't be trusted to finish a play right under the rim or hit a free throw. It's amazing how Asik has gotten off completely blameless in this scenario.
Anyway, I digress.
What do the Bulls need out of a combo guard? First, they need someone who can create their own shot. I don't know if you've noticed, but the PG has to take all the bail out shots in the Bulls offense. They're looked to create an absurd amount of offense for the team and hit tough looks.
The Bulls also need someone who can slide into an off-the ball role when Derrick Rose comes back and someone who can help alleviate the Bulls shooting woes if Korver leaves by knocking down threes.
Let's look at some of the guys the Bulls were rumored to be looking at before the off-season started.
Andre Miller 3 years 9 million. He's 36 and last year he had a notable dip in his performance. He's not great at creating shots for himself at this stage of his career, he can't shoot threes, he can't play off the ball, he can't defend. He'll be a crapload worse by the end of his contract.
Jason Kidd 3 years 9 nmillion. He's 39 and has shot 36% from the field the last two years combined. He shoots nothing but open threes now at a pedestrian percentage and his assist rate has fell to 6.9 per 36 last season. He's still a smart player who can lead a team, but he's not even close to a scorer anymore and doesn't create off the dribble much. He'll also be a crapload worse by the end of this deal.
Jamal Crawford 4 years, full MLE. I think Crawford would have been better than Watson for a single season, however I sure as heck wouldn't have wanted to get locked into a deal with him for four years at the full MLE, and it doesn't matter, because he's off the market and was priced above what we may have to offer anyway.
Steve Nash, ha, hoping he'd come here for a discount turned out to be a joke. He's awesome. He's also about six million bucks over our price range and happy in L.A. where he has more opportunity is closer to his family and probably has a better shot to win a title.
Kirk Hinrich, still unsigned reportedly getting looks at over the MMLE that we can afford. PER around 9.4 averaging all his games together with the Hawks. He can handle the ball, but can't penetrate off the dribble, doesn't create shots for himself well, is a pedestrian long range shooter, and has lost a couple steps defensively.
His performance has dipped well below Watson's while in an offense where he sees less defensive attention and has much easier shots to deal with. There's no way you'll convince me Kirk Hinrich's a better basketball player than C.J. Watson at this stage of his career, and he'll require a minimum of 3/9 where Chicago would have to commit to him for two extra years relative to Watson while only needing him for one season.
What people don't realize when looking at Watson's shooting percentages is the degree of difficulty of shots forced upon the guy last season because the Bulls didn't have a single other person on the floor with him who could create a look offensively. Probably five of his looks per game were bailout shots that he had to force one up because no one else could, similarly to why Derrick Rose's numbers aren't statistically as good as they should be relative to his ability.
The Bulls asked C.J. Watson to replace Derrick Rose, and he did the best he could. However, at a touch over three million per year, he's not paid like a starting caliber player. He's paid to be your eighth or ninth man. People are upset that C.J. didn't play better, but his play vastly exceeded what any other three million dollar player will come in here and do given the role put upon him.
Give me a list of all the players that fit the following criteria:
1: Can play PG
2: Can create volume offense
3: Can shoot the three
4: Can play off the ball
5: Cost be had for the MMLE
6: Are better than C.J. Watson
I haven't come up with a single player that belongs on that list, and the best candidates have signed with other teams already anyway.
Of the PG candidates still available, Aaron Brooks is the only one left I can think of that I'd take over C.J., but I am willing to bet that he's priced out of our range. He's also restricted, and I can't see Phoenix not matching a three year MMLE offer.
Bringing back C.J. also gives the Bulls flexibility to use the MMLE on a wing player to add more depth. I'm presently rooting for Brandon Rush, but O.J. Mayo and Nick Young are intriguing possibilities as well though I think both ultimately sign for more money than we can offer with other teams. The Bulls haven't been reported to be in contact with Mayo.
If you hadn't heard, Brandon Roy signed a 2 year 10 million dollar offer with the Timberwolves, so his dreams of playing for a championship and our dreams of a high upside veteran minimum player ended with a [likely] final big pay day instead.
It's been a tough off-season for Bulls fans. We've seen the Lakers jack up payroll through the roof in order to attempt a last grasp at a title. The Heat seem poised to offer Ray Allen a final shot at a ring, and Chicago may be looking at losing a bunch of it's depth [the only advantage it had against Miami] while the Heat add Ray fricken Allen to the team to help them.
If the off-season ends up that way, the Bulls may as well throw in the towel for two years and play for 2014-15. I'm not entirely opposed to such a plan and already felt that was the beginning of the era the Bulls would have the best chance to win a title. In the end, Miami is likely too difficult to beat right now no matter what they do, and I'm suspect as to whether Chicago could get past the Thunder either.
However, in two seasons, the Thunder will likely have to break up the team to some extent while the Heat will begin to show their age and either pay through the roof for their players or may also lose one of their big three. Such a plan though would have made moving Luol Deng for Harrison Barnes on draft night or maybe to Houston for a couple of their firsts [to take Lamb and someone else] and a huge trade exception.
The Bulls are playing a conservative game, not aggressively going for it now or in 2014/15. There's plenty of merit to that plan as well as a conservative game may work out great if the Heat suffer a key injury this season or the perfect trade falls into their lap later. If the Bulls had gone for a complete retool and then Dwyane Wade tore his ACL, we'd be lamenting our lack of opportunity to capitalize.
The Bulls front office is in an extremely difficult position right now needing to improve the team while likely lacking the ability to take on the payroll of all of their competitors that are already stacked with more superstar talent. Chicago's built a team based on chemistry, hustle, and execution which is probably the best it can do when ownership won't green light them to try and keep up in the arms race.
In the end, trying to beat a team with three underpaid superstars while also maintaining a payroll which likely be 10 million dollars less per season will likely prove an impossible task.