The Chicago Bulls look like your preseason number two team in the Eastern Conference. LeBron is playing it humble this time about expectations for his Cavaliers team their first season together, but the Cavs should easily be the favorite to win the championship this season and are massive favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference.
There's little Chicago can do about that to be honest. Unless Cleveland sustains a significant injury, they can merely hope that Derrick Rose plays at an MVP caliber level by the playoffs and can match LeBron when it counts in a series while the rest of their depth can overcome the Cavs other stars and slightly worse cast.
I wouldn't put a whole lot of money down on that, and when your team is close to the top but not quite there the "need to make a trade" gear starts spinning in your mind. I was initially a bit disappointed the Bulls weren't pursuing Kevin Martin.
Kevin Martin might help the Bulls. On the surface, he provides some things they need. He's an overall quality scorer. Two years ago the only two players to average both his points per 36 and his efficiency were LeBron James and Kevin Durant. That's a pretty sweet list to be the only three guys on it. Last year his efficiency fell off but still only 11 other players could match him.
He's got a bit of a 2010 Carlos Boozer vibe to him. He's RPM (Real plus minus) isn't a positive according to ESPN. His value above replacement player doesn't seem particularly great. Flaws in his defense, passing, and general floor game contribute to that. The Bulls could probably use the 2010 SG equivalent of Carlos Boozer though.
Especially at seven million per year. Imagine if Carlos Boozer signed a three year 21 million dollar deal in 2010. We'd probably have felt awfully good about that deal despite his flaws.
So while it makes some sense to pull the trigger on acquiring Martin, which Chicago can almost certainly do for Dunleavy + Snell, there's no reason to hurry for Chicago. The thing is the Wolves just want to shed his salary, so they won't care if Snell or Dunleavy get hurt or suck or anything else.
They've been trying to dump him for three months with no takers, so there's little risk that someone else jumps in and grabs him in front of us. In short, the option to get Martin in January will still be on the table. It makes some sense to see what we have until then. Maybe Tony Snell becomes a great player in the next three months (kind of doubt it, but you never know).
Maybe Kevin Martin gets hurt and is no longer desirable (certainly quite possible given his injury history).
Maybe the Bulls don't have a need at SG in February because Doug McDermott is a complete bad ass right out of the gates and does what Kevin Martin would do.
Maybe the Bulls see enough of Nikola Mirotic that they decide to package up Taj Gibson on his sweetheart deal to some team with someone else to get a different upgrade.
Maybe Derrick Rose gets hurt, Chicago's championship dreams are over, and it makes little sense to bring on Martin's long term contract.
I'd be content with upgrading this team with Kevin Martin right now and taking the bird in the hand. The Bulls, IMO, are better with Martin than with Snell/Dunleavy and the cost is low even if he isn't all you hope for.
However, there's simply too many scenarios that Chicago looks at what it needs in February and decides that it isn't Kevin Martin. No need to buy early when you can buy later. The price won't change. Kevin Martin won't cost the Bulls more in three months, nor will he cost them less as Dunleavy + Snell is about the only thing that matches salary.
The only real question is whether or not there will be something even better on the horizon.
Chicago has what looks like a quality team on paper. Tom Thibodeau will need to devise an offense that uses ball movement and player movement more so than dribble attacking to make benefit of his players, but if he can cover up that one weakness Chicago could be pretty special this year.
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