During an interview after one of his performances against the Heat, Bulls guard Nate Robinson said that the Bulls team was like a family. Which after their game one victory over the Heat, they were seen enjoying some family time with friends and musical artist Lil' Wayne as reported by TMZ. According to the story Lil' Wayne is a big Bulls fan and wanted to reward them for their victory by taking them out for some fun and games at a local Miami watering hole.
The NBA recently finished their annual combine of prospects for the 2013 Draft held this June in New York City. The Bulls are slotted with the 20th selection in the first round and like all other teams are doing their own do-diligence in preparing for their selection. In a little over a month this Bull's family will welcome their newest addition to the franchise. I have spend my time "scouting" the prospects and playing my annual "what if" game with myself and anyone willing to listen to my ranting banter of ideas moving closer to draft night. I have watched the scouting videos and listened to all the background rap music that now accompanies them, I've viewed the interviews with the prospects, checking the daily mock drafts and heard the opinions of the varies ESPN approved chatter-box experts that never get it right. With a history of conservatively safe moves it is not excepted to be much of a splash for the Bulls this summer either. However, from my view I see an opportunity for them to get much closer to catching the team they're chasing in the Miami Heat if they cut their parental ties with a few of their siblings and adopt a few new ones.
The NBA is in constant evolution and when you stand still you get passed by other teams below you and the gap between the teams above you grows even wider. This is the question currently being discussed behind closed doors with Bulls upper management. The debate on whether to stand pat with what you got and make one more run next season with Derrick Rose 110% healthy or to begin building a different team around him now. The latter of the two for me is the answer. In order to dissect this question we first need to made a diagnosis of what is salvage-a-bull. So let's break the team down position by position and look at the status of things moving forward.
Let's start with the point of all discussions at Derrick Rose. Unless Rose is added to that infamous list which includes Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Roy of players whose careers were ended by knee injuries the foreseeable future at point guard is locked down in Chicago. The team has Kirk Hinrich and Marcus "not Jeff" Teague as well, so point guard seems, to an outsider, as good for a few years.
Secondly, let's look at the shooting guards. The first thing to answer at this question is; What is Jimmy Butler ? Is he better as a shooting guard or as a small forward ? Most NBA teams have at least a "Dynamic Duo" of scorers in their starting line-ups. As examples; Miami's Lebron James and Dwayne Wade or Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. So for a team to play the defensive style the Bulls like to play, you need two lock-down defenders to compete with the likes of these dynamic-duo teams. The luxury of Jimmy Butler is he can play both positions, and moving forward he can be slotted as a shooting guard or a small forward. In an interview after the playoffs finished Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau when ask about Butler's future as a starter next season remarked:
"The way he played this year, he earned that spot. He has great versatility. He became much more confident and competent - running pick-and-rolls, catch-and-shoot, putting it on the floor, posting up. His improvement offensively was tremendous. And his defense has gotten better and better and will continue to improve."
So we know Butler has a good chance to be a starter next season and could play either the shooting guard or small forward. Also, at small forward the Bulls have two time All-Star Luol Deng returning for the last season under his current contract. Unfortunately, for the Bulls, Luol was not allowed to participate in the Bulls final series against Miami because an adverse reaction to a spinal tap procedure. The lingering affects of this however could tamper efforts this summer if the Bulls have interest in trading Luol. As a two time All-Star and good all-around player Luol's stock seems to be at an all time high, and this summer would be the Bulls best chance to get return on their investment in Luol prior to next season.
Now, let's power through the Power forwards. The Bulls have fan favorite Carlos Boozer starting at the big forward, Taj Gibson and Malcolm Thomas under contract as back-ups. They also have Euro-League "rising star" Nikola Mirotic slotted to come over to the states as early as the summer of 2014. Before I get into this let me back-up and let's discuss the back-ups again. I made a Malcolm Thomas reference and there is a reason why. Originally, Malcolm Thomas was signed to 10 day contracts as help during Taj Gibson's knee problems this season, as I was preparing to write this blog I did a quick check of the Bulls salaries for next season and was surprised to find that Thomas is list to be under contract for two more seasons, he is according to my reading scheduled to make $880k next season and just over a million the following season. The reason I found this interesting is because Thomas is a very similar player to Gibson, However he is three years younger and in comparison Gibson who is slotted to make $7.5 million and $8.0 the following season, Taj's contract stretches out to the 2016-17 season averaging around $8.5 million. Now back to Nikola, I have had some reservation about whether Nikola is a power forward or a small forward, well in a recent interview Bulls general manager Gar Forman answered that very question:
Forman stated, "He's probably a four, but he's very, very skilled. He shoots it from 3, can handle it, good mobility. And he's a tough, tough kid."
So will discuss this further later let's push forward. Let's center our attention in the middle now with Joakim Noah. The only concerns with Noah are his health and the foot aliments he has battled through. After, his first bout with Plantar Fasciitis in his left foot Joakim under went a procedure that uses sonic wave to break up the tissue and has had no effects of that injury. His current bout is in his right foot and the hope is he can have a successful procedure done this summer to cure him from future problems. Beyond, the sucky world of Plantar Fasciitis Joakim Noah should be the Bulls' center for the foreseeable future, however finding a back-up that allows him to lower his excessive minutes is in due order and should be addressed this summer.
Now finally let's look at the future. In a recent interview with Chuck Swirsky from Bulls.com, Bulls chairman Michael Reinsdorf uttered the infamous "E" word when speaking of the dismantling of the "bench mob" and the performance of this year's bench. Yes that's right, he made the Freudian slip and said "Economical Decisions," a topic I'm sure will be discussed next time he and Daddy sit down for dinner. It's nothing new to Bulls fans, that last year's moves were based on economical decisions, even thou Bulls general manager Gar Forman insisted they were basketball decisions.
So now to this summers moves. If last year was economical then this summer should be the same if not a full bail-out. Considering Bull's player salaries will increase and all the players, except Kirk Hinrich, signed last summer will no longer be under contract. The team is all ready over the Reinsdorf Family Tax or as the NBA refers to it as The Luxury Tax, I see moves coming, and thought we should delve into the GM fantasy, that accompanies summers in Chicago Bulls basketball. So with all things we have discussed so far, and the reading, watching and head-bobbing in preparation for this blog, I will focused on two fantasy moves I pray become a reality. Thou, with the Bulls conservative ways I do not put much grain with this salt.
As I discussed early, the Bulls have Carlos Boozer and Malcolm Thomas under contract for the next two years. They also have future hopes to play Spaniard Nikola Mirotic from Real Madrid at power forward in the next two to three years. A trade involving Carlos Boozer is tantalizing but highly unlikely. So I focus on Taj Gibson, He had a disappointing season and was more coveted when he was making low salaries and playing at a high level. Now he is playing at a lower level with a much higher salary starting next season. The jump in salary will cost the Bulls an additional 6 million dollars of their all ready dismal cap space. With him being drafted as a senior out of USC, Gibson is all ready a veteran in NBA player age at 27, Being similar in build and playing style, Malcolm Thomas at age 24, could provide equal play to Gibson at a near 7 million dollar discount to the Bulls cap space. Which is why my first move would be to trade Taj Gibson. A player like Gibson would be very attractive to a team on the fringe of the playoffs looking to add depth and add to a roster all ready including a star player. A team which fits this mold perfectly is the Dallas Mavericks, with Dirk "Diggler" Nowitzki getting a little long in the tooth, Dallas hopes this summer brings treasures to surround their captain. The biggest jewel for Dallas is Dwight Howard. They have the cap space to sign Dwight and owner Mark Cuban is the type of guy Howard could be influenced to leave Los Angeles by, adding a player like Gibson would provide Depth and a future power forward beyond Nowitzki for Howard to play with. So my first move will be to trade Taj Gibson to the Dallas Mavericks for the 13th selection in the 2013 NBA draft. The move saves the Bulls cap space and allows them to add a player under a rookie contract structure with the selection.
So I have watched a lot of prospects' scouting videos and so on. I weight the pro's and con's and the potential versus NBA ready comparisons, the holes in their games versus the strengths. And with the 13th selection I am confident to select 6'6" shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the University of Georgia. At 20 years old Pope can player both defense and offense at an NBA level.
The Chicago Bulls should sent "Benny the Bull" to Jimmy Butler's house to personally congratulate him in becoming their future small forward with one of his famous court-side hugs. If you have had a chance to watch my enclosed scouting link you will see that having both Butler and Caldwell-Pope of the floor will provide the defense of those "dynamic-duo's" I spoke of earlier, and at just 20 years old the Bulls get younger, faster and most importantly cheaper at the wings. The lose of Taj Gibson will be addressed by Boozer and Thomas. The savings of his salary will give the Bulls cap flexibility to sign an additional power forward short term to help with any void.
Once the first move starts to set in and NBA chatter boxes will begin to ask the questions about the pink elephant in the room, my second move answers all the debates with one swift blow. The Taj Gibson trade will be like a well placed left jab, and the second trade more like a crushing right cross.
As commissioner David Stern shuffles out to the podium to explain, "I have another trade to announce," with his trademark silent laugh gesture catching his breath. "The Chicago Bulls trade Luol Deng and the 20th selection in this year's draft to the Atlanta Hawks for the 17th & 18th selections. The Chicago Bulls are now on the clock they have five minutes to make their selection."
The move does not hurt Atlanta and gives them a veteran small forward as protection if Josh Smith does not sign. And if he does sign they can continue playing Smith at power forward and give him a running mate in Deng like his good old days with Joe Johnson. They will also still have a selection just a few places below at 20th. The Bulls in one swift blow save $14.2 million dollars and the two moves combined will save them some $20 million in cap space to go after free agents this summer. A list that includes players like O.J. Mayo from Dallas among others that will fit nicely into coach Thibodeau's system.
The shock of the deal will not set in before the Bulls make their selections at 17 and 18, adding two more soldiers to coach Thibodeau's army of players. The first soldier to report for duty will come with the 17th selection in 6"11" Center Gorgui Dieng (pronounced Georgie Jenk) from The University of Louisville. As the commissioner reads the select a calming relaxing tingle will start to reveal the soreness in Joakim Noah's feet. Dieng will provide value as a bench center the way Omer Asik did for Noah and his defensive hustle and shot blocking will delight fans. At just 23 years old, Dieng can not only provide the team with a young stud anchor to their defense off the bench but could also provide insurance against Noah's foot aliments. If you have a defensive master-mind for a head coach you build a defensive army to battle for him. This selection does just that.
The 18th selection will need to be best available. With players raising and dropping I'm sure someone valuable will be there at 18th. The main thing is they will have 20 million dollars in cap space to spread around and build a solid bench, and also bring in veterans that can start while players like Pope develop. As I stated earlier, sitting still gets you nowhere in the NBA. The target is Lebron and his band of cape-riders down in South Beach. It's going to take an army to over-throw the King of South Beach. It's time for the front office to quit talking about cores, glue and players they have guy crushes on and it's on Bulls management and go get Thibodeau some young brave soldiers to wage war with. Go Bulls!!