This off-season for the Bulls has been uneventful to say the least. With Monday’s news that the Bulls finalized deals with Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed, Chicago is only a couple moves away from completing their opening day roster.
When the moves for Hinrich, Belinelli and Mohammed become official, the Bulls roster will look like this:
Guards: Derrick Rose (out until March, as reported by K.C. Johnson), Marquis Teague, Hinrich, Belinelli, Richard Hamilton
Forwards: Luol Deng (still might need surgery after Olympics), Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Vladimir Radmanovic, Carlos Boozer
Centers: Joakim Noah, Mohammed
That’s 12 players, not much room left for other signings. According to CSN Chicago, the Bulls are still pursuing Summer League standout Malcolm Thomas on a one-year deal and unrestricted free agent shooting guard Randy Foye. Reportedly Delonte West, E’Twaun Moore and Patrick Beverly are still options as well. I’m not a salary cap expert so don’t even ask me how the Bulls figure to acquire any of those players.
Since I already covered the Hinrich signing in a past article (as well as Radmanovic) let’s take a look at the most recent signings of journeyman Nazr Mohammed and the sharpshooting Italian Marco Belinelli.
Is Mohammed a serviceable replacement for Omer Asik? The Bulls management believes so. This signing (reportedly for the veteran minimum) means Asik is as good as gone. If Mohammed is expected to fill in for Asik’s lost minutes, the Bulls are in trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, Mohammed is a veteran big man who is fully capable of being a fifth big on a roster, but if you think Mohammed at the age of 35 is a capable backup center, you’re dead wrong. Not to mention Noah has been injury prone throughout his career and is coming off a post-season where he badly injured his ankle (which has forced him to sit out the Olympics). If Mohammed was ever asked to start, the Bulls would be in trouble.
Mohammed played only 11 minutes per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year. After averaging 16.7 points per 40 minutes the year before, Mohammed’s scoring output dropped to a horrible 9.9 points per 40 minutes. His rebounding also suffered, dropping from 11.8 rebounds per 40 minutes to an almost career worst 9.8. His field goal percentage also dropped from 52.2 percent to 46.7 percent. Not surprisingly his player efficiency rating the last three years looks like this:
Mohammed is approaching retirement time. I don’t see what value he has towards the Bulls next season. He can’t defend anymore (allowed 0.89 points per play, 302th ranked in the league) and he can’t score either (scored 0.85 points per play, 285th ranked in the NBA). Thankfully, the Bulls at least signed Mohammed to the cheapest contract possible, but nevertheless it was a head scratching move. Amazingly the Bulls were too cheap to re-sign Asik and even more cheap to pass on possible Asik-replacement, Darko Milicic. Reinsdorf's cheapness never ceases to amaze me.
Now onto Marco Belinelli. I actually like the signing a lot. For fans that have never heard of Belinelli, view him as a semi-replacement for John Lucas III and Kyle Korver.
The 26-year old guard replaces Lucas’s scoring output and point guard play. Belinelli at 6’5’’ played 35 percent of his minutes at point guard last season, which is a surprise to those that thought he was just a shooter. He had a 15.2 PER at point guard compared to a 9.4 PER at shooting guard. He had a higher assist rate at point guard, but at the same time, had a lower turnover rate. Defensively, Belinelli was better at shooting guard, holding opponents to a below average 13.1 PER. Point guards had a 14.4 PER against Belinelli.
Even if Belinelli never plays point guard for the Bulls, he could help Chicago deal with the loss of Lucas by replacing his scoring rate off the bench. Lucas averaged a sizzling 20.3 points per 40 minutes for the Bulls last season. Although Belinelli has never been that good of a scorer, the Italian’s lowest points per 40 minutes in his career was 15.8 during his rookie season and for his career he averages a solid 16.5 points per 40 minutes. The Bulls second unit will need a scoring boost and Belinelli could certainly supply that. Belinelli’s biggest strength is his shooting ability.
With the loss of Korver, Belinelli will be depended on as a money spot-up shooter. No, Belinelli isn’t Korver, but he still is one of the better shooters in the league. According to basketball-reference.com, Belinelli is 21st among active players in three-point percentage at 39.34%. Here’s the catch, only 1.54% separates him from Jared Dudley at number ten (40.88%). Here’s another catch, Belinelli’s best year shooting three’s was during his only season playing alongside passing guru Chris Paul.
According to hoopdata.com, 95.5% of Belinelli’s three-pointers were assisted on during his only season with CP3. That number is long and away his career high in that department. Reportedly Belinelli only signed a 1 year, $1.96 million deal, so he may never be able to play with Derrick Rose. Hinrich is nowhere near as good of a passer as Rose and neither is Teague. Perhaps Belinelli will struggle to make three-pointers without an elite point guard setting him up. I doubt it though, there’s no reason he doesn’t shoot at least 38 percent on three’s, making around 1.5 per game.
Mohammed and Belinelli may not be the flashiest players around, but there’s no secret the Bulls were trying to limit spending. This off-season will go down as one of the most disappointing in the Bulls history because of it.