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NBA Free Agents 2012: Why the Chicago Bulls Should Target Chauncey Billups

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 25:  Chauncey Billups #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers in action against the Golden State Warriors during the season opener at Oracle Arena on December 25, 2011 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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Haddon AndersonAnalyst IMay 11, 2012

For the Chicago Bulls, the past few weeks have been a nightmare. After reigning MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL, the Bulls went from legitimate title contenders to being ousted in the first round by the inconsistent Philadelphia 76ers.

They've also endured injuries to Joakim Noah (arguably the Bulls second most important player after Rose) and Taj Gibson. 

What's more, they seemed to catch all the bad breaks throughout the series against Philly, particularly in their Game 6 collapse that essentially summarized the misfortunes the Bulls have encountered in the past two weeks.

The Bulls are now left to look towards next season and the questions are already abounding. When will Rose return from his injury? When will Luol Deng return from wrist surgery (it appears he's delaying this surgery until after the Olympics)? Should they use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer? Which role players should return?

The answers to these questions hold great weight towards next season, and here's a wise first step as the Bulls consider their offseason strategy: target veteran point guard Chauncey Billups.

Billups missed the majority of the season due to an Achilles injury, but he has vowed to return come next season.

"Mr. Big Shot" will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and, at this stage in his career (particularly after his injury), he shouldn't come at a steep price.

Plus, Billups will almost surely be looking to latch on to a winner, and there are numerous reasons for the Bulls to nab him.

First of all, while C.J. Watson has had flashes of quality play in his two-year stint in Chicago, he lacks the experience to shoulder the load when Rose is sidelined (and Rose will likely be out until January).

The Bulls would be wise to replace Watson with Billups (they could decline Watson's option for next year) while also re-signing trigger-happy John Lucas to give them point guard depth.

Billups would ultimately give Chicago a more stable and seasoned presence in the backcourt. He'd help stabilize the Bulls while Rose is out early in the season and would remain a valuable asset after Rose's return. He's undoubtedly a quality floor general to lead the Bulls' "Bench Mob."

Secondly, Rose and Billups could potentially play on the floor at the same time, similar to what Billups and Chris Paul did earlier this season with the Clippers.

Thirdly, Billups and shooting guard Rip Hamilton are obviously familiar with each other from their days with the Detroit Pistons, where they won a title in 2004. Having these two championship-caliber players on the roster surely isn't a bad idea.

Lastly, think of what could happen if the Bulls don't sign Billups. There's a realistic chance he'd sign with their arch nemesis, the Miami Heat. Therefore, the Bulls luring Billups could be valuable simply to keep him away from the star-studded cast in South Beach.

Signing "Mr. Big Shot" should not be the only move the Bulls make this offseason, but it should be the first one. Billups would solidify their backcourt depth and give them more experience.

Quite frankly, Billups could prove to be the final missing piece to the championship puzzle.

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