Chicago Bulls: Latest Trade Rumors, Free Agent News and Draft Buzz
The Chicago Bulls 2012 season was remarkable in many ways. They won the regular season championship for the second year in a row in spite of a plethora of injuries. Then Derrick Rose tore his ACL on a seemingly innocuous play in the first game of the playoffs, effectively ending their season.
Now the NBA draft is approaching. Free agency will soon be upon us. There are numerous decisions to be made regarding what happens to this roster.
Do they have the core to win a title? Do they need a comprehensive restructuring or merely a tweaking? How is Derrick Rose healing? All of these questions are ones the Bulls must answer in the coming months, and we'll keep you up to date on them right here.
Will the Bulls Trade for Pau Gasol?
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Sam Smith recently reported with Bulls.com that there was a possibility of a Pau Gasol trade in the works. But this trade rumor many just look at the headline and speed away making suggestions.
The important thing to recognize here is that the Los Angeles Lakers will never, ever, ever take Carlos Boozer in a trade for Pau Gasol. As Smith says,
Forget Carlos Boozer. The Lakers have zero interest and would take Lamar Odom back before taking on Boozer’s $47 million remaining. Or maybe Smush Parker.
When Lakers fans want to illustrate how bad the post-O'Neal Lakers were they spit out the words "Smush Parker" with the kind of contempt normally reserved for an un-flushed gas station toilet.
Another key aspect of Smith's piece reads:
I happened to be talking to former Bull Chet Walker the other day. He lives in Los Angeles and watches the Lakers the most. We were talking about where they go from here and he talked about how they need a small forward who can rebound, run the court, defend, make some shots, take some pressure off Kobe. It sounded a lot like Chet Walker, though maybe 40 years ago. And also sounded a lot like Luol Deng today.
In other words, from the Bulls side, the key to this trade has to be Deng, not Boozer. For starters the Lakers would never trade for a downgrade at the power forward position. Secondly, the Lakers would never trade down for a downgrade at the power forward position. I know I said the same thing twice, but sometimes things need to be repeated.
Yet there will still be comments that say, "Trade Boozer and Hamilton for Gasol!" To those comments, I just answer in advance, I've already given you two reasons that won't happen.
The Bulls would have to build the trade around Deng but that's a $6 million gap they need to make up. This raises the next question. Who do the Bulls give to the Lakers to pair with Deng?
Smith suggests Richard Hamilton.
The issue is what it would take given Gasol’s $18 million salary. Obviously Deng, who makes about $12 million. Yes, the Lakers probably would love to also have Richard Hamilton to make the deal work as their bench is so weak and he is a longtime competitor of Bryant from their Philadelphia prep days.
That, though, leaves the Bulls short in the backcourt, especially with Rose out. The Lakers would have to add something, though they don’t have a first round pick. So maybe the Bulls pause even if they like Gasol.
That's true to a degree, but it's essentially what the Bulls had for about a third of the season last year when they played without Hamilton or Rose. Of course they did have Deng, but we'll get to that in a moment. Smith says,
But if you can add Gasol to go with Boozer, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, you can move Joakim Noah, who also has great value. That, of course, would be if the Bulls decided to start anew and provide a new and different kind of cast to play with Rose. It’s maybe the biggest philosophical question to begin to consider these next few weeks.
The Sixers are very deep in wings, but they are paying Elton Brand huge amounts of money to be average and they are thin at the center position.
The Bulls could trade Joakim Noah straight up for Andre Iguodala. The Sixers could then use Spencer Hawes as a power forward as he is much more of a pick and pop player than a low post player. Or else they could start Noah as a power forward. His athleticism is good enough for that.
The bottom line is that acquiring Noah would give the Sixers the freedom to amnesty Brand, saving $6 million in cap space. They would have a more athletic front court so the trade makes sense to Philadelphia.
They would also be free to promote Even Turner into the starting small forward spot and play his most natural position.
The Bulls would then have a starting five of Derrick Rose (once he's healthy), Ronnie Brewer, Iguodala, Boozer and Gasol.
The Brewer bit is of course up in the air as well.
Anyway the take home here is that Deng, not Boozer is the key to the trade, and that if there were a trade then Noah could be traded for a small forward to replace Deng.
The Luol Deng Paradox
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Luol Deng's wrist was injured for the majority of the season. We're not talking about a small injury here, we're talking about a torn tendon. Deng played the majority of the season fighting through pain every game.
Now he wants to do the same thing in the Olympics for the country which adopted him, Great Britain. You have to understand here that Deng isn't just the best player they have now, he's the best player the country has ever had.
It's also a country which rescued him and his family from political persecution in Sudan.
Playing in the Olympics is not a marketing opportunity for Deng, it's patriotism.
It's the same qualities which make him "Glue-All" Deng that make him want play for the nation which saved his family and him. It's the things like loyalty, dedication, inner strength, and commitment which make him an All-Star and those are the same things that drive him to want to play for his country in the Olympics.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the Bulls are wrong for pressuring him to forgo those commitments as reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Chris Spice, performance director for British Basketball, accused the Bulls of pressuring Deng to withdraw from his Olympic commitment because of his wrist injury...
"Luol Deng is hugely committed to the British Basketball program and he has maintained this stance despite recent pressure for him not to play after injuring his wrist during the highly-demanding shortened NBA season," Spice's statement said. "We admire and support his stance. Luol is a true professional and manages his body extremely well as shown by the high amount of minutes he was able to play for his club after sustaining the injury in January."
This is a case of neither side being wrong. The Bulls aren't wrong for expecting the man they are paying $12 million a year to be able to do what they are paying him to do. On the other hand, he wouldn't be the man they were paying if he didn't keep his commitment.
The best Bulls fans can hope for is that the injury will heal on its own. Kobe Bryant's did during the season. Deng's could, given the prolonged rest between the end of the season and the start of the Olympics.
The irony here is that the Bulls early exit could end up being a blessing in disguise.
Derrick Rose's Injury Update
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"No, I don't personally have D-Rose's number," James said, when asked if the pair had spoken. "I have never really had an extended conversation with D-Rose. I did say to the media that it sucks that (the injury) happened and I wish him a fast recovery and hope he gets back to 100 percent."
I have to say that I believe that James really feels that way and that it shows he is a competitor and would have liked to have taken on the biggest challenge—a healthy Bulls team.
Either way, why would anyone be asking him about Rose's injury status? Dude is in a Conference Finals with the Boston Celtics. He's got other things on his mind. Sometimes the media is just weird.
Now, if you want to know the appropriate person to ask, Tom Thibodeau fits the bill. And according to ESPNChicago he had a positive report on the Waddle and Silvie Show in Chicago.
"He has a great support system," Thibodeau said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "His family is fantastic. They've been great with him.
"He comes in every day. He's diligent. He's moving along well."
For right now that's about all you can get. He's trying, which anyone who knows anything about Derrick Rose knows that he's going to push as hard as he can to move the rehab along as fast as possible.
Probably the greater concern for Rose is that he doesn't push too hard, overdo things and have a set back. For right now it's impossible to gauge whether it's going to be closer to the "eight months" or "year" in the timeline.
Whichever it is I wouldn't be surprised to see Thibs listing him as "day to day" on the opening day roster.
Can Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Help Joakim Noah Improve His Offense?
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Joakim Noah is already one of the best defensive centers in the game.
He's also one of the best passing centers in the game and even had a triple double earlier this year. He was the first center to get a natural triple double (points, rebounds and assists) since Marcus Camby did so on March 16, 2008.
If he could become a consistent scoring threat, Noah would easily be one of the top five centers in the league.
That's why it's good news that the NBA's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is working out with Noah this summer to help him with his offensive game according to Shams Charania of RealGM.com
Joakim Noah has taken major strides to improve his offensive repertoire since entering the NBA in 2007 and is set to receive tutoring from the league’s all-time leading scorer.
In an effort to improve on the offensive end of the court, Noah revealed on Wednesday during a visit to a Chicago north suburban high school that he plans to train with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar this summer.
While dreams of a "Jo-Hook" might be dashing through your head, for right now I'd settle for him simply catching the ball and putting it through the cylinder without bumbling it around first.
On another Noah-related note, he'll also be in the Olympics this summer, playing for his native France.
Carlos Boozer Isn't Going Anywhere
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I can almost imagine some sort of prison riot scene with Bulls fans banging their tin cups against the bars, screaming "Amnesty Boozer! Amnesty Boozer!" over and over again with increasing agitation until Gar Forman is holed up in some corner of the prison with one lone, desperate guard to save his life.
Certainly Boozer has not been defensively brilliant since coming over. Of course he never was before, so that's no surprise. His offensive numbers have fallen off the map too, but only if it's a very small map. He averaged 18.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes last year, down from career averages of 19.0 and 11.1.
This suggests that his overall per game production is more a symptom of reduced playing time—nearly three minutes less than his career average—than it is a fall off in actual productivity.
There is another, more fair criticism that he doesn't go to the rim as frequently as he used to. In his last year in Utah 61 percent of his shots were at the rim. Last year in Chicago that number was just 41 percent.
The word "nuance" comes to mind and it's something we like to avoid at all costs in sports conversations. Let's just go to a land of make-believe though and consider the possibility that there is a middle ground between "MVP" and "worst contract in the history of the league."
Either way you look at it, he's making $15 million not earning every penny of it. In the grand scheme of "bad contracts" in the world though, his is not nearly as bad as some others. Rashard Lewis got paid $21 million last year and had less than half of Boozer's production.
Pau Gasol got nearly $5 million more to get two more rebounds and two more points playing eight more minutes a game. His P.E.R was 20.5 to Boozer's 19.7.
I'm not arguing that Boozer is better than Gasol, I'm arguing that Boozer's contract is not this egregiously awful, whale-sized monstrosity when you look at it in the grand scheme of things.
No, it's not the best contract in the league but there' worse, and there are some that are even a lot worse.
Because of that don't expect anyone to be amnestying him this year. Don't take my word for it, take Gar Forman's, who according to CBSChicago, told the Mully and Hanley Show that he expects Boozer to remain on the team.
“I think Carlos had a very productive year,” Forman said. “You look back, he’s the only guy on our team that played every game and practiced every day on a team that won more games than anybody in the NBA.
He was our second leading scorer and our second leading rebounder. We’re looking forward to Carlos continuing to make progress. I know the last game clouds it a little bit, but he was very productive in the games before that.
Even in that last game, in 27 minutes, he had 13 boards. I anticipate Carlos being with us and having another productive year next season. “We’re happy Carlos Boozer is here and we like the core of the team that we have under contract.”
The moral of the story is that if you're trying to GM from your recliner, don't count your free-agent dollars before they're amnestied. This is not going to happen.
The Bench Mob
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The other huge question facing the Chicago Bulls this year is what to do with the Bench Mob.
They have three players, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson who are in the last year of their contracts, but the Bulls can waive any of them. If they waive Korver they owe him $500,000. if they waive Brewer or Watson it owes them nothing.
Chicago Sun Times reporter Neil Hayes, says,
I’ve covered pro sports for 20 years and never have been around a more hard-working or tighter-knit group of athletes than these Bulls. From Rose to Brian Scalabrine, these guys genuinely care about and play for each other. There’s real value in that.
The respect around the league for the Bulls is off the charts. To find a group of players that plays as hard and unselfishly as this team does is extremely rare at any level in any sport, which is why vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman will be reluctant to compromise what the Bulls have built.
This is the difficulty in determining what to do about whom to keep and/or trade. It's not just the individual pieces you have to worry about but the whole.
Letting Ronnie Brewer go and having Jimmy Butler step up to fill his shoes makes sense both from a basketball and salary cap perspective, but how does losing Brewer affect the group dynamic?
Beyond that the Bulls actually are in the luxury tax. That means they can't simply let people go and replace them with equal money. If they waive C.J. Watson, they can't sign $3.7 million worth of point guard to take his place.
Waiving Kyle Korver doesn't mean they have another $5 million to spend.
There is a huge risk involved in waiving any of the players and very little chance for great reward. There's always the chance there is some "Gerald Green" waiting in the wings (get it!) but that's a big risk to take.
And it needs to be said, the Bulls are a pretty good team. The way some people respond to this team it's in desperate need of an overhaul.
Certainly there needs to be some tweaking, especially in the sense of adding another player who can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. However who that is and how they can get him is a different story.
In a nutshell, it's hard to see how this team gets better by waiving Brewer, Korver or Watson.