Bulls Rumors: Why Chicago Would Be Insane to Part Ways with Unsung Role Players
Few teams are in as big of offseason flux as the Chicago Bulls. Though their core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng remain intact, the future of several of their valuable role players is extremely murky.
Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the team is still mulling over whether or not to pick up Kyle Korver's $5 million option for next season. And according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the team is also unsure of whether they will retain C.J. Watson for his $3.2 million team option.
When you add to that the free agency of reserve point guard John Lucas III, and the Houston Rockets' hefty three-year offer for center Omer Asik, the future of Chicago's "bench mob" becomes even cloudier.
Although it may cost a little more down the road, I personally think Chicago should look to retain as many pieces as they possibly can from last season.
The Bulls' depth was part of what made them such a difficult opponent over the past two seasons. They were able to wear teams down by maintaining a high level of play even when their starters got a rest—and in many cases, actually stretched leads when the second unit came in.
Chicago also afforded themselves tremendous lineup flexibility. They could go small by playing Rose and Watson in the backcourt, with Kyle Korver stretching the floor from the small forward spot. The team could push the pace by playing defensive stalwarts Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer at various positions, depending on who was the other team's best offensive player.
With Rose likely to miss a significant amount of time, the team needs to secure as much depth as possible at the point guard position. Watson, in 25 games starting in Rose's stead, averaged 11.3 points, 2.6 boards and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range.
Those aren't elite numbers, but considering his fairly cheap deal, it is quality production. The team would be unwise to let him go in the hopes of pursuing a Raymond Felton or Kirk Hinrich, who may not come. The Bulls do not have a ton of cap flexibility to throw offers around and should retain any guards capable of giving them solid minutes on the floor.
Kyle Korver should also be extended by Chicago. He is really the team's only lethal perimeter shooter, and his overall game improved last season. Though he is far from a great defender, he found a role in the Bulls' system and was no longer a liability.
He averaged 8.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season—but his 43.5 percent three-point clip is really what makes him essential. He moves well without the ball—coming off picks—and is a deadly spot-up option capable of playing both shooting guard and small forward.
Korver may not be able to create his own shot often, but he is a quality role player who fills a distinct need in the Bulls' backcourt and can be very effective for around 20 minutes a night.
John Lucas III could also be instrumental in the team's success next season. He proved to be a very capable scoring guard off the bench, averaging 7.5 points and 2.2 assists per contest while hitting 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
He can attack the basket off the dribble and pull up for jumpers, making him another solid point guard option for the Bulls.
At some point, every NBA season becomes a war of attrition. Players start getting hurt and the roster with the most depth has a distinct advantage. Chicago has been the Eastern Conference's number one team the past two years because they were able to overcome injuries to key players.
The guys on their roster understand the system and have fully bought into their roles under Tom Thibodeau. With such a trying season ahead, it makes sense to keep as many players with proven success in Chicago on the roster as possible.
I don't think they should match the ludicrous $25 million deal Houston offered Asik, but that is only because that is simply too much money to pay a reserve center. If the deal were around $15 million, then it would make sense for them to match it.
The play of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng has had plenty to do with Chicago's recent success and title contention, but their role players are just as essential, and the team would be foolish to let them walk.
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