For the past few weeks, trade rumors surrounding mega stars such as Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh swirled around the Chicago Bulls organization. However, earlier this week it became clear that neither of these players would be made available by their respective teams, so the Bulls turned to Plan B. And then Plan C, D and E until they finally worked out three separate trades which set them up nicely for the highly anticipated 2010 offseason.
On Wednesday, the Bulls pulled off a six-player swap with the Sacramento Kings, trading F Andres Nocioni ($8.0M), F Drew Gooden ($7.1M, expiring), F Cedric Simmons ($1.7M, expiring) and F Michael Ruffin ($800K, expiring) for C Brad Miller ($11.4M) and F John Salmons ($5.1M plus a possible $1.9M kicker for being traded).
On Thursday, the Bulls traded oft-maligned G Larry Hughes ($12.8M for doing absolutely nothing) to the New York Knicks for former Bull F Tim Thomas ($6.0M), G Anthony Roberson ($800K, expiring) and a $6.2M expiring contract that apparently also comes with C Jerome James.
The Bulls finished the day with a deal just before the deadline, trading G Thabo Sefolosha ($1.9M) to the Oklahoma City Thunder for an unspecified 2009 or 2010 first-round draft pick.
Instead of looking at each deal individually, I'm going to examine the three trades as a whole to evaluate how the Bulls have reshaped their team.
Although the Bulls are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference and only 1.5 games behind Milwaukee for the right to be swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs, the trades they made do not signal an intent to try and win now. Derrick Rose has been fantastic, but he alone is not enough to take the Bulls anywhere this year.
Miller is a solid center, having played for Chicago from 2000 to 2002, and will be a nice scoring complement to Joakim Noah down low. Salmons is having a career year, averaging more than 18 points per game, but he has done so playing 35 minutes per game on a bad, bad team.
Tim Thomas, if he and Bulls management get along this time, will be a good addition to the rotation, as his ability to space the floor will prove useful as a backup to Tyrus Thomas. Anthony Roberson and his expiring contract will play sparingly as the fourth guard on the team, and Jerome James will hopefully never see the inside of the Berto or United Center.
The first round draft pick acquired for Sefolosha can only be a good thing, at least until the Bulls actually use it. Whether or not John Paxson is around as GM to make the decision on that pick will determine that.
So the Bulls added some decent players, but it appears pretty clear that Chicago made these deals to position for 2010 and beyond. Of the five new players acquired by the Bulls, only Salmons has a contract past next season, but it comes with an option to opt out. If he does that, it leaves only Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and hopefully Derrick Rose on the books.
On Wednesday night, prior to the Hughes deal, the Bulls attempted to make another salary dump by trading Kirk Hinrich to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a plethora of bad contracts including Brian Cardinal, Rashad McCants or Mark Madsen.
The goal from all this activity seems clear, which is to get enough cap space for the 2010 offseason to offer a max contract to Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire or, if you'll allow me to dream, LeBron James. If this is actually the case, then the evaluation of the three deals the Bulls made will hinge on the ability to bring one of these superstars to the Windy City in 18 months.
Until then, it appears us Bulls fans will have to suffer through a bit more mediocrity.
For more reading about the Bulls' inability to make decent front office moves, check out my previous article on the subject.