Chicago Bulls: Free Agents Chicago Should Consider for Final Roster Spots

Nicholas HoeftCorrespondent IIIJuly 30, 2012

Chicago Bulls: Free Agents Chicago Should Consider for Final Roster Spots

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    NBA rules require that each team carry a minimum of 13 players, but not more than 15 under contract (12 active and one to three inactive). Chicago currently has only 12 players signed for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

    Therefore, Gar Forman and John Paxson need to sign at least one more player before the season begins.

    Due to financial constraints and the team's reluctance to pay luxury tax, it is safe to bet that any additional signings will be for veteran minimum contracts only.

    Although the free agent pool is getting shallower every day, there are still a handful of available players who would probably consider signing with Chicago for the veteran minimum and who could actually improve Chicago's overall roster.

    So where does Chicago need help the most?

    Lets review the current 12-man roster:

    PG: Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague

    SG: Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli

    SF: Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler

    PF: Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Vladimir Radmanovic

    C: Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed

    Based on team depth and the projected absence of Rose for a good portion of the season, Chicago will probably look to sign a combo guard who can play multiple positions.

    The team will also most likely look to acquire a versatile small forward who can play either the power forward or shooting guard position.

    So who is still available to fill these needs?

    Let's review.

Unclaimed Amnestied Players

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    There are still a handful of free agents who were amnestied, cleared waivers and are free to sign with any NBA team who have yet to connect with a new team. These players are interesting targets because they may be willing to play for much less than their market value because they will be paid by the team who amnestied them no matter where they play next season.

    The best remaining amnesty cuts are big men Andray Blatche, Darko Milicic, Chris "Birdman" Andersen and swing-man Josh Childress

    While I think that Milicic and Birdman would fit better with the existing Chicago roster, agreeing to a one-year veteran minimum contract (or even two years) with any of the above players would be a solid move by Chicago's front office this late in the offseason.

    Milicic and Birdman would add more front-court depth on the defensive side of the ball where Childress and Blatche would add more offensive firepower to the bench.

    I would not expect Chicago to land any of the available amnesty cuts since the Bulls' front office has not shown any ability to sign players willing to take pay cuts like Miami and the New York and Los Angeles teams have been able to do.

    Expect Milicic, Blatche, Childress and Andersen to sign with contenders elsewhere.

Willie Green

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    Journeyman shooting guard Willie Green is still available. He is not a great defender, but has decent size (6'3") and could probably become a better defender in Coach Thibs' system.

    Although he is not a great scorer (averaged under nine points per game each of the last four seasons) and relies too heavily on his jump shot, Green's 3-point shooting proficiency has increased each of the past five seasons.

    Last year, he actually connected at a clip of over 44%.

    Green would be a decent low-cost addition who could add back-court depth and more outside shooting to help spread the floor when Rose returns.

    **UPDATE** The Clippers have reportedly traded for Green.

Roger Mason, Jr.

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    Roger Mason, Jr. is another player who is still available and who would bring depth and experience to an NBA contender. Most recently with the Wizards, Mason has spent time with six teams in eight NBA seasons.

    He is a 31-year-old journeyman shooting guard with good size at 6'5". However, he has lost a step or two and does not have the lateral quickness to keep up with a lot of younger shooting guards on the defensive side of the ball.

    Mason brings a ton of NBA experience, can still shoot from outside (connected at a rate of 42.5% from behind the arc last year after Nick Young was traded away) and would be a good locker room presence on any team. 

    He can probably be acquired on a veteran minimum deal, but the biggest question is whether he would rather sign with another contender like the Lakers or Knicks than take a shot with Chicago.

Josh Howard

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    Josh Howard is one of the only former NBA All-Stars without a new home. While he is reportedly close to making a decision on which team to join (none of which is Chicago), he is not off the market until he has officially signed a contract.

    Therefore, Chicago fans can still hope to be the dark horse even if he is the least likely player to sign with Chicago out of all the players discussed in this article.

    At 6'7", the addition of Howard would fortify the small forward position and provide the Bulls with insurance in the event that Deng's wrist does not hold up the entire year (Butler is the only other small froward on the team and he is more of a guard than forward). Howard would act as another scoring option off of the bench for Chicago and would add more playoff experience to the team.

    Signing Howard to a veteran minimum contract would be one of this offseason's more under-the-radar moves throughout the NBA and would do a lot to help fortify Chicago's bench. Too bad there is almost no chance of it happening.

Michael Redd

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    Michael Redd was once an NBA all-star, U.S.A. Olympian and one of the best shooters in the NBA.

    While he is now only a shell of his former self after multiple knee surgeries (he averaged over 21 points per game from '03-'04 through '08-'09 seasons), he still owns one of the sweeter shooting strokes in the NBA.

    Redd may no longer be able to get to the basket at will or create shots off of the dribble like he once could, but he can still score and be a complementary piece of any championship team. He averaged over eight points per contest last year on only 15 minutes of game time.

    At this point in his career, Redd is best served as a sharp-shooter off the bench. Think Kyle Korver only not quite as good of a shooter but still better at getting shots off the dribble.

    While Redd is not hitting three-pointers at the rate he did while an All-Star, he can still knock down an open look and will keep teams honest defensively.

    Adding the former Milwaukee Buck great would provide Chicago with another three-point shooter to help fill the void left by the departures of Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and John Lucas, III.

    Signing Redd would be a very low risk and potentially high reward option.

Donte Greene

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    Donte Greene is a little-known NBA forward who has played his entire career with Sacramento (hence the little-known part). He is not an exceptional NBA talent, but he probably one of the only players on this list who still has his best NBA days ahead of him.

    After only one exceptional year at Syracuse, Greene was drafted by Memphis 28th in 2008. His career has never taken off as some expected after leaving Syracuse, although he has shown some flashes during his four-year NBA tenure.

    While Greene has not made many big impressions while in the NBA, he has demonstrated a very solid all-around game and the potential for offensive explosions.

    At 6'11", Greene is a very tall and long combo-forward. Due to his size and athleticism, Greene can also slide over and play some power forward or even center when matched up against leaner players.

    Greene is not a tremendous shooter or a lock-down defender, but he is a very serviceable player who has yet to live up to his offensive potential. For the right price, he would be a good player for Chicago to sign to a multi-year deal to add depth while the Bulls are waiting for some large contracts to come off the books.

Tracy McGrady

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    Tracy McGrady is the player Chicago needs to target most out of all of the veterans on this list (not including younger players Malcolm Thomas and Donte Greene).

    His skill set, even if not the caliber it once was, would still make him the most valuable addition to Chicago's roster of all the players on this list.

    McGrady is fairly big at 6'8" and can still shoot. He can also still handle the ball and act as another play maker while Rose is out. He is Chicago's ideal candidate because of his versatility and the fact he can play both guard spots and some small forward.

    McGrady would serve as the team's third point guard until Rose returns from injury. After Derrick is healthy, McGrady would spend more time backing up the shooting guard and small forward positions, acting as the fifth wing behind Deng, Hamilton, Belinelli and Butler.

    Although McGrady is no longer a scoring champion or even the all-star caliber player he once was with Orlando and Houston, he is still a savvy veteran and can keep teams honest when he's shooting the ball. Moreover, he has proven over the past two seasons that he is willing to accept a backup role and simply be a contributing member of the team.

    Signing McGrady would be a strong move by the Chicago front office because of the flexibility he provides the team while Rose is out and after Rose returns. There is little to no downside bringing him in on a one-year veteran minimum deal.

Malcolm Thomas

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    Malcolm Thomas is the guy Chicago really wants.

    He was one of Chicago's only bright spots on its Summer League roster (other than Jimmy Butler). His outstanding play earned him a spot on the NBA All-Summer League team and also a lot of attention from general managers around the NBA.

    Thomas spent last season with the San Antonio Spurs and played very sparingly, appearing in only 3 games. He is a combo-forward at 6'9", but is best suited to thrive at small forward.

    For Chicago, he would be an end-of-the-bench player this season, but is young and could have a bright future with the team long-term. Thomas could also end up being a valuable member of the bench as early as this year if Deng were to go down with another injury whereby someone needed to absorb minutes at small forward.

    If Chicago is unable to sign another player to add depth at small forward like Greene or McGrady, signing Thomas becomes an even higher priority for Gar Forman.

    Signing Thomas would add more youth and energy to Chicago's second unit, which could prove very disruptive defensively to other teams' starting units.

    Think of how young and athletic a second unit of Teague, Butler, Thomas, Gibson and Mohammed could be.

    Or even better yet, think of how freakishly athletic a second unit of Teague, Butler, Thomas, Greene and Gibson could be if Chicago landed Thomas and Greene and played Gibson at center.

    **UPDATE** There are mixed reports flying around the internet that Chicago has offered Thomas a one-year non-guaranteed contract and that he has not signed because he is still attempting to land a one-year guaranteed contract with Chicago or elsewhere. Nothing confirmed, only rumors.

Best Case Scenario

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    Since NBA teams must carry a minimum of 13 players (12 active and one inactive) and may carry up to 15 players (three inactive), the best case scenario for Chicago (not considering the unlikely signing of any amnestied players) would be to sign Tracy McGrady to play both guard positions and small forward and to sign Malcolm Thomas and Donte Greene to play both forward spots.

    The Bulls would want to ink McGrady to a one-year veteran minimum contract with a team option for the 2nd year and would probably want to sign Thomas and Greene to two-year veteran minimum contracts with a team option for the third year.

    McGrady would begin the season on the 12-man active roster while Thomas and Greene would start on the 15-man roster. If any active members of the Chicago roster miss any time due to injury, Thomas or Greene would be activated.

    McGrady would add depth at the point guard position and give Chicago an additional ball-handler and scorer while Rose is out. He could also absorb minutes at the shooting guard and small forward spots after Rose returns or even during his absence.

    Thomas would add depth at small forward and could play power forward in some lineups. Depending on the health of the team upon Rose's return, Thomas would not be one of the 12 active players, but would remain on the 15-man roster.

    Greene would add depth at both forward spots and could be played out of position at center in some circumstances. Similar to Thomas, Greene would begin the season on the 15-man roster, but not as an active player. He would be available in the even of injuries to any of Chicago's front-court.

    15-man Roster:

    PG: Rose, Hinrich, Teague

    SG: Hamilton, Belinelli, McGrady

    SF: Deng, Butler, Thomas

    PF: Boozer, Gibson, Radmanovic, Greene

    C: Noah, Mohammad

    12-man Roster (while Roe out):

    PG: Hinrich, Teague, McGrady

    SG: Hamilton, Belinelli

    SF: Deng, Butler

    PF: Boozer, Gibson, Radmanovic

    C: Noah, Mohammad

    Inactive: Thomas and Greene

    12-man Roster (after Rose returns):

    PG: Rose, Hinrich, Teague

    SG: Hamilton, Belinelli, McGrady

    SF: Deng, Butler

    PF: Boozer, Gibson, Radmanovic

    C: Noah, Mohammad

    Inactive: Thomas, Greene and either Radmanovic or McGrady depending on whether the team needs more help in the front-court or on the wings.

    **UPDATE** Sports Illustrated's Amick is reporting that Chicago will sign a free agent contract with Nate Robinson. This report means that the Bulls are unlikely to sign any shooting guard or point guard. McGrady is still an option because he is so versatile and can still play the small forward spot. However, it is more likely that Chicago continues to pursue versatile young forwards like Greene or Thomas since Robinson will likely fill the last active roster spot and the Bulls' back-court needs.