Predicting In-Season Trades the Chicago Bulls Will Need to Make
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The Chicago Bulls do, in fact, see the coming Derrick Rose-free season to be a “wash.” As talented as the rest of the roster may be, without Rose, the Bulls are an average team that will struggle to keep up in an improving East.
With even GM Gar Forman bracing himself for a mulligan in 2012-13 and with a present and future salary cap morass to muck through, don’t be surprised if a few familiar Bulls are sent packing as the trade deadline nears. Whether trimming roster fat or rectifying free-agent mistakes, it's a foregone conclusion that some Bulls today won't be Bulls tomorrow.
Some of these trades should already have been made over the summer, but luckily for Forman, there’s still time. He might even find he has a touch of leverage come trade deadline.
Carlos Boozer to the Brooklyn Nets for Kris Humphries
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Well, a couple of things have changed. One is that the Nets are now in Brooklyn, prominent to the degree they could leapfrog the bigger New York Knicks in both the standings and public perception with an improved roster in 2012-13.
For the Nets, swapping Kris Humprhies for Boozer is an appealing move. Yes, Boozer is offense-oriented, but so is the bulk of the Brooklyn roster. Undoubtedly, Booz’s ceiling is higher than that of Humphries.
For Chicago, well, the appeals are obvious. The Bulls trim a year and $23.1 million from their Boozer commitment of $47.1 million by sending him east. With the smaller commitment, it’s more realistic to trade Humprhies in a future deal if need be.
With Humphries signing his new deal this summer, this trade couldn’t be consummated until the trade deadline approaches, but devoting some $20 million in future dollars to an improving Humprhies is a small price to pay for getting Boozer off of the books.
Carlos Boozer and a 2nd-Rounder to the Indiana Pacers for David West
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David West has a dynamite outside game for a big man, and undoubtedly, the Bulls would love to flip three seasons of Boozer for just one of West.
What does Indiana get in Boozer? The power forward would provide Indiana with better low-post scoring, likely making him a better mesh with Pacer foundation big man Roy Hibbert. Teams that have found success collapsing low on Hibbert won’t have such luxury with Boozer, 2011-12’s top close-range shooter, lurking on the weak side.
West fits in with Chicago beyond from the mere fact that his smaller ($10 million) and shorter (one season) contract provides instant relief for an asphyxiated franchise. With defensive power down low and no offensive range to speak of in key cogs Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, acquiring West gives the Bulls an offensive big with range.
Chicago can sweeten the deal by tossing in a future pick, so there are no hard feelings if Boozer ends up playing in just 100 games over the next three seasons.
It’s an all-in move on the Pacers’ part and a crafty bit of cap relief and roster flexibility on Chicago’s.
Carlos Boozer to the Philadelphia 76ers for Spencer Hawes and Jason Richardson
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You can stop all the mewing over Boozer having no value, even in relation to his onerous contract. Arguably, in fact, he’s back on the upswing.
Boozer played in every game of the 2011-12 season, a task he had never accomplished before in his career. His 19.7 PER ranked second on the team behind Rose, his 7.6 win shares were second behind Noah and his .187 win shares/48 was third behind Rose and Noah. So it’s safe to say that Booz was no worse than the third most valuable player on the team that won more games than anybody in 2011-12.
And for all the talk of simply dumping Boozer, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is also very unlikely to amnesty a player who is still producing, even modestly, for his club—particularly one who isn't a "problem" (Eddie Robinson, Metta World Peace, et. al).
With his stock as high as it will ever get in Chicago, coupled with the apparent implausibility of amnesty, the time to move Boozer is now. In the process, Forman could saddle a future rival with a queasy contract.
Dealing Boozer to Philly preys on Philadelphia’s need to win now. As much as the East (save for the Miami Heat) is in transition, the conference is getting better overall. Brooklyn and New York are on the rise, making the Atlantic Division, at the very least, no picnic. Andrew Bynum was a huge move for the 76ers, but Boozer makes the Sixers better; as in Indiana, having a strong second option down low will keep defenses honest. Boozer would provide ideal protection for Bynum, the new franchise cornerstone.
The acquisition of Bynum, for the most part, renders Spencer Hawes expendable, if not extraneous. Jason Richardson would also come to the Bulls not as a bonus but as a bit of an offset to the salary the Sixers take on in Boozer.
Hamilton, Hinrich and a 1st-Rounder to the Milwaukee Bucks for Monta Ellis
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Monta Ellis is assumed to be a future Bulls free-agent target anyway, so why not angle toward a test period before the superscorer is even freed?
It would take an utter collapse of the NBA economy for the Milwaukee Bucks to hold onto Ellis once he reaches free agency after 2013-14. So it’s destined to be a relatively short-term relationship with Beertown and the budding star.
Also, blame it on culture shock if you wish, but Ellis was downright pedestrian for Milwaukee in his 2011-12 audition. His PER alone fell 3.2 points from a strong 18.6 in Golden State (37 games) to 15.4 for the Bucks (21 games). That’s his worst mark since 2008-09. It could be a temporary issue, or Ellis might not be a great fit for hardscrabble head coach Scott Skiles.
Speaking of hardscrabble, Skiles was drooling over the prospect of bringing Captain Kirk to Milwaukee this season, but the Bulls stepped in front of Milwaukee to steal the gym rat out from under them.
Hinrich, at $8 million over two years, is not a good fit for any team in the league as a veteran on the wane. But at least in Milwaukee, he would fit in with the band of underdogs Skiles has zipping around the floor.
Toss in Rip Hamilton (who will be owed just around $4 million on his contract by the time this deal can be consummated, in January) to even out the salaries and a future first-rounder for Milwaukee’s troubles, and you’ve got a decent fit.
Kirk Hinrich to the Bucks for a 2nd-Rounder/Trade Exception
Kirk Hinrich: Grinder
The object here: correct an overzealous free-agent move as soon as possible, helping free up the books for the future and getting an unproductive player off of the Chicago roster.
Skiles loves Hinrich, and Milwaukee dug hard for him this summer. Why not make everyone’s dreams come true by sending Captain Kirk north in January, when the point guard is eligible to be dealt, and wipe the aberration off of the books entirely?
You can’t really trade a guy for nothing, although the Bulls should be willing to do so with Hinrich. So in return, how about a future second-rounder or Milwaukee's Stephen Jackson trade exception?
Luol Deng to the Sacramento Kings for Tyreke Evans
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Luol Deng is such a beloved member of the Bulls that it's hard to imagine him ever suiting up for another team. And although he's hit eight seasons and 539 games, Deng is still just 26 years old, theoretically just reaching his prime.
The reality tells a far different story. In spite of Deng's leadership and continually improved defense (earning him All-Defensive Second Team honors in 2011-12), he's hardly a star, at least by common measures of PER (14.1 in 2011-12, 16.0 career) or win shares (5.8 last year, fourth on the team).
Deng being generally overrated isn’t even a problem in and of itself. But for a cash-strapped Chicago team, the fact that he is paid like a superstar ($13.3 million in 2012-13 and $14.3 million in 2013-14) is.
Still, Deng's stock is as high as it's ever been. Dealing him should be a no-brainer for a team trying to get young and less expensive entering a “wash” season (and preparing for those fat 2013 and 2014 free-agent classes).
Tyreke Evans is in just his third season and makes a third of Deng's salary. He would bring a different skill set to Chicago in that he can stretch anywhere from big 1 to slashing 2 to smallish 3.
The notion that Evans needs to have the ball in his hands to be productive, thus clashing with point guard Rose, is heavily overestimated. The former Rookie of the Year simply needs a little nurturing and perhaps a fresh start in the NBA.
Taj Gibson, Richard Hamilton and a 1st-Rounder for James Harden
Taj Gibson [L] would fit in perfectly with the young Thunder.
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This deal only makes sense if Gibson balks at Chicago’s initial salary offers and is pricing himself beyond the market.
The young power forward should likely be targeting, say, $40 million over four years. In that case, Chicago would be hard-pressed not to meet his needs and keep him. But if Gibson demurs, or ups his demands once the Bulls present an offer, the team has to move forward without him.
Blindly assuming Gibson is in the bag and letting the 2013 trade deadline slip past without the power forward already in tow for several more seasons would set up a second straight season (on the heels of self-admitted cornerstone Omer Asik being stolen away by the Houston Rockets) where the Bulls are blindsided and lose a key asset for nothing.
Oklahoma City is in an awkward spot with James Harden, who is likely to cost more in 2013 free agency than the Thunder can afford. In this deal, they get an up-and-coming defender who can provide support in the paint, where Oklahoma City needs help.
If Hamilton regains any of his former skill in 2012-13, he lessens the Harden loss and is off the books essentially after 2012-13. The first-rounder plays into the Thunder philosophy of building aggressively, inexpensively, and smartly.
For the Bulls, Harden could be a long-term solution to the 2-guard hole that has existed for some time now. At worst, Harden bolts after the 2012-13 season and the team is out just a first-round pick—but at least it took a shot on a player with better upside than Gibson.