With almost each passing day, another report surfaces about Derrick Rose's recovery from a torn ACL. And with almost each surfaced report, it appears that the former MVP is wildly closer to once again gracing the United Center court.
Over-the-hill rotation players Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Rip Hamilton have filled in admirably this season, and combined with (arguably) the league's best frontcourt, they've been able to keep the Bulls in contention—and then some. At the time of publication, Chicago sits third in the Eastern Conference (and atop the Central Division) with a 26-17 record—just three games back of top-seeded Miami.
But for as well as Chicago's replacements have played, and even accounting for the boost Rose's return will provide, this roster—in present form—is hard to take seriously as an NBA Finals threat. They might be one impact piece away from competing.
Enter J.J. Redick. The oft-divisive former Duke star is currently enjoying the best season of his NBA career, averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists on 46 percent shooting. But his Orlando Magic, despite their admirable pluckiness, are only 14-29—essentially hopeless in their bid to make the playoffs.
With Redick's contract set to expire at season's end, it only makes sense for Orlando to explore trading him. Especially on the strength of his very recent play. He's coming off a career-high eight three-pointers against the Pistons, something one Magic blog lamented as bittersweet:
The folks at Magic Basketball Online are right. Orlando parting ways with Redick is starting to become a matter of "not if, but when." And according to Hoopsworld.com, the Bulls could be one of the teams that comes calling:
The Chicago Bulls are one team that has been linked to Redick. The Bulls were the team that extended a three-year, $19 million offer sheet to Redick in 2010, and they may pursue him again before the trade deadline.
The Boston Celtics are also sniffing around Redick, but in the wake of Rajon Rondo's injury, bringing in immediate help might seem less appealing. Why make a win-now transaction when your best player won't be around for the playoffs? Can you reasonably expect to win now by replacing Rajon Rondo with J.J. Redick? When you weren't even winning games with the status quo in effect?
That leaves Chicago as the most logical destination for Redick, and if the Bulls know what's good for them, they'll start moving soon. Why? The reasons are three-fold:
- Most simply: Redick helps them become a better team right now—meaning, until Derrick Rose returns to the floor. His season PER of 16.79 would be the fourth-highest total on the Bulls roster, significantly higher than Richard Hamilton's and Kirk Hinrich's (who have combined for 69 starts this year). They've done a good job bridging the gap between now and Rose's return, and this would only help them in that endeavor.
- The sooner they move on Redick, the longer Redick gets to play with his new coach and teammates. The longer he gets to play with his new coach and teammates, the more comfortable he'll be with the system come May—once the games start really counting. In like manner, it also gives Tom Thibodeau more time to tinker with his rotations, and see how many minutes each of his interchangeable parts should be playing.
- The longer Chicago waits to pull the trigger, the more leverage Magic GM Rob Hennigan obtains. Every day the Bulls wait is another day closer to the Feb. 21 trade deadline. If the team starts slumping in the interim, it will force its hand to Orlando—potentially having to give up otherwise retainable assets.
Even if Rose fails to regain a semblance of his old explosiveness, his vision and savvy will ostensibly remain intact. He'll still be able to get into the lane, and he'll still be able to find open teammates beyond the arc. The degree to which defenses collapse on him depends on how he acclimates himself as a scorer, but he'll demand a modicum respect either way.
If the Bulls want to make a serious run in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, they'll thus have to assume, essentially, a college basketball game plan. Winning depends on defense, rebounding, execution and three-point shooting.
How could that team say no to acquiring one of the greatest college basketball players ever?