Chicago Bulls: Delonte West Is a Low-Risk, High-Reward Free Agent Target

James Davis@@JDouglasDavisAnalyst IJuly 27, 2013

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 17:  Delonte West #13 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 17, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Delonte West would be the perfect addition to the Chicago Bulls’ second unit.

I am aware that this is a bold proclamation, but I make this decree with the absolute confidence that signing West is a low-risk, high-reward situation for both the team and the player.

The impetus behind this claim is motivated by a profile on West done by Tzvi Twersky of Slam Magazine.

A headline grabber for all the wrong reasons during his last few years as an active player, West hasn’t been on many people’s minds lately largely because he hasn’t been on any team’s roster since October of 2012.

But the portrait that Twersky’s piece paints is one of a more mature, self-aware Delonte.

He acknowledges his past transgressions without making excuses, but he is ready to prove that he is a changed man and can be a meaningful contributor. West said to Twerksy:

“When I get another chance, I’m going to put the blinders on,” vows West. “After this, I’m just breaking free of that stigma, letting stuff go, putting that stuff behind me. I’m going to show that I’ve grown, stats-wise and person-wise.”

West’s stats certainly show that he is capable, as he averaged 9.7 points and 3.7 assists over his eight seasons.

When you add his talents to the Bulls’ needs, it’s easy to see how the signing would be beneficial.

Chicago would be getting a combo guard with postseason experience who can handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter and hustle on the defensive end.

That in and of itself meets every on-court requirement for any Bulls guard.

Adding West would also give the team insurance for the oft-injured Kirk Hinrich.

Even though Hinrich and West’s roles would be similar, Hinrich proved fragile at times last season.

Hinrich’s dual guard role was crucial since then-rookie point guard Marquis Teague was still learning the ropes.

While Marquis Teague has made some strides, he still may not be ready for a suddenly increased workload should the short-staffed Bulls backcourt take a hit, and he certainly cannot play the two position.

Rookie Tony Snell, the only other true shooting guard on the roster, showed he had all the makings of a future solid contributor during the Las Vegas Summer League, but given Tom Thibodeau’s aversion to providing rookies quality minutes, a veteran like West could buy young Snell a little more time to watch and learn the game’s more subtle aspects.

And while Mike Dunleavy can play a little shooting guard, he is bound to spend most of his floor time giving Luol Deng a breather.

Obviously, West’s skill set offers a lot to the Chicago Bulls, and fortunately, the Chicago Bulls have a lot to offer West.

Overlooking his shaky past, another big factor that works against West is the amount of time he’s been away from an NBA setting.

Getting re-acclimated to the pace of professional basketball would have to be a gradual process. West would need a very positive and structured environment to help ease that transition.

The camaraderie and discipline of the Bulls locker room will give West a stable atmosphere that would make his return a positive experience, and the benefits would be professional and personal.

Look, West’s issues are still his issues. He’s always going to be bi-polar, and that will always have at least some effect on his game from time to time.

He would need teammates that are positive, supportive and willing to hold each other accountable.

The Bulls have those qualities in spades, and they would prove vital in keeping West focused as well as minimizing the chances of him relapsing back into some of his more detrimental habits.

If Chicago can look beyond West’s past behavior and inactivity, the only other factor working against him is the team’s reluctance to go deeper into the luxury tax.

That reasoning, however, wouldn’t hold up considering they cited cap issues for letting Malcolm Thomas go, but have been linked to being interested in Marcus Camby, who would cost the team more than Thomas.

While it is great to have depth at center, a gamble on Camby is just as big as a gamble on West when you consider that 39-year-old Camby played in only 24 games last season to the tune of 10 minutes, 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds a game.

Sure, Chicago is trying to hedge their bets against Joakim Noah’s plantar fasciitis, but if Noah were to go out again, could a duo of wrong-side-of-thirty centers in Nazr Mohammed and Camby, who both averaged a combined 21 minutes per game last season, really carry the load in the middle for a full 48 minutes?

On the financial side, Camby’s $1.3 million veteran’s minimum would hit the Bulls just as hard as West’s $1.2 million, but Chicago would be getting way less bang for their buck by taking the big man over the guard.

West is barely 30, has a year of rest on his side and an eagerness to do what it takes to help a contender reach the next level.

He’s very realistic about what his pending role would be. He’s not looking to take anyone’s starting spot, just eager to help and get back to doing what he loves. Twersky quotes West as saying:

“I had tears in my eyes watching games this past year—not because I’m bipolar, but because I’m sitting at home and miss the game” West says. “When my agent calls, I’m going to be on the next flight. Not to be cocky, but some teams that are trying to win are one guard away, one guy that can make a couple great plays away from going to the Finals.

“Well, I’m right here,” he continues. “Y’all know it and I know it.”

West is that guy that could make a couple of great plays.

You can try to fault him for his previous trespasses, but you cannot deny his game plugs a lot of holes for Chicago.

Given the right coach, the right environment and the right teammates, West could make a big splash and help give a team on the verge that push to get over the hump.

Chicago’s albatross has always been a lack of multiple scorers, and that has hurt them against stronger defensive rivals like the Miami Heat.

A player of West’s caliber is bound to have more upside than that of Camby or anyone else in Chicago’s cash-strapped price range.

Granted, a West or Camby caliber player may not see the floor much, but when Thibodeau has to go deep into his bench for those clutch moments, who would you rather see: a two-steps-too-slow, 39-year-old center with very little left to give, or a still capable 30-year-old guard with a lot to prove?


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