Projecting Chicago Bulls' 2014 Free-Agency Big Board

James Davis@@JDouglasDavisAnalyst IMarch 28, 2014

Projecting Chicago Bulls' 2014 Free-Agency Big Board

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    Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh attempts a reverse layup against the Chicago Bulls.
    Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh attempts a reverse layup against the Chicago Bulls.Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bulls are poised to be big participants in the 2014 free-agency market, and the team is probably eyeing quite a few players.

    While rumors have linked this team to certain players, it’s hard to discount that the accomplishments this season, along with the return of Derrick Rose for the 2014-15 campaign, have probably made this franchise one of the top desired destinations for a lot of soon-to-be unaffiliated ballers.

    The organization definitely needs to address one area.

    Scoring is still an issue, as the team has languished at the bottom of the league in points scored for most of this season.

    An impressive total of seven players have double-digit scoring averages, but none of those guys has been able to fill it up night after night.

    Luckily, a number of offensively gifted athletes could be available for wooing.

    Analyzing the pros and cons of the best prospective free-agent additions, here is a rundown of potential summer targets.

Lance Stephenson

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    Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson
    Indiana Pacers guard Lance StephensonRon Hoskins/Getty Images

    Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson is having a breakout year, averaging career highs in points, assists and rebounds.

    His unrestricted status come July 2014 is bound to attract a lot of suitors, and the Bulls could use his skill set. He has a knack for creating his own offense as well as facilitating for his teammates.

    He is especially good at making the extra pass that is usually the difference between good and great shot attempts. This ability shows a budding basketball IQ that could flourish under the tutelage of the right coach.

    Signing him shouldn’t be a bank-busting transaction either.

    When placed next to other shooting guards with comparable numbers, like J.R. Smith or Gerald Henderson, the going rate seems to be between $5.5 and $6 million.

    On the other side of the coin, Stephenson has shown that he still has some room for growth in the maturity department.

    The fourth-year player is third in the league in technical fouls. For an athlete who is definitely more role player than star, that kind of attitude can wear thin fast.

    His brashness could probably be corrected by the culture of the Bulls organization, but there’s no way of telling whether it would make Chicago pass on him altogether.

    Overall, he would be a solid acquisition for the team.

    The combination of a Rose/Stephenson backcourt would prove most formidable.

Chris Bosh

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    Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah
    Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh against Chicago Bulls center Joakim NoahNathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    The opportunity to procure Chris Bosh is not a certainty since he would have to exercise his contract’s early termination option.

    Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher has stated that Chicago would be interested in adding him to the roster, should he decide to make himself available this summer.

    Some might wonder why the Bulls would be interested in such a player when they already have a soft-shooting forward in Carlos Boozer. Truthfully, they’d be getting a more dynamic player with the addition of this eight-time All-Star.

    Both big men shoot and pass well, but Bosh does a few more things better than Boozer. For one, his range stretches the defense even more now that he’s added a three-point set shot to his arsenal.

    Neither forward’s name will ever be in the thick of the conversation for defensive player of the year, but Bosh is a much better team defender and does a decent job of staying with his assignment.

    Advantages aside, the most alluring aspect of Bosh is his professional humility.

    He could still be a team’s first option, yet he’s shown that he can tailor his game to fit well in a supporting role.

    In a profile written by Sam Amick of USA Today, Bosh revealed his mental approach to basketball at this stage of his career:

    Maturity-wise, I've let (being the No. 1 option) go. I've let being the man go. I understand really in mainstream why and how people are infatuated with that area, but it's difficult man.

    I'm over it. It's just all about winning at the end of the day. It's about being in the game. I mean everybody isn't meant to take the last shot. Everybody isn't going to be the MVP. It's only for a very, very small percentage, for a small percentage of guys. I understand that, and I'm just lucky enough to be in this situation I am now, just competing at the highest level in the league. That's good enough for me.

    His mentality would be great in the Bulls’ selfless culture, but it’s that same mindset that makes adding him a remote possibility.

    As one-third of the most potent three-man combination in the NBA, he’s been doing very well in realizing his goal of winning.

    Nothing outside of LeBron James deciding to leave the band would make Bosh consider testing the market again.

    Sure, the Bulls would come calling if he decided to change his mind, but they’re probably not holding their breath.

Carmelo Anthony

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    New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony
    New York Knicks forward Carmelo AnthonyGary Dineen/Getty Images

    Talk of Carmelo Anthony relocating from the Big Apple to the Second City has subsided a bit since Chris Broussard reported that Bulls center Joakim Noah extended a recruiting pitch over the All-Star break.

    The intrigue is understandable, though.

    Take the prolific scoring wing Anthony and pair him with a dynamic playmaker like Rose, and they are sure to be the best one-two offensive punch in the league.

    There’s no need to recap the forward’s scoring ability.

    He’s been a 20-plus-points scorer since he’s been in the league and has shown no signs of slowing down despite being in his 11th year.

    Anthony’s price tag is the biggest drawback to pursuing him. Although he is on record as saying he would take a pay cut to help the Knicks build a contending team, it is not certain if he would extend that same courtesy to another franchise.

    Assuming that the ‘Melo discount is void beyond the New York City limits, the seven-time All-Star would command a salary that knocks on $20 million per year; Chicago would free up about $16 million with a Boozer amnesty.

    That leaves the team in a position where they’d have to participate in a sign-and-trade deal, but it is not clear whom the Bulls would be willing part with in order to add to their offensive front.

    Overall, the logistics are too thorny to accurately assess the likelihood of Anthony making the United Center his new basketball residence.

    If anyone can figure out, Gar Forman and John Paxson can.

Nikola Mirotic

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    No. 12 Nikola Mirotic
    No. 12 Nikola MiroticJamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Bulls fans have been hearing the name Nikola Mirotic for the past two seasons and are probably wondering what the delay is in bringing the European standout stateside.

    Money has been the source of the holdup—or rather the amount Chicago could offer.

    As explained in a previous article, the Real Madrid forward’s overseas salary far exceeded his NBA rookie scale, so Chicago had to wait three years for money restraints to expire.

    Now the team seems to be laying the groundwork for finally bringing the versatile big man to the Windy City.

    Mirotic is a great offensive talent.

    He has a remarkable jump shot that falls from mid-range, long range, off the dribble, around the pick and in every other in-game scenario. He’s not dominant on the block, but he has enough of a touch around the rim to give him a solid inside/outside scoring repertoire.

    The unknowns are what could cloud the possibility of this acquisition. It is not certain if the team can convince him to try his hand on basketball’s biggest stage.

    If the Bulls could, there is still the obstacle of making sure a buyout can be reached that is fair for all parties involved. Supposing that deal could be negotiated, it remains to be seen if Mirotic’s talents will translate to the NBA style of play.

    Even with all of these variables, the Bulls have the most control over this scenario than the others; however, that control still doesn’t amount to much.

What Is It Going to Take?

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    Chicago Bulls forwards Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer exchange salutations.
    Chicago Bulls forwards Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer exchange salutations.Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Chicago will indeed be active participants in this summer’s transaction period. The Bulls have the means to acquire new talent that can help keep them in playoff form. The problem is whether or not they can capitalize on their recent success and use that as an attractive selling point.

    For one of the aforementioned prospects, Bosh, the possibility of winning a championship wouldn't be much of an incentive seeing as how he already has two. 

    Anthony could be enticed with the possibility of playing for a title, but either he or the Bulls would have to sacrifice quite a bit to realize that opportunity. 

    Stephenson is still in the early stages of his career. It's hard to tell if he's at the point where money or winning is the top priority.

    Paxson says talks with Mirotic have been very positive and productive. That bodes well for adding the stretch-4 this summer; however, the process of doing so is still too delicate to warrant much excitement.

    All in all, nothing will be become clear until after the July moratorium.

    Despite having their sights set on a big target, past attempts at attracting elite talent via free agency have often fallen short.

    Back in 2010, this franchise was in a prime position to land a top-tier player and struck out completely. It’s going to take some clever wheeling and dealing to ensure that recent history does not repeat itself.