The Chicago Bulls Are Not That Close

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The Chicago Bulls Are Not That Close
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

As I read Scoop Jackson’s latest article on ESPN Chicago, regarding how the Bulls could be sitting as the frontrunners for a championship, I couldn’t help but think that he's way off on these presumptions.

You can read the article here, but let’s break down each of these steps.

1. Draft DeJuan Blair with the 16th pick.

It’s funny that the first step for the Bulls is the one I agree with the most. Being a Big East guy myself, I've had the pleasure (minus the Marquette-Pitt game) of watching Blair for the last two years, and have seen enough of Blair to know he is going to be a heck of a pro.

When I watch Blair play, I automatically think of David Lee. True, Lee is taller and more athletic than Blair; however, the 6′7″ sophomore has a huge wingspan, and is one of the strongest players in the draft. He will make room for himself in the paint, and should be a double-digit rebounder in the pros.

One thing I disagree with Scoop on is when he says “together, [Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Blair] could create the best young, three-headed monster in the NBA.”  That’s a nice thought, and to be honest, those three together are like earth, wind, and fire—you’ve got the scrappy Noah, the athletic Thomas, and the brusier Blair.

Having three guys who only do one thing well isn't going to get them far. Teams (Boston, anyone?) will continue to go inside on Thomas, bring Noah and Blair out to the elbow, and drive aggresively.

Blair would be a great start, but like I said, he doesn’t automatically make them contenders.

2. Hire Charles Oakley as a special assistant to player development.

This a nice thought if Blair is brought in, but how much good will it do? Oakley was a pretty good pro, who has a storied past in Chicago. Known for being hot-headed at times, Oakley might make Blair into a legitimate enforcer and improve his game somewhat, but that’s about it.

My good friend, Brian Bakal, pointed out that this isn't the equivalent to Kareem coming back to coach Andrew Bynum, or Patrick Ewing making Dwight Howard into the next Shaquille O’Neal.

Blair will be a nice player in the league, and has the potential to start in the future, but due to his lack of height and athleticism, his ceiling isn’t all that high.

Bringing in Oakley may prove to be a good decision, but I doubt it's in the blueprints for a championship.

3. Use the 26th pick in one of these three options:

 1. Package No. 26 in a Ben Gordon sign-and-trade deal to be announced July 2.

 2. Package the pick in a Luol Deng deal that will be finalized by night’s end.

 3. Simply select Wayne Ellington with the 26th pick.

Options one and two come into play later, so let’s assume that they go with option number three. Ellington may follow the long list of Tar Heel shooting guards to come into the league and do well, but it sure isn’t going to happen this year.

Most players picked at number 26 are not NBA-ready, and Ellington is no exception.

He has a great jump shot with NBA range, and his athleticism should allow for him to grow as a player; however, he plays shaky defense, and doesn’t do a whole lot other than shoot.

If he's going to be a good player, it isn’t going to happen this year. Scoop’s article is based on the Bulls taking the crown in 2010, but if Ellington is the pick, he won’t be a contributor this year.

4. Make an agreement with Gordon before Thursday to remain a Bull.

Numbers four and five for Scoop’s article go together, and this is the one I disagree with. In an earlier post, I talked about what the Bulls needed to do next year, and Gordon was not in those plans.

It’s time to move away from Gordon and his one-dimensional game, especially if that includes getting into a bidding war with the Pistons and (supposedly) the Knicks. Scoop mentions that the Bulls need to do this to have a “sense of stability about their starting lineup”, but I think they can afford to look elsewhere to find that.

5. Or make an arrangement with Gordon before draft day so that he agrees to a future sign-and-trade with Houston to get Tracy McGrady to replace him.

If Scoop is saying that the Bulls should swap out Gordon for McGrady, I’d buy a Gordon jersey to keep him in Chicago. I started to compare Gordon to McGrady, all things considered, and decided that Gordon is still the better option to have.

First things first—McGrady is expected to miss the first month of the season with lingering knee issues; once he's back, who knows what the future holds?

Sure, McGrady brings the veteran leadership and the All-Star talent. I’m not buying it, and I'm one person who thinks the fact that McGrady has never gone past the first round in the playoffs is more on him than his teammates. Great players make it happen, and he just isn’t one of them.

Combine that with his past injury history, his age, and swapping out a better, younger Gordon (while saving no money), this looks like the wrong deal.

6. At 10:20 p.m. ET, John Paxson needs to put in a call to Steve Kerr.

I’ll save you the dialogue, but basically, Scoop’s next move was to trade Luol Deng, Tim Thomas, and $3.5 million in cash to the Phoenix Suns for Shaquille O’Neal.

And the Suns are going to do this...why? With teams that are potentially one piece away from being a title contender, the Bulls would have to really up their offer if they want the Suns to pull the trigger on this deal.

Deng is a fine player, and has really rounded out his game over the last couple of years, crashing the boards and being more of a team player. As many team sources have explained, the Suns are not trying to get rid of Shaq to save money.

Thomas is a nobody that would most likely be waived, meaning the deal is pretty much Shaq for Deng. O’Neal still has a ton left in the tank, and the Suns should expect a lot more in return for him.

I guess what that means is, technically, I agree with Scoop that if the Bulls can make this deal, they should.

7. Get everyone’s ring size if you can make this the Bulls’ 2009-10 roster:

PG: Derrick Rose

SG: Tracy McGrady/Ben Gordon

SF: John Salmons

PF: Tyrus Thomas

C: Shaquille O’Neal

Bench: Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington, Brad Miller, Anthony Roberson, DeMarcus Nelson

Rose, Blair, Thomas, and Noah form an outstanding base to start building the franchise around. The “Baby Bulls” title has to be lifted off some time, but they are still very young with a lot of talent close to blossoming.

To me, it's a question of whether that talent is ready to bloom, or whether McGrady and O’Neal will just set the Bulls back two or three years. Two things still stand out to me as big red flags on the team—injuries, and the lack of defense.

Blair’s knees have caused him to drop down some team’s big boards, while others will avoid him completely.

McGrady will miss the first month, and his knees have been a question mark for a long time now.

O’Neal is up there in age, and has to take games off at times in the season.

Defensively, the Bulls would be better off with McGrady, but still not good. Last year, guards torched the Bulls all season due to the lack of defense shown by the frontcourt.

If Chicago wants to really improve things, they need to find a defensive stopper that will play on both ends, not just offensively. Two guys that jump out right away are Terrence Williams, or potentially trading both picks for Gerald Henderson.

I applaud Scoop for the article, and liked a lot of things that he had to say. It definitely will get people thinking what the Bulls can do to get back to elite status.

However, some of the thinking is inconsistent, as Blair and Ellington are more projects, while McGrady and O’Neal would suggest a “win-now” mentality.

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