Change has been imminent since the franchise’s dealing of long-tenured player Luol Deng. That move signaled a shift in the team’s composition, a vision that will start to become clearer once dealings are allowed to commence.
With Chicago’s scoring woes amplified in their first-round loss to the Washington Wizards, this squad’s future could include the pursuit of an offensive creator. In order to make room for the addition, players will have to either be cut or traded.
Business matters aside, there are some guys with whom the team should part. Given the direction in which this group needs to head, certain athletes no longer fit the bill.
Experienced veterans serve a valuable purpose when it comes to team culture. They share positional knowledge with their counterparts and impart practical wisdom to those in need.
Most times, the seasoned guys are kept for their stabilizing presence, but that’s not always enough to retain their services.
Such is the case with Nazr Mohammed.
The 15-year veteran has run his course in Chicago. His most significant on-court contribution was chipping in seven of the 13 minutes of rest Joakim Noah got per game during the 2013-14 run. His statistics would hardly be missed, and his departure would allow the team to get younger at a position desperately in need of revitalization.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has been able to get by with splitting reserve center minutes between Mohammed and Taj Gibson, but that has been a Band-Aid solution for a suture problem.
One of Chicago’s strengths when the former Celtics assistant first took over the sideline reins was being able to present a formidable frontcourt with the starting and bench units. Recently, Noah and Gibson have been the only real threats.
The team should turn its attention away from trying to keep Mohammed and look to someone who can be of better service on the hardwood. With the kind of locker room leaders the Bulls already have in place, team camaraderie would not take a big hit.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this for Kirk Hinrich. This was the year that he was to play a diminished role behind one of the league’s most dynamic players doing the little things to help his team win.
A freak injury in late November changed all of that.
After Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee, Hinrich found himself back in the starting role, and while his effort was evident in every game he played, his lack of effectiveness was just as plain.
For the second consecutive year Hinrich has posted sub-.400 field-goal and three-point percentages.
One might argue that in 2014-15 he could just go back to his intended task of relieving Rose, but D.J. Augustin proved very effective in the reserve capacity. The former Longhorn’s offensive production would give him top consideration if the team can keep him on board.
Augustin himself has expressed a sincere interest to return to Chicago and seems flexible as it relates to financial terms. Nick Friedell of ESPN.com quotes him as saying, "They definitely gave me an opportunity. I owe them a lot, and like I said, it's not always about the money. It's where you feel comfortable or where you fit in. I definitely want to be here and hopefully everything works out."
If it does work out, that would muddy Hinrich’s would-be future role. Rather than trying to wedge him into the rotation, it would be best to free that roster slot for someone a bit more long-term.
Ridding the team of Carlos Boozer is a bit trickier than Mohammed and Hinrich. The former Duke Blue Devil is still under contract.
One of the first things to pop up when discussing Boozer’s future with Chicago is whether or not he will be amnestied. Per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Bulls would much rather trade Boozer than pay him to walk.
If the assertion is valid, it suggests that the management wants concrete value in return for parting with the soft-shooting power forward as opposed to rolling the dice courting outside talent in free agency. The trepidation to be aggressive in pursuing unaffiliated players is understandable since Chicago hasn’t done particularly well with attracting top-tier talent in the GarPax era.
Letting Boozer go would definitely leave a hole to fill. While he was not the reliable Robin to Rose’s Batman, he was a morsel of offense on a team starved of scoring. What he lacked in defensive aptitude he made up for with his ability to rebound and stretch the floor.
The bottom line is Boozer’s salary is not commensurate with his production. According to HoopsHype.com, he made $15.3 million this past season and is due $16.8 million next year, yet his numbers are similar to division rival David West, whose pay is $12 million.
Chicago can put that salary to better use. Trading him doesn’t sound as far-fetched as it used to be. Teams are more apt to take on hulking salaries when they are expiring. The trick will be finding needed value in return.
The front office may prefer to go for the player swap, but they might really want to start coming to terms with simply cutting Boozer loose.
Less is More
They’re called growing pains for a reason. This team is moving in a different direction, and in order to make sure it is ready for the new journey, the roster has to reflect the mission.
It has become apparent that the Bulls need to build with Rose and not around him. The Gladys Knight and the Pips model is keeping this franchise from reaching its full potential.
Guys like Hinrich and Boozer were added to be an option for the former MVP, but this squad needs another legitimate alternative, interchangeable primaries.
If that kind of a player can be acquired, the shift would be complete, and the services of certain athletes would no longer be needed.
That’s the gritty side of the NBA. These kinds of decisions have to be made without sentiment. The ultimate priority is doing what is best for the team’s longstanding goal of restoring the Bulls’ championship pedigree.
One cannot realize the future by holding on to the present.