Wade is the only great player on an otherwise pretty putrid team. Without Wade, the Heat are absolutely lottery-bound. Michael Beasley might have the potential to be a 20-10 type player, but he’ll do it without playing a lick of defense.
Jermaine O’Neal may be healthy, but his athletic ability has noticeably deteriorated as of late and he’s being forced play out of position. Mario Chalmers has decent potential, but I can’t help but thinking that his ceiling is along the lines of Chris Duhon; he’ll be a solid defender, good passer and floor leader but won’t have a great amount of offensive game to speak of.
And Udonis Haslem is, well, just a nice role player to have but nothing special. Lastly, Carlos Arroyo will play big minutes. And no offense to Arroyo, but if he’s your sixth best player and he‘s not far off in talent compared to players three to five, you’ve got problems. So it’s no wonder that there is a lot of talk regarding Wade leaving Miami.
I hear this argument often that the Heat can give Wade an extra year on his contract which should equate to upwards of $25+ million compared to what he can earn everywhere else. And to that I say, so what? Miami is not a big sports town. It’s just not. They love to talk about college football there more than anything else.
And can you blame them? This is the kingdom of fashion. There’s great weather almost year-round and you just don’t get the same sports atmosphere that you see in other cities. Sure Miami has the Heat, the Dolphins, the Marlins, the Panthers and their beloved Hurricanes. But despite having relatively successful franchises, a big portion of the talk around the town is about the Jets, the Giants, the Yankees, the Mets and the Red Sox.
There are so many snow birds and transplant New Yorkers down here that sometimes Miami sports gets dominated by the northeastern U.S. Add the fact that Miami is the seventh largest market in the U.S. and you have to consider how big the Heat following really is. What percentage of that seventh largest market is actually following the Heat and not other teams?
Granted, Wade has a big pull with fans of other teams, but the key here is endorsements. I’d be willing to bet that if Wade moved to one of the big three markets of New York, LA, or Chicago, his endorsement money that he would earn in the long run would most likely come close to or possibly even surpass that extra salary that Wade would earn with just one extra year in Miami.
There’s no question that Bulls fans as a whole are a lot more loyal to their team. And they will buy all things Wade in bulk compared to Heat fans. And I mean no disrespect to Heat fans. But let me give you an example of the difference between the two teams.
Two years removed from a title, the Miami Heat ranked 15th in attendance. That’s down from fifth in attendance in their only title year. In contrast, the Chicago Bulls, who ranked second in attendance last season, were ranked first in attendance two years removed from their last title with a 17-win team.
In fact, during all of those awful years for Chicago in the post-Jordan era, the Bulls have never been out of the top ten in attendance and were only out of the top five just one season (where they ranked ninth).
You mean to tell me that fans like that won’t overcome the difference that Wade would make with an extra year in Miami by buying his products? I know that’s a lot of dough, but I find it a bit difficult to believe that a super-star level hometown product playing with another up-and-coming potential super-star hometown product (Rose) wouldn’t make more money in his hometown of Chicago than in his adopted town of Miami.
The latter three dynasty Bulls teams did not have a post presence big man. Instead they substituted a classic post presence with a 2-guard in Michael Jordan who can actually be considered a post presence. Jordan had a habit of playing with his back to the basket. All he needed was for good rebounders to collect his misses and either give the Bulls a second chance to regroup or to quickly put the ball into the hoop.
The current Bulls you would think badly need a post presence. But after re-analyzing the situation, I don’t think that’s the case. Having a post presence is extremely overrated. What you need if you don’t have a super-star level guard or small forward capable of playing the post presence roll is at least one big man who is capable of scoring inside on a consistent basis.
It doesn’t matter how that ball gets into the hoop as long as it gets in there. If you don’t have a big man capable of averaging 20+ points per game, you need to have a number of quality big men who are all capable of doing some damage down low.
Last season the Bulls weren’t that team.
They did not have quality big men who were capable of scoring close to the basket on a consistent basis. Probably the most consistent big man to score close to the hoop in the latter half of the season was Brad Miller. And since he was coming off the bench he wasn’t exactly doing that that often—especially considering that his role also allowed him to take an occasional jumper. But now? The Bulls don’t have that same problem.
Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas took this offseason seriously. Both guys have visibly bulked up. Noah has seemingly worked on his post game and is finding easy ways to score without having his back to the basket.
We haven’t seen much of Tyrus yet, but if his last preseason game is any indication, he has finally realized that his freakish athletic gifts could be use to take it to the hoop every time without nearly as much trouble as it would take other players.
And apparently he’s grown an extra inch to reach 6’10’’; so that’s certainly going to help him poke the ball through the net. But in any case, the improvement of these two guys is extremely important to Chicago’s future direction of the franchise.
Then there’s the two rookies, James Johnson and Taj Gibson. Johnson has shown flashes of being a guy who can get inside in a highlight reel fashion. And he should be able to do that on a more regular basis if given the minutes.
But his contributions as a role player for now will help this team. And Taj Gibson has shown now on a consistent basis that not only can he score inside, but he can be used as an effective mid-range jumper weapon. Together the two of these guys add a great deal more depth and another dimension to a front court that lacked such players last season.
And now that Luol Deng is healthy and will see some time at the 4, things are looking a bit more stacked in the front court than they’ve had in Chicago for quite some time.
So the issue here is that if this front court can continue to produce in the regular season as well as its been producing during the preseason, the need to pursue that star-caliber big man may not be as big as was once thought by many. And if that is truly the case, the biggest are the Bulls would need to improve upon would be at the 2.
While I have great confidence in John Salmons, if he asks for a long and pricey extension I would pass on him due to his age. Although if Luol Deng does not return to his offensive form in previous years, attempting to dump him might be a better option.
However, I have my doubts that anyone would want to take him off of Chicago’s hands unless he returns to form. And if he does, then the Bulls would most certainly keep him.
But if he doesn’t and the Bulls somehow are able to get rid of his contract without damaging their 2010 cap situation too much, resigning Salmons to play the 3 would make sense if they plan on putting the rest of their money into bringing in an upgrade at the 2.
So if the 2-guard position the focus for 2010 then you have to look at Wade first and then Joe Johnson second. But Wade is most certainly the bigger talent and he would have more reason to leave Miami for Chicago then for Johnson to leave Atlanta for Chicago.
Ignore the fact that Wade is a Chicagoan for a moment and consider the mentality of most super-star caliber players. They want to win. But they also want to get paid.
If you take a look at the teams with significant cap space in 2010, the size of the markets and actual talent to surround the player to compete for a championship, only two destinations make sense: Chicago and New Jersey. But out of those two teams, Chicago has more talent and the city has a personal connection to Wade.
So if you’re the Bulls, you go after Wade not just because of his talent but because he’s the most likely free agent that you can pry away from another team.
If the Bulls’ front court situation did not significantly improve over the off season I would have lobbied not to pursue Wade because he wouldn’t have filled Chicago’s biggest hole. But if things progress the way they have been, all indications would point to that not being the issue.