Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported tonight that there are “serious” talks happening between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks that would send Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James to the Knicks in exchange for Al Harrington. As trade talks begin to heat up around the NBA, the first real proposal of the season seems to make sense for both parties.
Thomas is currently recovering from a broken forearm that has kept him out of action for the last month and a half. Since he was drafted by the Bulls in 2006, Thomas has been somewhat of a project that has improved every year, increasing his statistical performances in just about every category. At just 23 years old he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, but his high energy, athletic game could surely improve if he was put into a higher tempo offense. His 6′10″, 225-pound body slots him at the power forward position, but in the Bulls half-court offense he is undersized and cannot be a full-time post player.
On the other hand, Harrington has done well for the Knicks, averaging over 20 points per game since he arrived in New York. The 12-year veteran has exploded for two 40-point games this season and would surely add instant offense to a Bulls team that ranks 28th in the NBA, scoring just 91.4 points per game. The bigger Harrington would take over the Bulls power forward spot and give Derrick Rose another offensive weapon to go along with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
From a money perspective, the Bulls would be wise to make this move as Harrington’s contract expires after this season. General Manager John Paxson is clearly looking to the 2010 “Free Agent Sweepstakes”, where he and the Bulls are expected to make plays for free agents Chris Bosh and hometown hero Dwyane Wade. With Harrington’s contract going off the books after the season, more cap space will be available for the Bulls to go after those free agents. Letting go of Thomas would save the Bulls approximately $13 million.
The Knicks currently have the most cap space allotted for 2010 of any NBA team with players like Larry Hughes ($13.65 million), Darko Milicic ($7.5 million), Cuttino Mobley ($9.5 million), David Lee ($7 million), Chris Duhon ($6 million), and Nate Robinson ($4 million) all coming off the books after this season. The Knicks have made it all but public that they will pursue LeBron James next summer, the clear prized possession of the free agent class.
However, one issue that has been talked about is that the Knicks will have to show James that they still have a foundation and that they will not sacrifice the rest of the team just so they have the money to offer him a maximum contract. Adding Thomas to the Knicks, who is under contract until 2011, along with up-and-coming second-year forward Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and rookies Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas would be a start in showing James that a young core of players are ready to succeed under the leadership of James if he comes to New York.
As it goes for the 2009 season, Harrington would improve the Bulls' frontcourt immediately alongside the fully improved Joakim Noah. Last June, the Bulls drafted Wake Forest’s James Johnson and Taj Gibson from USC. While Johnson is more of a project, just as Thomas was coming out of college, Gibson has established himself as a contributor and has the potential to start for the Bulls in 2010. Despite being a fan favorite, the early emergence of Gibson makes Thomas expendable and also frees up the power forward position for Chris Bosh in 2010, presuming he decides on Chicago next summer.