NBA Trade Deadline: Chicago Bulls on the Block
As the NBA trade deadline gets ever so close, teams around the league are forming two groups: the buyers and the sellers.
Realistically, there are about eight or nine teams that can look at themselves in the mirror and say, "We are title contenders." The rest of us, including the Chicago Bulls, need to look towards the future—specifically this summer's free agent bonanza.
What the Bulls do now can go a long way towards making themselves a title contender. They have bad players (Tyrus Thomas) and bad contracts (Kirk Hinrich) to unload, and if they are able to get rid of one (or, preferably, both), the Bulls could be on their way back.
In many ways, Derrick Rose's first All-Star game signals good things on the horizon for the Bulls, who hadn't had an All-Star since some guy named Jordan back in 1998.
But you need to water and groom this Rose like you would any other, and that means getting him the players and pals necessary to compete for basketball's highest prize: an NBA championship.
Let's take a look at some Bulls on the block.
2009-10 stats: 23.2 minutes; 8.8 pts; 6.3 reb; 1.63 blocks.
It appears to be only a matter of time before the Bulls pull the plug on the Tyrus Thomas project.
If this were grade school, both parties would get an "F" for this project.
Taken way too high (No. 4 in 2006 draft by Portland) and given way too much money ($4.7 million this season), Thomas' time in the Windy City has run out.
You hear all the time of his "freakish talent" and his ability to "leap out of the gym," but has that translated into anything in the NBA? He still runs around like a chicken with his head cut off and is still very raw and rough around the edges.
The fact that rookie Taj Gibson has taken firm hold of the Bulls' starting power forward spot says a lot about Thomas' development.
He has feuded with two coaches in four seasons, and doesn't seem to want to buy into the belief of playing for your team; rather, he plays for himself.
Because he can earn over $6 million next season if he stays, there is really no reason for the Bulls to hang on to him.
Several teams have inquired about Thomas, and so that figures to be all the Bulls needed to hear.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are said to be one of the interested teams, and the Bulls would dearly love to steal away center Al Jefferson from them.
That's likely a reach at this point, but any deal involving the million-dollar athlete with the ten-cent head would be welcome at this point.
2009-10 stats: 32.4 minutes; 10.2 pts; 3.6 reb; 4.4 assists.
We wanted to believe in you, Kirk, we really did.
But enough is enough and it's time for both of us to go our separate ways.
Hinrich boasts a career scoring average of 13.5 points per game, but it's down to just over 10 a game this season.
On the surface, that looks respectable, but last year's No. 2 guard (Ben Gordon) is gone, which makes Hinrich's low scoring somewhat puzzling.
One would think his scoring could be higher than what he has shown thus far, especially with a talented point guard in Derrick Rose and no ball-hog like Ben Gordon.
Moving Hinrich won't be easy for two reasons.
One is that Hinrich is owed $17 million over the next two full seasons, so a team has to be very much in love with Hinrich to pull the trigger—they'll be stuck with him for over two years.
The second reason is that the Bulls don't have a replacement guard lined up to fill Kirk's void.
The Bulls wisely let Ben Gordon walk into the Motor City via free agency, and went big in the draft with forwards James Johnson and Taj Gibson.
Jannero Pargo is certainly not capable of starting opposite Derrick Rose, so Kirk might remain a Bull simply because the numbers game is in his favor.
John Salmons could technically play the two-guard role, but he's also on the block, as we'll see next.
2009-10 stats: 33.4 minutes; 12.8 pts; 3.4 reb; 2.4 assist.
Perhaps we expected too much out of Salmons this season.
His scoring average last year (18.3 ppg) was insane for a player whose career average ppg is less than 10.
His low rebound and assist numbers suggest that Salmons is only good to a team if he scores, say 18 points a game or so.
As we are currently seeing, however, all is not right in Salmons' pond this season.
He was acquired last year by the Bulls at the deadline, and there stands a reason to believe he could be on the other end of that this season.
He has an expiring contract—considered to be gold in this year's NBA—so teams would be glad to take on his $6.4 million salary for two months.
He would make a nice guard/forward option for a contender's bench, and would provide a long-armed defender capable of absorbing minutes and fouls.
The other player acquired by the Bulls last deadline, Brad Miller, is also on the block.
2009-10 stats: 22 minutes; 7.4 pts, 4.2 reb; 1.6 assists
The seven-footer will be 34-years-old in April, and this season he has really shown his age.
The former All-Star has seen his scoring drop over four points per game, his rebounding drop over three rebounds a game, and his assists per game have been cut in half (3.2 last season, 1.6 this season).
It's no wonder his minutes are down and his starting spot has been given to Joakim Noah, who is obviously well-deserving.
There's not many teams after Miller, but any team in need of a veteran big man who can shoot pretty well and handle the ball might take a flyer on "The Big Sleezy," as my friends and I have dubbed him.
His $12.2 million contract will hurt a team for two months, but his deal is off the books this summer, so no team will be crippled if they pick up Miller.
Joakim Noah has established himself as a pretty good NBA player, so Miller is more than expendable for the Bulls.
Summer in the City
For the Bulls to land a player like Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade, or LeBron James (we can dream), or, even better, two of those types (we can still dream), they'll need to shed some money and contracts and do it as soon as possible.
The Bulls can limp their way to the finish line and earn a No. 7 or No. 8 seed with the current cast of players, but ultimately they'll need an All-Star (or two) to play alongside with Rose to make any real NBA title waves.
That's what the NBA is all about. Having All-Star players puts you in the conversation for an NBA title.
For the Bulls, it's one down, one (or two) to go.