How good do the Chicago Bulls feel about their ability to attract top free agents to the Windy City?
Apparently good enough that they are willing to trade away one or two of their core players for significantly less value, just to clear cap space.
ESPN reported that the Bulls had talked with the L.A. Clippers about dealing Luol Deng and the No. 17 pick for the No. 8 pick. Though the deal apparently will not happen, things can change fast as the draft nears.
If all goes according to plan, the Bulls would have just about enough room to sign two maximum contracts. LeBron James and Chris Bosh perhaps. And they could maybe get some depth with a high draft pick.
If all goes wrong?
Well, the Bulls have a ton of cap room and settle for players like Rudy Gay.
It's dangerous to move a player like Deng, who has played with the Bulls for so long and is a quality veteran. Sure he's not James or Bosh, but he could suffice as a third option behind Rose and the (supposed) free agent acquisition.
Trade him away, and the Bulls are left with gaping holes at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.
Yes, in theory Hinrich, James Johnson and Taj Gibson could fill those spots, but that would be beyond underwhelming considering the high expectations for the Bulls next season.
One of the reasons people think Chicago will get LeBron is because of the great supporting cast. Well that includes Deng and Hinrich.
Take those two away, and the team basically consists of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Both are good players, but it's not exactly a super supporting cast.
Is it better than what the Knicks and Heat have to offer? Probably. But there are many more factors that these free agents are going to take into consideration beyond the other players on the roster.
Miami pretty much has Dwyane Wade. It's just a matter of who is going to play with him. That's an advantage the Bulls don't have, because (from what we know) Rose is not actively seeking free agents to come join the Bulls.
New York has the city and the fame. That's about it. If James has it in his head that he's going to turn the Knicks around all by himself, there will be no stopping him.
The Bulls, just like all the teams vying for free agents, are in a delicate situation on draft day. Nothing is certain, and in an offseason with so many expectations and so much on the line, teams don't want to mess up.
The way I see it, there are only two ways the Bulls could epically fail.
1. Trade away Derrick Rose and/or Joakim Noah
2. Somehow decrease their cap room so they can no longer sign a free agent to a maximum contract
Other than that, the Bulls management should go with their gut feelings. They have to have some indication of which free agents they might be able to get. If Gar Forman and John Paxson feel confident that they can get James or Bosh, they should do everything in their power to free space and try for both.
The Bulls have proven that not taking risks gets you knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
The stakes are higher. The risks are greater. The reward is huge.
Chicago can't stand pat. Pat Riley and the Heat are dealing left and right to make a final push. The Bulls need to do the same if they are serious about snagging the best free agents on the market.