NBA Free Agents 2010: Kurt Thomas Is the Chicago Bulls' Biggest Steal

Brian ChappattaCorrespondent IIJuly 23, 2010

ATLANTA - APRIL 28:  Kurt Thomas #40 of the Milwaukee Bucks against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 28, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kurt Thomas is not the type of player many teams had on top of their free-agency wish lists this offseason.

Yet he's the type of player every team wishes they had.

The 15-year journeyman has a physical and mental toughness about him on the basketball court that can't be taught, only observed.

That's what makes him the steal of the offseason, especially for the Chicago Bulls.

Think about it: The Bulls have no true veteran player on their roster. Before agreeing to a deal with Thomas, Carlos Boozer was their oldest member at 28 years old.

Sure Boozer is similar to Thomas in strength and size. But he is still in the prime of his career. He's not at the point where he wants to spend his practice time teaching the younger players the nuances of the game.

As the fifth man in the front-court rotation, Thomas won't have a problem assuming that role.

That means Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and particularly Omer Asik, can all learn what it takes to battle down low in the NBA for 15 years. 

Brad Miller assumed that role last year to some extent, though he was asked to contribute significantly more than Thomas will be expected to. Miller also was a non-traditional big man who could hit a three-pointer.

Thomas will likely serve as a third-string power forward or center, while possibly directly backing up Noah if Asik does not pan out like Bulls management hopes.

Though Chicago probably does not want to place their season on the shoulders of a 38-year-old, Thomas has proven he can still step up and play competitively. He averaged eight rebounds per game in the playoffs last season with the Bucks after Andrew Bogut was injured.

The best rebounding team in the league last year just got stronger.

Thomas, of course, is not without his weaknesses. He is slow and slightly undersized, with approximately the same frame as Boozer. Having him in at the center position would not bode well against Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, or Andrew Bynum.

Still, I'd take Thomas over Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, or Jamaal Magloire any day. Yes, those examples are all from the Miami Heat on purpose.

For one year, Thomas is a tremendous addition, especially after Houston splurged on Miller with a monster contract. The Bulls will not be lacking a veteran presence in the post.

The general consensus is the Bulls are another shooting guard away from completing their 12-man roster. With roughly $3 million of cap room to spend, they could acquire Tracy McGrady, who would be the second-oldest player on the team, or they could add more youth in Shannon Brown. Or add a player from their summer league team.

Regardless of who Chicago picks up next, the team did well in signing Thomas. If other teams try to bully Asik, expect Thomas to get in their grill. 

If Gibson hits a second-year wall, expect Thomas to fill in admirably as Gibson figures things out.

The Thomas signing is further proof of the Bulls' management methodically building a deep and balanced team to compete with the league's best.