Charles Barkley literally said this every time the Chicago Bulls played during these playoffs: Derrick Rose is the only guy on the Bulls who can create his own shot.
In other words, Chicago lacked a reliable shooting guard, at least on the offensive end.
Gar Forman and John Paxson decided not to part with young big men Taj Gibson and Omer Asik at the trade deadline to get the likes of Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo. Even though Gibson and Asik have become fan favorites as part of the “Bench Mob,” teams have to give up talent to get talent in return.
In my last article, I highlighted 10 possible players the Bulls could select with their three picks in the upcoming 2011 NBA draft. While it is certainly probable that Chicago will try to package its draft picks to get a shooting guard, the Bulls would likely have to part with the same two big men as they would have at this year's trade deadline.
However, without Kurt Thomas necessarily available as a backup next year and the history of injuries between Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, it seems unlikely the Bulls will be more willing to send their frontcourt depth away.
Instead, Forman and Paxson should turn to the free-agent market, where several potentially helpful shooting guards are available. The Bulls have enough cap room to make a mid-level contract offer. Assuming that still exists in this offseason, that’s ideally enough to pick up one of the following veterans.
This would be a dream come true for Chicago. Unfortunately, it’s almost definitely not happening, even though Ray Allen has played for Thibodeau, and the Boston trio is aging rapidly.
Maybe if Doc Rivers didn’t come back to coach again, Allen would consider not taking his option and joining forces with the Bulls to topple the Miami Heat. But because Rivers, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will all be back for one more shot at the title, Allen would be letting them down by not doing the same.
Adding Allen, who is arguably the best three-point shooter in the history of the league, would instantly give Rose more space to operate and make the Bulls a more viable championship contender. Allen is past his prime and perhaps not an ideal playmaker, but his shooting touch and veteran leadership would more than make up for it.
Perhaps Jamal Crawford will learn from Joe Johnson’s mistake and take less money to join a franchise that has a legitimate shot of competing for a championship every year for the rest of his playing days. It would also be a return to a team he played for during his first four years in the NBA.
Chicago could also immediately offer Crawford a starting spot, as opposed to his sixth-man role in Atlanta. Crawford doesn’t have a great track record as a consistent shooter, but with Derrick Rose handling the ball for a majority of possessions, he could focus on the catch-and-shoot as well as cutting while on the weak side.
At 6'5", Crawford has the height to match some of the other shooting guards in the NBA. He could also play some point guard if necessary, either because of foul trouble on Rose or to give different looks to the opposing defense with Rose on the wing.
At 31 years old, this contract could very well be Crawford’s last. He would be wise to make it with a championship contender. He will almost surely get a higher dollar amount from another team, so the championship angle is what the Bulls are going to have to sell him on when making their offer. He is one of the best options for a purely unrestricted free agent.
Out of all the shooting guards out there, Arron Afflalo might be the very best option for the Bulls. He doesn’t come with an attitude, he plays good defense, and shoots well both when creating for himself and when shooting from three-point range.
Alas, at this point it seems like Denver will match any offer that comes its way for the four-year guard out of UCLA. After all, Afflalo posted a career-high 12.6 points per game this season while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and better than 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Still, the Bulls would be wise to offer as much per year as they possibly can to Afflalo, hoping the Nuggets get bogged down with trying to re-sign players like Nene, Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler or J.R. Smith.
In fact, Chandler would not be a bad option himself, though he’s really more of a small forward at 6'8". As for J.R. Smith...
The Bulls passed on J.R. Smith once. Now that they have a glaring need for a shooting guard who can provide instant offense, will they offer him a chance to come back to Chicago?
It wouldn’t surprise me if they did make an offer, and it also wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t. Every player, coach and executive within the Bulls organization prides themselves on being surrounded by the “right type of people.” Smith, on the other hand, hasn’t been the most model citizen throughout his NBA career.
Yet the stats don’t lie. Smith is 6'6", can drive to the basket as well as most players in the league, and hits nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers. He is very capable of scoring 30 points on any given occasion.
With individuals like Rose, Deng, Noah and Thibodeau, who will hold him accountable for his actions, maybe Smith could change his ways, especially if he knows he could win a championship if he behaves.
Then again, old habits die hard. It’s up to Bulls management to determine if they want to take a risk or play it safe.
As much as Dallas would like to keep its NBA finals squad together in 2011, that’s going to prove difficult for Mark Cuban to do. Six Mavericks players are unrestricted free agents this offseason.
Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea should take priority over DeShawn Stevenson, which could present the Bulls with an opportunity to snag him. Stevenson is a strong defender and shot 38 percent from beyond the arc this season. He’s only a career 41 percent shooter from the field, but playing off Rose should present him with easier scoring opportunities.
At age 30, he’s also a veteran looking to sign a contract with a contender. He would likely start immediately for Chicago, which is an attractive proposition. For this reason, Chicago is a tempting destination for Stevenson and other veterans.
Guess who wrote an article last summer touting Shannon Brown as a player the Bulls needed to pick up? That would be me.
Brown is going to be difficult to pry away from the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Bulls have a few things going for them. First, Brown’s current contract is just more than $2 million per year, which the Bulls should be able to top. Second, he wanted to play in Chicago (he’s from Maywood, IL) last season but the Bulls didn’t give him a chance. Third, he would instantly become the starting shooting guard. (That’s not happening as long as Kobe is around.)
Best of all, he’s only 25 and has yet to show his true potential. During his career he’s played an average of 16 minutes per game, and last year played 19. In Chicago, he could easily average 30 minutes each contest. Extrapolating his stats just from last season, he would be right around 14 or 15 points per game, which is exactly what the Bulls need.
He’d be a perfect transition partner for Rose. It all comes down to if he wants to test the market with a potential lockout looming.
He’s worth a mention and a look, but hardly more than that. Michael Redd simply hasn’t played enough recently for any team to realistically expect him to start at shooting guard.
Back in his prime, Redd scored in the mid-20s on average while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. If that guy joined forces with Rose, Deng, Boozer and Noah, the Bulls would be looking at a 65-win season next year at least.
Unfortunately, that’s not who Redd is anymore. He played in only 10 games this past season and managed just four points per game. In 2009-2010, he averaged 12 points per contest in 18 games. In his 33 games in the 2008-2009 season, he scored a whopping 21 each night.
If the Bulls get a starting-level shooting guard, Redd would be a worthy gamble with a small contract to come off the bench and maybe return to form eventually. But expecting him to start and make a difference is a lot to ask at this point.
Yes, both of these guys are really small forwards. But how crazy would it be to have a starting five with three Duke players?
If Kurt Thomas could be effective in Chicago as the second-oldest player in the NBA, Grant Hill could too. In Phoenix, he played great enough defense that experts were exasperated that he wasn’t selected to the All-Defensive team. And he scored 13 points per game while shooting 40 percent from downtown.
Similarly, Shane Battier is known as one of the elite defenders in the NBA. He might not be the creator that Chicago craves to play alongside Rose, but like Redd, he’s worth a look for his veteran poise and leadership.
Here’s the guy all Bulls fans seem to want. Jason Richardson is a well-known name and a player who has proven he can slash to the basket and also knock down threes.
The problem is, he’s 30, and great leapers like himself tend to decline faster than most other players. I’m looking at you, Vince Carter.
Don’t get me wrong, if Richardson agrees to a contract much, much less than his old one ($14 million per season), he’d be a tremendous addition to this woeful Chicago offense. And if there’s concern about his defensive ability, Ronnie Brewer is there to back him up.
Still, as the Miami series taught Chicago, having poised veterans on the court is invaluable in the playoffs. Richardson has experience and could help teach Rose how to utilize his athleticism most effectively.
Richardson played with Steve Nash, so his 19 points per game this season might be a bit inflated, while his 14 in Orlando may be a bit low. He’s a scorer by nature, so a respectable 15 or 16 each game is reasonable to expect should he come to the Windy City.
Mickael Pietrus is not the flashiest name out on the possible free-agent market. Players like Richardson, Crawford and Smith have more appeal because they have shown they can score in bunches.
While the Bulls certainly need more scoring from the shooting guard position, I’m sure Thibodeau does not want to totally abandon what got Chicago 62 wins in 2010-2011. And that’s defense.
Pietrus is known to be a reliable defender, and at 6'6" he can cover the elite shooting guards as well as some small forwards. But more importantly is that, on offense, he knocks down 36 percent of threes and can slash to the basket and finish at the rim. While he’s averaged just 8.5 points per game over his career, he’s hardly ever been asked to score, so he could flourish in Chicago.
Though he fits with the Bulls’ scheme, I’m not sure the front office will make him an offer. Forman and Paxson are tuned into the fan reactions, and I’m sure they realize that not getting one of the big names out there will disappoint the fan base.
Which free agent would you want to see in a Bulls uniform?