With the offseason continuing and the NBA lockout in full effect, now is the perfect time to evaluate how the Chicago Bulls' roster currently looks and what potential changes we may see. There are few teams who have caused as much buzz this offseason as the Bulls as they look to shore up the shooting guard position. Some are calling for a trade, some want a key free agent to be signed, and others just want the bulls to stand pat with their current roster.
Continuing what I started in my previous review of Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls' Point Guard Situation, this time we will be looking at Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and the situation at shooting guard!
Kyle Korver: Signed through 2012-2013 with the last year not guaranteed.
In Kyle Korver, the Bulls have one of the best shooters in the league, even if he didn't appear to be during the playoffs last year. Korver currently holds the NBA record for regular season 3PT% at .536 which he shot in 2009-2010, To compare and contrast, Emeka Okafor shot .562 from the free throw line that same season.
Korver is a deadly shooter when he works within the flow of an offense but has struggled at times when he is trying to force his shot or learn a new system (as he did at various points last season.) Look for Korver to play more consistantly in the coming season and to bring his percentage back up near that of 2009-2010.
Korver also brings a knack for getting the ball inside to his big men. Having played with Boozer for several years, Korver was more familiar with him going into last season and did a good job looking for him down low. With a year under his belt with the Bulls, expect Korver to do a better job next season looking for Noah, Gibson, and Asik in the post which should boost both his own and their performances on a nightly basis.
Korver's biggest weakness is his defense. Known mainly as a shooter, Korver was criticized heavily over the course of last season for being a weak point in the Bulls suffocating defense. I submit that Korver has been criticized too much in this area and is better than many give him credit for. Korver was an average defender on a great defensive team. This, combined with the fact that he (and most of the Bulls guards) looked silly trying to contain Lebron and D-Wade, has led many to surmise that Korver is a subpar defender, but I would look for him to come back and prove people wrong. One thing that could help Korver a lot in this department is to spend time with Ronnie Brewer, picking up some tips on how to defend at a higher level.
Ronnie Brewer: Signed through 2012-2013 with the last year not guaranteed.
Ronnie Brewer is best known for being a lockdown defender and his defense is the main reason Thibs and the Bulls sought him last offseason. Brewer knows that the main reason he gets playing time is to go out and shut down the other team's leading scorer—a task which he seems to relish. Last season Brewer averaged 1.31 steals per game—23rd in the NBA—while only averaging 22 minutes of playing time per game. When you project out to potential steals per 48 minutes, Brewer was fourth in the NBA last year at 2.86, with only Tony Allen, Chris Paul, and Rajon Rondo ahead of him.
Brewer also brings a ton of athleticism to the Bulls which, after Derrick Rose, is something the Bulls lack. Going into last season, he was recovering from a torn hamstring and it was evident that he was struggling with it at the start. As the season went on, Brewer seemed to slowly regain the step he had lost going into it but the injury re-presented itself a few times during the season which has to be concerning for both him and the Bulls.
The biggest downside for Brewer has to be his shot or the fact that he doesn't have one. Percentages aren't the area of concern for Brewer as he has averaged a .514 FG% over his time in the NBA even with a poor .233 3PT%. The biggest concern is that he has only average 7.1 FG Attempts per game—this means Brewer is choosy with his shot attempts (which is why his FG% is so high.) The Bulls need a second scoring threat alongside Derrick Rose. They need a player who wants to create their own shot and who has the ability to hit from 3PT range and spread the floor. With Brewer not looking for his shot and not shooting particularly well from 3PT, the Bulls will have to decide if his defensive prowess is enough to make up for his inability to provide relief for Derrick Rose.
Over the course of this offseason, Brewer needs to focus on two things: getting healthy and creating his shot. I absolutely love the idea of Brewer practicing all offseason/lockout with Kyle Korver because the two can help each other so much. Brewer can learn how to shoot from Korver and can improve on creating his own shot on a lesser defensive player like Korver. At the same time, he can help Korver to improve on the defensive end. But, first things first, before Brewer works on improving his skills, he needs to completely rehab his injury and come back in excellent condition for next season's battle royale in the Eastern conference.
Keith Bogans: Signed through 2011-2012 but contract is not guaranteed.
Keith Bogans was the Bulls starting shooting guard last season and was quite arguably the worst starting shooting guard in the league. Bogans is a defensive stopper and at 31 years old was still able to play enough hard nose defense to get under the skin of a lot of starting shooting guards in the league—particularly D-Wade. Being a defensive stopper, it is understandable why Thibodeou stuck with him down the stretch even when fans and analysts were calling for a change at shooting guard. In his defense, Ronnie Brewer was meant to be the starting shooting guard and would have been had his hamstring completely healed prior to last year's preseason.
Bogans defensive ability isn't particularly flashy with regards to stat lines. Last season Bogans averaged .5 steals, .1 blocks, and 1.8 rebounds per game in 17.8 minutes per game. Where Bogans true value lies is his ability to deny passes to his man, putting a hand in the face of his man on every shot, and getting into the head of his man. Bogans isn't a big player but he, along with Kurt Thomas, provided the intimidation factor for the Bulls last year, occasionally delivering hard fouls and getting in opponents faces.
Bogans is a decent shooter recording a .404 FG% and a .380 3PT% last season (both better than his career averages.) Regardless, Bogans still only averaged 4.4 points per game and failed to provide any real relief for Derrick Rose when other teams would double team him. Being an older player, Bogans lacks of the quickness to create his own shot and seems more content to just stay on the perimeter and shoot 3s with the shot clock expiring.
As for what Bogans could do this offseason/lockout, one idea would be to search for the fountain of youth. Seriously, aside from getting younger, there is not much Bogans can do to improve his game at this point. With the Bulls being linked in various rumors to shooting guard free agents and potential trades, it wouldn't be too big of a shock if the Bulls bought out Bogans' contract in order to make room for a new starting shooting guard next season.
When looking at potential shooting guard acquisitions, there are six players that catch my eye for the Bulls and I feel would help put them over the top. These players are able to contribute both offensively and defensively and would be able to take some of the scoring load off of D Rose. In no particular order:
1) O.J. Mayo was linked to the Bulls at last season's trade deadline and continues to be a name mentioned consistently with regards to the Bulls' shooting guard dilemma. Last season Mayo averaged 11.3 points, 2 assists, and a steal per game in 26.3 minutes and shot a .407 FG% and .364 3PT%. With starters minutes, Mayo could legitimately be a 20 point, 5 assist, 2 steal contributor for the Bulls. Mayo has been acknowledged as having a high basketball IQ and is known for playing tenacious defense.
The main downside are his off-court issues having already been suspended by the league for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy and also having gotten into a fight with one of his teammates last season. There is some risk with Mayo, but a lot of potential reward as well.
To get Mayo, the Bulls would need to present a trade to the Grizzlies and the best fit financially would be to send Korver to the Grizz which would fill their need for a backup SG, we would also likely have to include a draft pick or two to make this happen as the Grizzlies seem to be willing to take their time shopping Mayo.
2) Arron Afflalo is another young SG who could be the player to push them over the edge for a championship next season. Last season Afflalo showed approvement all around, averaging 12.6 points, 2.4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting a .498 FG% and a .423 3PT%.
Afflalo is a decent defender and, when healthy, is capable of dropping 20+ points per game within the flow of an offense. Afflalo is a restricted free agent which means the Bulls may be hard pressed to offer him enough money to keep the Nuggets (who are keen on keeping him) from matching the offer.
3) Shannon Brown is a former Bull who would be a much better asset where he brought back for a second stint in Chicago. Brown is probably undervalued as a guard as he has been overshadowed by Kobe Bryant throughout his time in LA. Last season Brown averaged 8.7 points, .8 steals, and 1.9 rebounds per game in just 19.1 minutes and shot a .425 FG% and a.349 3PT%.
Brown is young, athletic, and ready to prove himself. He is an unrestricted free agent and could potentially earn a big paycheck for a bad team, but I would expect him to stay in a large market where he could win a championship and Chicago is probably the best opportunity to do so!
4) Jamal Crawford is another former Bull who has been linked to the Bulls again recently. By far the oldest player on this list, Crawford's main contributions would be on the offensive end. Last season Crawford averaged 14.2 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.7 rebounds per game in 30.2 minutes while shooting a .421 FG% and a .341 3PT%.
Crawford won't be a huge upgrade over Korver on defense but his desire to win a championship and his willingness to be either a starter or 6th man makes him a good option. Crawford's age means he probably won't be a long term solution for the Bulls but they could get one or two good runs with him.
5) Courtney Lee was also a prospect for the Bulls at the trade deadline last season but the Bulls ultimately decided that Lee was less valuable to them than Omer Asik or Taj Gibson were at that time. With the loss of Yao Ming, the Bulls could potentially resign Kurt Thomas and trade him for Lee, providing the Rockets with a decent center to plug into their lineup. Lee averaged 8.3 points, 1.2 assists, and 2.6 steals per game last season playing 21.3 minutes while shooting a .439 FG% and a .408 3PT%. Lee is young with a lot of upside, but seems to be just what the Bulls would need at SG.
6) Wesley Matthews is the final player on this list. With Brandon Roy out last season, Matthews filled in and performed more than adequately. Last season he averaged 15.9 points, 2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 3.1 rebounds in 33.6 minutes while shooting a .449 FG% and a .407 3PT%. Matthews is young and has been learning under one of the better shooting guards in the game, he has a year of starting experience under his belt and would be an excellent pairing with D-Rose. The Bulls would need to put together a decent trade package to get him and most likely would need to move Korver/Brewer, Pargo/Lucas, and a draft pick.
Next we will look at a few players on the bubble. These guys are hit-or-miss kind of players who could either make the Bulls way better or could be a step back at shooting guard.
1) Monta Ellis is one of those players who fits really well into the system he is in. Alongside Stephen Curry, Ellis is given plenty of opportunities to shoot and also has good shooters to kick the ball out to for an assist. Ellis averages 24.1 points and 5.6 assists per game but may have some trouble replicating those numbers if used as a true shooting guard rather than a combo guard. Ellis is only 6'3" which is a little short for a shooting guard and has not proven to be able to defend against the elite shooting guards of this league. Ellis has made some questionable moves off court in the past and that, along with the fact that Golden State would probably want Joakim Noah in the trade, will probably cause Bulls management to pass on him.
2) Tracy McGrady is a player I have never truly liked. The epitome of the cocky, arrogant all-star, McGrady has always seemed to focus on offense and never on defense. That being said, he didn't even shine offensively last season with a weak Pistons team. McGrady averaged 8 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game in 23.4 minutes while shooting a .442 FG% and a .341 3PT%. McGrady also has caused waves in locker rooms with his ego and that, along with his defense, may keep him from the Bulls. The only reasons I see him being signed are that he does have to ability to play well in spurts offensively and also there has to be motivation for postseason success as he has never made it out of the first round. It's unlikely he ends up with the Bulls but he would present a cheap option as an unrestricted free agent.
3) Vince Carter is one of those great athletes who NBA fans have been privileged to watch—his most memorable dunk occurred during the 2000 Summer Olympics. At 34 years old, Carter most certainly has lost a step since the peak of his career, but he still has the ability to play against mid-level shooting guards in the league. Last season Carter averaged 14 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 28.1 minutes while shooting a .427 FG%. Not spectacular from three point range, Carter averaged a .361 3PT% which was only slightly down from his career average of .374. Not known for his defense, you have to wonder how he would fit into Thibodeau's system and whether or not Carter could play enough defense to offset Dwayne Wade or Lebron James. Carter certainly wouldn't be a long term fix at shooting guard as he won't be in the NBA for too much longer, but he could be the piece that puts them over the top and may be a cheap option due to his age.
4) Jason Richardson is another high flyer who used to be a freak of an athlete—the only athlete other than MJ and KryptoNate to win the NBA Dunk Contest two years straight. Richardson is only 30, so he has some years left and still puts up decent numbers. Last season Richardson averaged 15.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 33.9 minutes while shooting a .447 FG% and a .395 3PT%. Richardson would provide the perimeter shooting the Bulls lacked but isn't always able to create his own shot (due to being a little older) and as a stereotypical shooting guard, he has always cared more about offense than defense which will cause some adjustment issues if put into Thibodeau's system. Richardson may be a popular option for many teams this offseason, so the Bulls may not be able to match what other teams are offering him.
5) DeShawn Stevenson will probably be the most overrated player on this list. Coming off a championship season with the Dallas Mavericks, Stevenson's value is really high. Stevenson is known as an athletic, strong defensive player but isn't known as an offensive player which is what the Bulls need. Last season Stevenson 5.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game in 16.1 minutes per game while shooting a .388 FG% and a .378 3PT%. Stevenson would be a good pickup defensively (possibly outperforming Ronnie Brewer) but would be a miserable offensive addition. Because of his lack of offense and the fact that he will probably make too much money for what he brings to the table (think James Posey after the 2008 Celtics Championship) it is unlikely that he will be the answer for the Bulls.
The last group of players are those who, despite being advocated for by other writers, would actually set the Bulls back. For the sake of brevity, we will just focus on the downside to these potential acquisitions.
1) Eddie House is a guy who looks like a good addition on paper but actually provides very little. A mediocre shooter who plays poor defense. House wouldn't provide enough on either end of the court to justify the Bulls signing him.
2) Roger Mason Jr. is a older player who also provides too little on either end of the court. Averaging less than 3 points per game last season, Mason can't be counted on to provide the offensive contributions the Bulls are looking for.
3) J.R. Smith is a tempest in a tea kettle. Smith has sported an attitude of arrogance throughout his time in Denver and if a patient coach like Karl can't put up with Smith, don't expect a workhorse like Thibodeau to show him much love. Smith can score but isn't committed to defense and that will be what keeps him out of Chi-town.
4) Rip Hamilton is another aging shooting guard whose value is overrated. Aside from his 3PT%, Hamilton's major stats were all down across the board and the last thing the Bulls need is a veteran shooting guard who doesn't have enough to get the past the the good teams of this league. Hamilton still brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm but the Bulls already have their energy man in Noah and don't need another.
5) Michael Redd is possibly the most intriguing of the poor acquisitions in that you don't know what you can get out of him at this point except the high probability of injury. Redd could be an excellent player for the Bulls at shooting guard but could also challenge Boozer for the most injury-riddle player on the Bulls roster. Redd has had some impressive performances and could replicate them in the Bulls' system but without the evidence to back it up, the Bulls would be taking an awful risk on Redd.
At this point, there is really no telling what direction the Bulls will go this offseason, and a lot of their decision may depend on the length of the lockout. With a shortened season, the Bulls management may feel more inclined to stick with their current roster—especially if the Bulls players do spend time together this offseason as Nick Friedell reported.
One thing is for certain: the Bulls' shooting guard situation is one of the more interesting story lines to follow this offseason. If you are interested in reading more about potential acquisitions, check out the player pages for more articles on where they could end up next season.
Agree with my opinions? Disagree? Leave a comment and we can continue the discussion!