Friday, November 13
by Mark Schanowski
After thinking more about my last post on the Bulls' offensive problems, I started wondering which veteran players might be available at this point who could legitimately help the Bulls win some of these close games. And I kept coming back to one name, Houston's one-time superstar Tracy McGrady. Yes, T-Mac is coming off microfracture knee surgery last spring and he's definitely got a selfish streak to his game, but he's not afraid to take a big shot in close games, and he can get to the foul line...two qualities the Bulls are lacking right now.
Before we go any further, any deal probably wouldn't happen before mid-December, since McGrady is still in the final stages of his rehab process, and my trade proposal would include Tyrus Thomas, who's out for 4 to 6 weeks with a broken left forearm. In case you haven't noticed, the Rockets are off to a surprisingly good start in the West, even without McGrady and center Yao Ming. There's a school of thought in Houston that the Rockets might be better off without McGrady, since he tends to dominate the ball and prefers a half-court style. The Rockets have gone to an up tempo offense with young point guard Aaron Brooks pushing the ball and setting up easy baskets for guys like Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza. Meanwhile, the Bulls have transformed themselves into a defensive-oriented team, giving up around 93 points a night, but scoring just 89. They figure to be in a LOT of close games this season, and right now they don't have a closer like McGrady. So far, we've seen the ball wind up in the hands of John Salmons, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich in late-game situations, and none of them have done a good job of knocking down perimeter jump shots. I would expect the Bulls will go to Derrick Rose more in high screen and roll situations when he's 100 percent healthy again, but right now, they are living and dying with the jump shot, and that's not really a formula for long-term success in the NBA.
So, how would this proposed deal work? First of all, this is 100 percent my idea. I have not talked with John Paxson or Gar Forman, but I'm pretty sure they intend to stay the course to see if those jump shots will start falling AND if Rose can start to take over late in close games. But with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson emerging as pleasant surprises this season, Luol Deng getting back to his old productive ways, and the big improvement on the defensive end, it would be a shame not to try to maximize this team's potential. My plan would be to bring in a proven scorer like McGrady, who worked hard all summer on his rehab with noted trainer Tim Grover here in Chicago, and says he's feeling better physically than he has in years.
Not only would adding McGrady help the Bulls in close games, but it would preserve the salary cap flexibility they desire for next summer's free agent derby. T-Mac will make 22 million dollars in the final season of a long-term deal. Basically the Bulls could bring him in as a one season rental, then use the cap space to go after LeBron, D-Wade or some other All-Star next summer.
In order to make the salaries match, the Bulls could go with one of two different proposals that both work under the salary cap rules. They could offer the expiring contracts of Brad Miller and Jerome James along with Tyrus, or if Houston wants more immediate help, rather than future cap relief, the Bulls could offer Tyrus, Kirk Hinrich and James' expiring contract. Draft picks could also be included to make the deal work for both sides. The 2nd proposed trade would give the Bulls a starting five of Noah, Deng, Gibson, McGrady and Rose, with Salmons, Miller, Jannero Pargo and rookie James Johnson coming off the bench. If Miller is included in the deal, the Bulls could use Aaron Gray as the back-up center, and bring back training camp players Chris Richard and Derrick Byars on minimum contracts to round out the roster. Don't forget, the Bulls have 7 footer Omer Asik from Turkey, a 2nd round draft pick in '08, penciled in as a back-up big man for next season. It's pretty unlikely Miller would return under most scenarios.
Why would Houston make either of my proposed trades? Well, we already talked about their good start and the advantages of not messing with team chemistry. The Rockets do not plan to re-sign McGrady next season, so they might as well try to get something for a 30 year old former All-Star, and getting him out of the Western Conference would be a plus. There are probably other teams that would be interested in acquiring McGrady and his expiring contract, so if the Bulls have any interest, they would probably need to act sooner, rather than later.
Once again, this is my idea, I don't think the Bulls are actively looking to make a trade this early in the season, and the plan since last February has been to preserve cap flexibility for a run at one of the big name stars next summer. So, what would you do if you were Bulls General Manager? Do you like the idea of bringing in McGrady or would you be more interested in a younger shooting guard like J.R. Smith or Leandro Barbosa? What about Allen Iverson or Stephen Jackson?
Please post your comments in the section below or send me an e-mail.
I'll see you from the United Center with Kendall Gill during Saturday's 6:30 SportsNite to preview the Bulls-76'ers game on Comcast SportsNet.
Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.