Wednesday, July 7, 2010
By Mark Schanowski
What started out as one of the most disappointing days in recent Bulls history was partially salvaged by some quick work by the Bulls front office tandem of John Paxson and Gar Forman. How do you feel about the Bulls working out a 5-year contract agreement with 2-time All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer? Is he a good fit with Derrick Rose in the Bulls offense? And, perhaps most importantly, does signing Boozer help the Bulls longshot chance to get LeBron James? Please post your comments in the section below.
The day began with the news that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had decided to join forces in Miami. Making that news even tougher to swallow was the revelation that Wade would have agreed to come to the Bulls if Bosh had agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that would have paired him with LeBron in Cleveland. Wade was genuinely impressed by the Bulls sales pitch in two separate meetings last week in Chicago, and was intrigued by the idea of finishing his career in his hometown, surrounded by family and friends. But Bosh was looking for a warm weather home after spending his seven NBA seasons in Toronto, so he shot down the idea of playing with LeBron in Cleveland, and he obviously told Wade he wanted to play in Miami rather than Chicago. Its pretty sad that Wade bowed to the wishes of an inferior player, unless of course, LeBron decides to make it an All-Star trio in Miami, which looks pretty unlikely at this point.
The Bulls front office had to be crushed by the news, especially after feeling quietly confident they had a great chance at bringing Wade and Bosh to Chicago. But to their credit, they aggressively moved on to the back-up plan, and beat the Nets and Cavs to the next best player available, Boozer. Adding a classic low-post scorer gives their offense more versatility, and obviously shows LeBron the front office is determined to build a championship contender, no matter what obstacles might be placed in their way. Boozer says hell call LeBron personally to try to sell him on teaming up with the Bulls. It might be too late to change LeBrons mind, but hearing from a former Cavs and Olympic teammate certainly wont hurt the Bulls cause. And, LeBron obviously knows he wont be getting any All-Star help in Cleveland after the Cavs struck out in sign-and-trade bids for Bosh and Boozer.
Opinions around the league about where LeBron might end up are all over the map. The Knicks are said to be confident hell pick the aura of Madison Square Garden and the marketing muscle of Madison Avenue. The Nets think he might choose the wealth of billionaire Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov and the friendship of Nets minority owner Jay-Z. The Bulls have the roster thats most ready to win a championship. And, Miami has South Beach, Pat Riley and the star tandem of Wade and Bosh. The Clippers? Well, forget the Clippers, they havent done anything right in the history of the franchise.
There will be all kinds of drama when LeBron takes the microphone shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday night, but in the end, Im pretty sure LeBron will decide to stay with the only franchise hes ever known, his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers. It might be just a short-term deal, or possibly a 6-year contract with an early termination option after three years. But either way, Im predicting the pull of his hometown and his loyalty to the Cavs will win out.
Still, if LeBron stays in Cleveland without any major roster upgrade, and Miami isnt able to add much to Wade and Bosh, the new-look Bulls should be competitive in the Eastern Conference next season. Boston will be a year older, Orlando still has a lot of question marks outside of Dwight Howard, and Atlanta still has no inside game.
WHAT SHOULD BULLS DO NEXT?
So, now that Boozer is in the fold, whats the next move for the Bulls front office? Obviously, they need to add a couple of shooting guards after agreeing to the draft night deal that sent Kirk Hinrich to Washington. Heres a wild idea. How about asking the Wizards to expand the deal that gives them Hinrich and first-round draft pick Kevin Seraphin? Maybe the Bulls could throw Charlottes future number one pick into the package and tell Washington theyll take on the contract of former All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas? Arenas has been plagued by knee problems in recent years, but he was starting to play really well before the gun issues that resulted in the NBA suspension that ended his season. Yes, Agent Zero is a character, but the guy can score, and if the Bulls are convinced hes healthy again, why not take a chance on a guy with so much talent?
Yes, Arenas has a lot of time and money remaining on his contract, but where could you find a better option for a dynamic scorer? Washington would probably like to move Arenas off the roster because of the gun suspension, and the fact their roster is bloated with starting-caliber guards, including number one overall draft pick John Wall, Hinrich, Randy Foye and Nick Young. They might be very receptive to a Bulls offer that gives them salary-cap relief, and takes the potential distraction of Arenas away from their prized rookie point guard, Wall.
Looking at the list of available free agents at the shooting guard spot, names like Mike Miller and Kyle Korver top the list. But Korver really is a forward with limited athletic skills. Korver shot 53 percent from three-point range last season in limited playing time, but you really couldnt ask him to defend starting-caliber 2 guards. Its the Same story with Miller, whos a great shooter, but has been slowed by a series of injuries in recent seasons. There are other guys available in free agency like Shannon Brown, Tony Allen, Ronnie Brewer, Roger Mason, Dorell Wright and Nate Robinson, but none of them fill the bill of a starting shooting guard. If the Bulls have money available, you could add one of those guys in a backup role.
I would recommend making strong bids for one of two restricted free agents, Golden States Anthony Morrow and Orlandos J.J. Redick. Both are lights-out shooters, with Morrow having good size at 6 feet 5 inches, and Redick coming off his best professional season yet. My preference would be Morrow, who shot 47 percent from beyond the arc last season, and is only 24-years-old. Golden State already has a couple of young shooters ahead of him in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, so if the Bulls made a front-loaded contract offer, maybe the Warriors wouldnt match, especially considering the teams current financial problems.
The Bulls could also pursue the trade market to search for their next shooting guards. Assuming they have around 16 million dollars to spend, and dont want to run the risk of acquiring Arenas, they could make a bid for some talented veterans like Andre Iguodala, Jason Richardson or Rip Hamilton. And, what about the idea of bringing Ben Gordon back? B.G.-7 was a disappointment in his first season in Detroit because of a nagging ankle injury, but we all know how Ben can light up the scoreboard, and he would give the Bulls a great perimeter shooter to open the floor for Rose and Boozer. Not sure if Detroit would be willing to trade Gordon after just one season, but its pretty obvious Joe Dumars rebuilding plan isnt working all that well. And right now, the Pistons are overloaded with combo guards like Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Chicago native Will Bynum.
Bottom line, the addition of Boozer is just the start of a busy off-season for the Bulls, who will probably sign Turkish 7-foot center Omer Asik in the coming days, and could get some help from their summer league roster, which includes NBA hopefuls like Derrick Byars, a 6-7 swingman who was the final cut a year ago, former Hillcrest H.S. and Marquette star, Jerel McNeal, Gonzaga swingman Matt Bouldin, Louisville forward Samardo Samuels, former number one draft pick and D-League sharp-shooter Morris Almond and Vanderbilt big man A.J. Ogilvy, a native of Australia.
Which players do you think the Bulls should pursue to best compliment the talented core group? Please Post your comments in the section below. It should be an interesting month watching what moves the front office is going to make, and well have all the details and analysis here on Beyond the Arc.