Bulls’ options this summer
If you think this season is a bust regardless, you understandably think Pau should still be gone, but there might yet be some hope for the offseason.
So, let’s look at our depth chart:
There are some obvious holes. Depending on how much protein you think Bobby Portis can consume over the course of one summer, we might actually be three-deep at power forward and have no traditional centres. Personally, I think Taj can hang against the majority of 5s.
We will also need a backup ball handler. The one guy currently under contract who can run the offense (Rose) is prone to turnovers, is an injury mystery, and will be leaned on heavily as a scorer in addition to his playmaking responsibilities. In other words: OHFUCKARGH.
You might also say that Dunleavy is a big risk to rely on as a healthy starter. Let’s not forget that he was brought in to be a bench all-rounder/primary shooter. That was years ago. We’ve learned this season that we probably need to have him as a backup in our minds. On that front, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like McDermott and Snell haven’t taken the jump to becoming starter-level players on a contender (assuming that’s what the Bulls even are any more). Infuriating defensive brainfarts and inconsistent shooting have plagued them both pretty much all year. They probably have the rest of this season to make their case, otherwise we’ll have a wing on the shopping list.
It’s finally Taj’s time to be the starter we all knew he could be since pretty much the Omer Asik days. He’ll be 30, but he also has way fewer miles on his clock than most guys of his quality, and seems to have plenty of bounce left in his legs. He might get killed by players who are simply too big occasionally, but I feel pretty happy with Taj as the starting centre. His sideways footspeed and instinct to protect the basket over switching/closing out probably mean he has to play in the middle.
I’m not sure how good I feel about a rookie who has played like a rookie, and a skilled player who has the offensive decision-making of your average NBA 2K16 player being our two options at the 4. I’ll leave it at that.
There are pretty much no point guards on the free agent market this summer; they all come up next year. So it doesn’t make sense to me to earmark a big portion of our cap space on a guard. Horford is the only true team-changing big available, and we have the money to pay him. But there’s a wrinkle: Joakim Noah. It would be great to reunite these two Florida Gator BFFs, but $26m will probably only cover Horford’s market value. He’d be in a position where he’d be pricing his friend out of a contract extension.
Don’t worry though! Dave has a plan:
- Ask Jo to help recruit Horford, which I’m sure he’d be down with. This is the first time in a long time that the Bulls actually have a legit off-court tie to the biggest FA available. We have enough space to give him the free agent max, and still be slightly below the cap.
- Pretty much give Taj’s money to Jo. $8-9mil/year to a guy whose body is failing him. It’s still a discount for a recent DPOY and almost-MVP (that was a silly year), but it’s not insulting money, and being able to stay in Chicago and play with his college teammate would probably mean a lot to Jo. Go over the cap (and into the luxury tax) to do it.
- Trade Taj to a team with the space to take him without sending much back, hopefully for a distant future 1st round pick, and maybe a useful backup PG if we can swing it. If not, we can probably re-sign Brooks and maybe grab one more combo guard at the minimum. I personally think we should keep Moore on the cheap. This will drop us back down to somewhere near the salary cap (whatever minimum contracts we hand will basically add up to the amount by which we’d be over the cap)
After all this, our team would look thusly:
- Rose/(Brooks or min. contract)
That 3 spot still looks very iffy, but you can probably afford to give Mirotic good chunk of minutes there when the other bigs are healthy. And we’d likely need another minimum-contract ball-handler on top of Brooks. Perhaps a defense-first point guard, such as… ahem, Kirk Hinrich.
Short of blowing it up completely and just keeping the rookie contracts and Jimmy around, this is the absolute best case realistic scenario that I can see.