03
Jan
08

Paxson and Boylan must pick a path to take with Thomas

Chicago 109 – Charlotte 97

First I have to say, great game by Joakim. I’m not sure why he hasn’t been playing more. Much like Aaron Gray’s huge game a little over a week ago, Joakim’s success tonight was largely based on the fact that most of the people guarding him were significantly smaller or slower than he is. However, the cause of his success should not discourage Bulls fans. First of all, it’s an asset to have a 6’11” C/F (or a 7’0″ C for that matter) no matter what. Are they going to have better games when 6’7″-6’9″ guys are guarding them? Yes, that’s the point. Second of all, while Joakim doesn’t have the dominant low post skills the Bulls desire, he has amazing skills for a 6’11” player. He’s a good ball handler for his size, a great passer, and brings instant energy to the entire team whenever he enters the game. Plus, he showed some patience in a couple of low post plays last night that I didn’t think he had.

So the Bulls now have to figure out what to do with Tyrus Thomas. Boylan seems to have settled in with a rotation at the C/PF position of Wallace, Smith, Gray and Noah. This rotation has been working well, but Tyrus is too talented and was too high of a draft pick just last season in order to bury him on the bench. The way I see it, the Bulls can pick one of two paths. They can do whatever they can to win it all – not just make the playoffs – now, or they can continue to build/grow the team for the future. I’ll be fine with either strategy, but it’s pointless to just let Thomas waste away next to Demetris Nichols.

Boylan seems to think that the players up front who will help the team win the most are Wallace, Smith, Gray and Noah in that order. You can’t blame the coach for playing the players who give the team the best chance to win. Boylan and Paxson discussed who would get more or less playing time after Skiles was fired. Therefore, we can assume that they are on the same page regarding not playing Tyrus and regarding winning now. If that’s the case, they must trade Tyrus Thomas for something. His trade value isn’t through the roof right now, but he’s shown enough for other teams to realize he has a high upside. Paxson needs to identify what position he thinks is the weakest and fortify it by trading Thomas out of a spot that is currently log jammed.

Tyrus has this great upside and the Bulls problems right now seem to be more about concentration and motivation than a lack of talent, so why not just hold on to him for a rainy day, right? Wrong. I don’t think Thomas has the right mentality to wait a couple of years for his turn and still get better as a player everyday. Very few players probably have that mentality, and being a college superstar and former #3 pick don’t make things any easier for Ty. Trade him before the deadline and get something useful back, even if it’s a first round pick.

If the Bulls are indeed playing just to make the playoffs and thus really attempting to allow this same core to continue to mature together and get better, then they must play Thomas more and Wallace less. If this is the strategy John Paxson handed me, I would still start Wallace and Smith, play Smith about the amount of minutes he’s currently getting, and play Wallace less. That way the veterans still get their respect, but the young players get the minutes they need in order to develop.

It seems to me that the problem is the Bulls are stuck right in between the two strategies. Paxson and Boylan both desperately want to make the playoffs in order to keep and earn their jobs respectively. However, I think they both believe that this team is not going to make it to the finals this year, therefore they’re not willing to trade potential future talent for 1-2 year serviceable players. If I were in either of their situations I’d probably do what they’re doing. Self-preservation, right? But as a fan this approach is maddening. Either do what’s right for today or tomorrow, not half of each. We’ve been to the first round and second round of the playoffs, I want either third round this year or finals within two years. Preparing Thomas to either be dominant two years from now or trading him for more helpful pieces this season is vital in accomplishing either of those two goals.

I know that Deng, Gordon and Duhon all would need new contracts after this season in order to keep things going. I know that being the GM is not an easy job and things are always more complicated than they seem. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that Tyrus Thomas can be an influential player in this league and the Bulls are currently wasting his potential.

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