Posts Tagged ‘free agency

18
Feb
09

Trade! Nocioni and Gooden for Miller and Salmons

Bulls get Brad Miller and John Salmons for Nocioni, Gooden and Simmons.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3916703

This is bittersweet. We were all excited for Amare, which even if you don’t like him, was a tantalizing possibility. Then that falls apart and we get this. Meh.

My snap reaction is that this trade will help the Bulls win more games this season and next than they would have, but it won’t take them anywhere special. I have to assume the thinking is make the playoffs to get Derrick Rose that much needed experience early on in his career.

I’m going to miss Noce though. I’m going to have to buy a new Bulls jersey. Sam Smith wrote multiple times this season – and I noticed on my own watching TV – that Nocioni seemed oddly frustrated all season. I think the losing was finally getting to him. He was a winner in Spain and on so many Agentine national teams that I think it got him down. It’s sad too because he’s not going to be winning in Sacramento.

K.C. Johnson also noted in multiple mailbags that Nocioni was far and away the most popular player amongst his teammates.

Other thoughts are that Aaron Gray’s minutes are gone, Joakim Noah will get way less PT which may very well hamper his recent improvement, and any thoughts of re-signing Ben Gordon are long gone. Miller is signed through next year at around $13 million. Unless another trade is made to dump salary (Hinrich to Minnesota for expiring contracts?), there’s nothing left for Ben.

Check back for more information and reactions in the near future.

17
Feb
09

Trade rumor frustration

I have to admit, I’m getting pretty sick of this.

Look, I was on the fence about the whole rumored Amare deal in the first place. However, how many years in a row can the Bulls be on the verge of getting a quality big at the trade deadline only to have it fall through.

First it was KG, then it was Gasol and finally Stoudemire. You know all those attractive, young assets on the Bulls roster that keep them in these trade rumors every year? Yeah, well it seems like they’re going to be NBA veterans by the time anything gets done.

Now this morning there’s some rumor about a three way trade with Toronto and Phoenix. Tell me why in the world the Raptors would be interested in turning Chris Bosh into Amare Stoudemire? They both can opt out after next season. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, they’re similar talents. Why would Toronto want to make this lateral move in terms of talent and contracts while ending up with the less popular, higher maintenance guy with a previously injured knee? Not happening.

Finally, the thing that drives me crazy every year, is how the Bulls continue to lose assets for nothing. Expiring contract are always valuable and have become insanely valuable this season. Make something happen. So Paxson is stepping down, well someone else has to do it. Get it done.

Tyson Chandler turned into P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith who turned into . . . nothing.

Knicks starting PG, Chris Duhon? Nothing.

Ben Wallace and Joe Smith were turned into Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes and Cedric Simmons. Now Gooden (and Simmons, but who cares) is on the verge of turning into nothing at the end of the season when he can leave as a free agent. Hughes might be a valuable chip next year with his expiring contract, but based on past non-moves, we don’t have much reason to be optimistic.

Oh yeah, and Ben Gordon is an unrestricted free agent this summer too. He can’t be traded without his consent this season because he’d lose his Bird Rights, so it’s too late to do anything about it. I’ve read rumors the Thunder are holding a spot and money for him. With the way negotiations have gone with the Bulls the last two years, I get the feeling Gordon would take less money in order to get out of town.

Good times.

At least there’s always Derrick Rose.

28
Oct
08

Chicago Bulls 2008-2009 Season Preview

UPDATE: Multiple reports are out that Thabo Sefolosha will get the starting role next to Derrick Rose tonight over Kirk Hinrich. While it’s interesting that Thabo will get a shot, and not a horrible idea, he did not play all that much during the preseason. This is just another example of what worries me about Del Negro as a coach. It’s not that he won’t have good ideas or cannot communicate well with his team, but it seems like he just doesn’t know what he’s doing a lot of the time. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly, because I think it will be a long year otherwise. Thank goodness it’ll be fun to watch Rose regardless of the team’s record.

Projected Starting Lineup

5 – Drew Gooden

4 – Tyrus Thomas

3 – Luol Deng

2 – Kirk Hinrich

1 – Derrick Rose

Projected Bench

Guards

Ben Gordon

Larry Hughes

Thabo Sefolosha

Forwards

Andres Nocioni

Thabo Sefolosha

Michael Ruffin

Centers

Joakim Noah

Aaron Gray

Not Gonna Play

Demetris Nichols

Cedric Simmons

Michael Ruffin

9 Luol Deng SF 23 6-9 220 Duke $9,385,000
Deng needs to take another step this season. He gained good leadership experience over the summer with the British national team. Now he needs to bring that experience to the Bulls. The two players with the most years of NBA service on this roster, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden, aren’t going to get that job done. Deng also needs to be more aggressive on offense. Too often he catches a pass, dribbles once and shoots. He needs to work on his triple threat game more instead.

90 Drew Gooden PF 27 6-10 250 Kansas $7,151,183
Gooden is the team’s most accomplished low post scorer. This ability will earn him minutes and seems to have earned him a starting role on opening night. We’ll see if Del Negro gets fed up with his lack of concentration the way Gooden’s past coaches have. Gooden is talented and in a contract year. I expect motivated play from him, but nothing we have not seen before.

7 Ben Gordon SG 25 6-3 200 Connecticut $6,404,750
Ben Gordon will score. However, will the team jerk him around after all of the contract issues over the summer? I envision a Reinsdorf-Paxson-led minimization of Gordon’s role unless they plan to trade him during the season, which is sounding unlikely. Anybody else think the toe stub thing was extremely strange? Poor Ben. Nobody is going to pay him his $10 million, but he also does not deserve the way the Bulls have treated him.

34 Aaron Gray C 23 7-0 270 Pittsburgh $711,517
Gray lost 30 pounds over the summer and while he was not overweight before, he was probably one of the slowest players in the NBA. His speed should be improved, but he is not going to outrun anybody. I think it was KC Johnson who recently humorously wrote that Derrick Rose might lap Gray in a down court sprint. Gray is a solid backup Center with a soft touch and a big body. The only problem is the Bulls do not seem to have a starting Center.

12 Kirk Hinrich PG 27 6-3 190 Kansas $10,000,000
So Hinrich is coming off the bench? I think if that’s how they’re going to use him, they need to try and trade him. Maybe he is too small to guard 2s every game and has had trouble adjusting to playing off the ball, but he is too valuable to play bench minutes. Sure, he would be a great backup PG, but does anybody else see that going over well for the long-term? This situation concerns me. That said, he did have a down year last season. If he does not revert to his prior form, maybe he will be best suited to come off the bench.

32 Larry Hughes SG 29 6-5 185 $12,827,676
While I do not wish the man harm, pain or misfortune, his injury was kind of a blessing in disguise. It will allow Del Negro to look at a back court situation he wishes he had. A situation with a manageable four guards deserving of time instead of five. While Hughes has really surprised me with his effort on both ends of the court in preseason – what is it, 2002? – he is still far and away the least valuable guard in the rotation. Too many bad, forced shots and too much defensive risk taking for glory steals. The Bulls would trade him if there were any other team in the league willing to take on his contract. Unfortunately the only team out there who might consider it would be Cleveland for Ben Wallace.

35 Demetris Nichols SF 24 6-8 216 Syracuse $711,517
May he’ll develop out of nowhere? Not going to see much playing time.

13 Joakim Noah PF 23 6-11 232 Florida $2,295,480
Noah has me worried. He was supposed to have the starting Center job all wrapped up but now it looks as if natural Power Forward Drew Gooden will start there. Though entering his second professional season, Noah is said to have major conditioning issues. And this from a lanky guy whose major assets are energy and grittiness? He was arrested in the offseason for carrying an open container and was found to have a joint hidden in a pack of cigarettes on his person. While the joint does not worry me the cigarettes do. This guy might actually be the one who would START smoking after becoming a professional basketball player. I still have very high hopes for what Noah will eventually bring to the team, but I am worried, very worried.

5 Andres Nocioni SF 28 6-7 225 $8,000,000
I expect Nocioni to settle in to a solid 7th man role, bringing energy and scoring off the bench while annoying other teams best scorers part-time with his in your face defense. He is not a great defender, but he can bug the hell out of some guys. He and Deng have the best rotation situation of any position on the team.

1 Derrick Rose PG 20 6-3 190 Memphis $4,822,800
He needs to start from day one. Looked great in preseason, showing the ability to get to the rim almost any time he wants. His defense still has a ways to go, but he will create a lot of open outside shots for teammates with his penetrating ability. If the season goes wrong, Rose will leave us fans with at least something entertaining to watch regardless of the record.

2 Thabo Sefolosha SG 24 6-7 215 $1,931,160
I guess Thabo is a starter. Interesting. This is a role he can grow into and be strong in. However, with guys like Hinrich, Gordon and Hughes on the bench behind him, how much time will he have to do so? Great defender. Good ball handler and passer. So-so shooter. Last season he showed the ability to get to the rim but had some trouble finishing. He has all the tools though we are still waiting to see him put them all together. Now is his chance.

15 Cedric Simmons SF 22 6-9 235 N.C. State $1,742,760
See Demetris Nichols but take away two years.

24 Tyrus Thomas PF 22 6-9 215 LSU $3,749,880
I expect a huge year from Thomas. He had a very strong preseason, showing a ton of energy and more desire than he has in years past. However, even though his mid-range jump shot is improving, he is settling for it way too much. I think his FG % in the preseason was in the mid-30s. That is not going to cut it. He needs to play to his strengths – opportunistic interior offense and help side defense – and bring the other aspects of his game along slowly. Playing with Derrick Rose should really help Thomas. These two, hopefully, will turn into THE duo for the Bulls for years to come.

Coach: Vinny Del Negro
I am worried. Very worried. Let’s hope I am wrong. He seems smart and likable. The players seem happy with him for now, which is all you can ask so far. However, tonight will be the first regular season basketball game he will coach at any level. When Michael Jordan decided to try and play major league baseball the White Sox manager at the time said, “I’m interested to find out if baseball is as hard as I think it is.” While I am no kind of basketball coach, right now I’m interested to see if being an NBA coach is as hard as I think it is.

Average Age: 24.3

Average Height: 6-7

Average Weight: 218

Source: ESPN.com – Height, weight, age and salary vary based on source.

Team Preview:

The Bulls are one of the youngest teams in the league this season and over the upcoming 82 games that fact is going to be visible in their play. However, recent Bulls teams that won 47 and 49 games were also very, very young. The main difference this year will be a head coach who has yet to coach a regular season basketball game at any level as well as an excessive depth of talent. In fact, the combination of those two features will ultimately spell doom for this team’s playoffs hopes.

The Bulls are crazy deep at every position, yet unfortunately lack any transcendent stars. Sure, Derrick Rose looks like he’s going to be a star in the near future, but is probably a year away at the very least. While most teams would probably envy the depth that the Bulls roster features, a head coach is totally new to the profession might have trouble with it. Del Negro’s inconsistent rotation over the course of the preseason doesn’t point to good things for the regular season. He’ll have some tough decisions to make with more players expecting not only major minutes, but to start than he has roles to fill.

The balance of this talented roster is indeed fragile. You have Thomas, who is entering his third season, a season by which players who are going to be strong pros usually start to show it. He’ll be facing off against Drew Gooden for minutes in a contract year for Gooden. The Bulls have two promising young centers in Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray, yet Del Negro seems poised to start the undersized Gooden at Center. This decision of course would leave two men who each thought he had a chance to start competing for backup minutes. And that’s just the frontcourt situation.

At the three, they have Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni. This position probably will feature the most stable rotation. Having just signed a large extension, it should be clear to everybody that Deng is the starter. Nocioni puts forth as much effort as anybody on the team, but is unfortunately only a so-so defender. That said, he brings an excellent scoring burst off of the bench. The only wrench that could be thrown into this rotation would be Thabo Sefolosha being forced to play more at the SF position than his natural role as a 1 or a 2, which brings us to the guards.

Five guards on this roster have realistic expectations of starting. Hinrich and Hughes have started since sometime in each of their rookie seasons. Rose, the number one pick in the draft, has every reason to believe he should start after a very impressive preseason. Ben Gordon, coming of an unsuccessful negotiation for a contract averaging over $10 million per year, is both in a contract year and clearly believes he is worthy of starting.

Of course a coach with a talented, deep young team needs to try out different lineups in preseason to see what he has. However, Del Negro has gone far beyond testing the waters. Multiple players have started, gone to the bench and started again in this short exhibition season. Minutes for certain players have looked just like what Tyrus Thomas has said he hates most:

You can’t produce consistently if you don’t play consistent minutes. It’s impossible, regardless what people say. You play me five minutes and then say I’m inconsistent? That’s crazy. You won’t be consistent playing 30 minutes a game for three games and then five minutes a game for the next six. It’s not going to happen.

This roster has too many quality players, especially guards, for everyone to stay happy. Del Negro is going to have to piss off a couple of guys. However, he can keep the faith of the rest of his players by establishing both a starting lineup and a regular rotation early in the season. A rookie head coach is going to need his team to buy in. Unfortunately, it does not look like Del Negro is going to give his players the consistency they desire as he keeps talking about how the lineup and rotation are going to have to be fluid and change from game to game. I think the chemistry on this team will start to suffer early in the season and will never recover. During the offseason the Bulls will purge about half of this team and move forward with the core they truly hope to rebuild around.

Predicted record for 2008-2009: 35-47

02
Oct
08

Gordon accepts one-year qualifying offer

Ben Gordon, up against a deadline, reportedly signed the one-year qualifying offer of $6.4 million late last night.

This is better than an extended hold out and worse than just about anything else.

Gordon is now in position to leave the Bulls at the end of the season with nothing to show for the former #3 overall pick. Sigh.

Here’s how I imagine this season going:

Ben is a true professional. A short professional by NBA standards, but a professional nonetheless. Therefore, he will show up and work hard. Accept the 6th man role he will be given yet again. Only this year the Bulls have two too many guards in the back court and a rookie coach. All of the guards’ minutes will vary greatly and many different rotations will be tried over the course of the season.

None of the guards will be very happy with this situation because, as I’ve written before, NBA players seem to want minutes and a set role more than anything else (besides money). However, Ben Gordon will have reason to be even more upset than the others. He is going to have to depend on a big year in order to get big money as an unrestricted free agent this summer. The overflow of guards on the Bulls roster is going to make having that big year extremely hard for him. At some point in the season we’re going to hear some grumbling from Ben. It won’t be too bad because, as I’ve said, he’s a pro. But we’ll hear some. His situation will be too desperate to unfold otherwise.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, with the above scenario is that it will cause Gordon to resent the Bulls more than he probably already does. This resentment would mean that when he’s shopping around for contracts this summer, if the Bulls and another team offer him similar money, you have to assume he’s going with the other team. Not only would that decision cost the Bulls their best scorer, it would also leave them with nothing to show for a high draft pick who also turned out to be a very talented guy.

That’s not how you want to run a championship NBA team.

01
Oct
08

Ben Gordon yet to practice

OK, this this situation is just short of the definition of “no new news”

Ben Gordon has yet to practice through the first day and a half of training camp.  He says he’s decided whether he’ll sign the qualifying offer or the 5 or 6-year deal being offered him.  Rumors on the internet say it’s the qualifying offer.  Any hard evidence has yet to emerge.

I’m excited the Bulls are starting to play.  I’m disappointed there’s no resolution to the Ben Gordon situation.  All in all, no real news of note yet from this preseason other than a lack of developments.

03
Sep
08

Poor (for now) Ben

Interesting post by Kelley Dwyer about Ben Gordon’s situation. I agree with most of it, especially the hypothetical situation where Gordon could go to Europe for one year, make more than he would here, and then come back as a free agent to a Bulls team that has cleared out space for him via a Hinrich or Hughes trade. Found, as usual, via TrueHoop. I really have to start visiting Ball Don’t Lie more on my own.

Again, via TrueHoop, here is a nice breakdown of Luol Deng’s first performance for the British team this year. He finished with 30 but fouled out in the closing moments of regulation in a game that went to overtime.

What to do about Ben?

The situation between the Bulls and Ben Gordon has really gotten sad and the worst part is that there’s no good solution.

If I ran the Bulls I’d offer him a contract averaging $10.1 million a season which would allow him to save face by not losing annual money over last year’s offer. This deal however would still allow the franchise to “win” the negotiations as it would neglect to make Gordon the teams highest paid player as his agent has demanded he become. This deal would of course require the Bulls to go over the luxury tax threshold, but only temporarily. It would be vital for them to figure out some salary-dumping move later in the season in order to get back under.

The Bulls would not make such an offer because they don’t want to risk ever having to pay the luxury tax. It’s probably good business not to back themselves into a corner the way this proposition would. However, it’s not going to be enough for the fans. The team is going to make money either way, it’s just a question of how much. The Bulls are and have for years been one of the leagues most profitable teams.

Another reason they won’t go for an offer like this is, as far as I can tell, they really don’t believe they need Ben Gordon very much and are using the luxury tax thing as an excuse for why they can’t offer him more money. This line of thinking is, in my opinion, dead wrong. In that he’s a better shooter, Gordon is a better complement to Derrick Rose than Hinrich, both today and in the future. I’m not bashing Hinrich here.  I’d just love to see Gordon getting open threes after the lighting-quick Rose hits him on the arc while getting doubled penetrating the lane. Rose should turn out to have the ability to guard the opponent’s bigger guard while Gordon can continue to take the smaller guy. However, Hinrich is not a consistent enough scorer to make up for the lack of production that would result from losing Gordon. The Bulls would have a mighty weak offense next season unless Tyrus takes a big step or Larry Hughes magically remembers how to play team ball and shoot again. The Tyrus possibility is better than the Hughes, but not a sure thing by any means.

I sort of like the scenario described at the top of this page where Gordon would leave for a year, get the money he desires, and come back to money and a bigger role here. It’s not that the Bulls don’t want him on the team at all this coming season, but neither the team nor Gordon are in a position to make much happen on the trade market. Assuming they did sign him, there’s not enough playing time for all the guards. This Russia scenario would give the Bulls wiggle room to provide him with the money and tic he wants while letting young Derrick acclimate to the league in a rebuilding year of sorts. Only one problem. No way in hell Ben would come back to the Bulls after they let/forced him to go play in Europe.

Unfortunately, as of now there just is no good answer, either real or hypothetical. It’s just sad.

28
Jul
08

Warriors continue to overpay

I hate to make this seem like a Warriors blog, but there continues to be no noteworthy news about the Bulls.

The Golden State Warriors have offered a (ridiculous in my opinion) six-year contract worth $63 million center Andris Bierdrins. That’s an average of $10.5 per year for a player who averaged 10.5 ppg, 9.8 rgp and 1.2 bpg. Those are solid numbers, but not 10.5 million per numbers. He’s still very young at 22 so we can assume the Warriors expect him to keep getting better, but still.

Golden State didn’t have a choice with Monta. After losing Baron Davis they needed a face of the franchise and scoring sells tickets even if it doesn’t always help the team. However, they didn’t have to do the same thing for Biedrins. A team that gets lucky could get a player capable of averaging 10 and 10 for the mid-level exception on a good year. $10.5 million? There’s a few restricted free agents who are giving their teams a little nudge, most notably Emeka Okafor. Anybody know what his numbers were last season? 13.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 1.7 bpg. Charlotte has been offering him only a $10 million average.

Does this all mean the Bulls will have to pay Tyrus and Noah $10 million + too? I guess if they can average 10 and 10 that will be a good conversation to have, not a bad one.

24
Jan
08

Who should the Bulls trade and who should they save – thoughts inspired by Bulls 108 – Indiana 95


What we saw in last night’s Bulls-Pacers game was a glimpse at what could be an enticing future for the Bulls. I think everyone who follows this team can admit at this point that there are some major problems. Definitively identifying those problems is somewhat harder, but it’s clear that a change is necessary. Although Hinrich’s not going to go off for 38 every night, I think the core that we saw contribute the most last night will have what it takes in the long run. Personally, out of the players currently on the Bulls roster I’d like to see them hold on to:

Joakim Noah (C, PF)

Tyrus Thomas (PF, SF)
Andres Nocioni (SF, PF)
Luol Deng (SF, SG, PF)
Thabo Sefolosha (SF, SG, PG)
Kirk Hinrich (PG, SG)

Deciding to keep these players over some of the others on the roster is accepting taking a step backwards and going back into development (not rebuilding!) mode. However, Ben Wallace is terrible. Joe Smith is great, but won’t be anymore by the time some of these other guys are good enough. Ben Gordon, though I really like him, is going to need a Tyson Chandler-like change of scenes. He might eventually accept a 6th man role somewhere happily, but it won’t be on the Bulls and it won’t be on a team that’s below championship-caliber. He’d have too many memories of saving the day as a starter and turning down $10 million annually. No, a change of scenes is best for all parties involved and, despite his limitations, BG has rare scoring abilities.

The rest of the Bulls are nice but replaceable pieces. Aaron Gray can provide help off the bench, but if you’re either a great talent evaluator or you’re lucky you can find a guy like him in every year’s draft at the end of the first round. Adrian Griffin is a solid veteran but definitely replaceable. It’s almost impossible to know anything about Demetris Nichols since I’ve never seen him play, but you have to also figure he’s replaceable for that very same reason. I like Chris Duhon and would accept him as a backup pg, but it’s just not destined to be with the Bulls. His contract is up this year which serves the double purpose of making him an attractive trading chip and less valuable to the Bulls when looking at their future.

Actually, the two remaining Bulls who I haven’t mentioned yet – JamesOn Curry and Viktor Khryapa – I’d like to see the team hold on to. Neither has much trade value right now. Khryapa has hardly played this season so his value is down. However, I’ve seen what he can do and think he can still be a solid role player. Based on the little I’ve seen of Curry, I think he could be a great replacement for Ben Gordon. He’s a dynamic scorer, though a tweener guard who may not be a great defender. I think he could provide a nice scoring spark of the bench.

So under my plan the Bulls roster would be:

Joakim Noah – proving to be a very solid defensive/center/rebounder-type to replace Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace – nobody is going to take him in a trade
Tyrus Thomas – I honestly believe he’ll develop either into a solid starter or a great 6th man type
Andres Nocioni – I don’t see how the Bulls could afford to give him up as right now he looks like the only one who cares
Luol Deng – clearly has the most potential on a team that desperately needs someone to evolve into a star
Thabo Sefolosha – looks like he’ll become a Doug Christie-like player but with the ability to direct the team from the point at times
Kirk Hinrich – showed last night that he can put up points when he needs to and is still the best pg and perimeter defender on the team. He’s signed long-term to a relatively friendly contract as well.
JamesOn Curry – a cross between Ben Gordon and Jannero Pargo, bringing instant offense off the bench but not much else
Viktor Khryapa – does a little bit of everything and kind of resembles James Posey

That means the Bulls would be looking to trade Ben Gordon, Joe Smith, Chris Duhon, Aaron Gray, Adrian Griffin, and Demetris Nichols. Obviously they couldn’t trade all of these players in one season, especially when the deadline is only a month away and some of these guys have next to no value to other teams. However, some assembly of the above athletes could score the Bulls a useful if not star player. Good enough to get Pau Gasol? Probably not. Tracy McGrady . . . just kidding. I love watching T-Mac but he’s way too injury prone and paid way too much to be worth the risk.

Thoughts?

14
Jan
08

Veteran leaders lead charge to suspend Noah – Bulls struggling on defense

Coverage on NoAdamsGate from ESPN and the Tribune.  Not a lot of new info, just new quotes from players and coaches. 

This is being turned into a way bigger deal than it actually is.  Overemotional rookie blows up at coach.  Super-respectful veteran would-be team leader thinks it’s unacceptable and leads a charge to teach the kid a lesson.  Overall, this reaction from the team is probably good for everyone involved, but it’s also probably unnecessary.  The best possible result would be to turn the season around like they did after HeadbandGate.  The worst possible result would be, well, it can’t get much worse than how the Bulls are playing.

Which brings us to the real story here, the Bulls-Hawks game.  Wow.  That was some terrible basketball.  The Hawks were extremely hot in a poorly officiated first quarter, so you can’t blame the Bulls for dropping behind.  But both teams in that quarter played sloppy, terrible basketball.  While things got a bit better after the first, they still allowed the worst 3-point shooting team in the league to shoot 63% from behind on arc on the night.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, where’s the defense?!?  The Bulls have all of the same quality defenders as last season and their new additions are all upgrades in terms of defensive ability.  What is happening?  Who do we blame?  What can Paxson or Boylan do to fix this problem?

People have been clamoring for Gasol now that it’s clear Kobe isn’t going anywhere.  Would Pau Gasol have changed the outcome of yesterday’s game? No.  He’s a good shot blocker but a so-so team defender.  He’s not the fastest guy in the world and the Bulls were getting burned up and down the court by an extremely athletic Atlanta team.  Gasol wouldn’t have done any better with that than Joe Smith.  The only way Pau would have helped the Bulls to win that game would be by scoring 45-50 points while still moving the ball and allowing other players to get their shots.  He’s not going to do that.

Yes, the Bulls need a more consistent low-post scorer.  However, the bigger problem at this point is the long stretches of terrible defense and questionable decision making.  The most frustrating thing about the situation is they still have the talent to be a good team.  Sure, maybe if these players were playing the way they could they still wouldn’t win a championship.  However, they’d be able to go deep in the East and have a shot at it.  Then we could all whine about wanting a scoring big.  For now Bulls fans need to decry their poor team play and continuing failure to perform to their abilities.

Thinking about the Bulls as a team is too depressing for now so let’s look at some specific players:

Joe Smith – He’s significantly better than I thought he’d be.  However, if the season doesn’t turn around immediately the big minutes Smith is earning with his efficiency will only serve to hamper the development of several young players on the team.  It’s impressive and great that Joe Smith can pull of 17 pts, 9 boards, and a couple of blocks on any given night, but if the team still isn’t winning shouldn’t a lot of those minutes go to Gray, Noah and Thomas at some point?

Andres Nocioni – How anybody could say he’s making way too much money under his new contract is beyond me.  He’s averaging under $8 million a year, yet cares more and plays harder than anyone else on the court almost every night.  Even when his shot is off he brings intensity to the game and the team that the Bulls desperately need.  5 years is a bit long, but unless things change drastically I can’t see this team not needing him.

Adrian Griffin – I think he went above and beyond the call of duty in organizing a player’s meeting to suspend Noah for an extra game.  I don’t think it will harm the team, but I also don’t think it was necessary.  However, veteran leaders are extremely important on young teams like this.  Grif does a great job of stepping up and offering that type of leadership.  Unfortunately he’s a bit player on the court.  If only some other vet on the team with a more well-known name would become a leader . . .

Thabo Sefolosha – I still have high hopes for Thabo but the man has to learn how to shoot.  He’s regaining his dominant defense and he’s not making terrible decision with the ball anymore but he’s shooting 29% on the season!  I like him as a player but if he can’t knock down an open shot every once in a while he’s not going to see the court.




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