If you watched game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, you couldn’t help but realize just how far away the Bulls actually are to competing and beating teams like the Heat and Thunder. Don’t you dare come at me with how many regular season games the Bulls win, the playoffs are a different animal and you need dogs that have the ability to turn their game up a notch. Being regular season gangsters is nice and all, but the Bulls as currently constructed have maxed out, and GarPax knows it.
The Heat and, especially, the Thunder possess rare athletic freaks that can fly up and down the court much like the ’91-’93 Bulls used to. It’s a track meet in addition to a basketball clinic when they play, and the Bulls currently have 3 guys that can keep pace in that kind of race.
Assuming Derrick Rose returns to 100% in two years (which is what doctors are saying), that leaves Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson as the only other players on the roster that can play in this type of environment and pace. Yes, that sound you hear is me laughing at the prospect of Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton trying to keep up with the Thunder.
The good news for Bulls fans is GarPax isn’t completely oblivious to this and is looking to re-tool and prep for the ’13-’14 season when D Rose will be back to his old self… Hopefully, of course.
The Bulls met with UNC small forward Harrison Barnes at the draft combine in Chicago (Barnes is 6’8 and averaged 17.1 ppg & 5.2 boards as a sophomore at the school MJ built) and it raised my curiosity.
Why would a team with the 29th pick meet with a kid who is assuredly going in the top 5? I love the aggressiveness by the Bulls, and they perhaps know a trade up is possible to acquire a player that’s been compared to Glen Rice. I think he’s more athletic than Rice, but his long range jumper isn’t quite yet on Rice’s level. As for the Luol Deng comparisons… I think Barnes will be a superior player. He isn’t as long as Deng, but he has the ability to put the ball on the floor, get to the rim & finish with ease. Deng on the other hand (injury aside) still dribbles with his left hand like he’s a JV player.
The Hornets are taking the Unibrow #1. That’s no secret. MJ’s Badcats have talked about dealing the #2 pick, but you’d figure Jordan wouldn’t help the Bulls out even if his team is desperate for a veteran wing player like Deng (who has two years & $27.6 million left on his deal). The Wizards are at pick 3 and could conceivably want Deng to surround John Wall with someone who actually understands the game of basketball, but you figure they’ll keep the pick and take Thomas Robinson. The Cavs have the #4 pick and will want to team a young player with Kyrie Irving, but that’s an intriguing possibility if they aren’t in love with Andre Drummond, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or whoever is there at #4. They could take Barnes, but all of the talk about how much they like him has to be a smokescreen, no? A Deng to the Cavs for the #4 pick, Daniel Gibson & Luke Walton’s carcass deal works.
Then there are the irrelevant and going nowhere Kings at #5. This is where GarPax can strike and land a top 5 pick. The Kings need another young player like the Maloof’s need another tower at the Palms. They are also in desperate need of a small forward, and Deng could give headcases like DeMarcus Cousins a calming veteran influence.
There’s talk a deal with the Kings could involve Noah going to Sacto for Tyreke Evans and the #5 pick. I’d rather move Deng & Omer Asik if it becomes a multiple player deal, but Noah should stay… For now.
If you’re the Bulls and you know next year is basically a throw away, why not move Deng now when his value is at his highest (coming off an all-star season)? If you keep him and play for the ’13-14 season, you’ll go into it knowing he has only one year left. Are you going to invest another $10+ million a year on a guy that Thibs runs into the ground 46 minutes a night? No chance in Vince McMahon’s hell. And since nobody with a basketball brain will take Boozer’s $47.1 million remaining, Deng is the best trade piece they have. Plus, removing his contract would allow the Bulls to pursue Steve Nash, Ray Felton or Andre Miller to cover for Rose until February. And no, I don’t want Kirk Hinrich back here no matter what kind of discount he’s be willing to take.
The Kings provide the perfect trading partner, and even if Barnes is gone by #5 you can take Florida’s Bradley Beal and finally give Rose a real 2-guard to play with. Barnes is surprisingly athletic and has the mentality the Bulls love. He isn’t a flashy look at me type player, but he has star potential and an understated personality. That has to make the Bulls salivate.
It wouldn’t be tough for me to move Deng despite his stellar play the last two seasons. The wrist injury/surgery could prevent a trade, but it’s not like he’s awaiting ACL surgery. He’ll be back by January at the latest.
Barnes would give Rose a player that can compete athletically against Miami & OKC, and give the Bulls a two-way player they have been searching for. Barnes will be a future all-star and is the kind of player worth trading an a current all-star for. The one positive of the Bulls bowing out in round 1 was it forced the organization to swallow their pride and realize this team isn’t winning a title with this roster. By meeting with Barnes, and potentially trading up, they are acknowledging that fact and it’s giving fans optimism that management isn’t satisfied with being kings of the first 82 games of a season.