Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Deconstructing The Bulls

After retreating in shame in the wake of my sorry mock draft performance (in my defense, this draft was screwy and bad), the Memo took an offseason hiatus.

But now that Derrick Bowie has fallen again, it's time to come back and play GM.

After a second knee injury which will result in Rose having only played 49 games in three years, we now can no longer assume that we will ever see the old Derrick Rose.  He should eventually be good again.  He may even be very good, an All-Star.  But we're now past the point where Rose can be looked upon as the sole centerpiece of a Championship contender.

It was not unreasonable, with the emergence of Jimmy Butler and the impending arrival of Nikola Mirotic, to look at keeping the current Bulls team together as a viable option for remaining a contender, especially with the possible breakup of the Heat in the next year or two.  It does not seem likely LeBron James will cast his lot with an aging, declining Wade, Bosh, no cap space, and no high draft picks. However, with uncertainty surrounding Rose's future, there may not be enough "prime" left in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to offer enough of a window as a contender.

Unfortunately, even letting Deng walk in free agency and using the amnesty clause to unload the last year of Carlos Boozer's contract still does not open up a max salary slot for the Bulls.  Over $50 million will be committed to Rose, Noah, Gibson, Butler, Dunleavy, Snell, Murphy, Teague and Mirotic.  Yes, you could do some salary dumps and probably get there, but the free agent route has not been kind to the Bulls even if you could.  Jerry Krause came away with Ron Mercer and Brad Miller from the Tim Duncan/Grant Hill/Tracy McGrady/Eddie Jones class, and John Paxson came away with Carlos Boozer from the LeBron/Wade/Bosh/David Lee class. The sad fact is that as great a city as Chicago is, players who have the choice on where to go almost never choose a cold-weather city unless it's New York.  So even if the Bulls could clear out enough room for a max player to pair with Rose, landing LeBron or Melo or Kevin Love is pretty much a pipe dream anyway.

The Bulls need to maximize their chance to get Rose a running mate or two through the draft, and they need to do it right freakin' now as we head towards the best draft since the 2003 affair that gave us LeBron, Melo, Bosh, Wade, David West and others.

The Bulls need to get bad.  Immediately.  And here's how.

Trade #1: Luol Deng and Marquis Teague (to make the salaries work) to Brooklyn for Paul Pierce and Mason Plumlee

The Nets don't defend anyone, and even a young and athletic Pierce was not known for his D.  With the Nets, the 36 year-old is averaging only 13.2 points per game on a woeful 39% shooting.  For this year, Deng would be a huge upgrade, and the Nets would inherit Deng's Larry Bird rights so they could re-sign him next summer.  Pierce, too, has an expiring contract, and the Bulls get a young, athletic big man in Plumlee out of the exchange.  In all likelihood, Pierce would be released so he could catch on as a bench player for a contender and not accidentally win the Bulls any games.

Trade #2:  Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to the Lakers for Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and a #1 pick

Having extended Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have now taken themselves out of the free agent market and committed to trying to keep a competitive roster around him.  Noah and Boozer come as a plug-and-play frontcourt that represents a significant upgrade over Gasol and Kaman - both of whose expiring contracts can be flipped. Ergo...

Trade #3:  Gasol to Boston, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk to Houston, Omer Asik to the Bulls

The Celtics would now have a very good frontcourt in Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and Gasol.  When Rajon Rondo returns, they could potentially be a factor in the East.

Omer Asik and Dwight Howard have not worked together in Houston, and the Rockets badly want to be rid of Asik's $15 million balloon next year.  A face-up big man like Olynyk would be a nice complement to Howard, while Humphries' expiring deal relieves them of Asik's onerous deal.

The Bulls get Asik back, along with his Larry Bird rights, and he is potentially their center going forward.

Trade #4:  Taj Gibson to San Antonio for Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli and a #1 pick

This is a straight salary dump for the Bulls.  Gibson would be a nice upgrade as part of a 3-man rotation up front for the Spurs as they ride out their last year or two as a Championship contender.  The Bulls get Diaw's expiring deal, Belinelli and a late first rounder for their trouble.

Trade #5:  Belinelli, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and the Spurs' #1 pick to Philadelphia for Elliot Williams and Brandon Davies

The Sixers are swimming in cap space - they have room now and they have enough room for two max players next summer even if they absorb $6 million in Dunleavy and Belinelli.  The Bulls give them the Spurs' pick just to take them of their hands.  Williams and Davies are nobodies with small, expiring deals.

Trade #6: Kirk Hinrich and Chris Kaman to Atlanta for Elton Brand and Dennis Schroeder

Atlanta is competitive and unlikely to be part of this year's lottery sweepstakes, so two veteran bench pieces could help keep them relevant - and since both Hinrich's and Kaman's deals are expiring, it doesn't constrain them for the future.

Schroeder is a quick young point guard with some potential who nonetheless is not contributing now - and the Hawks have signed Jeff Teague long term.  Brand is an expiring deal who is not playing.

So where does all this leave the Bulls?

Well, for the rest of this year, it creates a delightfully-awful starting lineup of Mike James, Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler, Boris Diaw, and Omer Asik.  Dennis Schroeder, Elton Brand, Erik Murphy, Mason Plumlee, Nazr Mohammed, and a couple of guys you pick up off the street will close out the roster.

You have now successfully become the worst team in the NBA and managed to get way out of the luxury tax, too.

Going forward, you have the following salaries committed for next year:

Rose $18.862
Asik $14.898
Butler  $2.119
Plumlee  $1.357
Schroeder $1.691
Snell $1.473

Total salary commitment: $40.4 million, plus whatever you end up paying Nikola Mirotic and your draft picks.  So you won't have a max slot this summer, but you can get one in the summer of 2015 - which may be the next "big" free agent summer - when Asik's deal expires or the Bulls extend him at a lower number than his 2014-15 balloon.

In addition, the Bulls would have what will almost surely be a top four pick in a draft that includes high-probability impact talents like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Dante Exum and Aaron Gordon.

On top of that, the Bulls would have the Lakers' pick, which will likely be in the 15-20 range.

And you still have the Charlotte pick in the hopper, whenever that comes!

The Bulls would now have more than enough assets to do a rapid rebuild to contention in just the summers of 2014 and 2015.  You can get the roster primed for the four seasons when Derrick Rose will be 27, 28, 29 and 30.

Get on it, GarPax.