When I started writing these a few months ago (though the Melo to Chicago talk feels like it started years ago), the Bulls were headed nowhere. Sure, they’d climbed back to the .500 range, but the Luol Deng trade was still fresh and with Derrick Rose’s injury having torpedoed their title chances, getting a jump on the team’s most important offseason in years seemed like the best thing to do. We all know what happened next, as Joakim Noah became #PointNoah, Jimmy shouldered playoff-style minutes loads and D.J. Augustin filled the shot creator role the team so desperately needed filled. As Miami and Indiana faltered, and Chicago continued to rise, these posts seemed a little more out of place, but I hope you the reader enjoyed them. The series wraps up today with a look at the Southeast Division, with links to every prior edition of the series at the bottom of the post.
Elton Brand: The former #1 overall pick by the Bulls has helped Atlanta stay afloat in the “race” for the last playoff spot in the East. Well, “avoid sinking to the bottom of the ocean” is probably more apt than “stay afloat,” but either way, Brand has, at times, played heavy minutes for a player his age to compensate for a ridiculously long collection of injuries suffered by Hawks players this season. He’s shooting a career-high percentage from the field, but that comes with a sharp drop in how often he shoots. His rebounding declined from his lone year in Dallas, though it’s higher than his last few years in Philly. Another thing to note is the uptick in his foul rate, suggesting he’s getting slower on defense. Brand wouldn’t be a bad add as a spot minute bench big, but the Bulls would be better off with someone bigger than Brand so a pairing with Taj Gibson wouldn’t leave them undersized.
First, this would be my reaction to anyone who thinks LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh could end up on the Bulls next year:
Most of Miami’s role players can also hit the market this year.
Mario Chalmers: He’s fun to laugh at, especially when his own teammates always blame him for things, but for all his faults, he’s never, ever scared to take the big shot. That can get him in trouble, but the flipside of that coin is someone who tightens up like George Hill, which ends up affecting their whole offense. Even more than most players, Chalmers seems to have a sense of being better than he is. If he leaves Miami, it will surely be for more money and a bigger role, neither of which he’ll get in Chicago.
Shane Battier: Almost surely retiring after this season.
Ray Allen: Unlikely, but the Bulls are a contender and Allen has already shown he doesn’t mind jumping to the other side of a rivalry. The Bulls nearly dealt for him a few years ago and he has played for Thibs before. In the unlikely event Miami breaks up after this year and Allen wants to keep playing, it stands to reason that Chicago would be on his radar.
Luke Ridnour: After a few decent seasons in Minnesota, Ridnour struggled in Milwaukee and is faring even worse in a reduced role with the Bobcats after being included in the Gary Neal deal. Not only is he shooting far below his normal percentages, but is hitting just 68.4% from the line after converting nearly 85% last year and at least 88% the three years before that. This could very well be a one year anomaly, but with Augustin and Kirk Hinrich already in house, there’s not enough upside here to gamble on that being the case.
All relevant players are under contract for next year, unless they eat $4 million to dump Jameer Nelson.
Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat: Both good players set to cash in on strong seasons, but their positions are already being filled quite capably already.
Well that’s all 30 teams. Once the offseason hits, I’ll have a thorough examination of one of the biggest tasks on Chicago’s radar, Jimmy’s extension, but that’s a topic for after the playoffs. As mentioned, here are all the other posts in the series.