Now for a longer answer. ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh wrote a long analysis of which teams make the most sense for soon-to-be free agent Chris Bosh. Unfortunately, you need an ESPN Insider account to read the whole thing. Here are the Bulls-related parts:
First the set: “Teams with All-Star point guards in the fold will extract the most value from Bosh. In fact, according to Synergy, Bosh had more success finishing the pick-and-roll than screen virtuoso [Amar'e] Stoudemire this past season. Bosh shot a staggering 81.4 percent on field goals resulting from rolls to the rim, a conversion rate only bested by [Dwight] Howard. And keep in mind, that’s without an ultra-creative point guard to distract the defense off the screen. Ideally, Bosh’s future team would also feature an athletic shot-blocker who can flank him inside and protect the rim. The 6-10 power forward will surely welcome the opportunity to upgrade from Andrea Bargnani on that end as he has never had a defensively focused partner down low.”
Hmmm. Teams with an All-Star point guard and an athletic shot blocker…sound like anyone we know?
Now the spike: “Chicago will make a strong run at both LeBron and D-Wade, of course. But should the Bulls fail to land either guy, Bosh would be a perfect fit. In fact, in one way he’d even be a better option, in that he wouldn’t take the ball out of the hands of budding point guard Derrick Rose. Plus, Joakim Noah is exactly the type of big who’d fit perfectly next to Bosh. ‘If the Bulls threw the kitchen sink at Bosh,’ the source said, ‘it would make more sense with the makeup of their team.’ And it would be worth every penny.”
Bosh isn’t a certified superduperstar like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. Obviously, if the Bulls can get one of those guys, they have to do it. But barring a superduperstar pickup — and we already know Wade is almost certainly staying in Miami — Bosh really is the best possible fit for the Bulls. He can score, rebound and would (unless I’m missing something) probably work amazingly well in tandem with Rose.
I’m not sure I think Bosh makes the Bulls a contender right away, but a three-man core of Rose, Bosh and Noah…that’s a 50-win team right there.
To wit: During his recent trip to Los Angeles, Dwyane Wade had a Jordan Brand event with Joe Johnson and also had dinner with Chris Bosh. He also hung out with Carmelo Anthony, who could be a free agent in the summer of 2011. But let’s not start theorizing any conspiracies just yet.
Said Wade: ”I just laugh [at the speculation]. You really don’t take it seriously. You understand, like I said, we’re friends, me and Chris have been friends since we came into the NBA. We signed with the same agent. So if we can’t eat together? It’s all good. We understand what’s going to come about, anything that goes on. But no worries. It’s just friends eating dinner. … My friends are the guys that are in the league. Some of my closest friends in the NBA happen to be certain guys that are up in this free-agent market. Yeah, it’s going to like that. Like I said, I don’t worry about it. I smile and I keep on going with my day.”
On Friday night, CNN’s Larry King Live will show a taped interview with LeBron James in which The King is/was asked whether the city of Cleveland has “an edge going in” to free agent negotiations with His Highness.
LeBron’s response: “Absolutely. Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it’s comfortable. So I’ve got a lot of memories here. And — and so it does have an edge.”
Yay for Cleveland, right?
Maybe not. Rob Parker of ESPNNewYork.com thinks that LeBron’s statement is a bunch of blather: “If someone can read into that quote and determine that James is staying in Cleveland, they’re just engaging in wishful thinking, at best. If anything — sorry, Cavaliers fans — it shows that James is searching for the best way to let everyone down easy when he finally decides to leave the comforts of the Midwest for the bright lights and a new challenge in the big city.”
Of course, Parker believes that James will end up in New York with either the Knicks or Nets. My take? It’s impossible to tell at this point. All we can do is watch, wait and hang on rumors.
Speaking of rumors, Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer writes that the supposed “free agent summit” between LeBron, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade, and Joe Johnson won’t be taking place after all.
According to Schmitt: “CNBC’s Darren Rovell spoke to agents for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire, who put the kibosh on the most anticipated summit conference since Potsdam. Rovell reports that agent Henry Thomas, who represents Wade and Bosh, actually told that to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week, but other news outlets have been slow to pick it up.”
Furthrmore, Thomas told Rovell: “Dwyane never made reference to a summit. He said that he’d have conversations with some of these guys, and that still will happen. But there’s no summit of any kind planned where they’ll all be in the same location. … The way it was first characterized and the way it continues to be characterized — as if the only thing left to determine is a date and a location — is not the reality.”
Check this out: According to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, Dwyane Wade is planning to meet with some of the other big names in this summer’s free agent bonanza to discuss their future…individually or collectively.
Said Wade: “(Free agency) has been three years coming. We’ve discussed it prematurely, at different times. (But) you don’t know what guys are thinking and where they’re going. I think we’ll all sit down, and before one of us makes a decision, all of us will have spoken to each other and (listened to the) thinking.
“A lot of decisions (will be based on) what other players are willing to do and what other guys want to do. So it’s not just a ‘me’ situation here. We all have to look and see what each other is thinking. … I understand that you have to have a great team, a great supporting cast around you. That’s all I want. My ego is not that big. … I just want to win.”
Actually, winning is one of two things that Dwyane values. The other is loyalty…which makes him feel a little iffy about the Bulls.
Said Wade: “I think the biggest question that you think about has to be loyalty. I know one thing about Miami: It is a very loyal organization. I see what they do with their players when their players get done with the game of basketball … how loyal they are. I don’t know about the Bulls.
“I see Michael Jordan is not there, Scottie Pippen is not there. … You know, these guys are not a part. Things like that. So that is probably one of the biggest things for me, because I am a very loyal person.”
Anyway, according to one report, Wade, Joe Johnson and LeBron James will all be part of that confab. Additionally, “a source told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that the Toronto Raptors’ Chris Bosh also will join Wade, James and Johnson when they get together to discuss free agency.”
What, no Darko Milicic?
Well, if all those players get together, I suppose they could decide to go somewhere together. No team could sign three of them to a max contract. However, the New York Knicks have enough money for two max players. So, if three of them were willing to take a paycut, I suppose that would make the Knicks the best choice, New York the one team capable of providing the three biggest pie pieces.
Or they may talk and decide that all want to go their own ways after all.
Said Broussard: “Of all the clubs with max cap space, the Bulls have the most talent to put around James. He’s never had a teammate the caliber of Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah is an amped-up, more skilled version of Anderson Varejao (not to mention one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the game). The positions are a bit different, but could that trio become reminiscent of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman? The Bulls also have other solid players who might be able to fetch another star-caliber talent in a sign-and-trade. The city of Chicago isn’t New York, but it’s not Cleveland either. The Chi would give LeBron a nice mix of big city excitement and suburban peace.”
Of course, Broussard also points out that signing with the Bulls could cost LeBron $30 million and would force him to play in Michael Jordan’s shadow. To that’s the downside.
By the way, LeBron’s agent, Maverick Carter, has put the kibosh on all those rumors about the King wanting (or demanding) to hand-pick his next coach. Said Carter: “All these rumors out there are absolutely untrue. LeBron just wants to win. He doesn’t want to handpick his next coach.”
Despite all the LeBron buzz, NBA GMs are also talking a lot about Bosh.
According to ESPN’s Chad Ford: “The NBA GMs I spoke with are convinced that Bosh is the most likely top free agent to leave for another destination. They also believe the Raptors will be willing to do a sign-and-trade, potentially putting all 29 other teams in play for his services. That idea wasn’t disputed by two sources close to situation. They told me Thursday that Bosh’s agent has informed the Raptors that he has whittled his potential list down to five teams and has given the list to the Raptors. (See this Bosh news story, published earlier on Friday.) Bosh’s wish list, according to sources, includes the Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and New York Knicks, in no particular order.”
Despite the “in no particular order part, Ford went on to say: “One of the sources told ESPN.com that Bosh’s ultimate decision will likely be heavily influenced where LeBron decides to play: ‘If LeBron decides to go to either New York or Chicago, I think that’s where you’ll see Chris land. If LeBron stays in Cleveland, I think the process is more wide open.’”
Ford also said that Bosh would likely prefer a sign-and-trade scenario so he could get an extra year on his contract and larger year-to-year raises. The Bulls would probably be more than happy to do a sign-and-trade with Luol Deng and/or Kirk Hinrich — due mostly to their bloated contracts — but the Raptors would probably want a big man in return, say, Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah. Well, there’s no way they’re getting Noah. Deng and Gibson, perhaps?
I’ve made my feelings about Joe Cool pretty clear, but allow me to repeat myself: Don’t want him on the Bulls, no way, no how. Well, Brett LaGree of Hoopinion paints an ugly picture that has hardened my anti-Joe stance to “unbreakable.”
LaGree provides plenty of hard data to suggest that Johnson is — in essence — a player without great athleticism who relies primarily on difficult jump shots, rarely gets to the free throw line, and plays questionable defense. And despite being The Man in Atlanta, his production (though very good) has basically flatlined.
Said LaGree: “Johnson turns 29 this summer. He’s played 25,974 minutes in the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks have enjoyed the prime of his career. That prime may last another couple of years but Joe Johnson isn’t going to sign a two or three-year contract this summer. Some team is going to be on the hook for the next five or six years of Johnson’s career at the cost of at least $15 million per season. I think it’s unlikely Johnson gets any better* but how confident can one be that he’ll remain this good. … However one feels about the validity of Johnson’s current reputation, it’s difficult to see how he will maintain his established level of production into his mid-30s. Buyer beware.”
Even though the Suns are saying they will pay a hefty sum to re-sign him, ESPN’s Chad Ford quoted a source close to Stoudemire who says Amar’es days in Phoenix may be over: “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” a source close to Stoudemire told ESPN. “Amare feels like the organization disrespected him. Amare loves his teammates and has really enjoyed playing for the team these last few months, but he’s reluctant to commit to Phoenix long-term.”
As noted, Stoudemire is right below Joe Johnson on my “Buyer Beware” anti-wish list.
More free agent “news” from Chris Bosh’s Twitter page: “Just to be clear. I never said that I’m not considering staying in Toronto.”
Well then…I’m glad he cleared that up.
Of course, the key word is “considering.” So…he never said he’s not considering staying. Can’t you just feel the love in that statement? I’m sure that’ll put the mind of every Raptors fan at ease.
Other than throwing the Toronto fan base a rather passive aggressive bone, could Bosh have another angle?
Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun believes he does: ”Maybe Thursday’s omission [from the All-NBA teams] reinforces the widely held theory that Bosh, while good, is best cast in a subordinate role playing alongside a dominant player. Bosh views himself as a franchise guy worthy of max money, which is why he has expressed a willingness to work side by side with the Raptors in a sign and trade. Regardless of whatever tweet gets posted by Bosh or any misinformation circulated by misguided media outlets, people should not lose sight of the fact that a change for Bosh and the Raptors is what’s necessary.”
I agree with Zicarelli. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Bosh sticking with the Raptors (or vice versa) after all these shenanigans. Besides, after Bosh leaves, the Hedo Turkoglu / Andrea Bargnani era can really get underway!
Not too many years ago, Vince Carter forced his way out of Toronto. And by “forced” I mean he quit on the Raptors in such a complete (and dispicable) fashion that they had no choice but to trade him…after which he immediately started trying again and helped propel the New Jersey Nets to the playoffs. I mean, how do you explain a healthy player going from 15/3/3 to 27/6/5 while increasing his three-point shooting accuracy a full 10 percent? Vinsanity didn’t just stick a knife in Canada’s back…he twisted it and poured in some lemon juice for good measure.
More than a few Canadians are still bitter about that betrayal.
Is that kind of ugliness happening all over again with Chris Bosh? Last week, Bosh asked his Twitter followers: “Should I stay or should I go?” Then, according to the Toronto Sun, Bosh attended the Lakers-Jazz game on Monday and changed his Twitter account location from “Toronto” to “Everywhere.”
What’s more, he’s no longer a Raptors team captain.
I’m not suggesting Bosh has made any kind of definitive decision about his future, but it sure feels like a passive-aggressive Facebook breakup, doesn’t it? And Bosh’s recent behavior sure hasn’t endeared him to a once-loving fan base.
According to Chris Young of the Toronto Star: “For Raptors fans and officials, who have watched the likes of earlier stars Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter leave town, it’s déjà vu. The only change is the technology, and perhaps that checkered history to soften the blow. There will be moony-eyed Toronto fans, for sure, but given the general level of cynicism surrounding a club that has missed the playoffs the last two years with Bosh at the wheel, it’s a safe bet there’s not a lot of wet eyes in the average Raptor fan’s house. Or as one Twitter follower of Bosh put it: ‘Why is Chris Bosh slowly breaking up with us via Twitter? Get your s— and leave, Chris. I think we’re all done here.’”
Fortunately for Bosh, NBA fans in general have a pretty short memory. Just ask Lakers fans, who quickly forgave (and, apparently, have completely forgotten about) Kobe Bryant’s trade demand and subsequent childish behavior in the summer of 2007. If Bosh re-signs with the Raptors and continues to play both hard and well, the people will forgive and love him.
However, if Bosh is looking for an “out” of sorts, he’s got it. Fostering a sense of resentment in Toronto would certainly make leaving the Raptors much easier. Bulls fans should hope Bosh’s turnoffs don’t include front office instability.
Chicago needs a frontcourt scorer. Somebody who can rebound, post up, consistently hit midrange jumpers and run the pick and roll with Derrick Rose. Chris Bosh would fit that bill quite nicely. The question is: Do the Bulls have a realistic chance to sign him this summer?
On Friday, Bosh tweeted: “Been wanting to ask. Where should I go next season and why?” Then, 38 minutes later, he tweeted: “Ok… Let me rephrase the question. Should I stay or should I go?”
I’d be happy to answer those questions…although I might be a bit biased.
Naturally, the Bulls will be only one of the teams chasing after Bosh this summer, either as a free agent signing or through a sign and trade. Let’s hope Chicago management is putting a nice pitch together. A scoring big man who can create his own shots would go a long way toward improving an offense that finished the season ranked 27th in Offensive Rating.
As I noted yesterday, Bulls management has a specific end-game in mind heading into the already legendary Summer of 2010: Add a superstar (such as Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade) and another star or semi-star (say, Joe Johnson or David Lee). That would provide the Bulls with a three-star core and the best collection of talent the team has had since the Jordan era.
It might work, or it might be a pipe dream. We won’t know until, well, this summer.
Some people — ESPN’s Bill Simmons, for instance – think the Bulls have a shot at landing LeBron James. No way. LeBron wants to be as big as Michael Jordan some day…maybe bigger. That won’t happen in Chicago, where he would be playing in Jordan’s giant (and, really, inescapable) shadow. Anything less than six or seven championships in the Windy City would mark him as MJ’s inferior. I just don’t believe LeBron’s ego could take that, or even the possibility of it.
At any rate, two other names that keep popping up in the “to Chicago” rumors are Wade and Bosh. Wade because he grew up here and still has family in the area, and Bosh both because his current team — the Toronto Raptors – isn’t going anywhere and because he fills the Bulls’ biggest need. Namely, a proven frontcourt scorer.
Said Bosh: “I was just looking at what people say and it’s like, ‘Chris is going to go here and play with him or this, this and that.’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute.’ I feel like I should be built around. And maybe that’s just my ego talking, but I feel that I’m a very good player in this league and I’m only going to get better. So … maybe we should be getting somebody [in Toronto].”
Ultimately, hubris is the biggest obstacle to the Bulls’ master plan. It’s also why many superstar players end up signing or re-signing with losing teams. Because they want to be The Man, to be the focus of their franchise, to be given a max contract, to get all or most of the endorsements. It’s hard for mere mortals to understand the difference between, say, $80 million and $75 million. And, in all reality, the players probably don’t really comprehend the difference, either, except that one number is bigger than the other. And bigger is always better.
There’s something deeper at work here than the desire for better bling. This is how one philosopher put it: “Greed is the newest variation of the survival instinct, the difference being knowledge. The survival instinct doesn’t understand threats like economics, politics, or mental state. These modern threats are indirect, not damaging lives but acting as explanations as to why lives are damaged. Thus a simple compulsion to survive can no longer be used to dictate our lives, unequipped to deal with the complex scenarios created by an intellectual world. Using material possession we have created a physical barrier between us and all conceivable threats, complex and simple. … Now money is thrown into the mix and suddenly there is no possible means of guaranteed survival except to have a pile of money so big that not even the greed of others could destroy it.”
Extrapolating from that, having the most money andthe most authority/status in your immediate sphere of influence would probably go a long way toward massaging the survival instinct. On the flip side, turning your life upside down (such as changing cities and systems) and facing a possible threat to your superiority (in this case Derrick Rose) for an uncertain future (because there’s no way to know whether things would actually work out in Chicago) could feel more like a threat than anything else.
Which is why I’m not holding out hope for a hero.
I’m not saying it’s inconceivable that the Bulls could land Bosh and/or Wade. Just that it’s improbable. Don’t forget, the Bulls had this same plan several years ago, and they ended up with Ben Wallace because nobody else wanted to come here despite a collection of young and talented players. And we all know how that turned out.
I’m still excited at the possibility that the Bulls will pull off a major free agent coup this summer. But I’m also kind of scared they won’t, because…what then?
These are the Bulls' "hot spots." For the record, gray is not good.
As the Bulls prepare for their game against the Los Angeles Clippers — the second stop on their current seven-game Western Conference road trip — Vinny Del Negro has some very real concerns to deal with. Forget the fact that his team could be without John Salmons, who spent Monday night in an Oakland hospital with flu-like symptoms, or that Kirk Hinrich’s status is unknown due to his own bout with flu-like symptoms, or even that he has to figure out a way to deal with L.A.’s Chris Kaman, who has very quietly become a real force inside (20.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG).
Vinny’s biggest problem is that the Golden State Warriors provided a perfect blueprint for beating the Bulls, which is allowing and even enticing them into relying on their favorite field goal attemp. I’m talking about the long-range two-point jump shot.
If you read this blog and/or follow the Bulls with any regularity, you already know Chicago’s players love to shoot contested jumpers from that dreaded No Man’s Land between the paint and the three-point arc. Well, Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata has provided some hard numbers to back up this little nugget of common knowledge.
According to Haberstroh: “From Hoopdata’s XeFG% page, we can see that 35.7 percent of Bulls shots are taken 16 to 23 feet away from the basket which, according to my digging, is by far the highest team portion of the last four years. One would think that the Bulls live in The Land Where Offenses Die because they were actually good shooters from 16-23 feet, but here’s the thing: they are terrible from there. As a team, the Bulls shoot 36.1 percent on long twos which is well below the league average of 39.6 percent. That might not seem like a big difference on the surface but in the last four years, only this year’s New Jersey Nets and the Isiah Thomas-led New York Knicks of 2006-07 fare worse from this area. So if you’re scoring from home, the Bulls love taking shots from a zone where they rank 118 out of 120 teams. Not only that, even though the Bulls frequent the long range shot, they almost never launch where the payoff is higher in 3-point land.”
Haberstroh goes on to point out that both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng attempt more than six shots per game from No Man’s Land, and that Deng has the league’s second-worst field goal percentage among players who attempt at least four shots per game from that 16-23 foot range. Haberstroh also notes that Rose, by virtue of his ability to penetrate almost at will, would benefit greatly from pick-and-pop big men…only his frontcourt contingent includes a group of players who don’t have an efficient midrange game (Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Tyrus Thomas) and one other who can hit from midrange but appears to be almost washed up (Brad Miller).
In other words, not only is Chicago’s offense fundamentally flawed, it lacks the personnel necessary to take advantage of its greatest asset (Rose). Again, none of this is particularly surprising. I’ve been blogging these very things all season. Now we have the statistical analysis to back it up.
What can the Bulls do? Conventional wisdom says they should start attacking the basket at every opportunity. However, there’s one small problem with that tactic. Hoopdata recently published another article about the five worst games at the rim this season. Guess which team “earned” the first, third and fifth spots on that list? That’s right. Your Chicago Bulls! In the three games listed in that article, the Bulls missed 72 shots at the rim. And those weren’t aberration games. For the season, the Bulls convert only 55.4 percent of their shots at the rim. That’s the third-worst mark in the league.
Uh oh again.
Of course, these problems feed into each other. The Bulls can’t shoot, so teams pack the paint, which leads to scads of missed shots at the basket. The Bulls know they struggle to finish at the rim, so more often than not they bail out by taking loads of shots they can’t make. It’s like the Bulls have to choose between two poisoned drinks, only they haven’t spent the last five years building up a resistance to iocane powder.
So I ask again, what can the Bulls do?
Not right now, anyway. Like I said, it’s a personnel issue. They don’t have three-point shooters. They don’t have efficient midrange shooters. They don’t have an inside scorer or any big men who can play off Rose by knocking down jumpers or powering through multiple defenders for the finish. Unless management pulls off a miracle deal before the trade deadline, the Bulls are doomed to feature one of the league’s worst offenses for the rest of the season.
This makes future planning almost ridiculously important. After this season ends, half of the current roster will probably be gone, and the Bulls (as far as we can tell) plan to spend big money on a top-notch free agent. And they’d better spend wisely, because the next three to five years of the franchise are at stake.
Think about it. Rose is the future, so we know he’s staying. The Bulls are stuck with Deng’s cap-killing contract through 2014, so we know he’ll be around. If Chicago signs a big name free agent to a four or five-year deal, probably for a lot of money, that player will almost certainly be a Bull for the bulk of that deal. That means we’re looking at a three-man core of Rose, Deng and Player X.
Player X damn well better be able to compliment Rose.
Ideally, Player X will be a big man who can hit consistently from midrange, swoop in for high-powered completions at the rim, and have some kind of low post game. Amar’e Stoudemire fits two of those bills, and he’ll be available on the open market this summer. Of course, Stoudemire has plenty of baggage. He’s had multiple knee surgeries. He doesn’t aggressively pursue contested rebounds. He doesn’t have a single inside move. And we don’t know how much of his success the last few years has been the product of playing alongside Steve Nash in the Phoenix Suns’ run-and-gun system. He might play well off Rose, but then again, Rose is no Nash, and the Bulls don’t have the shooters necessary to open up the space Stoudemire uses to shoot and drive.
There’s no easy answer. We only know that, for the Bulls to build successfully around their franchise player, they’re going to have to put a team together that is drastically different than the one they have right now. And if they make one or two bad decisions, they could be bad for several more years. Not exactly a pleasant prospect.