The Bulls need an upgrade at the shooting guard position. Management knows it. Fans know it. Everybody knows it. And when Gar Forman chose not to use a draft pick to address that need, it was (one assumes) a sign that he plans to fill that spot via trade or free agency.
Personally, I was really hoping the Bulls could swing a deal for O.J. Mayo or Rudy Fernandez. Unfortunately, the Dallas Mavericks already snagged Rudy. Mayo’s availability is currently unknown. But I’m going to save trade speculation for another day.
For a full list of available free agents, click this link. Here are my thoughts on some possible FA targets.
Jamal Crawford: He can score. There’s no question about that. And his offensive game has variety: He can hit from midrange, knock down threes (although not at a high percentage), come off screens, and create open (and contested) looks off the dribble.
Unfortunately, Crawford’s mug shot can be found next to the word “streaky” in the dictionary, and he can submarine his team when his shot isn’t falling. That’s because scoring is pretty much all he does. And he’s never shown much determination or focus on defense. He’s sort of the Bizzaro version of Keith Bogans.
Still, the Bulls would give Crawford a chance at the right price, and with good reason. His scoring could open up the floor and I’m willing to bet Tom Thibodeau could make him into a servicable defender. I’m just not sure whether there’s enough cap space to make a competitive offer.
Jason Richardson: For starters, I don’t think the Bulls will be able afford him. He’s 30 years old and probably seeking his last significant contract. And even if the Bulls could afford him, would they want to give him the long-term deal he’s likely to be seeking?
According to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “Richardson turned 30 in January, and that’s a dangerous time for swingmen of his ilk. Seventy-two percent of players with a similarity score of 95 or higher to Richardson, based on our SCHOENE Projection System, declined the following season. On average, their overall performance dropped off by nearly 10 percent. Michael Finley, one of Richardson’s closest matches, is a good example of what might lie ahead for Richardson. Finley’s last above-average season came at age 31, and a year after that, the Mavericks used the amnesty provision in the 2005 collective bargaining agreement to waive him.”
That pretty much says it all. Richardson is worth a look, but I’m guessing his asking price will be too high for the projected returns.
J.R. Smith: Not gonna happen. Like Crawford, his skill set begins and ends with “scoring.” He’s as streaky as they come, capable of shooting his team into and out of games. And, as Charles Barkley might say, he’s instant offense on both ends of the court. But the biggest concern is his attitude. Smith has a history of fiery behavior and questionable decision-making, which doesn’t fit in with the basketball culture Gar Forman and Thibs are trying to create.
Shannon Brown: Here’s an intriguing possibility. Brown is a super athletic player who can finish at the rim (especially in transition) and shoot from midrange and long range. He doesn’t have great handles and can’t create his own shot. He also doesn’t get to the line as often as his athleticism should allow. Those are problems. As is his relatively low accuracy from three-point range (34.9 percent last season). But Brown has championship pedigree, loads of potential, and (most likely) a low price tag. Plus Chicago is his home town. He fits in with the whole “high character” and “build for the future” components of the team’s culture.
Anthony Parker: There was a lot of talk about the Bulls obtaining Parker at the trade deadline last February. Now he’s an unrestricted free agent who will probably draw mild interest around the league. He’s a dependable veteran who defends, has three-point range (40.9 percent for his career), and can be counted on to work hard and make good decisions.
Still, Parker is 36 years old and the (relatively few) skills he has seem to be in decline. He might make a nice addition off the bench, but he isn’t a solution to the team’s shooting guard quandary.
Tracy McGrady: Ha! Just kidding.
Michael Redd: Hm. Redd could be a bargain pickup at the vet’s minimum. However, he’s a former “franchise” player who was used to getting most of his team’s shots, and there’s no way to know how much he has left after multiple knee injuries. Redd can shoot, but can he fit in as a role player? That is, can he score efficiently while getting only 5-10 shots a game? I kind of doubt it. And he was a terrible defender before all his injuries. Now imagine him facing off against Dwayne Wade…
Richard Hamilton: He’s not a free agent, but he could be if the Pistons waive him or trade his contract to another team (such as the Cavaliers) who then waive him. If that happens, Rip would definitely be worth signing to a bargain (and probably short-term) deal. He’s more of a midrange shooter who has never hit a high percentage from three-point range (34.7 percent for his career), so spacing could be an issue. He’s obviously great moving without the basketball, plus he can create shots and draw fouls.
Still, Hamilton is 33 and (as ESPN’s John Hollinger points out) his PER and TS% have been in steady decline. What’s more, last season’s reported feud with former Pistons coach John Kuester makes you wonder where his head is at these days.
Vince Carter: He’s not a free agent yet, so this is speculation made under the assumption that the Suns will waive him to get his radioactive contract off their books.
Quick question: Is he an upgrade over Keith Bogans? Quick answer: No. Lazy on defense and increasingly apathetic on offense, Carter’s star has collapsed on itself, creating a black hole that could suck the life out of a team. The fact that he was traded to Phoenix last season and didn’t experience a strong surge in scoring is a real red flag. I mean…13.5 PPG on 42.2 percent shooting while playing with Steve Nash? Uh oh. And He averaged only 1.9 FTA after the trade.
I suppose there are a few reasons to take a chance on Carter assuming he’s willing to accept a minimum deal and a vastly reduced role. But he’s a 34-year-old former superstar with a history of dogging it or disappearing entirely when the going gets tough. The Bulls seem to be building for the future on a foundation of high-character players.