After consecutive lost seasons, you’d be forgiven if you weren’t feeling optimistic about the future of the Chicago Bulls. These two years were supposed to see the Bulls battling the Miami Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, not battling it out with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
But the Bulls, despite all the cost-cutting measures we’ve seen since Derrick Rose’s first knee injury — the dissolution of the Bench Mob, the Luol Deng trade, etc. — aren’t giving up on winning a title. This isn’t going to be a rebuild, but rather a reload.
That reload started yesterday when the Bulls announced they’d waived Toko Shengelia and signed Greg Smith for the rest of this year and next. Greg Smith, for those of you who don’t know, was possibly the best backup center in the NBA for the Houston Rockets in 2012-13 before dealing with injuries and sitting behind Dwight Howard and Omer Asik on the depth chart.
Smith almost certainly will replace Nazr Mohammed for next season, giving the Bulls the backup center they’ve lacked since Omer walked. To me, this signals the Bulls’ intent to rebuild their bench and challenge for a title.
Carlos Boozer is probably gone, yes, but Taj Gibson is more than up to the task of taking over for him. Joakim Noah is awesome. Nikola Mirotic should be around next year. With those three guys and Smith — and possibly a rookie — that’s a big man rotation that should strike fear in the hearts of the East. Throw in #TheReturn 2: Electric Boogaloo, another year of Mike Dunleavy, a hopefully-rejuvenated Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell with a year of experience under his belt, and the Bulls are in great shape.
The only real question — assuming Mirotic comes over, which I am defaulting to because I’ve yet to hear anything definite either way on that front — is whether any of DJ Augustin, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmer Fredette will be back and/or whether the Bulls will pursue another shooter in free agency. So I guess that’s two questions. Still.
If the Bulls only bring back one of those three, then there’s room for another wing player to fill out the rotation. A name that immediately comes to mind is former Bull Thabo Sefolosha, who would fit Tom Thibodeau’s system perfectly and is a solid outside shooter. The money might get tight depending on exactly how much Mirotic gets, but if he takes about $7 million to start, that would leave ~$3 million for a shooter, plus the $2.5 million “room” exception. So it is doable, in theory.
But regardless of exactly how this summer plays out, it’s great to see the Bulls address a need like this. Greg Smith should be a solid player on a good contract and is a good omen for the future.