Chicago’s Last Resort Offseason Plan That Still Manages To Avoid Signing Joe Johnson
June 14th, 2010

Almost to a man, Bulls fans are shockingly reticent about the great opportunities that might befall them this offseason. They have maximum cap room, they have the man widely regarded as the league’s hottest head coaching prospect, they have the league’s best young point guard, and the league’s second-best young centre.1 They have a sold-out arena, the league’s best profit margins, and a young and athletic defensive-minded rebound-heavy team with scores of potential and a modicum of short-term success, lacking only a superstar and a couple of Anthony Morrow types away from ranking amongst the league’s very best.

“Lacking only a superstar” would be a ridiculous statement were they not ideally set up to get one right now. In this precedent-free summer, an unbelievable number of superstars could or will be available via free agency, ranging from the best player in the world (LeBron James) to some of the game’s very best big men (Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Primoz Brezec, Carlos Boozer, even Yao Ming), all the way down to the superstar hometown boy (Dwyane Wade). There’s also David Lee, one of the most maligned players in the NBA today, as well as Joe Johnson, who is guaranteed to be the next Jalen Rose for whoever signs him.2 We almost nearly had Kobe and Manu in the mix as well. These are not normal times we live in.

Yet perhaps still healing from vicious scars – the Tracy McGrady signing that became the Ron Mercer signing, the Tim Duncan signing that became the Brad Miller signing, the Pau Gasol trade that nearly happened, Jay Williams crashing into a lamp post because he was revving his engine at traffic lights while still in second gear – a large quota of knowledgeable Chicago Bulls fans are sceptic almost to the point of parody about the team’s chances of landing the necessary superstar. They are confident of the team’s superiority over their rival’s chances in the same market,3 but still not confident of landing the biggest names. We continue to brace ourselves for a Lee/Morrow summer, convincing ourselves that landing that particular All-Star forward and that particular elite shooter, along with a defensive mastermind coach, is a summer of significant upgrades with which we should be more than contented.4 It’s an exercise in damage limitation; we’ve analysed the market time and again, realised our place in the grand scheme of things, and yet are assuming that all the big names will re-sign. If you expect the worst, you can’t be too saddened when it happens. So this is what we do.

(Or maybe I just only fraternise with Bulls fans that claim unfounded intellectual superiority. Could be either of these things.)

Like my peers, I too am unfazed about the Bulls’ potential this summer. This is partly because I’m an overly cynical bastard, but also because I’m English. And this is what English people do. We moan. A lot. We crave disappointment and find it in everything. We don’t do outrage or positivity; we do sighing. It is our national identity. We expect to be disappointed, and are disappointed when we are.5 We revel in disappointment, but it’s not really uptightness; it’s more of an apathy, a dismissive attitude towards everything, constantly disappointed, where nothing’s as good as it was. It’s not snobbishness, just futility. If this seems like an unhealthy lifestyle approach, trust me when I tell you it isn’t. It’s actually a great attitude, because nothing is ever too bad, and nothing can ever be too unfunny. If we expect disappointment and laugh when we inevitably get it, how bad can anything be? We’re convinced that everything in our lives is rubbish, but we’re also convinced it’s even worse for everyone else. In this Darwinesque fight for survival in the upcoming 2010 free agency period, this attitude might prove kind of liberating.

I am expecting James, Wade and Stoudemire to re-sign with their current teams; in my view, those of us with cap space aspirations are fighting for the remainder. These are just predictions, of course, yet despite the endless behind-the-scenes power struggle that will soon become front of stage material – a battle that current forecasts suggest is going the Bulls’ way – I’m not expecting the Bulls to land LeBron. I want them to land him, regardless of my own views on him,6 but I don’t expect anyone but Cleveland to do so.

As such, I have been exploring the back-up plans available to the team. If LeBron re-signs, if Wade re-signs, if Steve Kerr determines Amar’e is worth the max,7 and if Bosh lands somewhere other than Chicago, we could always go the David Lee route. But what if that’s not possible either? Assuming all the big names sign elsewhere, die, or retire to serve in the Albanian Cadets or something, what do the Bulls do then? They can’t hold over the cap space until 2011, not unless they want to lose Joakim Noah.8 They either spend it and lose it, or lose it without spending it. They’ve got to do something this summer, then, to significantly upgrade their team.

And so here is my blueprint for a last-resort “something.”9

(The Cliff Notes version of my alternative non-Jamesy plan – sign Dirk Nowitzki for a hell of a lot of money; trade Kirk Hinrich to Orlando for Marcin Gortat and a signed-and-traded Anthony Johnson; sign Roger Mason, Marcus E. Williams, Brian Skinner and Eddie House; draft Xavier Henry, and buy a mid-second rounder and use it on Trevor Booker. But I’m fully expecting Dirk to re-sign with Dallas, as should you. There is barely such a thing as a lifer in today’s NBA, but Dirk, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant should be four examples of such. In fact, if they’re not, something’s gone gravely wrong and people must be held accountable.)

Most Bulls offseason plans out there involve finding ways to trade Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. The duo have been with the Bulls for a combined 13 years – it’s hard to get your head around that sometimes – and yet part of the reason why they’re still here are their contracts. The duo are good players, good citizens and decent young veterans,10 yet they’re also overpaid relative to production. Walding’s contract, directly negotiated by Jerry Reinsdorf, is a year too long and about $3 million annually too much. He’s a fine player, averaging 18/7 with good and versatile defence at the age of only 2511 – however, he’s paid to be a second option when he’s really a third one, a non-athlete without much of a dribble and a tendency to miss games due to injury. So despite his talents and deferred salary, he’s still slightly overpaid. We understand that.

Meanwhile, Kurt is further overpaid. His five-year, $47.5 million extension that he signed back in October 2006 was always ambitious, but while it initially looked pretty good after a career year in 2006-07, it’s only gotten worse after that. Hinrich was paid to be a starting point guard, and now he isn’t one. Now, he’s a backup point guard pretending to be a shooting guard. And his price does not reflect this.

Here’s the thing, though. Due to the passage of time, Kirk Hinrich’s contract has only two years left to run. And no two year contract can ever be that bad. If a guy is overpaid, but has only two years remaining, you’re only a year away from them being a highly useful expiring contract. There is no such thing as a disastrous two-year contract. Some are better than others, obviously, but none are beyond reproach. Even Rashard Lewis will become tolerable once that day comes.12

Furthermore, Kirk is more than just a contract; he is useful as a player to boot. We moan about him because of his salary, but we also understand his strengths, as should you. He is being paid $9 million to do $5 million’s worth of work, but the defence is legitimately good, and the jump shot is good too. Kirk’s a ball-dominant point guard who has been forced to try to adapt as an off-the-ball scorer with the introduction of Derrick Rose, and it’s been difficult for him to do – it’s not helped that he’s lost about 30% of his athleticism, never could make layups, and is about as useful in the clutch as a chip pan in a forest fire.13 But he can play. It is not a dead weight contract. And with his “gritty” “tenacious” “hustling” “leadership”, it’s a contract that won’t overly deter teams. It certainly hasn’t deterred the Bulls, who have declined trade offers for him on a couple of occasions because of his perceived worth to them on the court.14

Therefore, in this scenario of mine, we’re keeping Deng and trading Hinrich.

As of right now, assuming that Devin Brown, Brad Miller, Acie Law, Joe Alexander, Ronald Murray, Jannero Pargo, Hakim Warrick and Martynas Andriuscabbages all get renounced,15 the Bulls 2010/11 salary structure is set to look like this.

Walding: $11,345,000
Hinrich: $9,000,000
Rose: $5,546,160
Noahwitzki: $3,128,536
James Johnson: $1,713,600
Taj Gibson: $1,117,680
Chris Richard: $854,389
Rob Kurz: $854,389

Total: $33,559,754

17th pick cap hold: $1,302,600

Three more cap holds for only having 9 things on the cap = $473,604 * 3 = $1,420,812

$33,559,754 + $1,420,812 + $1,302,600 = $36,283,166

= $19,816,834 in a cap room to a hypothetical $56.1 million cap (the latest estimated figure).

If you take away Richard’s and Kurz’s salaries, for they are unguaranteed, you have to add two more rookie minimum cap holds ($473,604 each). So waiving him means $36,283,166 – $854,389 – $854,389 + $473,604 + $473,604 = $35,521,596 = cap room of $20,578,404 for a $56.1 mil cap.

The maximum starting salaries for various aforementioned players are as follows:16

LeBron James = $16,568,908
Dwyane Wade = $16,568,908
Chris Bosh = $16,568,908
David Lee = $13,520,500
Joe Johnson = $16,224,600
Dirk Nowitzki = $20,785,500
Amar’e Stoudemire = $17,197,241
Carlos Boozer = $16,224,600

It’s clear to see, then, that the Bulls can afford anyone there except for Dirk.17 But of course, as outlined earlier in this post, we’re not going that route here. Even though the Bulls’ highly aggressive tactic to open up cap space was done to target the biggest names,18 we’re hedging our bets here in this post and looking lower down the list. More specifically, we’re using the cap room mostly by trade.

Even more specifically, the biggest part of this plan involves trading Kirk Hinrich to Utah, along with Taj Gibson and the Bobcats’ future first rounder outstanding from the Tyrus Thomas trade, in exchange for Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur.

The obvious counterpoint to that prospective trade is that Utah are giving away the two best players in it. It’s true, they are. And for that reason, it’s not going to be an easy thing to sell. But I’ll try anyway.

Mehmut Okur is not the player he used to be. He has a had a strong career and is only 31 years old, but it’s an old 31. Okur has declined for a couple of years, and his value has dropped off accordingly. It is probably not a coincidence that Utah drafted Goran Suton in the second round last season, a man who bears strong similarities to Okur at the same age, and that they have been drafting big men for a few years now (Kyrylo Fesenko, Kosta Koufos, Ante Tomic).

Unfortunately for Utah, two things have happened in the last 12 months that have crippled his value. First, Mehmet got a two-year maximum extension, turning him from a player on a wonderfully market value contract in an overpaid and declining average starter on the wrong side of 30. And then secondly, in game one of the playoffs, Okur tore his Achilles tendon. He was always slow, but he’ll be really slow now. And this will accelerate his decline.

Overpaid? Declining? Kind of surplus to requirements, even though they’re still useful to the team? It sounds just like Kirk’s situation on the Bulls. And usefully, with Okur’s extension, the two’s contracts now expire at the same time. If you tell me you’d rather have Mehmet Okur for the next two years at $20.8 million, rather than Kirk Hinrich for the next two years at $17 million, then I’ll believe you. But even when they’re healthy, there’s not much in it.19

In contrast, Paul Millsap for the next three seasons at just over $24 million is a very fair value contract. Very fair indeed. An argument exists that Millsap is a top ten power forward, and that might well be true.20 For that reason, a contract that averages out at $8 million during the prime seasons of his career is a great value deal indeed. But Utah already has one of the top ten power forwards with Carlos Boozer. And while it’s vaguely possible for Boozer and Millsap to get away with playing together in the majority of defensive matchups, it’s not optimal. They’re too similar. So if it’s not optimal, why do it? Take advantage of the luxury of riches they have at the power forward position, and trade away Millsap while his value is high.21

In the returning package, Utah gets Kirk Hinrich, an incredibly Jerry Sloan-friendly player. Hinrich rarely makes mistakes, plays tough defence (using all the tricks of the trade in the process), is a good citizen, quiet but authoritative, confident without having embarrassing swag, and tries to kill anyone who pushes him over. He can shoot, defend and run the pick-and-roll, and he even hit some clutch jump shots last year, which was unexpected and thoroughly welcome. There are not many better backup point guards in the league.22 They also get Taj Gibson, one of the better draft steals of the 21st century, a strong interior defensive player with a good quality mid-range jump shot that we weren’t aware he had before. Gibson is a pest defensively, undersized for the bigger players at his position but a man who can win possessions with his shot-blocking and endless deflections, a sub-par defensive rebounder but a strong offensive rebounder, a man who can’t consistently catch but a man who can finish around the basket.

In formulating that trade idea, my idea for Utah’s wider offseason involved something like this;

a) doing that trade,
b) re-signing Boozer and Wesley Matthews,
c) drafting Cole Aldrich with the Knicks pick.22

That gives Utah a core lineup, before peripheral signings, of:

PG – Deron Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Ronnie Price
SG – Wes Matthews, Hinrich, Sundiata Gaines
SF – Andrei Kirilenko, C.J. Miles, Matthews
PF – Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Kirilenko
C – Cole Aldrich, Kosta Koufos, either Kyrylo Fesenko or Ante Tomic (or both)

If they want to bring back Kyle Korver, that works too. Or perhaps they could instead acquire the Bulls’s 2010 pick instead of the Bobcats one and use it for another big man, using it on Solomon Alabi, or maybe Devin Ebanks if they want an extra forward (a man who should be able to churn out a decent career as a Lakers-era version of Trevor Ariza. He even looks like him, a bit.)

The specifics of how they balance the roster are not important here, though. The point is whether they can maintain their current level of play, improve it slightly, and increase their future prospects, without ballsing up their salary structure in the process. And I believe they can.

The prize to the deal for Utah, moreso than Hinrich, is Gibson. This is not like including Ian Mahinmi or Oleksiy Pecherov in a deal, because Taj can play. He’s slender and short, but he can defend those both bigger and quicker than him to good effect, and has some touch both around and away from the rim as well. Millsap is better than him, and by enough for the Bulls to want to swap the two; however, since we’re talking about backups here, the gap is not significant enough to matter for Utah. More importantly, Boozer (warts and all) is better than both. In addition, Hinrich fills a need for the team, a defensive-minded combo guard with a jump shot and more point guard skills than Price, and superior to any backup point guard the Jazz have had in the Deron Williams era (including Derek Fisher and the insatiable Milt Palacio). Thanks to Isiah Thomas, Utah will have a mid-lottery pick for a high-calibre playoff team, and they’ll also have Memphis’s pick from the Ronnie Brewer trade to use in the 2011 draft, the Bobcats pick in 2012,24 plus the #47 pick this year. Maybe the moves described above are lateral at best this season, but the team’s future is improved. And that is not insignificant.

I do not believe that that prospective Jazz team is any worse than their current one, but I do believe that it has a better financial outlook. Re-signing Boozer will not be cheap, and taking on a $9 million backup point guard doesn’t help in that regard, yet moving Okur’s expensive salary does, as does trading Millsap for the piddling contract of Gibson. If they need to salary-dump Ronnie Price, that’s easily done; his minimal role on the team is nothing that Hinrich and Sundiata Gaines haven’t got covered already. Moreover, Kirilenko’s slightly enormous deal expires next summer, giving the Jazz the breathing room they sorely needed to avoid a repeat of this year’s tax- paying season. And when Hinrich expires in 2012, only Williams, Boozer and Aldrich will be under contract. If my hypothetical deals go down, if Boozer re-signs for a starting salary of $13 million and Matthews for $2.08 million (two numbers I just fashioned out of my arse),25 then Utah’s salary forecast will look like this (click to expand);

That team is a team that is on course to exceed the luxury tax threshold….but only just. If they want to avoid the tax altogether, they could just let Boozer walk. But then you get absolutely nothing for your second-best player. This way, they get to keep the better player, and get value for his backup. And they shift a ropey contract, gain a potentially lucrative future pick and free up their future salary prospects in the process.26

Besides, as Utah demonstrated this season, salary can always be trimmed. If it came to it, Oklahoma City may want to re-visit a trade for Miles (it was they who signed him to an offer sheet in the first place); if they decide they’d like an extra quality swingman, they have the cap space to absorb his deal, maybe giving up D.J. White and/or Kyle Weaver in the process. They could probably relieve Price’s salary for a small cost; in fact, the Bulls would probably take him in return.27 Koufos should be equally tradeable if it came to it, and hometown-discounting Matthews could save even more.28

If Utah can find a better deal for Millsap and/or Okur than that one, then that’s another thing entirely. But gaining a good and cheap young player in Gibson, a future first-round pick for a franchise with no long term prospects and short-term mediocrity, and both long- and short-term salary relief…’s not a bad deal. It might not be the best deal available, but it’s not the best deal available for the Bulls either. We’re playing fall-back options here, let’s not forget.

Speaking of the Bulls, the move cuts into their cap space, but they retain a good chunk. The move for Millsap and Okur helps alleviate their shooting concerns – Millsap is a pick-and-roll/pop player with a very strong mid-range jump shot, and Okur is one of the best floor-stretching big men around. The Bulls fill their power forward and backup centre holes, and while the move further weakened an already weak back court, they still have the money to rectify that.

Problematically, this year’s free agents do not yield a great guard crop. The most urgent need for the Bulls at shooting guard is a high calibre outside shooter, preferably one who excels at getting himself free off the ball for shots. Yet this year’s free agency crop doesn’t offer much of that. Instead, it offers players like Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels and Keith Bogans, players whose jump shots are about as much use as a handbrake on a donkey.29 Wes Matthews is committed to Utah, and Utah to him. Randy Foye thinks he’s Derrick Rose, but is worse in every facet of the game than him. Larry Hughes is about as welcome in Chicago as Robert Mugabe is at the Marylebone Cricket Club. Ronald Murray wasn’t too bad in his time here, but he doesn’t qualify as a “shooter”. Pairing Chris Douglas-Roberts with Rose would be fun for both of them on a personal level, but would also result in Luol Deng becoming the team’s primary three point shooter. Josh Howard’s knee will probably take about 6 years to heal, if his ankle history is anything to go by. John Salmons didn’t burn any bridges here, but it’d be too weird to comprehend. And even if Mo Evans opts out, his main offensive strength is not turning the ball over. Chicago needs more than that.

That leaves a market with few shooters on it. And those that are good shooters are either unsuitable or unavailable. Mike Miller’s days of being able to defend opposing guards are pretty much over. Kyle Korver can’t really do it either. I wouldn’t want Quentin Richardson to attempt it. Anthony Morrow is desirable, but is not easy to get.30 J.J. Redick is also desirable, but he’s restricted, and owned by a team who has spent extremely generously in the last two years. Roger Mason is OK, but he’s no starter.31 And then there’s Ray Allen, who, while an absolutely perfect fit for Chicago’s roster, is setting records for Boston in the NBA Finals. He should be considered unavailable until further notice.32

So again, the need to trade exists. It’s either that, or wildly overpaying Morrow. (Or both, I suppose.) So in lieu of that, prospective trade number 2: the Bulls’ 2010 first-round pick to Portland for rainy face Rudy Fernandez.

Rudy had a great rookie year, showing terrific athleticism, a fine outside jump shot, and uncanny chemistry with fellow Spaniard Sergio Rodriguez. He became one of the most desired backups in the league, and thus became overrated by fans and the Blazers alike.33

Unfortunately for them, Rudy had a bad sophomore year. He suffered from a couple of injuries to his back and quadriceps, which did not help, but he also did little but cast up bad shots and added nothing notable to his game. He’s still an awesome athlete and spot-up shooter with good passing vision, but Fernandez drove the ball even less than before, defended with whatever the opposite of aplomb is, shot 38%, and managed to turn it over quite an impressive amount for a man who rarely dribbles against traffic. Worse still, Rudy sulked his way through the season, complaining about his minutes constantly, missing Rodriguez openly, and further remonstrating his sulking through his apathetic play. It was not a good year, and the “at this point we’re only trading Rudy for a star” brigade soon turned into a “just let him go back to Spain, he’s not an NBA player” clamour within a few short months.

That said, he’s still a big athletic two with a fine jump shot. So he’s still exactly what the Bulls need.

After trading away Steve Blake, the Blazers need a point guard. Andre Miller is a decent veteran – albeit a truly awkward fit with Brandon Roy – but there’s no obvious backup there. Jerry D. Bayless is not a point guard, no matter how much we pretend he isn’t, and Patty Mills is not under contract. The free agency crop at point guard this not strong – Raymond Felton is the best player in it, and Luke Ridnour is arguably second.34 Failing that, the Blazers are looking at trying to buy restricted free agents Kyle Lowry (who is awesome but probably unavailable), Will Bynum or Mario Chalmers, and if that doesn’t work out, then they’re going to have to sign Blake again. And that’s just a bit too weird to be allowed.

With Hinrich now in Utah being cradled by Sloan, the Bulls only means of getting Portland a point guard is with their35 first-round draft pick. And while last year’s draft class was overwhelmingly stacked with point guards, this year’s point guard class is very sparse. In fact, the only point guard that should be realistically available at the Bulls’ selection at #17 is Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe; that is, unless Portland thinks they have a chance at turning Avery Bradley or Willie Warren into NBA calibre point guards.36

Nonetheless, Bledsoe fits a need for the Blazers while relieving them of a headache. Trading away Fernandez opens up time behind Roy, time which Bayless can use to play his natural position, or which Nicolas Batum might be able to fill. If the Blazers are amenable to signing another swingman anyway, then they now have the minutes with which to do so; Mike Miller makes a lot of sense, and Nate McMillan’s love for Ime Udoka is duly noted. With this trade, the Blazers fill a need while barely opening one, gain an asset for a burden, and free themselves of a moody Spaniard in the process.

Meanwhile, the Bulls get a much-needed shooter, who might even get the opportunity to start, if not necessarily play the most minutes. Happy face Rudy Fernandez!

By this time, the Bulls have the following depth chart:

PG – Derrick Rose
SG – Rudy Fernandez
SF – Luol Deng, James Johnson
PF – Paul Millsap
C – Joakim Noah, Mehmet Okur

With a total committed salary of $40,524,976, and almost $12.3 million remaining in cap room after roster charges. That’s six-and-a-half parts of a strong nine-man rotation, signed cheaply, with depth at every position, improved shooting, and the pick-and-roll/pop options that Rose sorely lacked last year. The defensive personnel has been downgraded with the Utah trade, but we’ll come to that later. More importantly, now it needs some guard depth.

The breakdown of the shooting guard crop above suggested few free agent options worth pursuing for the Bulls. The point guard crop isn’t much better, either. Yet the Bulls needed a starting shooting guard even before I traded Hinrich to Utah, where he’s now being suckled by Jerry Sloan like a newborn foal on a winter morning.37 To get one requires another trade, which should be easily doable with all the cap space the Bulls retain.

And therefore, prospective trade number 3: the Bulls trade the rights to Mario Austin to Phoenix,38 for the rights to Leandro Barbosa and Phoenix’s 2012 first-round draft pick.39

Barbosa’s style of plan is easy to explain; it’s all offence and no defence. This does not fit with the Bulls philosophy of defence first; then again, nor did Eddy Curry. Nor Michael Sweetney. Nor Ben Gordon. Nor Andres Nocioni. Nor Drew Gooden. And yet all were made into acceptable defenders in their time here, except Gooden.40

His time in Phoenix might be drawing to an end, for two reasons; Barbosa’s perpetually terrible playoff production, and the continued emergence of Goran Dragic. A three-guard rotation of Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Dragic is no worse than a three-guard rotation of Nash, Richardson and Barbosa – therefore, the $7.1 million being spent on Barbosa is being spent unnecessarily. Barbosa is a good player with value to any team, but to Phoenix, his value is marginalised by the play of others. Keeping him around is a luxury more than a necessity, and there’s a tax in the NBA to fight against such luxuries.

The perennially tax-paying Suns need that money. Regardless of what happens with Amar’e Stoudemire, the Suns need to maintain their depth if they are to maintain competitive.41 To that end, free agents Channing Frye and Louis Amundson need to be brought back. With Ben Wallace’s deadweight contract expiring, the Suns might just have the wiggle room to do this without being taxpayers: however, they’ve surely had enough of fighting with that enemy over the years, no doubt still haunted by the memories of the assets it has cost them over the years. If they weren’t paying $7.1 million for a third-string guard who could readily be a fourth-string guard, they’d have the money to retain their good players and maybe add more. Who knows; with an MLE to spend for a change, maybe they could even add Anthony Morrow. A bench unit of Dragic, Morrow, Amundson, Frye and Jared Dudley is a damn fine bench unit.42

For the Bulls, they get backcourt scoring help and some backcourt shooting. (Barbosa’s mediocre three-point percentage of last season was an aberration.) As long as it’s not playoff time, they get a second backcourt scoring option (every team needs two), a player who fits into the high-tempo game they should be looking to play, more outside shooting, and simply another good quality player. They’re always in the market for those.

For frontcourt depth, prospective trade #3 works in much the same way; taking the cap hit of a tax-threatened team, and getting some long-term rewards in the bargain. Specifically, the deal involves trading a top 55 protected 2013 second-round draft pick43 to the Hornets in exchange for Morris Peterson, and the Hornets’ 2011 first-round draft pick.

The Hornets are in the process of being sold. George Shinn is selling his majority stake in the team to Gary Chouest, a current minority owner and local businessman with (supposedly) deep pockets. Shinn was never the spendthrift owner he has recently been made out to be, but the Hornets’ problem was not an unwillingness to spend. Instead, their problem has been has been an inability to spend well. Handicapped by Peja Stojakovic’s spectacular salary and the overpayment of backups such as Peterson and James Posey, the Hornets have been making their team worse in a bid to avoid the luxury tax. They just about managed this last year, but only by taking on the salary of Darius Songaila in a rousing crescendo of fail.

In dodging the luxury tax, the Hornets have had to gift away players. Last season alone, Rasual Butler, Hilton Armstrong, Bobby Brown and Devin Brown were given away, with the best returning player being overweight ex-Bull Aaron Gray.44 None of those players are very good, and their departure should be viewed as nothing more than the trimming of expendable fat. Yet the bigger problem than the departure of those players has been the lack of improvement on the rest of the roster. The Hornets aren’t cutting salary in order to spend more; they’re cutting salary because they already spent too much. New Orleans’s fantastic (really fantastic) 2009 draft night was nought but the saving grace in a three-year cycle of stagnation that has seen their win totals taper off, the coach get fired, and the team wind up in the late lottery. It started with Cedric Simmons, and hopefully it’ll now end with Aaron Gray.

It can’t end yet, though, because New Orleans are once again set up to be tax payers. Their current payroll for next season already stands at $71,756,545 for only ten players, even before including this year’s lottery pick, which figures to be approximately $4 million over the as-yet-undetermined luxury tax threshold. And if last year is anything to go by, the team will need to fight hard to get their way under it. Wanting (needing) to be under it is not simply a sign of ownership cheapness; why pay the tax for a non-competitive team, when going over it isn’t the way back to competing? To that end, dead salary must be trimmed.

Mo Peterson is absolutely dead salary. He was a good defender and role player in his Toronto days, but he has been a washout for New Orleans. Now hurtling towards 33, Peterson’s athleticism has left him, taking much of his defensive ability with it, and his decent-but-not-great jump shot is all that exists of his offensive game. He is no longer a rotation-calibre player in the NBA, rightfully losing his starting spot to Marcus Thornton last season, and yet he’s being paid $6.2 million next season.45

The Hornets’ 2011 pick seems like adequate compensation. They should (might) be out of the lottery by that time, with Chris Paul’s return to full health and a good offseason of transactions ahead of them. If the Hornets do this trade, they retain a good rotation of Paul/Thornton/Darren Collison at guard, with Peja and Posey at small forward whether they like it or not. Up front, the unsuccessful pairing of David West and Emeka Okafor can be complimented in the draft with Ekpe Udoh rather than Sean Marks (the Hornets gave up a league-worst field goal percentage at the rim last season; that frontcourt is just too small and unathletic; Okafor is not the defensive anchor as advertised, and never really was). More importantly, their salary structure will become this:

Filling out the remaining spots on that roster will again put the team back into tax territory. But things are manageable by then. Darius Songaila could always be pawned off for a slightly smaller expiring salary, or for a longer one of a decent player. The same is true of Peja; now that he’s finally expiring, he’s finally an asset and not a burden. He could even be used in a big trade, if New Orleans decides they’re ready to now go that route (which they should be). And if we adhere to the earlier rule of how no two-year contract can ever be too bad, James Posey is also now tradeable, particularly because of his perceived value to contending teams. For example, would the Lakers give up Sasha Vujacic for him? They could do, and that move represents both long-term and short-term salary savings for the loss of only another backup. Or what about Cleveland trading Delonte West and Danny Green for them, if they can’t get a better deal with the asset that is Delonte’s deal? Could happen. Depends on whether the James Posey Aura circa-2008 Finals is still on life support. (Neither of those trades should happen, but they might. Executives looooooove James Posey. Or at least, they used to.)

Either way, this Peterson trade gets them close to salary salvation.46 And with most of the rest of the dead salary expiring this summer, the Hornets are finally freed of their own mismanagement, with some good young players, an all-time calibre point guard, and a shiny new owner. Not a bad place to be, and all for the mere cost of a mid-first-round pick.

The Bulls would now have a depth chart of:

PG – Rose, Barbosa
SG – Fernandez, Barbosa, Peterson
SF – Deng, Johnson, Peterson
PF – Millsap, Noah, Deng
C – Noah, Okur

And a salary structure of:

Because of Peterson’s 7.5% trade kicker – which makes his salary even worse – the Bulls are now out of cap space without much depth to show for it.47 To that end, I don’t have Peterson and the Hornets pick staying long, trading them immediately to Sacramento for Francisco Garcia and a 2011 second-round draft pick.

Sacramento have cut so much salary in recent times that they don’t “need” to cut more. With the trades of Kevin Martin and John Salmons at the last two deadlines,48 Sacramento have opened up enough short-term money to not only stay solvent, but also to open up maximum cap room. To that end, the reasonable salary of Francisco Garcia (four years and $23.8 million remaining) is not an urgent problem from Sacramento.

However, it might one day become so. Sacramento’s salary forecast is very good at the moment, but there are soon players that are going to need big pay days. Tyreke Evans’s Penny Hardaway impression will not come cheaply. Carl Landry, as mentioned in footnote number 20, is a high-calibre power forward about to enter unrestricted free agency. And at the same moment that happens, the polarising figure of Spencer Hawes will enter restricted free agency. The team won’t get anywhere if they let those guys walk for free; cheap young role players Donte Greene, Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi won’t be cheap forever either.

In Garcia, Nocioni and Beno Udrih, the Kings have $65 million ($52 million guaranteed) committed to three role players. These are the kinds of contracts that can clog up a team’s salary structure and cripple their roster flexibility,49 and carrying three is probably not healthy. Therefore, if they have the opportunity to cash in on one, they should. It might help offset the burden of the Nocioni situation.

Garcia is coming off a career-worst season, but it wasn’t his fault. A freak accident with an exploding medicine ball took him out in preseason, and Garcia returned only for the final few games, with some inevitable rust to burn off. This deal assumes that Garcia is back at full health with no long term repercussions – if this is not the case, I don’t want him. At full health, however, he is a good player on both ends, a good second or third ball-handler and playmaker with a much-improved jump shot, good size and decent athleticism, who is able to play good and versatile defence when he puts his mind to it (which isn’t always). Does that sound like good eighth man material to you? It should.

Of course, Garcia fills the same need for the Kings. The need there, however, is smaller. Even after the departures of Martin and Salmons, Sacramento are doing just fine on the wings. Casspi and Greene (who surprised the bejeezus out of me last year by not being terrible) are holding it down at small forward, with the possibility of Ime Udoka or Dominic McGuire returning should they need more help there. Meanwhile, Udrih and Evans paired extremely well last season, which solves the starting guard spots for the foreseeable future. Sacramento has little to back them up with right now, but this doesn’t necessitate keeping Garcia, comparatively expensive for such a reduced role. And besides, the only thing better than being in the free agency mix is being in it twice. By removing Garcia’s 2011-12 salary, this becomes possible.

The Kings are picking fifth in the draft, and they should really pick whichever one of DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors falls to them. If they don’t get that lucky, however, the best player available might be either Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson or Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu. Johnson cannot dribble whatsoever, which could be problematic for playing the guard spot; however, between him and his fellow Syracusian Greene, the backup shooting guard minutes should be filled. The same is true of Aminu, who isn’t a guard and never will be, but whose arrival still negates the need for Garcia at small forward, where Garcia is best. If Sacramento doesn’t land either of Favors or Cousins, Brendan Haywood is a candidate in free agency; aside from some second- and third-string guard depth, the Kings roster is then deep at every position, with plenty of room for future internal growth, all future assets intact, and the extra Hornets pick thrown into the bargain.

And who knows – Mo Peterson might help with the guard depth. (That is, if he’s not instantly waived.)

The inclusion of the first-round pick from the Bulls perspective is done for a few reasons;

1) The pick should be non-lottery, and if it isn’t, then they can and should make it so.

2) The returning Kings second-round pick should be fairly high, thus effectively meaning what looks like a traded first rounder is more of a trade-down of 15-20 places.

3) Despite being perhaps marginally overpaid, 28 years old and coming off serious injury, Garcia is still a good all around player who fills a need; the Bulls probably aren’t going to be drafting anyone better than him that far down in the draft. (Nor are the Kings; however, they don’t need do. Their reasons for doing it extend beyond the pick to include the salary relief.)

A further bonus for the Bulls perspective is that Garcia’s 2010/11 salary is slightly smaller than Peterson’s. This opens up a small amount of cap room with which to sign a backup point guard, the remaining hole on the depth chart. After all of the above, the Bulls salary situation stands thusly:

Deng: $11,345,000
Okur: $9,945,000
Millsap: $7,600,000
Barbosa: $7,100,000
Rose: $5,546,160
Garcia: $5,500,000
Noahhhhhhh, Body-forrrrrrrm!: $3,128,536
James Johnson: $1,713,600
Fernandez: $1,246,680

Three roster charges: $473,604 * 3 = $1,420,812

Total = $54,545,788

= $1,554,212 in cap room. Still.

For argument’s sake, lets call that $1.5 million, which should be enough to land Keyon Dooling. Dooling is an athletic point guard, strong defensively and in transition, whose jump shot is streakier than a naked Tim Thomas but who contributes offensively anyway. Dooling is signed with the Nets through 2010/11; however, only $500,000 of his contract is guaranteed. New Jersey deliberately signed him like that so that they could waive him for 2010 free agency, and now that we’re here, that’s exactly what they are going to do.

(If $1.5 million for two years is not enough to land Keyon Dooling, which is entirely possible, then Jordan Farmar is another option. Failing that…….Bo McCalebb?)

With the addition of Dooling, the Bulls are now here before minimum salary additions;

PG – Rose, Dooling
SG – Fernandez, Barbosa, Garcia
SF – Deng, Garcia, Johnson
PF – Millsap, Noah, Deng
C – Noah, Okur

It’a a defined nine-man rotation50 that should have no problem in transition, and with much-improved shooting in the half court. The backcourt defence is compromised by the loss of Hinrich, but the frontcourt defence remains much the same with the arrival of Millsap (who is in several ways the uber-Taj). Using cap space on Francisco Garcia isn’t quiiiiiiiiiiiite as nice as using cap space on LeBron James, but at least they play the same position. In fact, they’re pretty similar players. There’s just a slight talent gap in between them.

Backup power forward is the obvious hole – however, there’s a defensive matchup available to the Bulls there for every style of opposing player. Luol Deng can play a lot more power forward than he does, for there just aren’t the amount of back-to-the-basket power forwards that there used to be. And despair not, dear viewer, for depth options at this position are forthcoming.51

(Note that Omer Asik is not being brought over yet. Not ready.)


As for how to round out the roster with minimum salaries, there are multiple options available to them here.


Third string point guards:

Shaun Livingston – Livingston returned to the NBA for his third comeback attempt last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was waived even with a guaranteed contract when the Thunder needed a roster spot for the already-retired Matt Harpring. In a previous comeback attempt with the Heat, Livingston made the team and was playing, but had to be salary-dumped when training camp signee Jason Richards tore his knee in training camp, thereby guaranteeing his contract and sending the team into luxury tax territory; the unguaranteed Livingston therefore became the fall guy. Shaun just can’t catch a break. However, he saw out the season with the Wizards, and played well, averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 assists with a 14.6 PER. Livingston will be looking for a full-time backup spot rather than signing somewhere as a third-stringer, and he might get it. However, if he doesn’t, he’s one to consider.

Jason Williams – Whit Eboy is out of retirement and back into the public consciousness, long since divorced from the tearaway miscreant of his youth and in full control of his own discipline. Williams is now a capable and sensible player, still able to set teams up while in possession of a good jump shot of his own. Like Livingston, he will probably look for a spot as a full-time backup; however, like Livingston, he’s a good signing for the Bulls if he doesn’t get one. And unlike Livingston, he is not likely to get one.

Travis Diener – Diener is not just a jump shooter. The three-pointer is pretty much the sum total of his own offence, but Diener can also run a good pick-and-roll and has a terrific assist/turnover ratio (more than 4.3 to 1 for his career, and more than 5:1 over the last three years). Diener is 28 years old, with five years of experience and 179 NBA games with three NBA teams to his name, and while his defence is open season, he’s more offensively capable than most minimum salary third-string point guard options. Failing that, he could always opt to go star in Israel.

Jannero Pargo – Whether we like him or not doesn’t matter. The fact is, the Bulls do. Pargo’s jump shot was so bad last year that we cringed whenever he entered the game, but he still has one, is still athletic enough to contribute defensively, and still occasionally runs the point reasonably well. If you abide by the theory that third-stringers should only play if one of the two players ahead of you has mange or TB or something intensely tropical, then Pargo is an acceptable option here. Let’s just make sure it’s for the minimum next time.


Defensive shooting guards

Raja Bell – Bell is 33, and his best days are behind him. He didn’t even finish last season on an NBA roster, being waived by the Warriors due to his wrist injury, and playing only six games all season. However, when healthy, Bell can still play. He is probably outside of the Bulls’ price range, no doubt able to get a bigger role and a better payday elsewhere. But if for some bizarre reason he should become available like this, the Bulls should snap him up.

Trenton Hassell – Hassell’s six-year contract – given to him by Lord of the Contract, Kevin McHale – has finally expired. And throughout its life span, Hassell was pretty poor. The always-terrible offence only got worse, and now aged 31, Hassell’s defence is starting to slip too. Nevertheless, if it’s at the minimum salary, he still has something to contribute. And he might be able to help out with some post-up offence. (I only half-meant that.)

Luther Head – I have wanted to get Head for a long term now,52 being a huge fan of Head.53 If Chicago got Head,54 they’d have a good jump shooter and defender, who’s slightly undersized yet capable of defending both guard positions. No one likes to see a dribbling Head,55 but Head can shoot,56 and Head can prevent penetration to the rim.57 Get Head a job.58

Keith Bogans – This season, San Antonio wanted Keith Bogans to be a wing defender/shooter, in the mould of Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka before him. Truth be told, even with 50 starts, he wasn’t very good at it. He wouldn’t be very good at it in Chicago, either; however, he remains a better-than-nothing option. I just don’t think 50 starts is getting it done.

Antoine Wright – Wright is much like Bogans, even down to the occasional delusions of offensive grandeur that the Bobcats-era Bogans often succumbed to. Wright is bigger than Bogans, but more of a forward, without the handle or jump shot befitting of a two guard. This wouldn’t be a problem if he was aware of it. But he’s not.

Romain Sato – Sato never played in the NBA after being drafted by the Spurs back in 2004, and has spent his time since then playing for Italian dynasty Montepaschi Siena. However, Sato might leave Siena in the summer; the team is facing budget cuts at the most inopportune time, coincident with the expiration of contracts to many key players. If Sato does leave, he could command big money on the continent as a star player, whose offence has caught up to his defence. Sato shot 43% from three-point range last year in addition to his Mr Tickle-like wingspan, and if he wants to give the NBA one last chance while in the height of his prime like this, then I’d happily accommodate him. As long as he takes the minimum.

Quinton Ross – Ross has a player option for the minimum salary with the Washington Wizards. If he declines it and becomes a free agent, he fits the team in the Raja Bell mode, only without the three-point range. That is, unless he returns to shooting it like he did in 2008-09 with Memphis.


Extra wing shooters

Jarvis Hayes – Hayes was in an unfavourable position last year, the designated three-point shooter on a Nets team with absolutely awful outside shooting. He missed the first half of the year with injuries, and when he returned, he shot his worst three-point percentage since his rookie year. That said, he’s normally a good shooter, defends adequately, and provides a slightly bigger alternative to the guys in the previous category.

Jawad Williams – Williams developed his game in the Developmental League, becoming a versatile and polished offensive player with NBA size and athleticism. It’s a bit generous for me to list him as a “shooter” when his jump shot is in fact rather average, but you can understand why I didn’t think Jawad Williams deserved his own category.

Ime Udoka – A late bloomer – or rather, a late arrival to the NBA – Udoka plays decent defence and has the corner three-pointer down pat. He has proven to be a contributing role player to winning teams, and call me an optimist if you must, but I think even this last-resort Bulls team could win 50.

Marcus E. Williams Williams should be in the NBA, and would be, had he not turned down a 10-day contract from the Indiana Pacers. He has been developing his game since leaving Arizona, becoming more of a tall point forward in the Kasib Powell mold. And like Powell, Williams is a fringe NBA talent. The Spurs probably don’t even have the room to continue their tryst with him now, either.

Tarence Kinsey – Kinsey filled Jawad Williams’s role with the Cavs before Jawad Williams, the 12th man who can make shots but who would benefit from understanding that not every shot is his. His three-point range has improved over time, so it’s not just the dreaded 20-footers any more.

Von Wafer – Wafer flaked out with Olympiacos, because Greece just doesn’t suit him. The NBA does, though, and if you need some athleticism and jump shooting with no other statistical production, then Vaekeaton is your man.

Jeremy Richardson – An athlete with a jump shot who has an outside chance of playing for every team in the league before he dies. The Bulls have not yet been one of them. Let’s make it happen.


Combo forwards

Rob Kurz – Kurz was waived way back in paragraph 16, but not because he’s awful. It was purely for the financial benefits of doing so. And once those other financial factors are accounted for, there is no problem with Kurz once again propping up the inactive list. He can play.

Linton Johnson – Linton Johnson hasn’t played for the Bulls in over a year. That’s just too long.

James Singleton – Singleton has long been a favourite of mine, an effective combo forward who fell out of the NBA when he never should have done. He can’t dribble against pressure, but he can shoot, defend, hustle and rebound, providing the same sort of mismatches that he similarly fails to alleviate. Every team needs a player like James Singleton. This is how Devean George gets so much work.

Jumaine Jones – OK, maybe not. But you get the idea.


Power forward options in lieu of having a full-time backup

Anthony Tolliver – If the Bulls are still not convinced that they have satisfactorily alleviated their outside shooting concerns, then help does not necessarily have to be found solely in the backcourt. Tolliver was an undersized rebounding centre in college who knew he needed to develop the outside shot to make it at the next level, and now that he’s done so, it’s the vast majority of what he does offensively. He’s not a bad defender, either, and if Golden State opts to keep him, Chicago could always turn to…….

Matt Bonner ……who is much the same. But funnier.

Joe Smith – Smith can still stick the jump shot and hit turnaround lefty hook shots. He will probably continue to smile about it, too.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu The Englishman can grab rebounds, run the floor unbelievably well for a man of his size, and turn it over with staggering consistency while trying to isolate on the left wing. So, something for everyone there.

Josh Powell – Much like Singleton, Powell will hustle on the interior to overcome his lack of size, grab some rebounds, and stick 15-footers. He also brings championship experience – more specifically, he brings the experience of what it’s like to win a championship ring while doing nothing to help. Good work if you can get it.

Brian Skinner – It has never really mattered that Brian Skinner is undersized, because he collects rebounds and blocks anyway. He may have all the catching ability of a lettuce and a soft dexterous touch akin to being groped by Captain Hook, but defence is defence.

Richard Hendrix – The Warriors never gave Hendrix a fair chance, waiving him within a month despite all the guaranteed money they had given him. Unfazed, Hendrix went to Spain and continued to rebound the snot out of the ball. His offence is still rudimentary, but rebounds is rebounds.


Centre depth

Adonal Foyle – Regardless of everything, Adonal Foyle can still defend the post. He is 35 years old and may well retire, particularly after knee injuries have limited him to only ten games played in the last two seasons. But if he can still play, he is a candidate. The Bulls’ line-up listed is lacking one more interior defender.

Shelden Williams – Williams was a pleasant early season surprise for the Celtics before tapering off. He was last seen hitting the rim in the lay-up line before game five of the NBA Finals. Lay-ups never were his thing. Nor was offence in general. But Williams can board.

Joel Anthony – This is the only time I will ever campaign for the signing of a 28-year-old seven-footer who can neither score nor rebound. Joel Anthony is an effective interior defender who blocks and changes shots in ways best not measured. There is not much else about his game to like, but as a third stringer, there doesn’t need to be either.

Didier Ilunga-Mbenga – See above, except with more rebounding, and an occasional desire to shoot on every possession, which can be highly amusing in garbage time and highly destructive in actually important moments.

Jamaal Magloire – The days of Jamaal Magloire the capable offensive player are looooooooooooooong gone. He has lost all his offence, and it’s not coming back. But one thing he hasn’t lost is his rebounding. Total rebounding percentages of 19.8% are hard to come by, and it helps you live with the 36% free throw shooting.

Theo Ratliff – The 37-year-old Ratliff is still capable of blocking shots, and is no less capable of getting through a season than he ever was. Kind of a backhanded compliment, admittedly.

Josh Boone – Boone did not improve during the duration of his rookie contract; in fact, after Marcus Williams left, Boone only got worse. This decline is evident in his free throw percentage, which achieved the unusual feat of going downwards for four consecutive seasons (54%, 46%, 38%, 33%). Nonetheless, Boone is occasionally useful for some pick-and-roll offence, and grabs enough rebounds to matter.


Projected second rounders which it’d be quite nice to buy

Artsiom Parakhouski – The big Belarusian is somewhat unproven, despite his huge college numbers, because they mostly came in the Big South Conference. But his size is legitimate, and there is no reason why rebounding numbers would not translate. The heyday of the big clunking backup centre is behind us – for now – yet the league always needs rebounders.

Trevor Booker – Booker would be the next Paul Millsap, were he not even smaller. Unfortunately, Booker measured out at only 6′ 7.5″ in shoes, small forward’s size in a power forward’s game. That said, if he can develop a Craig Smith-like understanding of how to get open, Booker should be able to contribute as a bench scorer and occasional rebounder, even with his lack of size.

Latavious Williams – Williams is something of a project, but he’s one that is developing quickly, and has the athleticism and rebounding to contribute in the NBA. Even if it’s only as the next Darvin Ham.

Samardo Samuels – I’m not entirely sure why Samuels declared, but I do know that he intrigues me. Samuels looks like a fat Michael Redd, and yet plays about as differently from Redd as is imaginable. His game is that of a centre while his height is that of a small forward; nevertheless, he can score in the post, and does very little wrong defensively on the interior. Well, except for defensive rebounding.

Jerome Randle – Randle is undersized and is more of a scorer than a playmaker, but he can win games single-handedly. His lack of size will mean he does even less in the paint than he did in the weakened Pac-26, and will struggle more defensively against the NBA’s size; nevertheless, the little guy has a lot of ball skills and shotmaking talent.

Andy Rautins – He doesn’t have NBA talent and should not get drafted, but I felt like the shout-out anyway.


Finally, after 11,000 words, the Bulls will finally wind up with something like this;

PG – Derrick Rose, Keyon Dooling, Travis Diener
SG – Rudy Fernandez, Leandro Barbosa, Francisco Garcia
SF – Luol Deng, Francisco Garcia, James Johnson, James Singleton
PF – Paul Millsap, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, James Singleton, Dick Hendrix
C – Joakim Noah, Mehmet Okur, Joel Anthony, Brian Skinner

Your 2010-11 Joe Johnson-free Chicago Bulls, everybody. Charge your glasses.


Of course, there are far greater versions of prospective Bulls offseasons, ranging from the ludicrously ambitious (“get LeBron, Wade AND Bosh, and call it an offseason!”) to the ludicrously ambitious (“trade Luol Deng to the L.A. Clippers, sign Wade, David Lee and Rudy Gay, and trade up for Evan Turner!”). In no way am I saying that this is the best course of action for the Bulls. They should target the best player available with everything they have got. And they should also target the second-best player available with everything they’ve got. And the third. And the fourth. And they should do their best to acquire all four. The possibility of the most successful offseason of all time exists, no matter how slim that possibility is. It even exists for New York.

There are also many variables in dealing with so many other teams. If Utah decides they can’t (or won’t) re-sign Boozer, Millsap is now unavailable, as is Okur if they can’t find adequate players to retool with in the draft. Rudy Fernandez is reportedly in talks (however informal they may be) to return to Spain to play for Real Madrid; if he really wants that, then no way does any NBA team give up a first-round pick for him. Those are but two possible drawbacks to these scenarios, just as there are drawbacks to any. Therefore, the paramount objective must always be to aim as high as possible.

It probably won’t happen, though. So let’s aim low. Target LeBron first, Wade or Bosh second, the other one third, Amar’e fourth. Work your way down through the likes of Lee, Boozer, Dirk and Scola, and even players at already filled positions like Rudy Gay and Joel Przybilla. Explore every possible method of improving the team, and start with the best players first. If nothing else is working out, maybe the names circulated in this post will mean something.

But if it comes down to a choice between this far-fetched scenario, or giving Joe Johnson $75 million, give me this one every time.



1Brook Lopez, by the way.

2 – That wasn’t a compliment.

3 – Particularly true in the case of New York, with whom we’ve had a slight feud for a while now. At the risk of being “that guy”, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are not free agent lures. Gallinari is pretty good, but the harsh reality is that his numbers at age 21 are almost identical to those of Mike Miller at the same age. Gallinari might be two inches taller, and the slightly better defender, but those ultimately don’t change a whole lot. (Moreover, Miller is the vastly superior ballhandler and playmaker, which cancels Danilo’s advantages out. Gallinari can pass and post, but if he doesn’t do them much, then they’re not worth a lot.) And the other harsh reality is that, in three seasons, Wilson Chandler’s highest PER in any season is 13.7, a significant margin below average. Those are role players. So is Toney Douglas. Decent young role players, but role players nonetheless. New York will come out of this offseason better than they went into it, but not as well as they’ve planned for. This is my prediction.

4 – That’s all true, too. Those would all be significant upgrades to the team and should not be dismissed. But inevitably, they will be. And in the light of all the LeBron drama, I can’t really fault that when it happens. In purely relative terms, that’s something of a failure.

5 – The alternative is to be passionate about things, and that generally leads to wars. By the way, this attitude is really helping with the World Cup.

6 – They are, let’s say, under constant review.

7 – He isn’t.

8 – There’s also the lockout/significantly different CBA factor, which might prove hugely significant and which is not worth risking.

9 – I would rather this all happened than signing Joe Johnson. Joe Johnson is going to get overpaid really badly, and I hope to God that it won’t be by Chicago. Looks like it might be, though. Not cool. Wait, am I just being overly cynical again?

10 – That made sense, didn’t it? I guess I’m trying to say that they’re not Lindsey Hunter.

11 – …..but with a 57-year-old man’s structural integrity……..

12 – Case in point – Zach Randolph to Memphis. You can take that kind of a risk when there’s only two years left and you give up absolutely no basketball assets to do so.

13 – I think the metaphor’s improve later on. I think.

14 – Allegedly.

15 – No great assumption, since their contracts are the reason why almost all of them are here.

16 – In some cases, such as those of Joe Johnson and David Lee, the amount listed is based on a percentage of a modified salary cap, and that changes every year, so the exact figures will not be known until the end of the July moratorium.

17 – There’s the reason why the Cliff Notes version of earlier did not contain any details of Dirk’s hypothetical salary.

18 – Speaking of; you know how after the Knicks completed the McGrady/picks trade, a report came out speculating that they’d gone this far because they’d received inside information about the summer and were heavily advised to do, on the understanding that it was worth it for the rewards the extra cap room would reap? Well, can we not speculate the same thing about the Bulls’ aggressive shopping of John Salmons? If this is truly going to be the summer of the sign-and-trade, as it appears it might be, then what better sign-and-trade piece can there be than Salmons? Had he opted in, there’s a good quality one-year rental at a highly competitive price; had he opted out, there’s a quality player looking for a good home that plugs a gap found on any team in this league. So did the Bulls give up two second-rounders, trade down two spots in the draft and downgrade their 2009-10 roster for the final two months, when all of that was unnecessary? Or did they do it because they knew something us fans didn’t? I’m believing the latter. And I base that on absolutely nothing.

19 – By the way, while I can’t prove it, I can damn near guarantee you that the Bulls would not trade Hinrich for Okur straight up. There’s just too much love there.

20 – In no particular order: Bosh, Lee, Amar’e, Dirk, Boozer, Duncan, Pau…..and then it gets less clear. There’s not a lot of separation between the tier of players that includes Troy Murphy, Antawn Jamison, Josh Smith, what’s left of Kevin Garnett, Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Millsap. And the common link between those names is that they’re paid far more than Millsap. Except for Scola, who might be soon. And Landry, who should be.

21 – And what better way to trade high than by trading him for an overpaid backup point guard who is kicking 30’s door down! (Oh no, wait, I’m supposed to be selling this idea, aren’t I?)

22 – Imagine Derek Fisher without the clutch jump-shooting. Much like that.

23 – Trust me like you would your grandmother when I tell you that it is a complete coincidence that the players I have Utah acquiring there are all white. Because I know you’re thinking it was deliberate, and yet it really, really wasn’t. I happen to believe Aldrich is a perfect fit next to Boozer. And as for Kirk, I’ve explained that as best I can already.

24 – The protection on that pick: top 14 protected in 2012, top 12 in 2013, top 10 in 2014, top 8 in 2015 and unprotected in 2016. If Charlotte reverts to her old ways like the unpredictable thing that she is, that pick might turn out to be much like the Knicks’ one they got this year. And that’s not insignificant.

25 – I have used the value of the Bi-Annual Exception for Matthews, which seems fair. And should Carlos Boozer really get more than that? I mean, he might and probably will on the open market…..but should he?

26 – Of course, this is all very dependent on the idea that Boozer can be signed for a starting salary of $13 mil, which just isn’t likely. If he goes for $15 mil instead, things get tighter. But it’s all still doable at a negligible cost to their 2010-11 record. By now, I’m pretty sure I’ve made an infallible argument that is totally beyond reproach.

27 – The Bulls would most definitely take back C.J. Miles, too, and I tried to work through this trade in such a way that they could acquire him as well. Unfortunately, because Miles is a good player on a good contract, they don’t have the assets to get it done. Shame.

28 – He started 47 games as a rookie and was a very nice undrafted steal, but this is still a mediocre offensive player of backup calibre. He starts in Utah in that Bruce Bowen/Thabo Sefolosha role due to their roster makeup, and is good at it……but he’s still a mediocre talent. What I’m trying to say here is that Utah really mustn’t overpay him.

29 – …..nope, apparently the metaphors got no better.

30 – Although he might become available if the Warriors follow through on their plan to draft Xavier Henry at #6. Why would you do that, Golden State?

31 – It probably also significantly counts against him that the Bulls once traded him for Rick Brunson. Doesn’t get much more kickintheballsy than that.

32 – This sentence was written after game two.

33 – Sam Smith maintains here that the Blazers management still do this. Naturally, we’re not listening.

34 – Lost amid Brandon Jennings’s headline stealing rookie season last year was quite how good Ridnour was backing him up. 10.4 points and 4.0 assists in 21 minutes per game, on 48% shooting, and with a A/TO ratio of better than 3:1. Top stuff. Scott Skiles – transforming the careers of mistake-free point guards since 1999.

35 – (Milwaukee’s.)

36 – It really is quite a terrible crop for point guards; even Antoine Diot pulled out. This is why Bledsoe’s decision to declare, even though he’s entirely not ready, makes some sense. By the way, Bradley alongside Roy might work rather well. And a rant about Alabama’s Mikhail Torrance will follow shortly.

37 – I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I think Jerry Sloan will like Kirk Hinrich.

38 – Whereby “the rights to Mario Austin” is meant here to signify “nothing at all.”

39 – I considered for a while whether the trade merited some compensation for the Bulls from Phoenix, to entice them for bailing them out with the complete salary dump. Almost worked in Earl Clark for that reason. I was torn, though; Barbosa is far from a bad player, in the regular season at least, and acquiring his services on an acceptable contract will be far from a burden for the Bulls. But then I remembered that taking on Kurt Thomas in almost identical circumstances landed Oklahoma City the rights to the awesome Serge Ibaka and an additional first rounder in this year’s draft. And at that point, I thought the inclusion of the 2012 pick was justified. This should be the last salary dump Phoenix should ever have to do – after this deal, they can become buyers again. And they can even buy their way into the draft.

40 – It is wildly underappreciated how sporadic defensively Andres Nocioni is. He runs after the ball constantly, and can cripple a team as a result. And now that he’s lost his athleticism and refuses to acknowledge there’s an offensive playbook, he’s one of the worst players in the league. It’s upsetting how he’s gotten, because he’s awesome. If that makes sense.

41 – ……which is why, in this very trade, I have them gutting their guard depth. Wow I’m good.

42 – This is why the inclusion of the pick, outlined in #40, seems important. Without it, why wouldn’t the Bulls also just go for Morrow instead with the cap space? The counter-argument is that drafting is a definite strength of Kerr’s. Fair enough. Play along, though.

43 – Again used to signify nothing at all. Teams have to give up something in a trade, however lame, and with no more unwanted draft rights to give away, this will suffice.

44 – After Gray was traded away, Sam Smith – who now works for and thus has become a team spokesman of sorts – broke the story that Gray was actually a diva, with Bill Walton-esque beliefs about his own ability and a terribly selfish attitude. What he wrote may have been accurate, inaccurate, or exaggerated. But whichever it is, does it really matter? It’s funnier this way. Personally, I’m running with it.

45 – Giggidy.

46 – Salarivation?

47 – Don’t forget that three cap holds of $473,604 must still be charged to that cap number, leaving the Bulls with less than a rookie minimum’s amount of cap room. A useless amount. It’d have to be minimums from here on out, unless something could be done.

48 – The Salmons trade was one of the most underrated moves of the century. How did they shift Nocioni’s contract AND get the best two players in the deal? God bless you, Drew Gooden, for the one piece of good news you brought us other than that singing video.

49 – This is EXACTLY what has happened to New Orleans.

50 – …..that doesn’t have James Johnson in it. James Johnson is a hard one to figure out. In his rookie season, he demonstrated quite a few tools – including surprisingly good help defence around the basket – yet he also showed no ability to consistently put them together. We’re supposed to have gotten the next Rodney Rogers, but instead, we got the next Rodney White. Johnson is out of the nightly rotation in my scenario, but he has every opportunity to win his way back into it. After all, these ideas are just stopgaps for the next attempt to land a second star. This depth chart is not a static exhibit.

51 – That’s right, this post still isn’t finished! Congratulations to all six of you who are still reading! You win nothing.

52 – Giggidy.

53 – Giggidy.

54 – Giggidy.

55 – Giggidy.

56 – Giggidy.

57 – Giggidy.

58 – Goo.

Posted by at 1:41 AM

9 Comments about Chicago’s Last Resort Offseason Plan That Still Manages To Avoid Signing Joe Johnson

  1. bpoorshoes14 June, 2010, 7:46 pm

    This was a fun read. I somewhat agree with your overall premise. I think in a more just league, your plan would be the correct one. Using your riches to field solid players at every postion– what a novel idea!However, the NBA is a league of corporate beasts like Nike. The man with the most endorsements gets the most free throws. Therefore it's better to have 7 horrible player$, 2 adequate player$$, and 3 good player$$$.$ = Free Throws

  2. solomonrex14 June, 2010, 11:25 pm

    Wow, just wow. Footnotes in a blog. Several pages length about one team in one offseason with charted, fictional salary cap summaries. This is sick, man, sick. But preferable to moaning about the 3 lions all week long.

  3. Justin15 June, 2010, 3:15 am

    Alright, I'm going to bookmark this for later reading. Appreciate all the work breaking this down, Sham.

  4. Sham15 June, 2010, 11:08 am

    Others I would have listed under the minimum salary options had I remembered, which I didn't; Stromile Swift, Garret Siler, Courtney Sims, Dwayne Jones (if Phoenix waives him).

  5. Barry15 June, 2010, 12:18 pm

    Damn, Sham, I don't know who has less of a life, you for writing this magnum opus or me for reading and understanding (most of) it. Nah, just kidding – definitely you. Kudos, my friend, for a taking on a gigantic (giggidy) task and go to the head (giggidy) of the class.

  6. Detroit Murder Dog15 June, 2010, 1:33 pm

    What does "Almost to a man" mean?

  7. IndeedProceeed15 June, 2010, 3:13 pm

    Saying Derrick Rose is the best young PG in the league is like saying Haim over Feldmen. Yeah, you might be right, but it is far from definitive. Plus, Rondo is better.

  8. Mike16 June, 2010, 2:50 am

    The projected team tha you've got the would not be much better than this years. Maybe a 6 seed

  9. Thom16 June, 2010, 6:14 am

    Rose is a great scorer, but he doesn't play much defense and doesn't create well. Until he fixes that, he's not the best young point guard, and certainly not top 5 at his position. I'd take Rondo and Russell Westbrook over Rose any day.