The Rebuilding of the Bulls is one of John Hollinger's 10 stories to watch for the rest of the season. Here's what he said:
Speaking of GMs under fire, John Paxson of the Bulls is taking some serious heat for failing to pull the trigger on a big deal a year ago and then making a deadline-deal this month for Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden.
For the moment that trade has left the Bulls with a weird roster. They have five guards, two small forwards and not enough big guys. And the three bigs they do have (Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Drew Gooden) are all athletic-roamer types who need an enforcer beside them to be most effective.
So in a weird way, this is a crucial two months for Paxson. It goes without saying that he can't be finished trading, so this summer is likely to be huge for him -- especially considering that both Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are restricted free agents and Chris Duhon is unrestricted.
In the mean time, he has to figure out which of his five guards, two small forwards and three power forwards to keep, and which ones to trade away.
At least Paxson can enjoy his new players' strong start. In the admittedly small three-game sample since the deal, Hughes looks a lot more like the vintage guard of the Washington years, averaging 18.7 points and getting five foul shots a game. One wonders how long they'll keep Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup when Hughes is clearly outplaying him.
In fact, a Hughes-Gordon pairing might be Chicago's best option going forward. Hughes can be the de facto point man while defending the opposing shooting guard, sparing Gordon the worst of the matchups. Sefolosha could then come off the pine at both spots.
Of course, the elephant in this discussion is Kirk Hinrich, whose struggles have been a key reason behind the Bulls' fade this season. He was yanked just 36 seconds into the third quarter Wednesday night and didn't return, but trading his contract will be very difficult unless he plays better. Nonetheless, including him and one of the young bigs (most likely Thomas) in a swap for a stronger, veteran presence in the paint might be Chicago's most logical path to improvement.
Looking ahead, Bulls fans can still be optimistic about such an arrangement. A Hughes-Gordon-Sefolosha backcourt can get things done. Deng still has plenty of upside at the 3, and bringing Andres Nocioni off the pine as a scoring force at both forward spots is a weapon few other teams can match. Then you have a frontcourt of Noah and the mystery guy in the trade, plus the still-young and reasonably productive Gooden as the spare big.
All this, of course, is subject to what happens over the next two months, which is why I'll be watching Chicago so closely. The Bulls' season has been a disaster, but they still have a young roster with a lot of nice pieces, and if Paxson makes the right deals, he might be able to salvage this group."I know some Tyrus Thomas lovers won't like this. What say you?