The fact of the matter is that the Bulls are in a very unique and difficult situation. They have acquired a number of assets, almost all of whom are regressing, underperforming, not fitting in, or not living up to their potential. Additionally, the team has two good but redundant players with long-term, and potentially overly expensive, contracts (Noce and Hinrich) and another “core” player whose future with the franchise is extremely uncertain (Gordon). The one beacon of hope is a young rookie with limitless potential (Rose). To say that the Bulls are at a crossroads would be a gross understatement. Should they cash their chips in for another low level all star or two? Should they get rid of long-term salary and sign one or two all star caliber players in 2009 or 2010 free agency? Or should they try to develop what they have? And the biggest question may be, are any of these options actually feasible, especially given the current ownership, GM, and coach?
I feel as though the best way to answer these questions is to go through the team player-by-player and attempt to realistically determine what the long-term plan for the franchise should be. At the very least, this exercise gives me some hope that Paxson might not be completely inept.
Derrick Rose – Not much needs to be said here. Surround him with a good group of guys and the sky’s the limit.
Luol Deng – See my point above about surrounding Derrick with a solid good group of guys. Deng epitomizes this player archetype, and should be held onto unless the Bulls are presented with a can’t loose trade. True, Deng is underperforming this year, and he has had some injury issues, but beyond truly being a good guy, he is extremely underutilized and misused in VDN’s “offense,” is very young at age 23, and started playing basketball later in life than most. His ceiling is still very high. Maybe he’s overpaid, but he’s still a great asset.
Tyrus Thomas – I am in favor of holding onto TT. Like Rose and Deng, he is young and has a ridiculously high ceiling. He has also been playing much better as of late, and with real coaching he might even be capable of making another significant jump upward (figuratively). Additionally, like Rose and Deng, he is physically suited for his position, and might benefit significantly from the Rondo/Perkins effect if surrounded by a more competent and cohesive group of players. That said, if TT is all that is separating the Bulls from acquiring an all-star via trade, he probably should not be withheld.
Ben Gordon – Clearly the guy can score, and his defense is much improved. I do worry somewhat about his personality (i.e. selfishness) as well as the Bulls’ ability to successfully negotiate a contract, though he might find that there’s not much money on the table this summer given the economy and other high quality FAs on the market. If we can lock him up for a reasonable price, I guess we do it, otherwise, I wouldn’t be too upset to let him go or work out a sign and trade.
Kirk Hinrich – I love the guy, and I think he has a bright future in the NBA, but he deserves to be more than a backup. I think the safest plan with Kirk is to keep him for the remainder of this season, and see how he and Derrick play together, and whether or not he is capable of playing the two guard. At the very least, he’s good insurance for next year if BG walks, and quality PGs are always in demand. He’ll always be tradable.
Larry Hughes – I’ll keep it short and simple. Bench him for the remainder of the season, or trade him for contracts that expire prior to 2010. He doesn’t deserve to play for our team, but he could be a good trade chip next season as the 2010 bonanza approaches.
Andres Nocioni – Again, I like him a lot, but he doesn’t fit with our team right now, and probably has some trade value. Maybe couple him with Larry Hughes and ship him out for serviceable expiring contracts. If the Bulls can rid themselves of Noce, and bench/trade Hughes, then they clear the backcourt glut, and open up room at SF for…
Thabo Sefalosha – This guy deserves to play. He has done well in limited minutes, and with his size and defensive abilities he could be a great role player off the bench. He’s our younger, more athletic replacement for Noce. Like with Thomas, if he’s a key piece of a trade for a legit all-star, then let him go, but otherwise, let’s see what he’s got.
Joakim Noah – Unless this guy starts hitting the gym, he’s useless. It’s great that he’s 7 feet tall and athletic, but it gets us nothing unless he can run the court and muscle up with NBA centers. I say get rid of him. At best he’s a 6th man, but he may have some trade value.
Aaron Gray – Under no circumstances is this guy anything but a backup center, but in my opinion, he’s a serviceable backup. I wouldn’t mind keeping him for minimal $$.
Drew Gooden – I like the guy a lot. I like his beard, his antics, and his offensive abilities. Too bad he’s a terrible defender and doesn’t have much potential beyond his current level of play. He’ll cost the Bulls too much to retain given the current makeup of the team. Let him walk at the end of the year, or include him in a trade before the end of the season.
Omar Asik – I hope he’s good and finds a way to actually make it to the NBA.
Cedric Simons – Let him go.
Michael Ruffin – Why did we sign this guy again?
Lindsey Hunter – With Hinrich right around the corner from his return, why did the Bulls decide to retain him and guarantee his salary???
In Conclusion: If we can move Noce this year, we should. If we can put together a trade package for a legit all-star, we should. If we can take part in a siginicant “shake up” trade, we should. Otherwise, making moves for the sake of making moves is probably not prudent. The next two years will be extremely telling.