Amidst all of the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth that has accompanied the recent trade of Tyrus Thomas, and hearkening back to the despair following the departure of Ben Gordon, I thought I would remind us all of a smaller move that caused me much more consternation. Yes, I am one of those heretics that approved of both the Gordon and Thomas moves, and if you think that makes me dumber than un-buttered toast, well, you can tell me about it in the comments of another recent FanPost of mine. The truth is, my favorite Bulls are, in some order, Rose, Hinrich, Deng and Noah; I believe Gibson has proven himself as a solid NBA player and will be a wonderful backup if/when we get an All-Star PF; and I applauded getting rid of players who were valued for the performances they were capable of over the performances they consistently supplied.
But that is not why we are here today. No, today we mourn the short Bulls tenure of the 13th overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft, Thabo Sefolosha. Now here's the point where some may say, Ah-ha! You want to talk about how Gordon and Thomas were "potential over production" and then praise Sefolosha? Well, yes, I do.
Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large- I contain multitudes.
Thabo was with us for two and a half years, and in that time offered around 16 minutes, 5 points, 3 rebounds and a steal per game. Not exactly eye-popping numbers, obviously. He was, in many ways, an extreme version of Hinrich. Outstanding defense (even those who dismiss hustle and the sort of defense that "looks like" good defense will, I believe, concede this point) combined with offense that was atrociously bad and a penchant for dribbling holes in the floor as the shot-clock whiled its way from 17 to 4.
With the tragic passing of the Skiles era, it became clear that this all-defense, no-offense guard had worn out his welcome, and with Rose coming in, and the widespread (if foolish) belief that we would soon have a glut in the backcourt (everyone remember the salad days of JamesOn Curry?), we dealt him to Oklahoma City for the pick that would become Taj.
Why was I upset to lose such a marginal piece? Because, honestly, he seemed like the kind of guy who plays a key role on winning teams. Guys like Doug Christie, Bruce Bowen, James Posey, Derek Fisher before he hit his tapioca and bingo phase, all of these players chipped in, knew what they were supposed to do and did it. Teams win with two to three clearly defined Best Guys and a five to seven man support crew. On the Jordan teams, it was obviously Jordan-Pippen-Grant/Rodman and Everybody Else. This is not to disparage the Everybody Else- they were absolutely vital to fill in the gaps, check their egos at the door and work like hell to make sure everything was taken care of. That's why I can't stand guys like Gordon and Thomas: they'll never be a Best Guy and they can't stomach the notion of being a member of Everybody Else.
Sefolosha is now with the Thunder, where he has a definite shot to be a key Everybody Else man to Durant, Green and Westbrook's Best Guys. He has held onto his starting spot despite competition from James Harden, which, given Harden's lottery pedigree and the inevitable pressure to start the guy who makes serious bank over the random Swiss dude, is a pretty big accomplishment. He's been a key (although not large) part of the Thunder's defensive turnaround and was mentioned early on by ESPN as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year (granted, that's sort of laughable, but still).
I guess what I'm trying to say is this. It's now the 2011 Playoffs. We've signed Wade, and he's gelled beautifully with the team. We're in the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland, it's Game 7, and we're all knotted up down the stretch. As LeBron proceeds to dismantle us piece by piece, there will be many bemoaning the loss of Tyrus, yelling "If we still had TT this never would have happened!" And I will agree with them- there's no way we would've made the Conference Finals. I, on the other hand, will be bemoaning the fact that the perfect player to stop LeBron, who was on our roster and was ready to grow up to be a latter-day Michael Cooper, is instead with the Western Conference Champion Thunder, and waiting to accompy Durant and Co. into battle against whoever wins the game we're all fictionally viewing. That, my friends, will be a dark day.
PS. The one positive I take out of all of this is that we got Taj in exchange for him. I've heard all the "lunch pail hard hat" complaints about him, and there are many I agree with, but some part of him still sees him as a charter member of Everybody Else for the 2012-2013 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls.