The Sixers still seem interested in trading Andre Iguodala, and at this point I think the Bulls should make a move to acquire him. He would solve a couple major, semi-related problems in the lineup offensively: (1) the lack of a secondary ballhandler and (2) the difficulty creating shots against good defenses. Everyone noticed in last year’s playoffs that the offense struggled when Derrick Rose faced double-teams and other defensive schemes designed to keep him from getting into the lane with room to maneuver. No one could take the pressure off of Rose by initiating the offensive sets in his place. In addition, no one other than Rose could reliably get his own shot off or generate good looks for teammates in the halfcourt against intense playoff defense.
Iguodala is perhaps the best secondary ballhandler in the league. Last season he finished 10th in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, and he was the only non-PG in the top 15. As well as taking care of the ball, Iguodala excels in creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. Among non-PGs, he trailed only LeBron in assists per 48 minutes. Iguodala would have no trouble running the offense when Rose is (A) on the bench, (B) facing a double-team, or (C) simply exhausted and looking to conserve energy for a possession or two. Iguodala is also a higher-usage player than Bogans and Brewer, so his presence would enable other Bulls, especially Rose, to decrease their usage somewhat and hopefully improve their shooting efficiency as a result.
Of course, another advantage Iguodala possesses over other SG possibilities is his elite wing defense. He is adept at guarding both shooting guards and small forwards, as witnessed in the 2010 World Championships when he wreaked havoc defensively, leading the team with 16 steals in just 169 minutes played. His defensive impact is much more thoroughly reflected in his stats at 82games.com. Last season Iguodala led the league in opponent PER, narrowly edging Dwight Howard.
The main on-court drawback with Iguodala is his outside shooting. He’s a career 32% 3-point shooter, and he’s been below his career average in two of the past three seasons. However, there are signs that his 3-point percentage might improve with the Bulls. In Iguodala’s three seasons with a usage rate under 22%, including last year, he has shot 33%, 34%, and 35% from 3. His four lowest-percentage seasons have also been his four highest-usage seasons. He’s been the guy in Philly who has the ball with the shot clock winding down, which leads to forcing some 3s out of rhythm. He wouldn’t need to do that nearly as often with the Bulls. He would likely have his lowest usage since his second year in the league, and he could take the vast majority of his shots within the flow of the offense.
Many have said that the ideal starter would combine Korver’s offense with Brewer’s defense. Iguodala matches Brewer’s defense, and though the shape of his offensive contribution is different from Korver’s, I think his ultimate effect on the offense could be roughly the same. As an overall player, I think that Iguodala is the best potentially available option. Last season he was 66th in the league in PER (17.3) and 19th in Simple Rating (+7.2), and he’s 54th in the league by regularized adjusted plus/minus (+1.9). He’d give the Bulls a fifth distinctly above-average starter, resulting in a roster free of any major weaknesses. In addition, he’s still 27, meaning that he’s a few years younger than most free agent targets and more likely to maintain his recent level of performance.
Iguodala is set to earn $13.5M this year, $14.7M next year, and $15.9M in the third and final year remaining on his contract. That’s obviously a lot to pay, but the Bulls are in a good position to do so. Based on the new CBA, I think there are five reasons why the Bulls should take on Iguodala’s contract: (1) there is no hard cap forcing them to limit payroll, (2) even without Iguodala, they wouldn’t likely be under the salary cap at any time during the remainder of his deal, (3) they could keep the entire starting lineup intact for 3 years and then have lots of cap space to rebuild around Rose and Noah in summer 2014 (the amnesty provision allows the Bulls to waive Boozer after the 2013-14 season, when Iguodala and Deng both become free agents), (4) the penalties for being in luxury tax territory are not severe from a competitive standpoint, and (5) the massive wealth transfer from the players to the owners ensures that the already-profitable Bulls will remain quite profitable no matter what. The Bulls have no excuse for not spending to increase their championship odds.
Here is the specific trade that I have in mind:
The Sixers would save $3.5M this year to apply toward re-signing Thaddeus Young. Furthermore, they would cut a total of $32M off their guaranteed contracts so that they can be serious bidders in free agency in each of the next two summers. They would gain an interior defensive presence in Taj that they currently lack, and they would also open up minutes and a larger role for Evan Turner as they reportedly would like to do.
For the Bulls, Jodie Meeks would take Korver’s role as a sharpshooter off the bench. I see the regular season rotation looking something like this:
Rose 34 / Watson 14
Iguodala 22 / Meeks 20 / Bogans 6
Deng 28 / Iguodala 12 / J Butler 8
Boozer 30 / FA 12 / Deng 6
Noah 30 / Asik 18 / KT 0 (injury replacement)
This year the schedule is heavily compressed, with the Bulls playing 66 games in a span in which they would normally play 55. Therefore, there should be a concerted effort to keep minutes down, and depth should be especially critical. As such, I kept everyone under 35 minutes per game. Hopefully the addition of Iguodala would provide a reliable backup SF for Thibs and allow him to give Deng some rest. If defenses decide to clog the paint, I think a small lineup of Rose, Meeks, Iguodala, Deng, and Noah or Asik could be especially effective. Bogans and Butler would not be needed in the playoff rotation, when Iguodala and Deng would play extended minutes.
For the FA at backup power forward, I’d like to see Chris Wilcox or Joey Dorsey. Judging by the lack of rumors regarding them, both seem at least somewhat attainable. Wilcox averages 15 points and 9 rebounds per 36 for his career, and last season he was surprisingly efficient for the lowly Pistons (58% FG, 59% TS in 18 minutes per game). Joey Dorsey is a tenacious rebounder whose career offensive rebound rate is identical to Dennis Rodman’s. He doesn’t score much, but his rebounding and defense would make him a useful contributor to any team. Plus, Derrick Rose thinks of him like a brother, and after the playoff series with the Pacers, the Bulls could probably use another enforcer-type player who wouldn’t hesitate to respond to a hard foul with one of his own.