It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but with the trade deadline fast approaching, now seems like a good time to add some of my thoughts to the conversation here. First, I think that the front office has four goals at the moment, likely prioritized as follows: (1) get under the luxury tax, (2) add a backup C, (3) sell high on Boozer if at all possible, and (4) improve at SG. I won’t believe that the Bulls are comfortable paying the luxury tax until they’ve actually paid it, and I’m also betting that Reinsdorf is desperate to avoid using the amnesty on Boozer and paying him to play elsewhere.
Below I will propose a trade scenario to accomplish all 4 of these objectives, but initially I would like to discuss a few particular players.
The conventional wisdom holds that Boozer is the superior offensive player and Taj the superior defensive player. While this was certainly true 2 years ago and perhaps last year as well, at this point I think it’s clear that Taj adds more value on both ends of the floor. The Bulls score 106.5 points per 100 possessions with Taj on the court and 102.4 without him (+4.1). Conversely, they score 102.1 points per 100 possessions with Boozer on the court and 107.4 when he’s on the bench (-5.3). The defensive disparity remains even greater, as the Bulls allow 5.8 fewer points with Taj than without him and allow 6.8 more points with Boozer than without him.
The more detailed lineup data paints an even clearer picture. The Bulls have a negative point differential when Boozer is paired with any other player in the frontcourt rotation (Noah, Deng, Taj, or Butler). In contrast, the Taj/Noah pairing is +13 per 100 possessions, and the combination of Taj and anyone other than Boozer or Rip is significantly positive (+5 or better). The Taj/Noah combo was also +16 last year. Looking at 3-man lineup combinations (minimum 192 minutes (i.e. 4 games worth)), Taj is part of all 5 of the Bulls’ top 5 lineups and 7 of the top 8, whereas 13 of Boozer’s 14 lineups are in the bottom half of all lineup combinations.
The Bulls are much better with Taj on the court, and therefore Taj should be getting more minutes. Trading Boozer for a similarly effective but less heralded player who would be behind Taj in the rotation would likely improve the team through more efficient allocation of playing time.
JJ Redick v Bulls SGs v Kyle Korver:
Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli are both hitting 36% of their 3s, which is fairly good, but they’re still much worse shooters than Redick. By True Shooting %, Redick shoots 60%, Belinelli 53%, and Rip only around 50%. The biggest reason why Redick is an excellent shooter and Rip a poor one is that Redick takes advantage of the fact that 3s are worth 50% more than 2s. Whereas more than half of Redick’s shots are 3s and fully 2/3 are either 3s or at the rim, only 10% of Rip’s shots are 3s and 2/3 of his shots are inefficient mid-range jumpers.
I’ve read some commentary that Redick couldn’t be good enough to start for the Bulls because he’s a bench player for the lowly Magic. However, here’s a complete list of Bulls who play more minutes per game than Redick: Luol Deng, Joakim Noah. That’s it. He’s averaging 32 minutes per game and has been coming off the bench so he can be in the game every minute that Jameer Nelson is on the bench. If you haven’t been paying attention to the Magic (and who could blame you?), Redick is actually playing the role of backup pg this year. He’s 2nd on the team in assist rate and averages 5 assists per 36. In addition, though the Magic have been very bad this year, they’ve been a lot better with Redick on the court than without him. They’re scoring 108 points per 100 possessions with Redick compared to just 95 when he’s on the bench. He’s not particularly good defensively, but on balance he’s still been a huge net positive. Redick is part of all 10 of Orlando’s top 10 3-man combinations by point differential and none of their bottom 10.
Redick’s solid-though-certainly-unspectacular playmaking ability also differentiates him from Kyle Korver, to whom he has been compared frequently. Korver is a better rebounder and more physical defender, but his inability to create at all contributed to his ineffectiveness in the playoffs each of the past 2 years. This is exemplified by Korver’s shooting stats, which show that 95% of his field goals are assisted. Redick on the other hand hovers in the 70%-80% assisted range, meaning that he creates his own shot about 1/4 of the time as opposed to 1/20 of the time for Korver. When defense gets tighter in the playoffs and opponents close out harder on shooters, Redick is much more able to use his dribble to get a shot off or help create open shots for others.
This post is already long and it’s getting late, so here is my trade proposal (in 2 parts for clarity):
1. Bulls – Magic – Pistons
Bulls get Redick, Ayon, and Charlie Villanueva
Magic get Stuckey, Teague, and Radmanovic
Pistons get Boozer, Belinelli, and a CHI 1st rounder (2013 unless Bulls would prefer to send the CHA pick)
2. Bulls – Magic – Jazz
Bulls get Raja Bell
Magic get Mo Williams and a UTA 1st rounder (either theirs or Golden State’s)
Jazz get Nelson and Rip
Here’s the Trade Machine version: Bulls get under the tax!
The Pistons have been shopping Stuckey (who has struggled playing off the ball this year) and Villanueva for players who fit the roster better, and I think Boozer and Belinelli qualify. Boozer has always played well against the Pistons, averaging 20 and 10 on 61% fg in his career, and he could be part of a 3-big rotation next year with Monroe and Drummond, both of whom like to play closer to the basket. The Pistons would actually have less money committed next season after this deal, so they’d be at least as well positioned for free agency this summer, and after next season Boozer becomes a large expiring contract. Belinelli would give them an actual SG to break up their all-PG backcourt rotation, and they’d get a first round pick to really make it seem worthwhile.
The Magic would also get a first rounder, plus a new starting PG and a potential PG of the future. Mo Williams is injured and expiring, so this deal helps their tanking and financial situations as well. They could really use an impact player in the draft, and a few extra losses the rest of the way could go a long way toward improving their odds.
The Jazz have the worst backcourt in the NBA right now (Tinsley and Foye are the starters!!!), and they must really want to hold onto a playoff spot while their frontline gives them an edge almost every night. They’ll need a starting PG next year as well, and Nelson gives them that on a reasonable contract. The Bulls can throw in cash to offset Rip’s buyout if necessary to tip the scales.
Most importantly, this would be the Bulls’ new rotation:
(Rose)/ Nate/ Hinrich
Redick/ Butler/ Hinrich
Deng/ Butler/ Cook
Taj/ Villanueva/ Deng
Noah/ Ayon/ Taj
If the Bulls were seriously looking at Bargnani, I think Charlie V makes a lot more sense. It’s clear that Villanueva has been helping Detroit’s offense this year (108 points per 100 possessions with him and 103.2 without him). At this point in their careers, Villanueva is not only a better 3-point shooter but also at a substantially higher volume than Bargnani. He takes approximately 9 threes per 36, which is nearly double Bargnani’s rate. He’s also a decent rebounder whereas Bargnani is atrocious in that regard. The Bulls don’t need Bargnani’s extra usage nearly as much as they could use someone to spread the floor, and I think it would be easier to give Villanueva limited minutes to let Taj take a larger role. Villanueva also fits the theoretical 2014 plan while Bargnani does not. Many Bulls fans probably already dislike Charlie V from his spurning of the Illini, but I don’t mind a bench player being a scapegoat since it seems like someone has to take that role.