Offseason - Realistic Plan vs Wish List
I am a lifelong Bulls fan from Australia who has been lurking around for a while now and thought I would have a crack at contributing. I am pretty excited about this offseason as it’s the first time in a while we have options available to really improve the team.
Whilst our weaknesses are well documented I really think we are not that far away from contention and feel a few smart moves (and the return of a certain former MVP) and we could be a real title threat as soon as next season. As such I have put together a couple of offseason scenarios – a dream outcome and what I feel is a more realistic one.
I am not the numbers wiz so many of you are so this is light on salary cap detail, that said I feel I have been mostly realistic but stand to be corrected if you see anywhere you feel otherwise.
First things first – the Boozer dilemma. I know the front office has a preference to trade Boozer as opposed to using the amnesty on him but I can’t see any realistic destinations that don’t involve taking back equally horrible (or worse) contracts. So I cannot see any way around amnestying him. Seeya Carlos (and girlfriend)
I am not optimistic about signing Melo and am not sure I would be prepared to make the necessary cuts to personnel required to fit him in. I don’t see him taking a significant pay cut (because you know – he is an NBA player) and he must surely see that the Bulls gutting their roster to squeeze him in is simply repeating the mistakes of the Knicks. So it is a no to Melo for me.
That leaves a couple of options in my eyes:
1) Use most of the available cap space to sign a second or third tier free agent from what is a pretty underwhelming pool.
2) Top up the current squad with solid pieces and hope we strike gold with our draft.
I think the first falls into the "wish list" category and the second is the more realistic outcome, particularly based on the historical conservatism of our FO.
But this is the internet and as such I am going to indulge in the fantasy of both options.
1) The dream scenario - involves signing a young FA who can contribute at both ends but most importantly fill the dire need for some offensive creativity. Easier said than done as two-way players are rare and available ones are extremely rare. The other impediment is that the only two players who in my eyes meet this criteria are both restricted free agents – Gordon Hayward & Chandler Parsons, I haven’t considered Lance Stephenson as I think he is a loose cannon (i.e. nutjob) and I don’t like signing guys based on a large spike in production in their contract year. I think we can scratch Parsons immediately as Houston will not let him walk for zero in return and we cannot afford to hugely overpay – poison pill or otherwise - and simply don’t have the assets to sign & trade. I think Hayward’s availability is largely dependent on Utah’s draft – if they snare Wiggins or Parker they may have little need to keep him (or Alec Burks becomes available, who I would grab in an instant - but again I don’t think we have the available attractive assets to get him)
So we can make a decent offer to Hayward and hope for the best (crossing our fingers Boston doesn’t open the vault.) He does most things well – perhaps not yet elite level, but he has plenty of room for development if properly coached (i.e. not by Tyrone Corbin) I think he and Jimmy would complement each other and his shooting stroke would be most welcome.
His signing would mean filling the rest of the holes with cheaper vets but if we can keep the current core plus the key benchies then I don’t really mind that outcome.
So in the unlikely event we pry Hayward away we can go with a starting five of:
The inclusion of Rose and Hayward improves the offence immediately and does little to detract from the defence, in fact you could argue that slotting in Taj exponentially improves it.
The bench then is led by some quality returnees –
Dunleavy – brings valuable shooting and versatility and is that rarest of NBA commodities – a player who outperforms his contract.
Snell – showed enough to be keeper as a contributing role player and he can actually shoot.
Smith – I like this signing. Doesn't offer a huge amount of rim protection but is a big boy who can bang and defend the post for 10-15 minutes whilst Noah rests – assuming Thibs finally sees the error of his ways regarding running Jo into the ground and rests him for Smith’s stint plus a few spot minutes from either Taj or a third stringer.
This leaves us with some holes to fill with the money freed by the cutting of Boozer.
Back up point
Augustin – if we can convince him to come back for a decent price (maybe take a punt and offer a 2 year contract with 3rd year option to give him some security over a larger pay day elsewhere?) He obviously has his limitations but in my dream scenario Rose stays healthy (please!) and he is only required as a reliable backup and offensive spark plug bringing valuable shooting.
Behind DJ we put in a 2nd rounder rookie or vet min guy (NOT Mike James please!)
Back up PF
Mirotic – A priority signing. I am very keen to bring him over at the right price (anywhere around $5 million would be great but a little over is not out of the question) Have watched him a bit in Euroleague and like what I see. May not be a superstar but seems to play with energy and effort and can shoot (see a theme developing?)
For the majority of the other openings I would target a couple of solid vets who have been well paid over the course of their careers but not tasted much success. Maybe the offer of contributing to a title contender for a bit of a discount will attract the right type of players.
The remaining gaps as I see them are –
Back up shooting guard:
For me the ideal signing would be Rodney Stuckey. He had a pretty solid season among all the Detroit dysfunction and brings a skill set that meets a few needs – can score (more slashing than shooting but I think we can live with that given the other players present) and can play the point in a pinch. I say offer him a 2 year deal for around 2.5 million each season with a team option on a third. Gives him security (on a contender) and us a decent look at him without mortgaging our future.
I think we will also need another vet or young vet big man to try to help prevent too much wear and tear on Taj and Jo and so Mirotic can be brought along at our pace. I say target Emeka Okafor - provided he proves his fitness. One issue here is that we will undoubtedly not be the only team with this idea due to the lack of real rim protectors and genuine post defenders on the market. So don’t break the bank to get him (probably cannot offer more than mid-level exception in this scenario anyway) so keep a younger option who hasn’t met expectations thus far in mind as a contingency plan. For example – Ekpe Udoh or Kevin Seraphin, both have shown some ability but have been in pretty dysfunctional systems and situations. Either may be willing to sign for a year or two at a lower rate to prove themselves but both are restricted FA’s so may prove difficult to pry away without paying over the odds. Another RFA worth exploring is Aron Baynes from the Spurs (yes a little bit of Aussie bias here) he has shown he can contribute and won’t take a backwards step – Thibs would surely like this trait in him to enough actually give him some minutes.
As this is my wish list scenario I am putting down Okafor as the one we snag.
Back up 3/4
This leaves a forward to fill out the bench and my preference would be someone who gives us positional flexibility, defence and if possible outside shooting (not asking much am I?) Don’t laugh too much but one player who may meet these needs and be available for a reasonable price is Marvin Williams. He is unrestricted and made a truck load of money toiling for poor or middle of the road teams so may want to be part of some success. He can play both forward spots and if kept within the confines of bench role may be a valuable piece. Would likely need to take the minimum for us to fit him in – but this is my "dream" scenario remember.
If he isn’t available then we should target – Brandon Rush (limited but can defend the wing and shoot) or maybe Al-Farouq Aminu, he has not put it together but brings great athleticism and potential, if he takes a smaller deal for the opportunity to develop under Thibs and contribute to a winner we may just find a diamond in the rough. However as he has length and can jump someone else may overpay to see what he can offer.
The only thing left then is to draft well. I say take one player who offers a dynamic element on offense and for the other first rounder, based on the above signings and Thibs history with rookies, we should draft and stash a Euro. So with the first pick we take whoever is available out of scoring wings - PJ Hairston, Nik Stauskas, James Young and Rodney Hood. With the other pick take any of international prospects : Dario Saric –combo forward (who is my preference) Clint Capela –PF- or Jusuf Nurkic –C-. All meet future needs on some level and all may choose to develop overseas for a season or two whilst we make a push with this roster. In the second round I would love to land CJ Wilcox – SG – Washington, Russ Smith – PG- Louisville or Patric Young – PF – Florida.
So my ideal offseason leaves us with the following roster for next year:
Rose/ Augustin/ Rookie 2nd rounder – Smith
Hayward/ Stuckey/ Snell/ Rookie 1st rounder - Hairston
Butler/ Dunleavy/ Williams/ Snell
Gibson/ Mitoric/ Williams
Noah/ Okafor/ Smith
With Saric developing overseas until he comes in to take Dunleavy’s spot in a year or two.
I feel this roster gives us much more floor balance and bench depth as well as better shooting without compromising the defence too much and allowing for future roster turnover and development.
As so much of this scenario depends on vets taking a salary hit it is very unlikely to all break this way.
A more realistic plan would perhaps mean substituting a few of the above signings for cheaper (and more limited) players.
So we may actually see something more akin to this:
Butler/ Cheapish 3&D vet (Thabo Sefolosha or CJ Miles) / Rookie 1st rounder – (Hairston, Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas)
Dunleavy/ Snell/ Rookie 1st rounder - (Young, Hood, TJ Warren, Jerami Grant)
Still added depth and some ‘X-factor’ (but mostly in the form of rookies unfortunately) and gives Thibs enough beef in locker to take some load off Noah and a couple of reliable vets to back up the backcourt.
Whilst both outcomes rely on the signing of Mitoric I am irrationally confident that he will join the team and that he will contribute straight away. Should he not be brought in for whatever reason then I would essentially replace him in either scenario with as similar stretch big as is available – likely Jason Smith or Channing Frye.
What do you guys think?