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Moving forward

(once you read the post, you'll realize the pun-errific genius of that headline)

Like I said after the Boston game, blowing out bad teams is not insignificant. It's the sign of a good team, especially if it's being done consistently. 

The win against Philly on Wednesday was in hand by the time the first quarter ended. Even in a game where Hinrich couldn't stop fouling and getting himself benched (maybe next time they can put Duhon on Iverson so HE can get the quick fouls?) the rest of the team had no problem picking up the offensive slack. Ben Gordon had the best night in that game, but during the whole streak it's been the Bulls two starting forwards, Andres Nocioni and Luol Deng, who have been carrying the load. And of course instead of just being content with a few good games where they're both contributing, there's hand-wringing over their futures with the team, both on this site and elsewhere:

A question is starting to linger in the minds of many Bulls fans however, with Andres' recent success it will only drive up his price once he becomes a free agent this summer. Will John Paxson and the Bulls pay up?

What makes the situation not so cut and dry is that the Bulls have two players to play the small forward position. While Nocioni has been starting as a Power Forward during the win streak, his natural position is at the Small Forward spot. A spot currently held by Bulls' leading scorer Luol Deng. It would be a complete shock to not see Luol play the better part of his career in a Bulls' uniform and so then the question remains how much money is left over for Nocioni.

I have got to think that if Nocioni keeps up with his current pace, the Bulls are going to have to make an offer similar to what Hinrich signed for last summer.

I doubt the Bulls are going to pay Nocioni the ~$10m per they're paying Hinrich, unless he's the starting power forward on what they feel is their title team. To me there is no longer a debate at the three, Luol Deng has been the Bulls best player this season and will hopefully be the starter for the next 10 years. But I've been saying for a while that the four is Noc's best position anyway, and since his insertion at that spot in the starting lineup (and since playing the weaker competition, admittedly) he has proved to be more than capable there.

So why the worry in signing him? Right now I still think that on a title contending team, Noc is a very good and versatile bench player who can play the 3 or the 4. That has value, but even factoring in the extra credit you may want to assign him for 'heart', 'hustle', and other cliches, it's more of a 'mid-level-exemption' value.  But if Noc continues to improve and becomes a unique but effective power forward to the point where the Bulls are a contending team, then I'm sure the Bulls would be happy to sign him for the $10m. But while they're playing good now, a Deng-Noc-Wallace frontcourt doesn't seem like it'll be enough for a title run. 

If the Bulls, and Nocioni in particular have shown anything, it's the ability to improve. So I'm fine letting these next few months decide whether he can ascend his game to that level. Or at least help his trade value towards getting a star who will.