Big win in LA, ending the road trip at a dissapointing 2-5, but hey it's better than 1-6.
Seems like a good time to do another season status check. In what is reflective of the sad state of the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are actually a half-game closer to the playoffs then they were about a month ago, at 2 games behind the Sixers. The Sixers are one of a few teams that I think are no good, a list that includes New Jersey and Washington. and maybe Milwaukee.
And the Bulls too. They're simply not that good. But this season was saved in my eyes by seeing Tyson Chandler return to form. This month Tyson has averaged 6.3pts (on 63% shooting) and 12.7 rebounds in 34 minutes. Getting the old Tyson back was the bare minimum of this road trip, and at least means that the Bulls are at least at a level similar to last season.
Is the quest for the right to get pounded by Detroit or Miami that important? I still think it is. Playoff-beatdown or not, the season could be viewed as a success if they turn it around and make the top 8. In my mind it'd make the atmosphere of hard work and discipline set forth by the organization easier to take by the players if they know they can get to the playoffs by doing so. Let the Knicks hold their place at the lottery table, there's no reason to get an extra ping-pong ball or two.
But it's not just winning games, the core had to show improvement. Ben Gordon had a well-publicized 3 straight 30-point games, but then followed it up with outputs of 4 and 11, so I wouldn't say he's turned the corner just yet. Deng's also been up-and-down lately. But another benefit of striving for the playoffs this season is that to do so, that means those two (and others) will be playing well. Otherwise it won't happen anyway.
But with the trading deadline approaching (I have an advent-style calendar that counts down to that special day) the temptation is out there to make a move to solidify the playoff push. Can it be done without giving up their flexibility this summer?
I think the idea of getting the coveted superstar before the deadline is far-fetched, there doesn't seem to be the A-list talent available, only pretenders like Steve Francis. There is the idea of filling in some minor pieces (like the rumors involving Drew Gooden), but even by getting players who may help beyond this season, in trading for those players they could still be giving up valuable assets. Those draft picks will look very nice to opposing GMs when the lottery drawing gets closer, and the NCAA hype machine will tout the ability of future stars in this draft pool (it's started already!). Take that top-5 Knicks pick, and coupled with one of their young stars it may take an extra throw-in like a Duhon or Sweetney for the Bulls to assemble a blockbuster-worthy trade package.
So unless John Paxson is blown away, or can make improvements while still keeping an eye to the summer, I'm all for standing pat. By then we'll know a lot more about the talent the Bulls have, who's worth keeping and who can be expendable. They're close enough to the playoffs to use these final 30 games to determine what this core of players really can bring. Will it take just a couple minor moves via draft and free agency to supplement what's already there? Maybe see a team of above-average complementary parts in the style of what Joe Dumars has built in Detroit? Or will Pax play his hand and trade up for the superstar he's been looking for?