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Dec. 15th was Happy 'summer free agents can now be traded' day!

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I have little to say about the re-re-re-re-re-emergence of Tyrus Thomas Saturday night. I was at the game, it was awesome, I have no faith that it'll happen on any consistent basis. Not because he's not consistent, but because he won't get guaranteed (as in, play even if you're having a bad game) playing time. Tyrus is productive when he plays, it's stupid coaching and general managing he doesn't, and I'm pretty tired of saying it. I guess the new wrinkle is that somehow Vinny 'called out' Tyrus (and Noah) and this is them 'responding'. OK. I was trying to peg Vinny early in relation to Skiles with the affinity for small-ball and general old and slow badness. But I really think his answers of 'matchups'  after every game are not some facade, his strategy is truly just throwing out combination based on what he thinks are good matchups for that particular opponent, with little regard of his own roster. Tyrus Thomas is on the same level as Aaron Gray. So, based on that, knowing that it's impossible for Tyrus (or anyone) to have a great stint every single time he's on the court, I'm preparing myself for a continuation of his sporadic deployment pattern.

(I guess that was more than 'a little' to say)

What I can instead focus my hope a trade.

In October, commenter Sports2 laid out the litany of obstacles Paxson faces (a lot of his own doing) when considering trades, especially financially: The Bulls are up against the tax this season, need to free up '09 payroll under the luxury tax if they want to re-sign Ben Gordon this offseason, and need to get rid of a couple long-term contracts (namely Hinrich and Nocioni) if they want to be players in the next offseason after that, 2010.

A few trends have emerged in the early season that I think changes some perspectives from the time that was written:

  • Ben Gordon has played outstanding
  • Larry Hughes has played way above his head
  • Nocioni is one of the worst players with regular minutes in the entire league
  • Kirk Hinrich is hurt and likely won't establish some new level of value before the trade deadline.

Ben Gordon being great is technically a good problem to have, but it makes the need to re-sign him even more important than it was in the offseason. That means freeing up 2009 tax room.

The Hughes and Nocioni performances somewhat cancel eachother out. Nocioni had always been the first person who should be moved, but I think that's nearly impossible at this point without taking a longer and/or more expensive contract in return, or having to package picks or prospects to get a team to take him.  However, where I once thought moving Hughes was impossible, I could see a team desperate for wing help taking him, especially considering his 2010 expiring money. He's shooting the ball well and he's not making a fuss over being benched. This will not continue, especially once Hinrich returns. His streak of good play and behavior (I still suspect that meeting with VDN and Pax was telling him to play nice and he'll be moved ASAP) is a great thing, though it's almost been too great, to the point where some fans think he's worth keeping. No, he's not. Stop saying that.

I don't know how much Hinrich's absence hurts his trade value, but I figure that at the very least it eliminated the possibility of him having a great start to the season re-positioning himself as an above average starting point guard. Once he returns, it'll be nearly a season and a half since he's been at that level, the level he's compensated for (and fairly, if that's what he returns to be). However it may be at the point where in order to achieve the ultimate talent and financial goals of this trading season for the Bulls, he'd have to be moved for merely expiring contracts.

So what are those goals? Always in mind should be the search for a frontcourt star, or any young frontcourt player supplying talent and production. These players are very hard to find. I'm not even sure Chris Kaman qualifies, though I can somewhat justify a trade package including prospects/picks for him under the premise that an average 7-footer is more valuable than an average player at another position. Failing that (and especially if you don't need to use any young assets), it should be a fallback goal to acquire a less-than-stellar big man if he is at least competent and his contract expires before 2010. My favorite target, Brad Miller, would be the type of player I mean.

If some sweet deal of a disgruntled star or above-average big doesn't arise, the secondary goal should be getting some breathing room under the 2009 Luxury Tax to re-sign Ben Gordon. This could mean dealing Nocioni for expirings (again, very unlikely), Hinrich for expirings, or Hughes for some savings in 2009 (assuming expirings for him is impossible). I do not think getting any talent value for Hughes is a priority. So, for instance, a hypothetical deal with the Knicks for Malik Rose (expires 2009) and Jerome James (player option 2010) would be worth it, if only for a better chance to re-sign Gordon.

Then beyond that, dealing Hinrich and Nocioni to free up long-term salary is another item on the wish list. Both players have little long-term future here at their pay grade, and while the team isn't overtly gunning for 2010, those two don't need to disqualify them either. Depending on how much 2009 money can be freed up in a Hughes deal, it's possible a team would take either Hinrich's or Noc's long-term deals if they can pass off some 2009 money to get under the salay cap. The Timberwolves, Thunder or Pacers could fit his description. As mentioned above, it's possible Hinrich's injury dashes hopes to get real talent for him. If that's the case, so be it. I don't think Paxson can wait for the hope his value rises, and either Hinrich or Hughes should be gone by the trading deadline.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when approaching this trading season. With December 15th now here and gone, it frees up a lot more options for Paxson. I'm not so confident he sees the same needs for a deal that I do (as he is the same guy who said he couldn't trade Kirk Hinrich in case Ben Gordon left), but if it proves to be merely a dream in terms of real-life practicality, may it be a guideline for the hundreds of trade machine proposals on this site in the future. Have at it.