I want to go back to the trade deadline quotes from Gar Forman. It was linked on Friday when referencing the immediate future of the team, specifically buyout candidates to sign for this season. But there was interesting long-term, big picture stuff in there too.
We’re always trying to improve the team and we’re always looking at all the options that are out there. At the same time, in my mind, we don’t want to hit a single or a double. We want to try to hit a home run. I feel and I think we feel, we’re probably as well-position as the good teams in the East to make improvements to our team over the next two or three years. There are going to be opportunities there to hit the home run.
We were in some serious conversations with a number of teams. At the end of the day, we thought it was too rich to get marginally better.
Now we have to wait for the next opportunity to improve our team. With that said, we like our team now.
We don’t know what we’re facing going forward [with the new CBA]. We didn’t want to give up a young asset for what could be a rental. You don’t know what’s on the horizon. We want to see what the playing field’s going to look like.
Now I'll concede that Gar and the Org. aren't always the most media-savvy (nor care to be), and will admit the inherent danger of parsing their words too carefully. That said, I found it very interesting that they admitted they had a chance for this team to get better at the deadline, and chose against doing so.
Not that the reasoning isn't sound: they didn't think it was worth sacrificing a longer-term, higher-value asset to make a 'marginal' or 'rental' upgrade. But no matter what reports say about what was offered, or how we may happen to value certain rumored acquisitions in terms of this season, what Gar's saying is that the Bulls themselves saw a way to improve their chances at the 2011 title, and elected to pass. A 'single' is still good. A 'home run' is better, of course, but it'll have to wait beyond this season.
Taking that sentiment at face value, I'm comfortable with it. The team's record is sparkling, and they've proven to be able to compete against the best in the league, but I don't think this team is that close to winning this year's title. Sacrificing young, cheap, big-man depth for a starting SG would be an upgrade, but a slightly mitigated one, and likely not enough to make a true difference.
But if you indeed thought the Bulls were right there, like Bill Simmons did, it's more upsetting. Even a very slight upgrade could be seen as enough, or at least worth the risk: for this year you can only win this year's championship. Some current powers could be seen as trending down over the next 'two to three years', but you never know.
Let's look deeper at why the Bulls could be waiting, and get a bit less comfortable. The uncertainty of the future CBA was mentioned, and Gar addressed it directly as a concern as a reason not to take a risk now. We've read reports earlier in the trading season with a similar sentiment: the idea of taking on a multi-year, large salary was tempered (maybe even an impossibility?) because the Org. doesn't know what the future cap, tax, etc. will look like.
Meanwhile, with the James Johnson trade, the Bulls are loaded with assets heading into the upcoming draft. Even in a supposed 'weak' draft, having picks always seems get more desirable when the hype builds for that night, and teams target a guy they want (much more likely than a team targeting James Johnson). And, unlike at the trade deadline, the Bulls role players (Korver, Brewer, Watson) will have pseudo-expiring contracts. They'll still have those young and cheap bigs in Gibson and Asik.
It's a good spot to be in to make a big trade. The rumored names at the deadline should still be available, but perhaps also bigger-contract SGs like Andre Iguodala and Kevin Martin. Putting aside what you may think will be out there, and if you personally would call it a 'home run': say the Bulls see it there (like they saw a 'single' available at the deadline). Will they go for it?
The uncertainty of the CBA that existed at the deadline will still exist at the draft. And the faith in the Bulls executing a 'home run' deal not only implies they’d have the gumption (or whatever) to make such a move, but that they’d pay that person, and everyone else on an 8-figure deal (Boozer, Noah, Deng)*, having a very high payroll when Rose receives his raise starting in 2012-13.
*(I suppose dealing one of Boozer/Deng in such a deal would counter that assumption, but is that really a 'home run'?)
That would be a departure from what’s been their model for 13 years. One can believe the Reinsdorf ‘promise’ of once it’s justified, they’d spend that much, but it’s hard to believe something with such little evidence to this point. It's always a factor.
That clouds the issue of whether it was better to wait. Make note that (correctly, or not) some teams thought that an uncertain CBA meant it was time to spend now, whereas the Bulls took it as reason to step back. And if they indeed will wait out not only this deadline, but beyond the draft before making their next big move, should we still be comfortable with waiting?
The one thing that helps alleviate that worry is that no matter the CBA uncertainty, we'll have some certainty established from seeing the rest of this season: how good is this current team? All other factors aside, that variable that can be established in the playoffs and it'll be fun seeing it play out, whether tells us they need a home run or a single.