When my brother broke the Rose-to-the-Knicks trade report not thirty seconds after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted it, I thought he was surely referencing news that was nearly a week old.
Much like Rose’s first major knee injury, the event itself totally shocked me even though—in retrospect—the signs were clear that it was materializing. I couldn’t even begin to fathom why a franchise would trade a $22 million asset away that conveniently comes off the books for a loaded free agent class in 2017. That this same ‘asset’ was one of the most beloved players in Chicago Bulls franchise history, the youngest MVP in the history of the NBA, and a hometown hero that had given so much of himself to this team, made this all the more astonishing.
But once I began to examine what the Bulls gave up relative to what they got back, it got much easier to talk myself down off the ledge. The Bulls gave up an expensive question mark at point guard, Jrue Holiday’s brother, and a (worthless) future second round pick for a starting caliber center on a great deal, a 3-PT marksman, and a prospect many Bulls fans wanted in last year’s draft.
So lets take a bit of a closer look at what the Bulls are actually getting here:
Robin Lopez (C)
Much maligned in earlier parts of his career as the Lopez brother you wouldn’t want on your squad, Robin Lopez has become a fine player in his own right over the last four seasons. During that stretch, he has played and started in 305 of 328 possible regular season contests while shooting at least 53.4% from the field in each season. He also finished at a rate of over 63% around the basket this past year and is a very good free throw shooter.
Defensively, Lopez finished 22nd among all NBA big men this past season for shot contest percentage, as well as 13th in points saved per game according to Nylon Calculus. Lopez is also coming off the second-best rebounding season of his career after pulling down 7.3 per game.
Lopez is making $13.2 million next season after signing a four year/$54 million deal with the Knicks last offseason. That could prove to be a tremendous value deal for a starting-caliber center as the NBA prepares to vault to new financial heights next offseason. It’s also presumably much cheaper than what the Bulls would have had to offer to this offseason’s crop of starter-worthy free agent centers.
With Lopez, the Bulls gain consistency at the five spot. He may not space the floor as much as Pau Gasol does—or (presumably) once did—, but he’s a much more active defender than Gasol could ever hope to be and still finished at the basket with high efficiency. Lopez should fill in quite nicely with the array of options at the four that the Bulls have alongside him.
José Calderón (PG)
The nominal incoming replacement for Derrick Rose (there’s still a whole offseason to go), José Calderón is a veteran point guard that’s become somewhat of a journeyman in recent years. After seven full seasons of pretty stellar play in Toronto, Calderón now finds himself on his fifth different team since 2013.
But that’s not to say that Calderón can’t play, because he’s still put up some pretty sexy offensive numbers of late. He shot above league average from beyond the arc for the ninth straight season this past year, and is a career 41% shooter from that range. Though he averaged his lowest points per game total in a decade this past season, his heatmap is still absolutely glowing:
Compared to Derrick Rose’s past season, these two are polar opposites when it comes to shooting the basketball, and could open up Hoiball far more than it was utilized last season.
Calderón makes about $7.7 million this season and is on the last year of his contract, so if you were expecting a ‘contract year bump’ from Rose you could say the same for Calderón. However, it may be difficult for the 34 year-old to play consistent defense against younger point guards heading into next season.
Jerian Grant (PG)
Nailing down the value of Jerian Grant in this trade is a bit tricky. If you ask our guy Ricky O’Donnell what he thinks of him, you’ll find he actually ranked Grant as the number one player the Bulls should have considered for last year’s draft.
If you ask me, I never trust Notre Dame players not named Skylar Diggins or Jeff Samardzja as professional athletes in the new millenium. Knicks fans appear to be heartbroken that they had to let Horace Grant’s nephew go in this trade. I’m not quite sure why, given that Grant put up pretty unimpressive and remarkably inefficient numbers in his rookie campaign.
That said, he will only be 24 years old next season and has room to improve in a backup role. At the very least, he’s a quite athletic 6’4+” point guard that appears capable of becoming a pretty good defender. If he doesn’t pan out the way the organization hopes, a similar prospect in Spencer Dinwiddie will be waiting right behind him for an opportunity off the bench.
So Who Won the Trade?
Only time will tell, but at a glance you have to love everything the Bulls got. A well-rounded center to stick in the starting lineup, a marksman shooter of a point guard, and appear to have answered the team’s questions at backup point.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to a former face of the franchise, but all things considered this trade should hopefully work out well for the Bulls going into next season. Rose of course could return to an All-Star level of play and leave his hometown out in the cold, but then paying him next year is now the Knicks’ problem!
Are the Bulls contenders again? Probably not. But with Jimmy Butler now firmly in control of the reigns, some cap space still to play with in free agency, and a lottery pick (albeit a late one) to use tomorrow; there’s reason for optimism heading into next season that this team can return to the top half of the East.