[Thanks to Kris (fka: 'Obeastity') for this post -yfbb]
Earlier this week I wrote about our free agency situation, breaking down our roster, cap space, needs, and possible targets. I want to expand on an idea I espoused about meeting our point guard needs through a trade. The trade market can be a great tool to meet roster needs and jettison players without spending the big bucks, especially in an off-season where cash is abundant and talent at the point guard spot is sparse. Although GarPax has been reluctant to make use of trades in the past, the Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose trades are evidence that they have at least shown some competency when they choose to make moves.
(Note: all player stats below were taken from Basketball-Reference)
Current Point Guards
To understand why getting a starting point guard should be the Bulls' highest priority this summer, we need only look at our current point guard rotation.
GarPax mentioned three goals for the roster: get younger, more athletic, and improve our point guard defense. It's fair to say that Jose Calderon doesn't check any of those boxes. Calderon will be a ripe old 35 at the beginning of next season, and his athleticism has already been in decline for years. He's certainly still a useful player: he's an efficient shooter (47% FG, 41% 3-point, and has shot over 40% from 3 for 6 straight seasons), an able passer and by all accounts a great teammate. But if you thought Rose's defense was bad, Calderon is not the answer. Much like Pau Gasol, Calderon suffers from simply being too slow. Calderon is also efficient at the rim, but he rarely gets there. He attempted only 45 layups all last year, being assisted on 34.5% of them and converting 64%.
The Bulls need a starting guard that can defend at a high level, hit shots, draw the defense, and run the floor. Calderon simply can't do most of that at this stage in his career, and since our other two guards are also bench players, there's little need for Calderon's services on this team. That said, I think there's great opportunity to move his contract this off-season. On the books for just 1 more year at $7.7m, and with such a shallow free agent point guard market, someone will surely be looking for a capable backup who can shoot the ball. If not, another suggestion would be to use the stretch provision on him and gain about $5m in cap space.
Jerian was one of the Bulls' main targets in the draft last year before he was snatched up by New York. His rookie season was something of a disappointment, as he struggled in limited minutes and struggled to even find consistent minutes until April. Let me repeat: he struggled to find minutes when Jose Calderon was the starting point guard; that's kind of alarming. His rookie numbers are bleh: 5.6 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.9 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game, shooting 39.4% from the floor and 22% from 3.
But Grant still has a lot of the qualities the Bulls are looking for: he's young, athletic, can run the floor, and has the size to be a competent defender. Grant also had quality production in April, where he started 6 games and had a line of 14.5 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.7 rebounds, shooting 49.3% overall and 36.8% from 3. The Bulls should get a quality look at Grant this next season, but he's still too unproven to start at this point.
I'll be honest and say I had no idea Dinwiddie existed until he torched Derrick Rose last year (Rose was playing on a torn meniscus though). Picked 38th by Detroit in the 2014 draft, Dinwiddie has only played 614 minutes over the last two years due to various injuries, including a torn ACL in his last season of college. The Bulls should get a good look at him during Summer League, and his cheap contract isn't guaranteed until November. Check out Vijay's post for more info on him.
Point Guard Shopping
As I mentioned in my off-season primer, the list of free agent point guards is...not good. Jeremy Lin, Jordan Clarkson, and a couple others have signed in the first day of free agency. However, there are a number of point guards currently under contract that are being shopped by their current teams, and a few others that should be available for the right price. Here's a rundown of each guard and their situation, as well as their fit with the Bulls.
- Contract: 3 years, $6.5m per year, descends to $5m on final year
- Play: Pesky defender, shot 40% from 3 this season (career: 37%), 3-ball is over 50% of his offense, average playmaker, proficient at stealing, doesn't take midrange shots
- Availability: Actively shopped by Houston; Houston wanted a late 1st in the 2016 draft.
Beverley would be a great fit next to Jimmy as a 3&D guy who can handle some playmaking duties without needing the ball to be effective. He's also a very good defender, steals the ball a lot, and can run in transition. He’ll also only be 28 years old when the season starts, he’s on an extremely cheap contract, and the asking price isn't very high. The Bulls should already be kicking the tires on a trade for him.
- Contract: 3 years, $13.4m per year
- Play: Great defender, elite passing and court vision, only shot 51% on layups, 33% on jump shots, 53.6% (!!) FT rate, proficient at stealing
- Availability: Actively shopped by Minnesota (much to Wolves fans’ dismay); would want a sizeable return
Rubio will be 26 when the season starts and he brings a lot of great things to a team. Sadly, shooting and finishing are not among them. He’s an incredible passer, one of the top point guard defenders in the league, and makes the most of his shots with his 53% FT rate. He’s not a great fit next to Butler, but the Bulls would be lucky to have a guy like Rubio on the team. The big issue is that Thibs will likely want more assets than the Bulls can (or should) give up to get him.
- Contract: 4 years, $12.6m per year
- Play: Competent 3-point shooter (career 36%), good length, high usage and turnover rate, finishes well
- Availability: Actively shopped by Phoenix; desired return is unknown, though not figuring to be a high price
- Contract: 1 year, $5.2m per year
- Play: Shot 40% from 3-point range (career ~38%), efficient shooting, competent defender, average usage and slightly high turnover rate, finishes well, decent playmaker
- Availability: No current rumors; domestic abuse trouble is concerning to the Kings
29-year-old Collison would be a quality pickup for the Bulls because he can shoot, pass, and defend well enough to start next to Butler; additionally, he’s an expiring contract that wouldn’t hurt flexibility for the 2017 off-season. Unfortunately, the reason the Kings might want to move him is the same reason the Bulls are likely to avoid him: off-court troubles with domestic abuse. That’s a serious problem.
- Contract: 3 years, $14m per year
- Play: Competent defender, very strong frame, finishes well, injury concerns, unreliable from range, 35% career FT rate, high usage and turnover rate, decent mid-range shot
- Availability: Actively shopped by Phoenix leading up to the draft, but since removed; Suns unlikely to move him over Knight unless there’s a good return
Bledsoe had a really great season last year with Phoenix with a win share of 7.0 and VORP of 3.3. He and Butler would probably be the physically strongest backcourt in the league. He’s also had a few knee surgeries, and the Suns seem unlikely to part with him over Knight at this point. If the Suns put him back on the market, though, the Bulls should make a call.
- Contract: 1 year, $3.4m per year with a $4.6m qualifying offer in 2017
- Play: Inefficient shooter, high usage and 11% TOV, okay defender, athletic
- Availability: Actively shopped by Utah; desired return should be fairly low
Trey Burke has not been very good for Utah thus far, and with Dante Exum and George Hill ahead of him in the lineup, the Jazz have put him on the trade block. Although he hasn’t shown much at this point, this is exactly the type of buy-low player the Bulls should be looking for because he’ll either get better or help us get a better draft pick. If the asking price is a broken Dunleavy or Snell, the Bulls should make that happen.
- Contract: 1 year, $11m per year
- Play: Competent defender, solid career 37% 3-point shooter, high assist rate and good playmaker, high usage and turnover rate, injury concerns, decent shooter and finisher
- Availability: Actively shopped by New Orleans at the trade deadline, but the price was said to be too high
- Contract: 1 year, $3.2m per year with a $4.3m qualifying offer in 2017
- Play: Great length, solid defender, good passing and playmaking, atrocious 3-point shooter, improved shooting in the paint, decent finisher, high turnover rate
- Availability: No current trade rumors, but with the Greek Freak set to play point guard next year, there figures to be a market for moving MCW
25-year-old MCW has all the right physical tools to be a great defender, passer, and floor-runner. He’s had his ups and downs, but his inside shooting has improved significantly from his rookie year (34% to 46% from 3-10 feet) and he’s been a decent playmaker despite a high turnover rate. He’s about as good a 3-point shooter as Rose was with one eye, so the fit with Butler is iffy. Jason Kidd still seems intent on molding the young man into his protégé, but with Giannis at point next year there may be an opportunity to snag him. He’s worth a phone call for the defense and length alone, which the Bulls desperately need. Remember when he destroyed Aaron Brooks in the post in the playoffs last year?
Ultimately, Gar Forman’s ears should be raw from being on the phone about these players by the time July 1st hits. With most of these point guards on the market and some quality veterans ripe for the dumping, there’s little reason not to go point guard shopping in the trade market.
Alternative Option: E'Twaun Moore at PG
Now that we’ve effectively run through both the free agent market and trade market for point guards, there’s one other option that might be worth looking at for the Bulls. Gar Forman recently mentioned that one of the Bulls’ priorities this off-season (besides formulating a plan at all) was to try and re-sign E’Twaun Moore. Moore had a breakout year this season and was arguably the 2nd best perimeter defender.
He showed us a little of everything on offense: drives, floaters, runners, pull-up jumpers, 3-point shots (at a 45% clip!), and transition play, while also being a capable playmaker and passer in limited point guard minutes. More importantly, he was a steady rudder for the team on both ends while showing high basketball IQ and great efficiency and decision-making. Moore is the only player the Bulls are currently linked to in free agency, and at the right price could be brought back without the cap taking a hit.
Some have suggested making him the full-time starting point guard next year. While he is definitely worth bringing back at anything short of $10m per year (in my opinion), there are a few issues with starting him at point guard.
First of all, Moore is naturally a shooting guard and is extremely effective off the ball. It makes little sense to shove him into a role that doesn’t allow him to maximize his strengths. He’s a capable playmaker and ball handler, but when defenses really focus on him his handles quickly become suspect, and he doesn’t have the speed or agility to be a high-level finisher full-time.
Secondly, with Holiday gone and Snell all but worthless, our 2-guard rotation is already too thin as it is. Moore would be much more effective in a wing rotation with Butler, McDermott, and Valentine to maximize his shooting. If the Bulls insist at starting him at point, the Bulls would then have to fill the hole at wing anyway. It makes more sense to keep Moore primarily as a 2-guard that can be a stopgap at point in limited minutes.
Still, if the alternative to starting Moore at point guard is Jose Calderon, by all means do the former.