One of the most interesting teams to watch in this year’s NBA off-season will be the Chicago Bulls. With Derrick Rose and Jaokim Noah, and a few other talented young players, the Bulls are on the verge of being able to compete for the division title.
Their chances of defeating current division champion Cleveland will depend on several factors, first and foremost of which will be LeBron James zip-code come October.
The Bulls’ decisions during the free agent signing period of the summer will also go a long way to setting the stage for real improvement.
As a possible destination, Chicago must be tantalizing for many of the star talents who enter this summer as free agents. The Bulls have openings on their roster for almost every position except point guard.
Their big men are small but versatile.
They have no shooting guard to speak of. Yet they have a roster that boasts real talent.
In a first assessment of the Chicago Bulls team heading into the free agent signing period, let’s take a look at the picture of the Bulls’ starting front court and see where some of the big free agents might fit in, if they fit in at all.
Bulls’ Front Court
Jaokim Noah is a force down low on both ends of the court because he hustles, he knows where to be and he simply wants the ball.
Noah is a winner and a scrapper, much like Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, and if he continues to up his game – as he did between his first and second seasons – Noah will prove himself a very valuable player indeed.
He is active and he is vocal.
Taj Gibson had a very solid rookie season, better than almost anyone would have expected. Maybe his mom knew he would gather nearly 8 rebounds per night and almost as many points. If so, she was the only one.
What makes Gibson such a promising basketball prospect going into his sophomore season is the fact that his first year successes were not based on raw talent alone but on thoughtful play, good preparation, and consistent effort. It’s a recipe for continued growth in the NBA, a league where smart players get smarter with each year as players who rely solely on athleticism eventually fall out the bottom end.
In all likelihood it will be Noah and Gibson that begin the 2010-2011 NBA season as the starting big men for the Chicago Bulls. Neither is taller than 6’10”, so against bigger teams in the east, like Orlando, the Bulls may have size problems.
This is a team without a true (starting) center. Brad Miller is currently on the roster and he was sometimes effective down the stretch for the Bulls, but his presence on-court was intermittent during the season.
There are no easy answers to the center problem. The epic free agent class of 2010 is heavy on the swing positions of shooting guard and small forward and thin on size. Chris Bosh is an obvious exception here.
How would Chris Bosh fit in on the Bulls roster?
With a power-forward who can score and pass, the Bulls offensive troubles might be eased a great deal with the acquisition of Chris Bosh. He is tall (6’11”) and has good moves in the post.
Bosh can create his own offense and demand double teams. If the Bulls had a spot-up shooter to take advantage of double-team situations, this would be a boon for the Bulls.
Of course, the Bulls don’t have a spot-up shooter. (Somehow they made it into the playoffs without anyone who can consistently knock down the outside shot. Salmons went north to Milwaulkee and took his shooting skills with him – not that he had exactly put them on display in Chicago in 2009-2010…)
The lack of a pure shooter is something that Chicago will want to address no matter what happens with the big name free agents. Should the Bulls find a shooter, Bosh would seem to be a good fit with the team. They would be deep at the 4 and 5 spots and would be adding a 20 points per game career scorer.
How about Amar’e Stoudemire?
The super-athletic power-forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, has played his whole career in Phoenix on teams that have both over-achieved and under-achieved. Though he has suffered some difficult and unlikely injuries, Stoudemire has bounced back to form and finished the year with some great basketball.
He has a jump shot and can score in many ways, and his athleticism can be helpful on defense…one must assume. Playing on the offensively-minded Suns, it is hard to say how good this guy’s defense could be in a different setting.
Stoudemire is the kind of player that wants the spotlight and the glory and is willing to work for it. But will he bring wins to Chicago if he comes? Will he make the Bulls a better team?
The Bulls need offense and Stoudemire can certainly provide it. He could potentially put up thirty points per game if given the go-ahead to be the team’s leading scorer and shot-taker.
Before signing Amar’e Stoudemire, the Bulls would have to answer the question as to whether or not they are ready to hand the leadership of the team over to him, a player who has been great but never “the man” on his squad.
David Lee is another intriguing possibility…
David Lee of the New York Knicks could provide the Bulls line-up with everything they need without breaking the bank or turning over the ship.
Here is a big man, a power-forward/center, who can shoot the long-ball, pass like a point-guard, and who is hungry to win.
His attitude, thus far in his five year career, has been really great considering the upheaval in New York in his time there.
Lee plays with a poise that the Bulls sometimes lack and seems like a savvy addition if picked up early on in the free agent game should the Bulls want to add some icing to the money cake as a lure for one of the bigger names like, ahem, LeBron James or Dwayne Wade.