After Drafting Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls Can Contemplate Trading Their Old Starting Five
The draft is over, the Bulls have started trading and there are more questions than answers with the roster. Starting with the additions, you have point guard Derrick Rose (first round) and center Omer Asik (second round, but acquired by trade). Sonny Weems was drafted in the second round and promptly traded to the Trail Blazers for a second round pick next year (Oden’s back next year and the Blazers almost made the play-offs without him this year, so don’t bet on that being a high second round pick), so we won’t worry about him.
Rose has been profiled to death. While starting a rookie at the point after only one year of college might give some people pause (would, say, Larry Brown even contemplate starting a rookie at point?), I think you have to pencil in Rose to start at point. And so begins the back court crunch.
Kirk Hinrich – theoretically a point, but more of a combo
Ben Gordon – shooting guard who’s been played a bit at point; restricted free agent who may want to leave
Larry Hughes – combo guard who’s better at the 2
Thabo Sefolosha – shooting guard that they keep trying to turn into a point guard
I’m not even going to get into Chris Duhon (almost certainly leaving), Shannon Brown or JamesOn Curry.
Depending on how you feel about Sefolosha, you have either 4 or 5 guards that could start for a few different teams, and Sefolosha has significant upside. Finding adequate playing time for 4 guards is going to have 2 potential starters with short minutes. Finding playing time for 5 guards is going to leave somebody sucking bench and potentially pouting.
Of this group, the best scorer is Gordon, the best defender is Hughes and the best point is Hinrich. Mind you, Sefolosha has more upside than Hinrich, providing Coach Vinny doesn’t grind him into the ground like former coach Skiles did.
If Gordon doesn’t want to come back, maybe you stand pat, maybe you get another point back in a sign and trade. Gordon is an asset. If he won’t sign anything past a one-year deal to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, you have to trade him.
If Gordon does want to come back, you probably need to move somebody. Hughes has a big contract and might be difficult to move, which brings you to the question of whether you want to go with a back-up point guard (well, 2/3 point guard) in Hinrich or go with superior size and potential, but less distribution skill in Sefolosha. That could be a rough choice, especially if you’re planning for the contingency of any injuries to Rose – do you really want an all combo-leaning-towards-shooting-guard back court for a couple weeks?
The forward situation really isn’t changed by the draft. Luol Deng, presumptive starter at small forward is a restricted free agent and his re-signing is not a given, though the public sense is that he’s not as likely to bolt as Gordon. If Deng doesn’t want to sign, like Gordon, he’s an asset and you have to trade him. Who knows what you get back in that instance.
If Deng isn’t around, Andres Nocioni is the presumptive starter at small forward. Sefolosha can play a little small forward, too.
The starting power forward is, theoretically, up in the air. Last season ended with Drew Gooden starting. A lot of people seem to hate Gooden, but I think he’s perfectly competent, can score a little inside and out, and is a good third option at worst. Depending on the match-up and his interest level that evening, he can be the primary scorer some nights.
Then there’s freakishly athletic Tyrus Thomas, who theoretically might be a really tall small forward, but usually sees minutes at the 4. As near as I can tell, Thomas is pretty good in the open court, but nobody has ever bothered to teach him a post game. If Coach Vinny is really going to installing a running game, Thomas might start. He could also be trade bait. This will make an interesting training camp for Thomas.
Nocioni frequently plays power forward. He’s undersized, but gets away with it because he’s a serious hard ass on defense. Cedric Simmons who was acquired as a throw-in with Hughes and Gooden could be a factor at either forward. He’s largely an unknown quantity with the Bulls.
At center, Omer Asik, if he’s coming over right away, might be a factor. The starter has been Joakim Noah, an athletic defender who needs someone to teach him some better post moves, though he’d also benefit from a running offense. Aaron Gray, a second round steal last year, has great size, a surprisingly solid low-post offensive game and an utter lack of speed. Improving his footwork and conditioning in the off-season might help him a little on defense and with his occasional foul trouble, but the idea of Gray in a running system doing anything besides getting the defensive rebounding and throwing an outlet pass requires some imagination. He really isn’t very fast. Great in the half-court, though.
Gooden has enough size to play some center, especially in a running game. Asik is a bit of an x-factor. If he runs the floor well and has offensive post skills, there could be minutes for him. If.
There’s also speculation that Noah getting arrested in Florida for an open container and being caught with some pot might make him trade bait.
So which Bulls are potential trade bait?
All 5 of those guys started games this season, though I’m not sure if they all started at the same time, but you could say the Bulls are thinking about trading their starting 5 and not worry too much about the technicalities.
GM John Paxon is correct when he says he has to sort out the contract situation with Deng and Gordon before he does anything else. Those deals (be it staying or going) will determine what the next moves need to be. It is entirely possible that the Bulls have new starters for 4 out of 5 positions.