Thursday, March 20, 2014
3 Points: Bulls' backup plan after Melo?
Nikola Mirotic is an expensive -- and unproven -- option for the Bulls this summer.
Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. If Carmelo Anthony stays in New York, what's the best Plan B for the Bulls this summer?
Friedell: The next-best plan would be to bring Nikola Mirotic over from Europe and see if he has what it takes to succeed in the NBA. That would mean amnestying the final year of Carlos Boozer's deal, which is fine for the Bulls since Taj Gibson has become a better all-around player. The problem with this scenario is that Mirotic's arrival still won't bring the Bulls that much closer to a championship. Anthony is the only player on the market -- if he decides to opt out -- who could push the Bulls to a championship level, assuming Derrick Rose comes back close to the same player he was before.
Jon Greenberg: Ideally, it's Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. In some ways, he's a better Plan A, because he could fit in the salary slot vacated by the amnesty of Boozer. Stephenson is a rare find, a future unrestricted free agent at age 23. He doesn't quite fit the Bulls' archetypal player profile, and his past legal issues are troubling, but the former Brooklyn prep star would slide in nicely with this team. He's a defensive hound and an athletic offensive player. He's 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and, as of this writing, is averaging in the neighborhood of 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists while shooting 50 percent. The Bulls need someone who can create his own shot. Would Stephenson fit in with the Bulls? Absolutely, and having Gibson and Joakim Noah around -- the two best New York City role models in the league -- wouldn't hurt his growth and development.
Scoop Jackson: Patience. Everybody seems to be in a rush to treat the Bulls like a bowl of instant grits: add water (big-name free agent) and championship is won. For other teams it might work that way, but for this team, not so much. Coach Tom Thibodeau needs a player that will give the team an ability to play from behind and make up the difference offensively when it is down by 10. Plan B should be a scorer -- not necessarily a scorer on the Carmelo/Kevin Love level, but someone who can put the ball in the basket at a 20-points-per-game rate. Now, who that Plan B is I don’t know, but that needs to be their Plan B.
2. Is there any scenario in which Boozer is playing for the Bulls next season?
Friedell: Yes. The percentage isn't high, but it's possible. If the Bulls can't land Anthony and they can't convince Mirotic to come over from Europe, they could decide to just keep Boozer instead of eating almost $17 million. At this point, a divorce seems inevitable, but there's still a chance Boozer starts next season on the Bulls roster.
Carlos Boozer likely is playing his last season with the Bulls.
Greenberg: Yes, if the Bulls don't sign Melo or Stephenson and can't convince Mirotic to come over from Spain, they would probably keep Boozer for the final year of his deal or look to trade him during the season. But I don't foresee that situation coming true. Mirotic is the most likely addition this summer, and the Bulls will need to shed Boozer's salary to add him and some other complementary players. Get your fill of Boozer now, Chicago.
Jackson: I’ll reluctantly say "none," but every time I’m around the team, Boozer seems so comfortable (and they keep winning) that I often question whether he wants to be gone, and whether the Bulls want him gone. His contract has been looked at as an albatross for Chicago, when in reality it’s been a blessing in the fact that the Bulls have gotten more out of Booz that the Knicks have gotten out of Amar'e Stoudemire over the same period of time with a similar deal. But for the way the Bulls look at him -- and use him in the fourth quarter -- it’s hard too see him here next season.
3. Is it important for Rose to practice with the Bulls this season?
Friedell: Yes, but not nearly as important as it is for Rose to be healthy this summer and play with Team USA. Rose practiced with the Bulls for several months last season, and it didn't seem to make a difference. The experience, and, more importantly, the confidence, Rose would gain from playing with -- and against -- the best players in the world this summer would be huge as he heads into another comeback season next fall.
Derrick Rose hopes to play for Team USA this summer.
Greenberg: Not really. It couldn't hurt, and perhaps it'll just be worthwhile as part of Rose's rehab process, but there aren't that many practices left, and the Bulls are focused on getting ready for the playoffs. Now, I think playing with the national team would be a very good idea for Rose, so he comes into camp with a sharper edge for what will be a very important season. Practicing and working out is one thing, but Rose needs more intense competition this summer, the kind you can't duplicate in open gyms and playgrounds. Like he said, the last time he played for the national team, he won the MVP that season.
Jackson: No. Only because everyone still looks at him as that dude. His nickname among players is still "MVP." They know. Plus, the last thing the Bulls need is people like us (the media) reading into every move Rose makes and passing/placing judgement for not playing even though he's practicing. Derrick shouldn’t give us the satisfaction. His teammates already know what he’s capable of doing, as does Thibs. He’s still the player this team is gonna ride and die with. Unless the Bulls plan on getting him back this season, him practicing with the team would be straight up stupid.