As the Chicago Bulls were on their way to a season-ending loss in last night’s Game 5 in Cleveland, TNT’s Reggie Miller was already looking ahead to next year. Reggie recommended the Bulls take their $20-plus million in salary cap space and get a legit starting center, so they can move Joakim Noah to power forward.
I’m assuming this center would be a decent scorer, because we’re on about Year 5 of the “Chicago needs a low-post scorer” story line. And considering the Bulls have either (real or rumored) almost, could’ve, or should’ve had Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Jermaine O’Neal, Amar’e Stoudemire, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and/or Carlos Boozer by now, they’d have to come through with a major payoff after so many teases.
But I’m thinking the to-be-determined big man will be Chicago’s Plan B. First and foremost — as in when the clock strikes 12 midnight on July 1 — the Bulls’ most important and charismatic front-office guys should be standing in front of Dwyane Wade and pitching him to come back home.
Not like I need to make a detailed argument as to why one of the Top-5 players in the world makes the Bulls automatically better. But unlike the Knicks’ grand scheme of landing LeBron or Wade or Bosh or whoever and figuring out the rest later, Wade actually fills a need in Chicago and fits into what they’re doing already. Rather than starting over with another potentially mediocre roster that he’d have to carry (e.g., the 2010 Miami Heat), Wade would slide into a defined role with a solid young team ready to take the next step as a contender.
The Bulls need a two-guard who can create his own shot and put pressure on the defense — a starter that allows Kirk Hinrich to come off the bench and play both guard spots — while playing tough defense himself. That’s what Wade does. Throughout the season and the playoffs, Chicago’s offense was too predictable whenever they needed a shot in a hurry: Give it to Derrick Rose and hope he can make something happen. While that experience of having to carry the offense without Ben Gordon and John Salmons‘ help has turned Rose into an effective clutch scorer, just imagine the problems he and Wade together would cause for a defense.
Wade obviously has his reasons for wanting to stay in Miami; he’s put down roots and already won a championship there, plus they can pay him the most and will always be an attractive option to other free agents.
“If things go the way I want — and I’ve said it from day one — I want to be in Miami,” Wade told me in his Dime #54 cover story. “I want to make sure that we can continue to add to our team and I hope Miami is the main attraction city of next summer. I hope a lot of people want to come down here. … Ideally for me, everybody wants to come to Miami. That would be ideal.”
But Chicago has to look good for Wade on a couple of fronts; the hometown angle, the fact that he’d be on a better team, and he’d be in a market that certainly won’t hurt his mass appeal.
If the Bulls miss on Wade, however, their are other options. Joe Johnson would be the top alternative. Matter of fact, some might say Johnson is a better fit, since he’s been on teams before where he’s not the top guy and is less likely to throw off Chicago’s chemistry (and let Rose keep his spot as The Franchise) than Wade.
Rudy Gay could make sense as a huge two-guard in a 2-3 matchup nightmare alongside Luol Deng. Gay won’t cost as much as Wade or Johnson, something to think about when you have integral pieces like Rose, Noah and Taj Gibson still on their rookie deals. After that, it’s Ray Allen (more shooter than scorer), and a notch down, Tracy McGrady. But those future Hall of Famers are more short-term rentals. Then you’re getting into the territory of certified bench guys.
The Bulls are right on the verge. A scoring big man would be a welcome addition this summer, but first priority is to find a two-guard or versatile three who can get buckets.
If you’re running the Bulls, who are your top targets in free agency?