Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported tonight that there are “serious” talks happening between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks that would send Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James to the Knicks in exchange for Al Harrington. As trade talks begin to heat up around the NBA, the first real proposal of the season seems to make sense for both parties.
Thomas is currently recovering from a broken forearm that has kept him out of action for the last month and a half. Since he was drafted by the Bulls in 2006, Thomas has been somewhat of a project that has improved every year, increasing his statistical performances in just about every category. At just 23 years old he still has plenty of gas left in the tank but his high energy, athletic game could surely improve if he was put into a higher tempo offense. His 6’10″, 225-pound body slots him at the power forward position, but in the Bulls half court offense he is undersized and can not be a full-time post player.
On the other hand, Harrington has done well for the Knicks, averaging over 20 points per game since he arrived in New York. The 12-year veteran has exploded for two 40-point games this season and would surely add instant offense to a Bulls team that ranks 28th in the NBA, scoring just 91.4 points per game. The bigger Harrington would take over the Bulls power forward spot and give Derrick Rose another offensive weapon to go along with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
From a money perspective, the Bulls would be wise to make this move as Harrington’s contract expires after this season. General Manager John Paxson is clearly looking to the 2010 “Free Agent Sweepstakes”, where he and the Bulls are expected to make plays for free agents Chris Bosh and hometown hero Dwyane Wade. With Harrington’s contract going off the books after the season, more cap space will be available for the Bulls to go after those free agents. Letting go of Thomas would save the Bulls approximately $13 million.
The Knicks currently have the most cap space allotted for 2010 of any NBA team with players like Larry Hughes ($13.65 million), Darko Milicic ($7.5 million), Cuttino Mobley ($9.5 million), David Lee ($7 million), Chris Duhon ($6 million), and Nate Robinson ($4 million) all coming off the books after this season. The Knicks have made it all but public that they will pursue LeBron James next summer, the clear prized possession of the free agent class.
However, one issue that has been talked about is that the Knicks will have to show James that they still have a foundation and that they will not sacrifice the rest of the team just so they have the money to offer him a maximum contract. Adding Thomas to the Knicks, who is under contract until 2011, along with up-and-coming second year forward Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and rookies Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas would be a start in showing James that a young core of players are ready to succeed under the leadership of James if he comes to New York.
As it goes for the 2009 season, Harrington would improve the Bulls’ front court immediately alongside the fully improved Joakim Noah. Last June, the Bulls drafted Wake Forest’s James Johnson and Taj Gibson from USC. While Johnson is more of a project, just as Thomas was coming out of college, Gibson has established himself as a contributor and has the potential to start for the Bulls in 2010. Despite being a fan favorite, the early emergence of Gibson makes Thomas expendable and also frees up the power forward position for Chris Bosh in 2010, presuming he decides on Chicago next summer.
In one of the most exciting and entertaining first-round matchups that the NBA has seen in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls showed poise, maturity, and an extremely high ceiling for improvement in their series against the Boston Celtics that they will build on heading into next year.
The Bulls were one of the more consistent teams in the East and hovered around the six through eight seed the whole year.
That’s not to say at all that it was an easy road, even in the much less competitive Eastern Conference.
Breaking down each player on the Bulls has to go past looking at the seven game series with the Celtics, as hard as that may be.
They faced ups and downs all year, acquired and lost players, and in the end finished the year with a very impressive showing, which leads me to believe they will be in the hunt for the Eastern Conference Championship come this time next year.
Derrick Rose proved this year that he is more than capable of becoming the leader of the Bulls for years to come. Nothing stands in the way of Rose joining the next great wave of point guards in the NBA maybe except himself.
As most rookies that are thrown into the setting Rose was of starting from day one, he played a little out of control at times and made a few costly mistakes.
Still, down the stretch, Rose was the reason the Bulls were back in Boston for a game seven. Ben Gordon and John Salmons were fine but the constant of Rose, as it was all year in the regular season, kept the Bulls in the series.
In my post on Rajan Rondo during the series, I took quite a bit of heat for supposedly hating on Derrick Rose and, while the article was more meant to praise Rondo, because of the criticisms I’ll explain how I feel on Rose.
He played better than any rookie has the last two years, culminating in his Rookie of the Year Award. He was a very consistent guard but not the all star that a few people were making him out to be.
After game one, I was talking to someone who wanted to put Rose in the argument for top three point guards in the NBA.
This pre-mature worship of Rose is fine if you take it with a grain of salt, with that grain being that he is 20 years old and is only going to get better.
It remains to be seen, but Rose could easily be the best point guard in the league in five years. But for now, he is JUST one of the up-and-coming stars in the league, and there is no shame in that.
Next year, Rose will progress even more as the Bulls should be at least one of the top four teams to come out of the East after Cleveland, Orlando, and potentially Boston or Miami.
One of the biggest off-season decisions for head coach John Paxson will be what to do with free agent Ben Gordon.
Remember that Gordon played more than the seven games in the playoffs when I say that the Bulls should let Gordon go off to another team and here’s why.
Every year a big name comes out of the playoffs in basketball who is playing in his contract year and goes bonkers in the second season. Last year it was James Posey and this year it is Gordon.
When that certain player enters free agency, there is usually a team that is willing to throw the bank at him and make him grossly overpaid.
Posey was signed to a four year, $25 million contract which to give you an idea, is more than John Salmons. The Celtics wanted no part of Posey if he was going to cost that much and are doing just fine without him.
The reason Gordon does not need to come back is that, while he excels from the outside, he is pretty one-dimensional and brings nothing to the table defensively.
He is more of a No. 3 option on offense and with the Bulls has been the number two behind Rose.
John Salmons will likely be on his last year with the Bulls in 2009-2010 as they continue to clear cap space for the “2010 Sweepstakes” with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and Steve Nash just to name a few.
However, Salmons absolutely dominated with the Bulls after coming over in the Andres Nocioni deal and, despite the inconsistencies and injuries, really helped the Bulls make it to the playoffs to battle the Celtics.
There is an outside chance that if John Paxson decides not to pursue one of the big prizes in the 2010 free agency pool combined with another solid year from Salmons, that he might stay on with the Bulls for a few more years.
The young guns in the front court in Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas really came on late in the year and gave promise to the future.
While Noah is not going to be able to play the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics every game next year, his strength and will to fight in the post was evident in the playoffs.
Noah averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in the regular season in just over 24 minutes and will more than likely see those minutes increase big time next year.
While Thomas is more of an athlete and a project, Noah’s game is still very raw but his improvement over the course of the year is a great start.
Thomas made even bigger strides this year as he became much more of a basketball player rather than an athletic freak that could swat shots into the third row.
His jump shot improved somewhat but still needs some polishing and his all-around defense could as well. His strength is still an issue and he does not have much of a post game, but remember, he is still just 22 years old.
The outlook is bright for the Bulls and can only improve this off-season with the draft. The Bulls are slated to pick in the No. 16 spot and they must improve their defense with that choice.
Potential draftees are James Johnson, a 6-foot-9 Ron Artest-type player who is like a more ready Tyrus Thomas.
If Louisville small forward Earl Clark were to drop to 16, the Bulls could get a guard-forward that is destined to do great things in the Association.
Other names include shutdown defender Marcus Thornton from LSU who plays the shooting guard position and North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington.
Whatever happens in the off-season, one thing is sure: the Chicago Bulls took great strides this year, matured greatly, and are still one of the youngest teams with the brightest futures in the league.
In one of the best playoff series I have seen in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics have matched up in a series that is almost bound to go to seven games. It has to, right?
It would only be fair for this seesaw battle to go as long as it could with a couple more overtimes thrown in, a few more Kevin Garnett F-bombs to the Chicago bench, a few more Derrick Rose unbelievable drives, and a couple more clutch shots from Paul Pierce.
In a crucial game five, Boston won a crazy game with a contoversial ending, with a non-flagrant foul call on Brad Miller. Say what you will, whether you believed Miller should have recieved two shots and the ball or not, but the fact of the matter is that the Bulls need to win game six or they will watch the Celtics celebrate on the United Center floor.
After watching all five of these games, I have come up with the five most important keys for the Bulls to complete in order to win the next game and then the series itself.
1. Keep the ball out of Rajan Rondo’s hands
Ever since Kevin Garnett went down, Rajan Rondo has been the new floor leader for the Celtics, and has done an outstanding job in the series thus far, averaging a triple double.
The fact of the matter is this key could have been titled “PLAY DEFENSE” and I would not have needed an explanation. Boston has been able to get off any shot they have wanted with ease, with Chicago’s defense nowhere to be found.
Chicago’s rebounds stats have been fantastic but I am starting to think it is because they are crashing the boards too much. Back to Rondo, he is the only guard that Boston has capable of running the point.
Stephon Marbury still looks lost on the court and has not meshed well and Tony Allen does not deserve to be on the court at all. Eddie House is a great role player and has taken the role of “James Posey-lite”, but will not run the offense in any positive way.
The fact is that Derrick Rose needs to clamp down on defense and, off of screens, the Bulls must double Rondo and let Glen Davis or Kendrick Perkins beat them from 17 feet out.
Rondo has penetrated the Bulls defense way too much and it needs to be cut down or the Celtics will continue to get shots at will.
2. Reduce the Minutes of Tyrus Thomas
-41. That is Tyrus Thomas’s +/- in the five games against the Celtics in the playoffs.
I am not saying that Thomas needs to be benched all the way and see no minutes, but other than blocks he is not contributing much to the team and is being overmatched by Perkins and Davis.
Thomas gives up way too much in the post and, while he is averaging over three blocks per game, gives up easy baskets too many times. Offensively, with the exception of overtime of game one, he has been average and really has not added anything more than Joakim Noah or Brad Miller could not on second chance points.
He is averaging 28.1 minutes per game and this number needs to go down to about 19 or 20. Brad Miller should receive these extra eight or nine minutes as I think he gives the Bulls a veteran presence on the court nowhere to be found in the starting lineup.
3. More Isolations for Derrick Rose
In this series, Derrick Rose has played his best basketball, A) on the fast break and B) from the top of the key on an isolation.
As quick as Rajan Rondo is in the passing lanes and on pickpockets, his man-t0-man defense is not as good and Rose is as quick as they come. In the series, Rose’s outside shooting has struggled and his shots inside the paint have decreased in attempts.
Getting Rose to drive more will also free up more opportunites for Noah and Thomas to crash the boards and get second chance points, something that has also been key in the series.
4. Keep the fast pace game and outrun the Celtics
At the beginning of the series, I was absolutely befuddled that the Bulls were trying to outrun such a good defensive team in the Celtics. I figured that these low percentage, outside shots would lead to blowout wins for Boston, but I was wrong.
With young, athletic, big men Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, the Bulls seem to tire less than the Celtics do in games. While the Bulls really only go seven deep, they have a nice rotation going and are able to run the break.
In the Bulls wins this series, the teams have averaged just under 112 points per team per game. When the Bulls lose, teams are averaging 106 points per team per game. With the Bulls lack of a post presence and inability to shake the pesky Celtics defenders, shots off the break have made this series close and they must continue to do so to win it all.
Chicago has averaged 16.2 fast break points in the series as compared to Boston’s 13.
5. Keep the Celtics Out of the Paint
In a way, this key sums up a couple different ones, but I will give this its own due. Boston has averaged 46.4 points in the paint in the series, and those points have come way too easy.
I liked what the Bulls did on a few possessions by bringing a guard around the back side to swipe the ball out of Kendrick Perkins’ hand, which led to steals and those all too important fast break points.
They must continue to do so because Glen Davis thinks he has a better jump shot than he really does and Rondo does not have much confidence in that shot. Rondo has gone to the hoop way too easy in the series, so making him take jump shots will lead to less points and less confidence for the Celtics’ PG.
Other than Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, there are not a lot of good jump shooters on the Celtics roster.