By Jordan Holliday
With Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and now Ronnie Brewer signed, the Chicago Bulls, née Utah Jazz, are close to filling the holes left in their roster when LeBron and Chris Bosh both opted to fly south for the coming winters.
Brewer, the latest addition, is the defensive-specialist shooting guard that many fans were expecting after the Bulls got Korver on board. Brewer is the guy Chicago can call on when they need a hand in Dwyane Wade’s face (or Ray Allen’s, or Joe Johnson’s), which is more than can be said of Korver, but Brewer lacks Korver’s touch from distance.
That’s why the Bulls were originally in the market for J. J. Redick, the Magic’s much-improved three-point shooter and a restricted free agent this offseason. For a time last week it was rumored the Magic would let Redick rejoin former Duke teammate Luol Deng in Chicago, but given Redick’s jump in production last season, it wasn’t surprising Orlando decided to match the 3-years and $19 million the Bulls offered.
Rotating Korver and Redick at the two spot would’ve given the Bulls a legitimate outside threat at all times, something they sorely missed last year, and will miss still this coming season while Brewer’s on the court. Derrick Rose’s game just begs for a couple of sidekicks he can hit on the perimeter after driving into the lane, but if coach Tom Thibodeau gives Brewer the starting nod, Deng would be Rose’s best (and maybe his only) option for those kick-out passes.
Of course none of these finer points would be under discussion had John Paxson and Gar Forman managed to woo a Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson-caliber player to the United Center. Either of those guys would’ve been hailed as a force of nature beyond reproach, and in their absence, the Bulls and their fan base are left to worry over every perceived crack the in team.
But before getting too caught up in the what-ifs and the free-agency buyer’s remorse, anyone following Chicago should keep in mind the very bright spots in the Bulls’ picture, of which I see at least three.
First, the Bulls have spent their money well, even wisely, something they haven’t done in the past. The latest example of this new trend was letting sentimental favorite Brad Miller go to the Rockets. Miller is a center and even with Omer Asik around, Chicago is thin at that position. But Miller is old—for comparison, he was born in 1976, and teams these days are drafting guys born in the nineties—and not worth $5 million per annum over three years, the figures Chicago had to beat. Better value can be had elsewhere
Second, free agency isn’t over. Names that still might appear on a Bulls jersey next year include Brown (Shannon) and McGrady (Tracy). Even better would be Josh Howard, a wingman with injury issues, but one who has averaged almost 20 points at his best, and is plenty young enough to return to form.
Howard, with his penchant for drug use and subversive leftist politics, has also ginned up his share of controversy, making him a candidate to fill the loose-cannon slot that’s been empty on Chicago’s roster since the team dealt Ron Artest in 2002.
Lastly, the Bulls are one of the NBA’s ten best teams now. How high they’ll go depends firstly on whether they sign another guy like Howard, and secondly on each fan’s personal tastes, but they are sure to be in the top ten overall, and probably top four in the east (behind Orlando, Boston, and though it hurts my heart to think it, Miami). If the Bulls can finish fourth in the conference, it would be the best they’ve done since 2005, and a heck of a lot more fun to watch than recent seasons, when they’ve duked it out for an eighth place finish and the chance to get bounced in the first round.