Could the Chicago Bulls Land J.J. Redick or Andray Blatche?
As the argument go on and on about what the future holds for the Chicago Bulls starting lineup, the front office certainly must think long and hard about what to do with the bench. NBA free agency figures to gut the unit they so craftily put together this season. Are there some players set to hit the market that might offer some help at the right price?
Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli not expected back
Everyone on the bench contributed to the unexpectedly successful run in the playoffs. Yet the two players that made the most impact were by far Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. The high energy and clutch shooting of both players was a driving force throughout the season for an already offensively challenged team playing without its star in Derrick Rose. Robinson brought the spark and the deceptively athletic plays while Belinelli supplied the rangy shooting. Bulls fans dearly want to see them come back so they can merge their effects with Rose but that doesn’t seem possible. Robinson used his one-year deal wisely, putting up great numbers all the way through the playoffs. At least two or three teams will offer deals Chicago simply can’t afford because of their own salary cap problems. The same goes for Belinelli. While he’s more affordable the Bulls know he too will draw special attention for his surprising season. Based on the outlook for next year, the team must pinpoint any free agency move carefully.
Andray Blatche could backup Joakim Noah with help from Tom Thibodeau
One name they have familiarity with is Andray Blatche. The Bulls saw him for seven games against the Brooklyn Nets as a backup center. While not overpowering in any sense, Blatche did show some ability. What makes him an attractive target are two keys. The first is Chicago needs a younger option on the bench at center. They lost Omer Asik to free agency last year and Nazr Mohammad is not expected back. Blatche, who is often criticized for his work ethic and lacking defensive effort, is still only 25-years old and could come at a cheap price. Secondly, Blatche does have value as an offensive threat. He averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds per game for the season and has a good jump shot the Bulls don’t have. Joakim Noah is the unquestioned leader in the front court and an All-Star center. He is also notoriously injury prone, battling plantar fasciitis in his foot that can knock him out for stretches during a season. While Blatche is not a long-term solution, he is competent enough to give Chicago some depth and a little extra boost in their offense. As to his defensive shortcomings and effort, head coach Tom Thibodeau has shown a knack for getting the most out of players. He will see what Blatche is really made of.
Redick can bring offensive help in replacing Rip Hamilton
The biggest name free agents are out of the question for the Bulls but there isn’t anything stopping them from at least considering a second tier player. A spot they could badly use some help is shooting guard. Veteran Rip Hamilton never lived up to his promise when the team signed him in 2011. Injuries and inconsistent production played a part in it. As he prepares to depart, it leaves a bothersome hole at shooting guard the team has struggled with for years. If there is a second tier name out there that can settle the position down and bring some help on offense, then the Bulls may consider a move. A man they have to keep an eye on is J.J. Redick. The 28-year old was a valued member of the Orlando Magic before helping the Milwaukee Bucks reach the playoffs this season. He averages 14 points per game along with fundamental defense and smart ball handling. Experts see him as a combo guard who overcomes athletic shortcomings with precise shooting and intelligence. His price may be a little high for Chicago but if his first interest is winning, then starting alongside Rose and Noah will only make him look better in the long run.
Chicago can’t rely on free agency to push them over the hump towards a championship. What they can do with it is fill one or two secondary needs while using the draft to accomplish the rest. It isn’t front page material, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.