The league is in some serious trouble if reports turn out to be true and the Miami Heat are restructuring the contracts of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in order to make salary cap room to add Carmelo Anthony to the mix. Not only would that trade be unfortunate for every team in the NBA (except the Heat), Chicago fans would be greatly disappointed that the Bulls missed out on another big name free agent who plays the small forward position.
For the last five years, Derrick Rose has needed a strong number two player who can create his own shot. In my head, I’ve always pictured it being a small forward. Currently at the small forward position, The Chicago Bulls have Ronnie Brewer and Mike Dunleavy signed for the 2014-2015 season. Dunleavy is a reliable veteran and Brewer contributes when he gets playing time but the Bulls definitely need a major upgrade at the small forward position. There are several small forwards available this summer in free agency and I think a few of them would be a good fit for the Bulls.
If the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer, they will be sitting at approximately $11 million under the salary cap. If they don’t amnesty Boozer… next season is going to be miserable. But let’s not think about that and go back to a world where Boozer is amnestied and the Bulls are sitting at $11 million under the cap.
Hypothetically, the Bulls could re-sign Augustin and Hinrich which will cost at least $4 million. Then they’ll sign a backup center at another $1 million (I may be overestimating, but I always do when it comes to money just to be safe). Next, the Bulls will eat up about another $1.5 million filling out the rest of the roster excluding one small forward signing. That would give the Bulls approximately $4.5 million to sign a small forward and still remain right around the salary cap. For about $4.5 million dollars, the Bulls could sign several small forward free agents this summer.
At the top of the list would be Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz. I estimate the Bulls could sign Hayward and his 2014-2015 salary would be $4 million or less. Hayward is a hard working player with very high basketball intelligence. He also averages about 16 points per game which would give the Bulls a nice additional offensive weapon.
I also would suggest possibly signing Trevor Ariza. He may be a ten-year veteran but this guy can still contribute to a team. For example, he looked pretty good in the first round of the playoffs this year when Ariza’s Wizards beat the Bulls in five games. I imagine with some good contract structuring, the Bulls can get Ariza for around $4.5 million for the 2014-2015 season.
Danny Granger is another small forward that is available this summer. The big problem with Granger is that his salary is way too high in my opinion. Considering his injury history and his poor performance with the Clippers, Granger is not worth anywhere near the $13 million he was paid in the 2013-2014 season. And on top of that, the Bulls need a scoring threat and Granger only averaged 8.2 points per game last season. The only way I could see Granger working on the Bulls is if he somehow realizes his monetary worth and signs for something around $6 million.
Luol Deng is also a free agent this summer. I still get sad thinking about Deng being traded away. As someone pointed out in my last article, the cap space the Bulls will have in the 2014-2015 season is only available mostly because they got rid of Deng’s large contract, so I get why they made the move. But unfortunately the Bulls gave up an extremely valuable small forward, which they are definitely in need of. And sure, now they have all that free space in the cap because Deng is gone, but they are going to have to re-invest that money anyway this summer just to get a small forward hopefully comparable to Deng.
There’s nothing more I would love than to see Deng sign with the Bulls again this summer, but there is no way he’s taking any less than $10 million, and he deserves at least that much. Hopefully the Bulls won’t disrespect Deng by offering him some low figure contract with the hope that he’ll want to come back and win a championship with Noah, Rose, Thibodeau, and the gang.
The Bulls have a perception of being cheap at times, but the Reinsdorf family is not afraid to spend. This season, the Bulls had the sixth highest salary in the NBA. If the Bulls are looking to get totally wild and out of control, they could break the bank, commit to paying the luxury taxes, and sign one of two huge name small forwards.
Sacramento King’s small forward Rudy Gay will be a free agent this summer. If the Bulls are willing to pay him somewhere around $15 million, they could have him on the team for the 2014-2015 season. Gay’s 20 points per game would no doubt be a huge help to the Bulls.
Finally I’ve come to the top small forward free agent of the summer; Carmelo Anthony. Everyone knows Carmelo’s benefits on the offensive side of the ball and he would definitely bring additional excitement and star power to the Bulls franchise. But on the other hand, people worry about his lack of defensive effort and wonder if he would fit in Tom Thibodeau’s system. I can see how he may not totally buy into the Thibodeau style, but having Carmelo on any team is almost always a huge advantage. In the end, Thibodeau would just have to live with Carmelo’s lack of defensive effort and be happy he’s putting up an average of 24 points a night.
A starting five of Rose, Noah, Butler, Gibson, and Anthony sounds pretty formidable to me. Of course every team in the NBA is going to be sending an offer Carmelo’s way this summer. If he does choose the Bulls, they’ll be paying him at least $20 million dollars in the 2014-2015 season. The Carmelo signing would be difficult and would also most likely require trading players and giving up future draft picks.
There is one more fellow by the name of LeBron James who also happens to be a free agent this summer. Many people believe LeBron will stay with the Heat, but considering their loss to the Spurs in the finals, LeBron may just be looking for a change of scenery. Getting LeBron James would be the ultimate coup for the Bulls this summer. I don’t even want to speculate what the Bulls would have to pay and give up to sign LeBron this summer.
So there you have it, the Bulls options this summer at small forward as far as free agents are concerned. Considering that five of the last six NBA MVPs have played the small forward position, I’d say the position is one the Bulls definitely need to address.