The NBA’s moratorium on player transactions has been lifted, but with verbal agreements in place, the free agency period is wrapping up quickly. Star players Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith have locked up deals, but there is talent in the free agency pool that is still unsigned.
It’s been mostly quiet on the Chicago Bulls front excluding the first two days of free agency. The Bulls grabbed sharp shooter Mike Dunleavy Jr. for two years, $6.2 million, retained enforcing big man Nazr Mohammed for the vet minimum and bought out the ailing Richard Hamilton for $1 million. The Bulls also let fan favorite Marco Belinelli jet to the San Antonio Spurs and still await the fate of Nate Robinson. On Tuesday, Chicago also officially signed the No. 20 pick in the draft New Mexico swingman Tony Snell and the No. 49 pick Florida stretch four Erik Murphy. Chicago has already used their mini mid-level exception on Dunleavy, leaving only the $5.1 trade exception from the Kyle Korver trade (which they are unlikely to use) and the vet minimum to offer for the remainder of the off-season.
With 12 players currently on their roster, the Bulls might decide to spend the vet minimum on a center to backup Noah or look for some extra help at point guard or on the wing. If Chicago decides to go that route, here are some of the most realistic free agent options that are still available:
Nate Robinson- Good news: The Bulls can offer Mr. Excitement a 20% pay raise with the Non-Bird exception. Bad news: Robinson only made the vet minimum of $1.1 million last season, so a $200,000 pay raise won’t exactly entice him. Robinson led Chicago with a career-high 141 three-pointers made and was their spark plug offensively with Rose out. His 34 point explosion in Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets will play on Bulls highlight reels for years to come. If the Bulls let major playoff contributors Robinson and Belinelli walk this off-season with only Dunleavy to show for it would be difficult to call this a successful off-season.
John Lucas III- With Robinson likely out of the Bulls price range, JLIII provides the perfect cheap replacement. Lucas can’t shoot it like Robinson, but he’s shot 37.7% and 39.3% respectively from downtown the last two seasons. Like Robinson, Lucas is a deadly shooter off screens, ranking 24th in the league in points per play off-screens and he can create offense for himself, ranking 32nd in isolation plays last season. Unfortunately Lucas mirrors Robinson on the defense end as well, ranking 451st in the league defensively last season. As a Bull in 2011-2012, Lucas held opposing point guards to a 7.7 PER, so there’s a slimmer of hope he can bring it on the defensive end if he rejoins Chicago.
Metta World Peace- The Artest formerly known as Ron will also be formerly known as a Laker soon. The team plans to use the amnesty clause on the remaining $7.7 million of World Peace’s contract. Only teams under the cap can bid on amnesty players, but if World Peace clears waivers, the Bulls are on his short list of preferred destinations. Metta World Peace is a pretty ironic name for him as his style of play and personality is anything but peaceful. He is a madman that has some screws missing, which will definitely scare off some potential suitors. If teams look over his wildcard demeanor, he’s a tough-minded defender that isn’t afraid to bang with the best of them and fight for position. According to 82games.com, the Lakers were 3.7 points better with World Peace on the court and were 3.3 points worse with him off the court. His +7 net on court vs. off court was the best on the Lakers—and they have a guy named Kobe on the roster. If World Peace is willing to take the vet minimum and buy into Thibodeau’s system he would make a perfect fit.
Ronnie Brewer- Brewer was once a member of the Bulls now departed Bench Mob along with Lucas. Last season wasn’t Brewer’s best as he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and never really recovered. After starting 34 games with the New York Knicks, Brewer was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and he could never really stick in the rotation. Brewer started 45 games in two seasons for Chicago—a two-year stretch where the Bulls led the NBA in regular season wins. Brewer is a huge small forward that can handle the ball and give Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng a rest from defending the LeBron’s and Wade’s of the league. Brewer already knows Thibs system and could thrive in a more limited role than in his previous Bulls tenure.
Elton Brand- I promise Brand will wrap up my former-Bulls discussion. After being amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers after the 2011-2012 season, Brand has enjoyed the transition from an overpaid, washed up star to a surprisingly effective defensive stopper. Brand uses his long 7’5” wingspan to block shots (1.3 bpg in only 21.2 mpg) and terrorize players in the post. Brand is still effective with his back to the basket and he can hit open jumpers. He can play both power forward and center and he’d provide a more capable backup to Noah. Brand has interest from several teams and might command more than the Bulls have to offer.
Samuel Dalembert- Like Brand, Dalembert is far from the player he used to be—but he’s still effective. Dalembert had an 18.6 PER in 47 games with the Milwaukee Bucks last season and averaged a career-high 16.4 points per 40 minutes and close to a career best 14.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. He’s a mobile big man that can run the floor and use his length on defense, but he doesn’t have the same effort he used to have on that end. He would still be considered an upgrade over Mohammed but might ask for more than the vet minimum.
It’s been a slow, even painful process for Bulls fans who hoped the team would wheel and deal this off-season, but the fact is Chicago seems content where they are. With a healthy Rose, Deng, Boozer and Noah the Bulls are 50-9 in the regular season—but only 10-7 in the playoffs. Whether these off-season additions will change that remains to be seen.
*Statistics Provided by Synergy Sports and 82games.com*