Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Sam Smith has always been realistic....compared to Peter Vescey

My Man Sam(tm) had one of his trademark wacky Monday columns, but this time he tempered his enthusiasm for 'helping' the Bulls. No talk of Kobe Bryant coming here for Tyson Chandler and a sack of magic beans. But was his most recent proposal as 'realistic' as he claimed? I'll do a good, old fashioned fisking.

First, we need some definitions. You may have read about "changing the culture." What that means is: "We want different players other than those named Kirk Hinrich." And it's probably time. After all, Scott Skiles is the Bulls' third coach in less than three years, and nothing is different. There's probably not a less competitive team in the NBA, with the possible exception of Orlando.

I gotta agree with him here, as much as it pains me to say. The Bulls haven't even had their trademark late-season surge, which usually is the case thie time of the year when the games don't matter. But that's undoubtedly the cause of giving away minutes from Crawford, Chandler and E-Rob for the likes of Jannero Pargo and Paul Shirley. But the fact that the Bulls haven't been competitive in these games really don't matter, just as it turned out them beating up teams at the end of last season didn't matter either.

That said, I also believe the Bulls are not that far away, and it might not be that difficult to make the jump. I am holding off, though, on my third consecutive playoffs prediction in the last three years.The Bulls need a perimeter shooter to spread the floor, a wing player and a go-to scorer who can draw a double team. And I have a realistic plan.

I'm with Sam again here, and like him I also was predicting playoffs. Now as far as what they need, technically all three of those things can be done by one player. But that would take somebody special that is unlikely to be be attained(although I will be proposing scenarios soon). I would like to add that the wing player needs to be a good defender. The kind of guy who can guard talented counterparts in the East like Carter, Pierce, T-Mac, and that LeBron guy. The lack of a perimeter shooter has really killed the team this year, and while Hinrich and Crawford are decent shooters, both are very inconsistent from long range. And as far as a go-to scorer? Again...the 'plan' was for that to be Crawford or Curry. Depending on your sense of optimism, you can see how that player may have to be brought in from the outside.

So Sam, how's it gonna go down?

The Mavs need to reduce the scoring logjam and get tougher. They've allowed 13 different players to score their career highs against them this season.

So here's deal No. 1: Jamison and Eduardo Najera for Tyson Chandler and Antonio Davis. The Mavs add a young, defensive-oriented big man, plus Davis, who doesn't need shots and who has two fewer years on his contract than Jamison, which gives them flexibility for the future. The Bulls get a big-time scorer in Jamison (back-to-back 50-point games once) who can finish games, along with a hustling role player thrown in, though that's negotiable if the Mavs want to insert someone else.


I love the idea of trading Davis for Jamison, especially since I think Dallas would consider it. Dallas would save financially, and get a guy who can defend for 25 minutes or so a game. As I've said before, AD really doesn't have what he used to, but is a valuable asset if you limit his minutes. The Bulls are simply are depending on too much from him. Jamison plays the 3, but he spends most of his offensive time in the paint area.  I'm not sure he is the wing player that is needed, but at the least he's a dependable scorer. In fact, I don't even see how Chandler is needed for this deal to happen. and the fact that he's even included in this deal shows how low Smith appraises his value. Now how does that wing player come?

 Deal No. 2 is with the Timberwolves. They're in trouble, in case you haven't noticed, having lost eight of their last 15. They're sliding out of the Midwest Division lead and perhaps into another first-round playoff exit. And it's clear they have a chemistry problem with Wally Szczerbiak averaging nine points off the bench, unable to replace Trenton Hassell in the starting lineup.

Szczerbiak is on the books for five more years at an average of $11 million for a team paying the luxury tax. It's clear he doesn't fit there anymore, but he can with the Bulls as a hard-working, catch-and-shoot three-point threat.

So the Bulls get Szczerbiak and give Jamal Crawford to Minnesota, and I'll bet the T'wolves will take Eddie Robinson, who has just two years left on his deal compared with Szczerbiak's five. The Bulls also would throw in the maximum allowable $3 million to ease Minnesota's financial burden and agree to exchange first-round draft picks in 2005, which would give Minnesota a higher pick.

Anytime you're basing the possibility of a deal on the fact that you need to make time for Trenton Hassell...it automatically can be labeled as far-fetched. That said,  the financial implications of the deal would have Wolves GM Kevin McHale at least listening. And while Jamal has his faults, as a 3rd or 4th option on the Timberwolves he could flourish as someone simply put out there to score. Oh, and you get rid of E-Rob, which is nice. So how do these deals leave the Bulls for next season?

So here are your 2004-05 Bulls: Curry, Hinrich, veterans Szczerbiak and Jamison, who are both 27, and the No. 1 draft pick, which ideally would be Emeka Okafor. If the Bulls don't get Okafor, they could easily pick up a role-playing free-agent big man like Boston's Mark Blount.

The Curry-Chandler-Crawford anchor is no more, finally. These moves change the character of the team and address deficiencies while providing needed support to take the pressure off Curry. They make sense for the teams involved. And they bring about my third annual playoff prediction.

This starting 5 certainly is promising, and would have a more consistent offense than the one on the floor now. Sam did a good job working within the means of the salary cap and reality, the latter a realm he usually is beyond. There are problems with this plan though. Both Jamison and and Wally are sub-par defenders at their position, and lets not forget the shortcomings of Eddy Curry on that end of the floor. Emeka Okafor would help with his shotblocking and rebounding abilities, but that's a ton of pressure on a rookie. So while this new team would be an improvement, the chances of it becoming a championship team is STILL hinged on Eddy Curry becoming a superstar. Sam isn't so optimistic about that:

Yes, I'm keeping Eddy Curry. The problem really isn't so much Curry as the team he's on. So what if he scores 14 points in the first quarter and four more the rest of the game? They still count. Yes, it has gotten so bad I'm sympathizing with Curry. The problem is the Bulls want him to be something he isn't, so they're disappointed. He's a nice third offensive option who isn't a fourth-quarter scorer. Take what he can give you, and look elsewhere for what he can't.

 "a nice third offensive option"? The man(er...kid) averages 14pts and 6 rebounds in 28 minutes a game. He's 7 feet tall and 21 years old. Lets wait a little longer before we pigeonhole his (and Chandler's for that matter) niche in the league. I'm not saying that he's shown that he's destined for stardom, I'm simply saying its way to early to determine that he'll never get there. I still have faith in him becoming a #1 option. And no matter how many "realistic" deals Sam or me or me or anybody else come up with, Curry needs to become a star for a 7th banner to hang from the rafters.