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The general consensus is Chris Bosh is the most likely free agent to leave, along with Amar’e Stoudemire and perhaps Joe Johnson. But the Knicks envision Bosh as only someone to accompany LeBron James and the presumption is the Bulls would try to gain more salary cap room to be able to sign Bosh as an attraction for James.
(Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)
With the 17th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls...
Will probably try not to use the 17th pick in the draft. That’s my sense for now, because if they don’t have the 17th pick, that means they probably traded it—and a player or two—for additional salary cap space to make a run at two top free agents.
This draft coming Thursday is going to be unusual, since, at least the Bulls at No. 17 and Miami at No. 18, are the most likely among others to try to move picks to keep from having to add that guaranteed first round salary and try to use the pick to get a team to also take one of their players to make themselves more attractive to free agents.
So if the Bulls use the pick, it might be a disappointment, though there’s also the possibility they could pick for another team with a deal to be completed later after a sign-and-trade.
It’s also most likely to be a spot in the draft where the Bulls hope someone falls through the cracks to them, as there are maybe 10 or 12 certain picks and a few guys who could slide, perhaps Cole Aldrich, Al-Farouq Aminu, Patrick Patterson or Xavier Henry. I’d take Henry if he did slide, though indications I’ve gotten lately is he’ll definitely be in the top 15.
So who do I think the Bulls will draft Thursday?
The envelope please: With the 17th pick in the NBA draft, the Bulls select… Elliott Williams of Memphis. There are gasps, including from me, as Williams has been the mystery man of the draft by not working out a lot, which usually suggests he’s gotten a promise somewhere. The Bulls don’t usually gamble on those kinds of guys, but those Memphis guards seem to work out well, and Williams is a noted hard worker and bulldog defender who’s drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook. The thing about this draft if the Bulls use the pick is they’ll be going for a good backup, especially at No. 17, and with Tom Thibodeau as the coach, I think the emphasis will be on a defensive player, which Williams will be and he can play some point guard.
As I’ve written, I feel the primary need is size, and though there’s no certainty until a guy signs, I’ve done more checking on Omer Asik and he’s not Dalibor or Chris Anstey Roberto Duenas or Tarlac. He’s a real athlete with tremendous size who makes fluid moves. If the Bulls add him, as expected, he should be a nice backup center if Brad Miller doesn’t return.
The Bulls figure to choose among perhaps a half dozen players at No. 17, and here’s the most likely who’ll be available and they could take at that spot:
-- James Anderson, Oklahoma State. He’s a shooting guard with range whom many have long penciled in for the Bulls and should be available. I’ve heard mixed reports about him, that he’s a safe pick without much ceiling, a solid guy who should be a rotation player off the bench. One GM I talked to likened him to Aaron McKie, though I think he’s a much better shooter.
-- Paul George, Fresno State. He’s another shooter, this time more at small forward, which is why many see him as a Bulls possible. But I don’t because of James Johnson. I believe the Bulls are committed to taking a hard look at Johnson this season after he didn’t play much last season and he is a wing player. I’ve seen Johnson of late and he’s lost a tremendous amount of weight and appears in great shape and I cannot see the Bulls bringing in someone at his position. I also think they should give Joe Alexander a shot at that spot.
-- Larry Sanders, VCU. He’s a long, athletic big man who can add to that size the Bulls seek, though the jury has been out on his motivation at times, and the Bulls are big on that so called “motor” skill of a guy who works hard.
-- Hassan Whiteside, Marshall. Another big time shot blocker and a big guy, but considered awfully raw and not ready and I don’t see the Bulls into much development at this point after this free agency summer.
-- Avery Bradley, Texas. I probably should not list him since most everyone believes he’ll be off the board by No. 17. There’s a slight chance he could slip through with some similar talents and guys moving up, namely Butler’s Gordon Hayward and Nevada’s Luke Babbitt. But he has that sort of Wade type explosiveness if not quite the same player and likened some to Monta Ellis with that head down scoring game and quickness.
-- Patrick Patterson, Kentucky. He’s definitely one who could get there whom some teams rank higher. He’s a three/four tweener with a game like Nocioni in the sense of more a jack of all trades forward, though not a great defender.
-- Damion James, Texas. Yes, he’s sort of a small forward, but more the tweener as well and not the kind of game like James Johnson. More like Shawn Marion with a lot of activity and rebounding ability, though just over 6-6 barefoot.
-- Solomon Alabi, Florida State. A seven-footer whose a bit raw and after the recent experiences of guys like Saer Sene and Hasheem Thabeet I don’t after further review see the Bulls going for him with Asik looking better.
-- Cole Aldrich, Kansas. He’s been penciled in at Utah at No. 9 and it makes sense as they had a shot at the Lakers if they had more size. He’s also the kind of guy who could slip as he’s more a mechanical big man and perhaps overrated at times. Though personnel guys insist there’s no way he falls as far as No. 17. Likewise, a big man like Ekpe Udoh, who is moving up faster and figures to go ahead of Aldrich.
-- Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky. Playing with John Wall you don’t get noticed much and don’t get a chance to play point, but it’s a backup position the Bulls don’t have if they deal Kirk Hinrich. It would be a reach as he didn’t play point guard with Wall around, though he is long for his size and explosive and the Bulls have looked for fast backup points in previous drafts without pulling the trigger as they liked other players better.
And, of course, it could be someone else. We’ll see in a few days.
Bosh: Centerpiece, not an addition
-- Perhaps the most difficult guy to figure in this 2010 free agency musical chairs is Chris Bosh. There’s a video running on NBA TV in which Bosh talks about 2010 free agency and says: “I don’t want to be mentioned as an addition to a team. I want to be mentioned as the guy people want to center their team around. I’m not an addition. I’m a centerpiece. I have to have that confidence in myself. I’m not somebody who helps. I’m the guy you get if (you say), ‘We’re going to win a championship. You’re going to take us there.’ Every kid who dreams of playing basketball doesn’t dream of being a role player. They dream of being, ‘the Man.'"
This was made with Toronto broadcasters, so it could also have been Bosh’s politically correct statement while still in Toronto as the general consensus is Bosh is the most likely free agent to leave, along with Amar’e Stoudemire and perhaps Joe Johnson. But the Knicks envision Bosh as only someone to accompany LeBron James and the presumption is the Bulls would try to gain more salary cap room to be able to sign Bosh as an attraction for James, though with Derrick Rose that would make Bosh a third option and nowhere close to ‘the Man.’ Perhaps more like a second cousin. What makes Bosh more difficult to read is he seems less driven to winning than many of the others given his relative acceptance about things in Toronto the last few years. So would he want to take a secondary or tertiary role to be with a winner, and then perhaps have to also take less money without a sign and trade? He hasn’t said much yet that would indicate he would. Though, in the end he is destined to be Robin somewhere.
LeBron feeling Minnesota?
-- So how would LeBron fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves? I know, I laughed, too. But then I was told it wasn’t such a funny idea, which suggests even more so that this recruitment of James is going to take even more forms than we imagined possible.
The talk is the Timberwolves intend to be very aggressive with their cap space and not accept some veteran or modest talent under the assumption no free agent would go there. As it was pointed out to me, Brett Favre went there because it was a better chance to win. And Favre left New York to go to Minnesota, whose sports teams, including the Twins, have a successful track record and supportive fan base.
The thinking goes like this: The Timberwolves have three firsts and seem willing to part with Al Jefferson, a post up inside player, or Kevin Love. Say Jefferson is in greater demand because he is a bigger scorer. They offer Jefferson and their three firsts, including No. 4, to Denver for Carmelo Anthony. Denver has an aging group with Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups and likely is headed down. Here’s a chance to recoup fast at a time they easily could lose Anthony in a year. So they get a potential star center and a top five pick to build a better core. And maybe pick up something for their veterans as they seem to have peaked. And Minnesota has Jonny Flynn, Love, Darko Milicic and Corey Brewer and goes for LeBron and even maybe works a sign and trade by getting Ricky Rubio to the Cavs and also LeBron out of the conference. Far fetched? Sure, but you never say never in the NBA, and perhaps more significantly, it suggests the bidding for James is hardly going to be among just the four or five teams who gutted their rosters for cap room.
And then there’s the Lakers…
-- I’ve long mentioned LeBron as a possibility for the Lakers, and you already hear rumbles of Andrew Bynum being available. Of course, he’s had injury problems, but he is a real center and post player, a rarity in this NBA. Bosh has been rumored to L.A., also, with Bynum a sign and trade possibility. But in watching the Lakers win the championship, many things stood out. Namely, in the end, it was a risky acquisition, Ron Artest, who made the difference, and there’s a need for a point guard and scoring even though Derek Fisher hit some big shots once again. But he is 36 in August.
So could/would the Lakers put together something for Gilbert Arenas? We hear all this stuff now how the new Wizards owner is becoming close with Arenas, but the Wizards know they will never get the most out of No. 1 pick John Wall as long as Arenas and his monstrous personality are around. They’d love to move on. Certainly the biggest obstacle for anyone is those four big years left on his deal.
If I were the Lakers, I’d go for LeBron or Bosh. But if Kobe did not want that kind of ego and personality around, Arenas may make sense. He is from L.A., he’s been a huge scorer in the league at point guard and really is more a tweener guard, which fits Phil Jackson’s two guard front in the triangle. Jackson’s never needed a classic, true point guard. Just to get rid of Arenas and his money, you figure the Wizards would take some combination of Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton and a sign-and-trade for someone else, maybe even Lamar Odom. Maybe even have the owner drive Arenas there. No one’s better dealing with troubled players than Jackson and Arenas puts 20 more points into the game. Now Fisher can come off the bench in fewer minutes, which would fit better. And now you keep Bynum, which gives them size and more scoring.
What about Bosh?
-- While I’m at it, what about this one for Bosh? Though I’ve heard teams like the Nets will make a run at Chris Paul hoping to shake him loose with new ownership and cheaper guards like Darren Collison, the larger speculation is the Hornets might move Collison. If Toronto is going to lose Bosh, a sign-and-trade involving David West and Collison would look awfully good for the Raptors, who are said to be looking for a point guard and are interested in moving Jarrett Jack. That would enable them to replace Bosh and upgrade with a young point guard, a win for the Raptors. Of course, the key would be getting Bosh to go to New Orleans. No, he wouldn’t be the No. 1 guy. But he would be the No. 1 scorer as Chris Paul is one of those players who makes teammates much better and makes you a better scorer. Maybe that appeals to Bosh. Again, he may be the toughest one to figure as Houston also is said to be a contender and could present a Yao/Bosh front line with a top coach and strong backcourt of Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin.
-- And then there’s what may be shaping up as the most likely destination for Bosh, Cleveland. If there is any so-called free agency summit it’s not going to involve Dwyane Wade because everyone pretty much knows he’s set in Miami and wants the full max deal, which Miami won’t help him get with a sign and trade. LeBron isn’t playing with him, and if you pair up with someone, it may as well be LeBron. Though the big issue for Bosh also appears to be a sign and trade. There’s really no one in Miami as Toronto has zero interest in Michael Beasley. But a Joakim Noah-like center in Anderson Varejao appeals a lot more to the Raptors, who want to play around their stretch four, Andrea Bargnani. There are combinations that would make sense for the Raptors, like perhaps unloading Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack and getting Mo Williams. Would LeBron, Bosh, Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson and Shaq be enough? I guess first things first for the Cavs, which is trying to retain LeBron. There also is said to be interest from their common agent agency to pair up, and not in someplace like New York with a decimated roster and neither with a sign and trade and thus maximum contract. As we get closer, the possibilities only get larger.
-- As for Tom Izzo, he decided against the Cavs, but told Dan Patrick on his radio program he believes LeBron will stay. Of course, then why didn’t he take the job? Said Izzo: "I think he's going to look at it very honestly. He's probably going to get tugged by the same thing I'm getting tugged by. I think in the end he will (stay), but I do not have any idea."
Del Negro back out East?
-- There was speculation of Springfield, Mass. native Vinny Del Negro in the Celtics coaching mix if Doc Rivers leaves, which, by the way, would be a pretty good idea after this improbable run with a quickly aging team. Doc’s value never has been higher, and he’ll be the top candidate for every job after a year out. Anyway, it would seem the speculation about Vinny might make more sense as Suns general manager as he was personnel chief there before leaving to coach the Bulls. If not Vinny, then how about Jim Paxson, the former Cavs GM who drafted LeBron (I know, not too tough), but also got someone to take Shawn Kemp’s contract. Paxson is a Bulls consultant now, but lives full-time in Phoenix and has the experience in rebuilding, which the Suns figure to soon need. And the big reason why is the Suns’ recent history of trying to save money likely is about to catch up with them. In 2007, they gave the Super Sonics their 2008 first, which then Seattle used for Serge Ibaka, and this year’s first so the Sonics would take Kurt Thomas so the Suns could save $16 million in luxury tax money. Look, I cannot argue that much with that kind of money involved. The Suns got a trade exception but didn’t use it while the Sonics took Thomas in a trade exception. Just after Robert Sarver took over after a top of the market $400 million purchase, the Suns gave the pick they got from the Knicks in the Stephon Marbury deal to the Jazz for the Jazz taking Tom Gugliotta’s $11 million contract. The pick is No. 9 this year for the Jazz. And there was Rajon Rondo, selected in 2006 by the Suns, who didn’t want the first round guaranteed salary on the books and traded him to Boston for a 2007 first, which was used for Rudy Fernandez. The Trail Blazers bought that pick for cash. That’s not a bad future core the Suns could have had with Rondo or Fernandez, Ibaka and two firsts this month, including No. 9.
In Dad's defense
-- I admit these were sent to me as I don’t read twitters, which should surprise no one. But it is a credit to Michael Jordan, as well as wife, Juanita, who mostly raised the kids, the way Jordan’s sons rallied to dad’s defense, as if he needed it, with all the Kobe is better talk now, which basically only exists in the smug Los Angeles media. Wrote Marcus: “NO ONE…And I mean NO ONE should EVER com par kobe Bryant to my dad an say that he is anywhere near close to my dad He’s jagging this game." Later he added, "Don’t get me wrong Kobe is one of the best in the league…. Just no where near my dad…good game right here tho.” Jeffrey remarked on his twitter how Kobe mimicked Michael’s standing on the scoring table and facing the fans pose, which he did after title No. 2 in Chicago, the first one won at home. I’ve got to say it’s a heck of a nice Father’s Day tribute from your kids to have that kind of support.