Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Bench Mob 2: Bench Harder (& Worse)

Today, Gar Foreman confirmed that the Bulls will not match Houston's offer sheet to Omer Asik, making Asik a Rocket. This announcement came in the wake of moves that left Kyle Korver a Hawk, C.J. Watson a Net, and Ronnie Brewer a Knick. Taj Gibson is the only reserve player of note who will be on the team in both 2012 and 2013

Mat is obviously disheartened by the moves, which suggest that the Bulls aren't willing to spend big to surround the current roster with the best supporting pieces . Some say (including Foreman himself) that the Bulls are simply trying to maintain their financial flexibility; in a universe in which the well-over-the-tax Lakers acquired Steve Nash and are the frontrunners for Dwight Howard, that's a hard pill to swallow.

Mat tried justifying these moves as a necessary evil after accepting that hard truth. After all, if Reinsdorf isn't going to pay for a contender, you have to build the best team within those constraints. Watson ended up signing for the minimum once the Bulls waived him. Brewer will also likely sign for the minimum, as that's all the Knicks can offer. Korver, who was traded, had value as an expiring contract, but also probably would have seen a paycut had he hit free agency.

Mat is still upset about the loss of these guys since they were 1) under contract for only one year and 2) expiring contracts, broken into manageable salaries across three players. They're the type of filler used to balance a trade for a Great Player in a deal centered around assets (Nikola Mirotic, Bobcats pick) and rookie-contract players (Taj Gibson). The Bulls didn't create long or short-term flexibility by letting those three go. They actually reduced their flexibility for a one-year financial windfall.

Still, Mat thinks not matching Asik was a move the team had to make considering the Bulls' financial crunch. Asik was a great defender, but unless Foreman and Paxson thought he would be a better overall player than Joakim Noah, they couldn't afford to keep him. You can't set a limit on your spending and then pay a backup $8 million a year. A team that won't spend more than ~$74 million simply cannot spend $20 million on a position at which they do not have a superstar.

Picking up solid, uninspiring guys like Kirk Hinrich, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed and Marco Belinelli is the road the Bulls have to take. The bench will win fewer games for the team in the regular season, but the Bulls can't afford that luxury. And make no mistakes: it is a luxury. In the postseason, the bench won't be picking apart the Norris Coles and Juwan Howards of the world; when superstars are playing 40+ minutes a game, the strength that is the Bench Mob is all but neutralized.

It was an amazing unit to watch, and in a perfect world, they'd still be in Chicago. It's time to face facts, though: the Bulls have to find a way to best divide their regrettably limited resources. In building a championship contender, Mat believes they're best served concentrating those resources into a tighter, 7-8 man rotation.

Now, if you'll excuse him, Mat will spend the next 24 hours hitting "C.J. Watson", "Gimme the hot sauce", "Chicago's Finest Brew", "Asik and Destroy", and "C.J. Watson (excited)" in a steady loop while sobbing softly to himself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bulls Agree To Terms With Radmanovic

According to CSN's David Kaplan, the Bulls and Vladimir Radmanovic have come to terms on a new deal to bring the big Yugoslavian to Chicago.

Mat's not exactly thrilled about this one, but he has a hard time being upset about it.

Radmanovic isn't really a scoring threat aside from his stellar ability to knock down the three.  He's a career 38% three point shooter, but averaged just 4.5 points for the Hawks a year ago.

Knock down the occasional three, and he's on Mat's good side.  Get blown by on defense, you'll hear one of those patented Mat squeals.

Does he replace Korver?  No.  But the man can shoot.

The numbers are not available yet, but the expectation is that he gets the veteran minimum.  Therefore, this is a low risk move.

The Jimmy Butler Effect

Through 2 games in the NBA Summer League Jimmy Butler has been the star of the Bulls squad.

Tonight Butler amassed 24 points while grabbing 7 rebounds and was a tremendous 8-8 from the foul line.

He's been drawing thee point plays, he's been all over the glass, and he's doing a majority of the scoring while out there.

Butler is going to be a key guy for the Bulls this coming season.  Whith the former Bench Mob now almost completely depleted, Butler and Gibson will be the guys who are going to be expected to inject energy into the game as the second unit.

Mat would love to see Jimmy put the ball in the hoop a little bit more, like he's been doing in Summer League, to go along with his excellent defensive work.

Butler's offensive game is going to have a major effect on how successful the Bulls second unit is.  If he can't score, it's going to be all up to Taj. 

Butler has a chance to be a nice release valve for the pressure Gibson will carry while out there with the subs, if he can do it, you may be looking at a new, younger, version of the Bench Mob.

Mat expects a lot out of Jimmy this year, hopefully his expectations can be met.

CJ to Nets, JL3 to Raptors

Watson is headed to New Jersey, and it appears as though John Lucas III is close to a deal with the Raptors.

What does this mean to Mat?

We'll be seeing a lot of these guys in the coming years.

Both will fill in backup roles for their respective teams in the Eastern Conference, and both will likely be gunning for the Bulls each and every time they visit.

Mat was impressed with the professionalism both showed when they exited, but he knows deep down both guys would have loved to stay, and both were irked a little bit by the Teague pick.

Mat hates when players have vendettas against the Bulls.  All these guys are professional athletes, and are incredibly talented, but when you give them a little more to play for, they can become really dangerous.

Both guys will earn a standing O from Mat when they each return, but from then on, Mat hopes the Bulls are able to bottle them up like the Sixers did last May.

Preseason Schedule

The Bulls have released their preseason schedule which includes 7 games, 4 of which are at home and 2 that are neutral.

The entire schedule can be found here.

7 preseason games is not out of the norm, but Mat is quite surprised, and pleased, that none of them are further away than Minnesota.

Champaign, South Bend, Minnesota, and the UC. Not too bad.

Mat never puts too much stock into the preseason, and he will repeat this many times come October 9th when we tip it up for the first time, but he's happy to see the team will not be jetlagged to begin the year.

Most teams don't travel much during preseason.  But most teams do play more than 1 of their preseason games away from home.

The real news out of all of this, basketball is coming.  Just 83 days to go until Mat gets to see his beloved Bulls back in action at the United Center.


With the Asik offer soon to be officially signed, the Bulls have apparently begun trying to explore other options as a possible replacement should they choose not to match the offer.

The latest name is Darko Milicic.  Darko is the former 2nd overall pick of the Detroit Pistons and the kind of bust that is largely the reason why the Pistons are just now getting back into contention.

Milicic is a 7 footer who has bounced around the league with stops in Detroit, Orlando, Memphis, New York, and Minnesota.  Mat thinks he never found a home because he's never been good enough for the same team to offer him a contract twice.

Mat's not too keen to the idea of Milicic replacing Asik.  They are similar players today, but Omer's upside is much much greater.

Yes, Mat understands that the third year of Omer's contract will pay him ludicrous money, but for the first two, Omer is reasonanbly priced, and can only get better.

If the Bulls do decide not to sign the Asik offer sheet, Milicic is not the worst option in the world.  But if you were to put the two next to each other and let Mat pick, Omer's the man.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Plan 2014

Let's for a minute say the Bulls make the deal for Ridnour, sign the Asik offer sheet, and amnesty Boozer in 2 years.

That leaves the team with a very interesting cap situation come 2014.

They would essentially have enough to add another max level player to the mix to compete with Rose, Noah, and Taj.  (Mat leaves Deng's name off this list because he sees the other three as the Bulls true future.)

So, who's out there in 2014?  How about Zach Randolph?  Like the idea of a dominant post man playing along side Noah in the front court with Rose running the show?

What about Kevin Love?  He has an opt out clause in 2014.  Rose and Love in a pick and roll.  Mat's dreams don't even excite him as much as that.

Mat's terrified of the idea of testing the free agent waters again and possibly getting burned, but the thought of giving this team a chance for a year or two more, and then set up nicely for a big off season intrigues Mat quite a bit.

If you could guarantee Mat Z-Bo or Love along with Rose, Noah, and Gibson, he might be willing to do all that's necessary over the next two years, including possibly missing the postseason here or there, to make it happen.

But the fact is, free agency is never a sure thing, so Mat would rather see Gar and Pax keep Plan 2014 on the back burner and more of a fallback plan than the true direction the franchise is heading.

Korver for Ridnour Not the Best Idea

The latest rumors surrounding the Kyle Korver situation include the Bulls adding former Oregon standout, Luke Ridnour.

Mat is never fond of players that need to be described using their collegiate careers as it often means the player has not had much success in the league.

Luke Ridnour fits the bill.  He averages a respectable 9.9 points per game, but has never really lived up to being 14th overall pick quality.

Mat likes Ridnour's ability to knock down the occasional three (shoots 36% from three on career), and enjoys the idea of adding another guard who can play defense.

He also likes the fact that Ridnour would add yet another veteran presence to the squad without adding a ton of salary.  Ridnour signed a 4 year $16 million contract with the T-Wolves in 2010.  This means that his contract is set to expire in 2014, which as Mat's man KC Johnson says, "would jibe with the 2014 plan."

But Mat still thinks the Bulls are better suited hanging on to Korver instead of moving him for a player like Ridnour.  It would save a bit of money, but the loss of Kover's talents would outweigh what Ridnour brings to the table.

Kyle Korver Konundrum

Before Mat gets into what the Bulls may get in return on a possible move of Kyle Korver, he wants to explain why losing Korver would have a much different impact than Watson. Brewer, or Lucas.

The Bench Mob is gone.  We know that.  So it's now time to look at what that collection of players was, and see what kind of replacements are needed to fill in the void.

The way Mat sees it, the Bench Mob was a collection of energy.  They brought a passion for the game, and a passion for defending that shocked a lot of the Bulls opponents.

But what also came in when the second string hit the court was a killer three point shooter.  A skill that transcends energy.

Korver spread the floor and forced defenses to extend to cover the arc.  And what was nice about Kyle was that he was able to do this as part of that Bench Mob, but also with the starters.

Korver's skill is a somewhat rare one in this league.  Drop dead, knock down, three point shooters are not exactly a dime a dozen.  There are probably less than 10 of them in the NBA, so losing Korver would certainly hurt.

However, Mat grew frustrated at times when the offense would rely on Korver.  Kyle would become the focal point of the offense and it would sputter when the other team figured it out (which usually took less than one possesion).

So on that token, Mat believes the offense both with the starters and with the second unit might improve with Korver's departure.

However, the knowledge that we have a dominant long range shooter in the arsenal goes with him.  Which concerns Mat quite a bit.