While many Chicago Bulls fans are contemplating their team's numerous needs and salivating over absolutely unrealistic free agent targets, one player that should be affordable and would fill an immediate need is point guard Chauncey Billups.
A 15-year veteran, Billups, a former All-Star, is widely considered as one of the league's most consummate professionals. He led the 2004 Detroit Pistons to an NBA title and the finals the following year, and also helped the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks reach the playoffs.
In short, Billups is one of those rare guys that consistently raises the level of play from his team and teammates.
An excellent shooter, Billups has a career average of 15.5 ppg on 41 percent from the field, including an impressive 39 percent from deep. Despite his age, he played 30 minutes a game last season prior to being injured a third of the way through the season, averaging 15 ppg. He can create his own shot, has the strength to drive the hoop, and is an excellent passer.
Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of Billups' skill and leadership qualities comes from All-Star guard Chris Paul, who played with Billups last season and has said that getting Mr. Big Shot back in a Clippers uniform is his "top priority."
"(He) was the best backcourt mate I played with since I've been in the NBA," Paul told the Sporting News. "He just gave me so much confidence and made things so much easier for me."
That's just what the Bulls need in Derrick Rose's absence. Billups could start while Rose rehabs, and could even play alongside Rose, once he returns, much as did with Paul and the Clippers.
Additionally, Billups would also be an excellent mentor for the recently drafted Marquis Teague, who some experts believe would've been a Top 10 pick had he waited a year before entering the draft. Could there be a better teacher?
The only concern with Billups is that he's coming off a ruptured Achilles that sidelined him for most of last season. Recent reports, however, say his recovery is well ahead of schedule, and that he plans on being ready for the start of training camp in October.
While I haven't heard any "rumors" regarding Billups and the Bulls, management should take a long, hard look.
Sources: Chauncey Billups player profile, Yahoo; Clippers guard Chris Paul wants Chauncey Billups back in his backcourt, Denver Post.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan. He's followed the Bulls since 1969, when he tuned in after bedtime on a cheap dime store radio tucked under his pillow.