COMMENTARY | NBA free agency is upon us and there are already whispers that the Chicago Bulls could be a major player, with big-named All-Stars on the cusp of switching teams. The rumor mill is swirling per reports that LaMarcus Aldridge has demanded a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers, and that Chicago was his No. 1 preferred destination of choice. Aldridge denied talks that he is looking to pull the ripcord from Rip City, but Chicago fans are hoping where there is smoke there is fire.
Contract Situations - In order for a trade to work, the money always has to line up. Luckily, in this situation, the outrageous deal the Bulls struck with Carlos Boozer could be an asset. Boozer's $15.3 million and Aldridge's $14.6 million make it possible to nearly have a player-for-player swap in terms of contracts, or even a seamless sign-and-trade to make the figures fit. Playing the math is always a big deterrent to potential NBA trades, so it is a good sign that it likely wouldn't be too big of a problem in this situation. If Portland doesn't find Boozer appealing, Loul Deng also has an expiring $14.2 million contract that the Blazers could covet even more.
Chicago Assets - Aldridge is the best player in this deal. His 21.1 ppg and 9.1 rebounds puts the Blazers' 6-foot-11 center in very elite big-man company. This is great news for whichever team ends up signing the two-time All-Star, but it also means that Portland may want more back in compensation. Luckily for Chicago, they have a lot of potential trade bait that will not affect their luxury-tax looming salary cap figure.
Draft Picks -- By now, most Bulls fans know that Chicago was the team that initially drafted Aldridge in 2006, but later shipped him to Portland in exchange for the rights to Tyrus Thomas. The only reason this move does not go down as the absolute worst trade in NBA history is the fact that Chicago was able to flip Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets for a first-round pick -- MJ rescues the Bulls again. Charlotte's pick is protected until 2016, meaning, unless the Bobcats suddenly have a franchise reemergence, the Bulls are likely sitting with a 2016 lottery pick at their disposal.
European Star -- The Bulls also have a big overseas asset in their talent cupboard. In 2011, the Bulls drafted a 6-foot-10 sharp-shooting forward from Real Madrid named Nikola Mirotic. The problem is that he makes more money in Europe right now than the salary-slotted No. 24 pick would pay. After next season, the Bulls can sign him to a much larger contract and bring him over to pair with Derrick Rose. Chicago is very high on Mirotic, and the comparisons he is drawing around the league may justify why.
Memphis Grizzles' power forward Zach Randolph compared Mirotic's skills to those of Dirk Nowitzki. "He remains me of Dirk, and a little bit of Gallo [Danilo Gallinari]…But I can see the Dirk comparisons. I can see why, definitely."
If the Bulls do not want to wedge their championship window open long enough to wait for Mirotic to arrive, they could send his rights to Portland, where his "stretch-4" style of play could fit their system better.
Sticking Points -- The Blazers previously suggested that they would want Joakim Noah if such as deal were to take place, but Chicago is unwilling (rightfully so) to part with Noah. The Blazers may not find Boozer or Deng attractive enough players to deal for.
The first-round pick is also something the Bulls may not want to part with. Chicago is going to be a contender for the foreseeable future. How often does a championship-caliber team also get a chance to pick up a potential franchise player in the draft lottery? Everyone assumes Kansas' incoming freshman Andrew Wiggins will be a one-and-done can't miss NBA lottery pick, but what if he does elect to stay in college a little longer? Chicago could be parting with a Wiggins lottery ticket if they were to use it in a package for Aldridge.
If the Bulls really want to put their championship eggs into the 2013-2014 basket, they have plenty of assets to make Aldridge a real possibility in Chicago next season. The Miami Heat looked extremely beatable, and was technically one defensive rebound away from getting taken down last season. A Bulls' team with an Aldridge-Noah front line would make them a very formidable challenger to Miami's three-peat bid.
Lucas Bowen is a professional second-guesser who specializes in the Chicago Bulls. After being spoiled with six NBA titles from MJ, Bowen has been eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Chicago excellence.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago Bulls
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Carlos Boozer