COMMENTARY | Valentine's Day is the time of year to let that special someone know exactly how you feel, and, if it wouldn't surely bring about tampering charges, the Chicago Bulls would be sending little candy hearts to five key free-agents-to-be that they hope to snuggle up to this summer.
The Bulls have a "Rose" they'd love to offer to each of these players, but, sadly, they will only have enough cap space for one.
Here are five free agents Chicago will be wooing this offseason:
There is nothing like reciprocated feelings, and, in the case of Carmelo Anthony and the Bulls, it seems both parties like what the other has to offer.
It will take some salary cap maneuvering to get within shouting distance of Melo's demands, but, if Chicago were able to team Anthony with a healthy Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Miami Heat's "Big Three" might have to find a new moniker.
Under Thibodeau, the Bulls have been a tough defensive team that has always been one great wing scorer away from truly being able to contend. Although defense is not his strong suit, Melo can score the basketball as good as anyone in the NBA.
You can't put a price on love, but Anthony will likely try to the tune of $20 million per year.
Forget the superficial notion of needing to be with the most attractive free agent on the market. The Pacers' young shooting guard isn't going to be at the very top of anyone's free agent list, but he is undoubtedly the best fit for Chicago's team concept and defense-first mentality.
In addition to upping his average to 14.1 points per game this season, Stephenson is averaging 7.3 rebounds a night, which is surprising given Indiana's two-guard is only 6-5.
As a player who is not afraid to slap the floor and lock someone down, Stephenson would fit better than Anthony on a team who lost their best on-ball defender (Deng) and still ranks No. 2 in points allowed (92.7).
Stephenson will demand considerably more than the $930,000 he will make this season, but he has not yet ascended to the point where he will require a max contract to sign.
They always fall for the bad boy, and, in the case of Rudy Gay, head coach Tom Thibodeau may finally be the one to settle him down, slap a necktie on him and make him presentable enough to bring home to meet the parents.
Gay is a dynamic scorer who cannot seem to hold down a job. Despite averaging 19 points per game, Gay has been traded in each of the past two seasons. The problem in pursuing Gay is that he has a player option worth $19.3 million with the Sacramento Kings next season. Don't expect him to opt out of that contract and settle for anything less in free agency.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. For Luol Deng, his quick fling with the Cleveland Cavalries has only worked to remind him just how good he had it in the loving embrace of the Chicago fans.
After spurning the Bulls' advances on a new three-year, $30 million contract offer, Deng was traded to Cleveland before he becomes a free agent this summer. An NBC Sports report recently cited Deng as telling friends of the Cleveland situation, "The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It's a mess." Deng even joked that maybe the Bulls would offer him three years, $30 million this summer to return to Chicago.
Oh how soon people forget about the good old days.
From 2008-2011, Granger averaged 23.5 points per game and was quietly becoming one of the top wing players in the entire league. Then, in 2012, the Pacers' 6-9 small forward suffered a left-knee injury that has plagued him ever since.
Granger might be a fixer-upper, but the Bulls and Thibodeau could be just the ones to turn this frog back into a prince -- and for considerably less than what Gay or Anthony will demand.
Dalton Russell is Chicago native and longtime follower of the Bulls. His championship expectations were irrevocably ruined by the Michael Jordan-led teams of the '90s and now impatiently awaits the next great chapter of Bulls basketball.
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