While it might not carry the excitement and intensity of the summer of 2010′s free agency bonanza, Monday opens up the 2011 free agency period, as teams can begin talking to free agents.
Of course, the Bulls are one of the more popular teams in discussing free agency, simply because they’re the type of team that is just looking for a piece or two in order to compete for a championship.
The fact that the Bulls were so close last year makes their desire to add that much more evident, as they may have just been some secondary scoring away from turning their series loss to the Miami Heat into a serious bout.
Obviously, the biggest issue for the Bulls is that secondary scoring, mainly at shooting guard. Chicago is searching for someone that can take some of the pressure off of Derrick Rose, mainly at the two-guard, and create their own opportunities.
We’ve heard some pretty big names get passed through the list since last summer, but it doesn’t appear as if the Bulls are going to be able to afford anyone major, not that there are too many outstanding options out there on the free agent market. Nonetheless, there are plenty of options that do make sense for the Bulls as they attempt to find that secondary scorer to add to the backcourt.
As of right now, the most attractive option appears to be Arron Afflalo of the Denver Nuggets. He’s a restricted free agent, but also a perfect fit for the Bulls. He’s a strong shooter, particularly from beyond the arc, but plays outstanding defense, which is obviously a necessity to survive under Tom Thibodeau.
What prevents Afflalo from being almost a sure bet to land with the Bulls is his status as a restricted free agent. The Nuggets could, and likely would, match any offer that any team lays out for Afflalo. However, there are reports that the Bulls are exploring the possibility of a sign-and-trade. So there’s that.
There’s also Jamal Crawford. Crawford logged over 30 minutes a game for the Atlanta Hawks last season, averaging over 15 points, but shooting barely over 42 percent from the field. There are also questions about his play on the defensive end, which presents an issue for the Bulls.
The other two names that keep popping up are that of Caron Butler and Nick Young.
Butler has been working out in Chicago and has made no secret of his desire to join the Bulls. He ruptured his patella tendon on New Year’s Day last season and did not see action after that. He’s certainly a capable scorer, only averaging less than 15 points per game once in his 10-year career, though his health is certainly an issue.
Young is one of the more intriguing names out there, but he also holds his status as a restricted free agent. Most reports say that the Washington Wizards will match almost any offer that Young receives, but the Bulls are expected to be among those interested. He averaged 17 points a game last season and has shown he has that ability to create his own shot, but his agent has made it pretty clear he’s not in any hurry to leave Washington.
In the “seasoned” department, names like Jason Richardson, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter have all come up. How much the latter two could contribute is a major question and likely one the Bulls aren’t willing to answer. Richardson is a definite possibility, if the Bulls can afford him.
The Bulls have plenty of choices available out on the market. What it’s going to come down to is money. The Bulls don’t have a ton to spend, and unless they get creative with a sign-and-trade, they might not get the guy they truly want, and might have to settle with a less attractive options. Should they go the sign-and-trade route, such as in the case of Afflalo, Ronnie Brewer is a candidate to play basketball elsewhere in 2011-12.
In addition, there’s also the question of whether or not the team will bring back Keith Bogans for the season. His production was limited, offensively, but his defense and locker room presence were a great addition to the team. I’d love for the Bulls to bring him back as a bench guy, if they can afford it. Don’t forget about this summer’s draft pick, Jimmy Butler, either, as he’s expected to contribute.
Regarding that hole at the two-guard, the Bulls have at least one big question to answer before they open their season in Los Angeles. But the fact that they return most of their lineup from last season intact, an advantage that many teams will not have when the new season begins.
Don’t expect any major courtships like we saw last season, but all signs point to the Bulls adding at least one scoring presence at some point in the coming weeks. You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out who that is.