By Dan Bernstein–
It should make you feel better to know that John Paxson and Gar Forman are watching the same games we are.
From his perch in his United Center suite, Pax notices that one position is something of a nightly puzzle for Tom Thibodeau to piece together. The 48 minutes at that spot are currently handled by a shooting guard who cannot shoot, a shooting guard who cannot guard, and a shooting guard who can sometimes guard and sometimes shoot.
Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans, respectively, have done what has been asked of them. Each has added something to the winning mix so far.
Playoff ball is different, though, and we have now seen the multiple ways defenses have tried to slow Derrick Rose. With the frequent trapping Rose is seeing (the newfangled term is “blitzing” for hard double-coverage of the ball in screen-roll) it would be nice to have another guard on the floor who can create his own shot, defend adequately, get to the basket off the dribble, and at least demand attention from three-point range.
The NBA trade deadline is a week away. Phone calls are being made from the Berto Center, but the approach is measured and careful.
It is rare to have a locker room as galvanized behind a coach as that of the Bulls is behind Thibodeau, and Paxson is wary of messing with that. The most talented shooting guard available – by far – is Denver’s J.R. Smith, who was a Bull for a brief time a few years ago. Smith, though, is a class A, central casting, NBA knucklehead. I would be shocked if he returns.
Houston’s Courtney Lee would be a fit, but the most recent price would be Omer Asik, and centers who can defend are playoff commodities too valuable to give up. Anthony Parker of the Cavs is a possibility, and some still like the aging, expensive Rip Hamilton.
The best option, however, depending on what it would take to pry him away, is one steeped in irony.
We long criticized Paxson for overvaluing his initial group of first-round draft picks. He seemed to cling to a stubborn belief that the good-citizen-brigade of Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich (his beloved “core”) would become something more than just good players.
But when the Derrick Rose meteorite landed, everything changed. It was clear, again, what a potentially great player actually looked like. Gordon was moved to give Rose the ball. Then last summer’s free agent chaos changed the picture, and Hinrich was unloaded in an all-in move for cap space.
Now, Deng has become the ideal third guy everybody always thought he could be, and Hinrich — now a Washington Wizard — is just what the Bulls need. He can help at either guard spot, is a willing defender, can get his own shot, innately understands plays, and is a career 38% 3-point shooter. He would take to Thibodeau’s demanding, thorough approach without a peep, whether as a starter or heavy-minute reserve.
The problem may be the $8 million he is due next year, per the contract he received from…John Paxson.
Expectations are on the rise for a Bulls team that is proving hardier than many imagined. Joakim Noah is coming back soon, just in time to get reacclimated for the postseason.
We will soon get a better look at what Paxson thinks – whether it makes sense to shore up a mild weakness, and at what cost.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here.
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