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2303286, The One Free Agent the Chicago Bulls Must Land This Offseason
Posted by dula dos pistolas, Sun Mar-02-14 04:30 PM
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1977360-the-one-free-agent-the-chicago-bulls-must-land-this-offseason

The One Free Agent the Chicago Bulls Must Land This Offseason
By Kelly Scaletta, Featured Columnist
Mar 1, 2014

Strap on your fake Chicago Bullsí GM hat and pretend you need to sign one free agent this offseason. Who is it going to be? While many are going to propose Carmelo Anthony, allow me to introduce a better alternative: Lance Stephenson.

I understand the thought that the Bulls need a second superstar to help Derrick Rose carry the team. I get the appeal of Anthony. Heís a great player. Over the last two seasons, the only three players with a higher player efficiency rating (PER) than Anthonyís 25.0 are LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. (http://bkref.com/tiny/a6O6o)

In a perfect world, where the Bulls could just add Anthony to the roster without any subtraction, itís a great idea to bring him on board. But thatís not the case. There would be a heavy cost to acquire him.

Stephenson would meet all the needs the Bulls have, fit better in the Bulls system and come at a much cheaper price.

This is a case where Plan B needs to be promoted over Plan A.

...

How Stephenson Meets the Bulls Needs

During the Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks broadcast, February 27, on TNT, Steve Kerr initiated a discussion that Joakim Noah is now a top-10 player in the league. The other broadcasters agreed.

On February 28, Sekou Smith, who compiles NBA.comís Race to the MVP Ladder (http://www.nba.com/mvp-ladder) had Noah in the 10th spot for the second week in a row, saying,

"The Bulls have won seven of their last eight games with Noah driving them from end to end. He's the backbone of this franchise now, having assumed that leadership role during what has been a trying time for Derrick Rose, the franchise, the entire city of Chicago and the legion of Bulls fans worldwide. Noah does whatever the Bulls need him to do -- scoring, rebounding, defending, blocking shots. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows that Noah helped keep this team together after the Luol Deng trade and acknowledges that Noah has become its driving force."

Noah is literally in the discussion as a top-10 player in the league. One can debate whether he *should* be or not, but he is being discussed. That makes him a star.

No, what the Bulls ďneedĒ is not a ďsecond star.Ē They have two stars. Their need is a second ďscorer.Ē

The two things are not synonymous. Anthony is a star because heís a great scorer. Noah is a star in spite of the fact that heís not a scorer. Stephenson is not a star, but heís a solid scorer, particularly where the Bulls need helpóa second player who can handle the ball, create shots and get to the rim.

This one table convinced me Stephenson was the best way to go. Look at what Anthony does inside the restricted area in comparison to Stephenson.

Carmelo Anthony vs. Lance Stephenson Inside the Restricted Area

Player | FG | FGA | FG% | Asstd | Unasstd

Carmelo Anthony | 157 | 272 | 0.577 | 50 | 107
Lance Stephenson | 175 | 251 | 0.697 | 70 | 105

If one just looks at production, Stephenson is actually better at the rim than Anthony. He is more efficient and just as good at getting there on his own. He has more assisted field goals, nearly as many unassisted ones (heís tied for 10th in the NBA) and has a higher field-goal percentage.

And, for those who think that stats donít tell you everything, hereís the visual.

Lance Stephenson's "Houdini" Ball Fake and Score : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KxRF6L8bOw
Play of the Day Nov 23, 2012 - Lance Stephenson : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3sXN6RiG9I

Stephenson might not be a superstar like Anthony is, but in terms of filling the Bullsí need for a player who can create shots off the dribble, drive to the rim and take some of the pressure off of Rose, he would be just as effective as Anthony.

Now granted, Anthony is a better scorer in other aspects, but those arenít needs the Bulls have. Those are niceties, not necessities. The point here isnít to argue that Stephenson is just as good of a scorer, but that heís just as good in the area they need scoring the most.

You donít need a bazooka to shoot a bothersome squirrel. Would it do the job? Sure! But so would a pellet gun, and the pellet gun is cheaper and wouldnít risk as much collateral damage. Anthony would fill the Bullsí needs, certainly, but so would Stephenson.

...

Stephenson Fits Better

Anthony is a better overall scorer and rebounder, but Stephenson is better in some areas, too.

The completeness of Stephensonís gameóa triple-double threat (http://bkref.com/tiny/wEah6) who plays both ends of the ballómakes him a better fit for the Bulls.

Stephenson is averaging 14.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Players who can beat those numbers this season are limited to LeBron James and Kevin Durant. (http://bkref.com/tiny/3zbDC)

Stephenson is not the scorer those two areóand Iím not going to even try to pretend he isóbut he gets the points where the Bulls need them. And, he does it as an all-around player who facilitates and doesnít stop the ball.

Lance Stephenson's AMAZING In-Air Circus Assist : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOZkU6_8Ezs

One argument I get on twitter about Stephenson is that heís just playing well because heís in the right system, but how is that going to change in Chicago? If anything, that should be a plus. Heís a proven system player. Chicago is a system team.

Stephenson is thriving in a one-star system predicated on sharing the ball. The concern should be whether Anthony can play in a system when heís not actually the system.

Stephenson, unlike Anthony, has shown that he can have an impact on games without being a ball-dominant player. He is sixth in win shares among players who have a usage percentage below 20 percent. He leads all shooting guards in that regard. (http://bkref.com/tiny/maKc6)

Lance Stephenson EMBARRASSES JR Smith : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXZucq4SDr0

Furthermore, heís a much better defensive player who has shown a commitment to play in a defensive system. Per 82games.com, Stephensonís opponentís PER is 10.6. (http://www.82games.com/1314/1314IND.HTM) Anthonyís opponents post a PER of 14.1. (http://www.82games.com/1314/1314NYK.HTM) While such defensive measures are, in part, an issue of team defense, a reputation for bad defense is one that has followed Anthony through the years. (http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/2214/testing-the-theory-that-carmelo-anthony-is-a-lousy-defender)

Lance Stephenson is a round peg filling a round hole. Anthony might be a prettier, glossier, gold-layered, diamond-crusted, platinum-set peg, but heís a square one.

Why bother trying to force him in when you can just fill the hole with right-shaped peg?

...

Stephenson Comes at a Much Cheaper Price

According to Amin Elhassan of ESPN Insider (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10525164/nba-ranking-top-30-free-agents-2014?refresh=true&refresh=true) the cost of Carmelo Anthony would be 23.5 million per year, and the cost of Stephenson would be $9.5 million per year. For the math-challenged, thatís a difference of $14 million.

Thatís not just a difference in the accounting book. Thatís a difference on the court, because thatís $14 million in one player that canít be filled by others as a result of Anthonyís contract.

For the Bulls to afford Anthony, it would require losing Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the Charlotte pick (No. 16 projected). They would be able to add Anthony and their own pick.

For the Bulls to acquire Stephenson, it would require amnestying Boozer and trading Dunleavy. In addition to Stephenson, they would add the Charlotte pick, and, believe it or not, Mirotic, while keeping Gibson.

So, itís not a question of Anthony or Stephenson. Itís a question of Anthony or Stephenson, Gibson, Mirotic and the Charlotte pick. Hereís how I got that.

If we work out max raises for Stephenson, his first year would cost the Bulls $8.9 million to reach the four-year, $38 million projected by Elhassan (who uses DeMar DeRozanís contract as a gauge).

Stephenson, contrary to what some have him listed as, is an unrestricted free agent (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-growing-legend-of-lance-stephenson/) so the Indiana Pacers couldn't match. And, they will be limited in what they can offer him.

However, they are already committed to $66.8 million (http://data.shamsports.com/content/pages/data/salaries/pacers.jsp) and after accounting for cap holds, they would be over $77 million if they matched. This doesn't include Danny Granger, Evan Turner or LaVoy Allen. Thatís well over the tax limit and even over the apron, where the tax becomes more punitive.

That could be further complicated if Paul George qualifies for the "Rose Rule" (he probably will), which will raise the value of his contract. The Pacers will owe $71.9 million. Giving Stephenson a market-value contract would have them well over the tax threshold.

They havenít paid the tax since 2005-06. (http://www.shamsports.com/2014/02/the-tax-paid-by-title-winners.html) Itís unlikely they would pay such a hefty bill to keep Stephenson. They are still a small market team after all.

So, if Stephenson takes $8.9 million out of the Bulls cap space for the first year of his contract, it leaves $6.4 million after cap holds to offer Mirotic in the first year. Once again, using max raises, that would come out to a four-year, $27.2 million deal to offer him.

bwin MVP for October: Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=af3jTTp76bI

Also, according to Eurohoops, Mirotic is ready to come to Chicago for $20 million. (http://www.eurohoops.net/2014/02/dunks/42988) Some expect that wonít be enough. However, the Bulls can pay up to $27.2 million over four years. Either way, itís enough for Mirotic to buy out his Real Madrid contract with the 2.5 million Euros ($3.4 million US) he owesóand make more money than he is now.

"Real Madrid already knows that Nikola Mirotic is leaving the club for the NBA. Jan Vesely and Doellman main options. ( vŪa @Hectorfernandez)"
https://twitter.com/jondelapresa/statuses/436639747264757761

Miroticís best friend, Hector Fernandez, says that Real Madrid is preparing for his departure, per Jon de la Presa, who covers the ACB. That suggests that Mirotic isnít planning to play hardball in negotiations, especially since he doesnít have much to bargain with, other than staying in Spain.

Chicago doesnít have to outbid the NBA free market, they only have to pay Mirotic enough to buy out his contract in Spain and still make at least what he is presently earning.

And heís worth it. He was named the ACB MVP for the second season in a row. He shot 53.8 percent. And then thereís this form Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com,

"One executive, after seeing Mirotic play, said the power forward originally from Montenegro would go ďtop two or three for sureĒ if he was in the 2014 draft and ďmaybe even one.Ē Mirotic could be in Chicago next season."

ďMaybe even one.Ē In a draft that is possibly the deepest in a generation of players, Mirotic might go first if he were available. The Bulls may very well be sitting on the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year.

This is a team that has played surprisingly well after their awful start. Since January 1, no team in the NBA has won more games than the Bulls. And itís not just because theyíre beating Eastern Conference pushovers, either.

Over the last 25 percent of their games, they are tied for the eighth hardest schedule, with their opponents boasting a .519 winning percentage.

Iím not trying to make an argument that theyíre the best team in the NBA, but I will argue they arenít in dire need of an overhaul.

Intentionally mixing metaphors here, if you go all in for Anthony, youíre not just filling the hole with the wrong peg, youíre digging other holes in order to do it.

...

Remember, youíre the GM. You have a team that has won as much as anyone over a two-month period. Next season you can upgrade Dunleavy to Stephenson and Boozer to Mirotic. You can fill the two biggest needs in doing soódriving and three-point shooting.

You can also add a No. 16 pick and a No. 19 pick.

And, just for giggles, you have a former league MVP returning.

That would give you a deeper roster with a starting five all under the age 30, and three of your premier players, Rose, Stephenson and Mirotic, all under 26.

Or, you can gut your roster and rebuild around a 30-year-old Anthony.

The responsibility of a GM isnít to get a team a second star, itís to improve the team. The Bulls could land Anthony, win the battle and lose the war. The aggregate cost of him, in terms of both players and money, could end up being greater than the reward he provides.

On the other hand, the relatively cheap cost of Stephenson could allow the Bulls to flesh out a younger, deeper team that maintains its chemistry, has a defensive mentality matching the coach and fills out its weaknesses.

The Stephenson signing would make the Bulls a better, younger, more complete team, and thatís why heís the one player they have to get in this yearís offseason.