The Chicago Bulls had a lot of work to do this off-season. They had a successful regular season for the 2011-12 season, and the playoffs were going well until Derrick Rose tore his ACL. It all went downhill from there as they struggled in the remainder of the first round and weree eliminated. From there, they had a lot of decisions to make concerning their roster. First, they had to decide what to do with the Bench Mob.
Omer Asik became an unrestricted free agent this past off-season. Management previously made it clear that they would do everything they could to keep Asik, but the the Houston Rockets made a $25.1 million/3 year offer to him. Despite the defensive power provided by Asik, matching the offer from Houston was not worth it. What will be missed most by Asik is his size and defensive abilities. He ability to grab the boards and stop the opposing big men made him reliable.
Then, there were the cases concerning C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer. Both players had options available to be picked up for the 2012-13 season. There was much speculation as to whether or not either of their options would be picked up after the Bulls’ season came to an end. When former Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich verbally committed to signing with the Bulls as a free agent, Watson was then informed that his $3.2 million option would not be picked up meaning that he would become a free agent. Brewer became a free agent as well when management decided to decline his $4.37 million option. The two former Bench Mob members have found their new homes in the “Big Apple” as Watson is now on the Brooklyn Nets while Brewer is on the New York Knicks. Their losses did not hurt the Bulls very much considering Hinrich would sign with them later on.
Kyle Korver was in a situation similar to Brewer and Watson’s. He, too, had an option available to be picked up, but it took management a bit longer to decide on what to do with the sharpshooter. Money became an issue, and rather than decline the option and allow Korver to become a free agent, the Bulls traded him to the Atlanta Hawks for a trade exception and cash consideration. What was difficult about letting Korver go was what the Bulls would be losing: the hot sauce, or his shooting ability, but as it turns out, his ability just was not worth the $5 million option.
John Lucas III’s departure differed from the aforementioned bench players. Lucas was only signed for the 2011-12 season after starting the season on a non-guaranteed contract. A return to Chicago was a possibility, but once Hinrich verbally committed to Chicago, it became less likely. After the season he had with the Bulls, Lucas gained more interest from teams around the league, such as Miami, Washington, and Toronto. Lucas eventually eventually signed with the Toronto Raptors. Lucas had his moments when he received more playing time and was able to show that he enjoyed scoring, but his farewell was not too much of a concern.
Brian Scalabrine’s situation was similar to Lucas’s in terms of contracts. Scalabrine was only signed with the Bulls for the 2011-12 season. After the lockout ended, he left the Italian team he played for to come back to the Bulls on a non-guaranteed contract. He never received consistent minutes, but he provided a good veteran presence and continued to be a fan favorite. When he became a free agent, he did not attract much attention from team in the league, but the Bulls offered him an assistant coaching position on Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff. Scalabrine made the tough decision of declining the offer and will now be a broadcaster for Comcast New England.
With the departure of so many bench players, the Bench Mob came to an end, and these lost players had to be replaced.
Kirk Hinrich returned to the Bulls as a free agent after leaving for Washington via trade two seasons ago. Chicago was joined by Milwaukee in the running to acquire “Captain Kirk,” but ultimately, Chicago was the better fit for him. The familiarity Hinrich has with the city and organization, as well as Tom Thibodeau’s coaching style and personality, factored into the decision, but the former Bull was also recruited. Derrick Rose has not been known to recruit fellow NBA players to join him, but that did not apply when it came to his former mentor. Rose even said Hinrich was the first player he had recruited. While he is not the player Rose is, Hinich should be able to lead the Bulls adequately until The Return. His shooting, defense, play-making abilities, leadership, and will to win will help the Bulls and work well with Thibodeau’s system.
Rose did not only speak well of Hinrich, but he was impressed by new Bull Marco Belinelli. Belinelli signed with Chicago as a free agent after spending two seasons in New Orleans. He has been known for his long-range shooting ability, but Belinelli’s size impressed Rose, along with his shooting ability. If Rose is impressed, Belinelli should turn out to be a good pickup as well as a good replacement for Korver.
Vladimir Radmanovic is another player acquired by the Bulls in free agency. He has been known to be a good three-point shooter, which should help fill the void of Korver, but it may be difficult for Radmanovic to find many minutes behind Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. Even so, he can be efficient in the playing time he receives as long as he puts up a few points and, more importantly, gives his effort on the defensive end. His veteran knowledge will be good to have as well. With this likely to be Vladimir Radmanovic’s case, many have compared him to “replace” Scalabrine, yet it may be difficult to become as loved by the fans as Scalabrine was.
Another veteran new to Chicago is point guard Nate Robinson. Robinson will act as Hinrich’s backup, and he should be able to do an adequate job. Although he is not known for dishing out many assists, he can still score a bit having a career average of 11.2 points. Robinson, along with Hinrich, can act as a mentor to the Bulls’ draft pick, point guard Marquis Teague.
Chicago also signed a veteran with fourteen years of NBA experience: Nazr Mohammed. Chicago will be his eighth NBA team. He spent his last season in Oklahoma City, and he honestly did not do too much there, though Mohammed can be pretty productive. Just two seasons ago, he averaged 7.1 points and 4.9 rebounds. If he receives a decent amount of playing time, he should be able to find himself achieving numbers similar to those.
This off-season for the Bulls was filled with changes. Some old faces parted ways with Chicago, while new faces have made their way to the organization. An old leader has even returned to help keep the team up while their star is down. Change can be good, and only time will be able to tell just how good (or bad) these changes have turned out.