Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Rumors: The Chicago Bulls Are Interested In Lance Stephenson This Offseason


According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Bulls have begun to size up their options in the 2014 offseason. In Cowley’s report, the Bulls see Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James as “Plan A” in their offseason plans, hoping that James leaves Miami for Chicago, and that New York’s terrible season, should swing Carmelo Anthony into free agency, and into Chicago’s plans. The second part is interesting. The “Plan B” has Chicago looking at Indiana Pacers’ guard Lance Stephenson, with the idea being Stephenson at the shooting guard position and Jimmy Butler moving to the small forward position.

If I were Chicago, Lance Stephenson would be my “Plan A”. LeBron James isn’t going to Chicago, and while I enjoy the work of Carmelo Anthony, I don’t see signing him in the midst of his prime for 95 million dollars over four years as a “smart” signing. Not to mention, with Carmelo Anthony comes an already polished skill set (excellent offensively, but not a passer, and his defense, 10 seasons into his career, is still below-average) , and an expectation for a certain amount of shots. Lance Stephenson is neither a finished product, nor does he come in demanding a certain amount of anything. He’s 23 years old, and has developed into one of the more intriguing players in the league.

For starters, Stephenson’s numbers are pretty sound. In 39 games this season, Stephenson is averaging 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on a True Shooting Percentage of 56.5%. He’s an improved defensive player. 82 games.com has Stephenson holding opposing shooting guards to a PER of 9.9 while defending them. His 5.2 assists would suggest that he doubles as the team’s point guard and ball handler in the starting lineup. He’s ferocious when attacking the lane. He doesn’t get as many attacks as a player of his caliber deserves (3.0 drives per game, per NBA.com’s SportsVU Data Tracking), but he finishes on 57.7% of his drives, and overall, finishes 65.5% of his field goal attempts at the rim. All of these positives, and he’s a unrestricted free agent at the age of 23.

For the Bulls, Stephenson is an excellent fit next to Derrick Rose. He removes some of the ball handling pressures from him, which is rather important, and almost an underrated part of a backcourt. He can shoot the ball (33.0% from three in 2012, 34% this season), and for his size, his ability to attack the basket and rebound seem like extra boost to both of those categories for Chicago, or any team that acquires him. Moving Butler to the small forward position keeps the Bulls defensive starting lineup core intact, and doesn’t hinder the bench. To keep it simple: Stephenson would be an excellent fit.

As for the price-tag, that’s where things get interesting. The Bulls currently have 64.9 million tied to 10 players in 2014. If the Bulls decide to use the Amnesty Provision on Carlos Boozer, the Bulls will have 45.6 million tied to 9 players, while paying Carlos Boozer. If the Bulls offer Lance Stephenson a four-year, 37 million dollar contract, the Bulls would only have only 54.8 million tied into next season’s cap. That’s enough to offer Russian import Nikola Mirotic a deal just above the full mid-level exception (For this practice, let’s say Chicago gives Mirotic a four-year, 25 million dollar contract, starting at 6.2 million. Let’s look at this:

Derrick Rose: 17,632,688
Joakim Noah: 12,200,000
Taj Gibson: 8,000,000
Mike Dunleavy: 3,326,325
Jimmy Butler: 2,008,748
Tony Snell: 1,472,400
Erik Murphy: 816,482

Richard Hamilton: 333,334

That’s the 45.6 million to start. Rose, Noah, Gibson, Butler, and Dunleavy create an interesting starting five. Tony Snell as a potential role player off the bench, Murphy as a second round pick and fodder, and Richard Hamilton’s money. Not bad. Lacks depth at the point guard and currently two big men, which is not good at all. Let’s add Stephenson and Mirotic’s contract hits into the mix:

Derrick Rose: 17,632,688
Joakim Noah: 12,200,000
Lance Stephenson: 9,250,000
Taj Gibson: 8,000,000
Nikola Mirotic: 6,200,000
Mike Dunleavy: 3,326,325
Jimmy Butler: 2,008,748
Tony Snell: 1,472,400
Erik Murphy: 816,482

Richard Hamilton: 333,334

The roster is filling out pretty well. Mirotic serves as a potential combo forward, generally a small forward, but can slide to the power forward position with Gibson at the center position in spurts. Stephenson’s role at the shooting guard allows Butler to move to small forward, and Dunleavy goes to the bench. Now, the bench holds two shooters on the wing, and one who can defend in Snell. This moves the Bulls’ payroll to 61 million. Now, we fill out the roster. This roster is fun, but it still needs a point guard and another big man. Alongside that, the Bulls have their own first-round draft pick, as well as Charlotte’s pick, if they make the playoffs. The Bobcats are now waining as the eighth seed in the East. Let’s say Chicago makes the playoffs and earns the 18th pick in the draft, then fill out the roster:

Derrick Rose: 17,632,688
Joakim Noah: 12,200,000
Lance Stephenson: 9,250,000
Taj Gibson: 8,000,000
Nikola Mirotic: 6,200,000
Mike Dunleavy: 3,326,325
Jimmy Butler: 2,008,748
Free Agent Big Man X: 1,600,000
Tony Snell: 1,472,400
Cap Hold (#18th pick): 1,280,800
Free Agent Point Guard X: 1,200,000
Free Agent Veteran X: 1,063,384
Erik Murphy: 816,482

Richard Hamilton: 333,334

Now, I think you have something for 66 million for next season. Add in Boozer’s 16.8 million for next season (the Bulls removed it off the cap, but they still have to pay it), and the Bulls would cost about 82 million for next season. A bit steep for one season, but not insane. You can lower it to around 79 million if the Bulls use the 18th pick on a stash candidate, but it’s not the worse situation for one season. Jimmy Butler is coming up on an extension, but Dunleavy is an expiring contract in 2014 at 3.3 million, giving the Bulls some space for a respectable extension. Before the Butler extension becomes crippling, Noah is a free agent, then Gibson, and eventually Rose. It’s a cycle, but one the Bulls should be able to manage.

On the court, the team is an intriguing one on paper. Rose, Stephenson, Butler, Gibson, and Noah as your starting five just works on both sides of the ball. Dunleavy as the veteran shooter off the bench, with Snell and Mirotic in specific roles. Point guard X gives Rose a break for 10-15 minutes, Big man X works as a third or fourth big, and it’s possible to build a upper-tier playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Does it make them better than Miami? I’m not sure about that, or better yet, probably not, but taking Stephenson away from Indiana cripples them, and takes the Bulls up a level from middle of the pack, to top two or three teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls are gearing up to be interesting this offseason. The Deng and Teague trades were trades that involved money (Deng being rumored to not agreeing to a three-year, 30 million dollar extension, and Teague as a swap for an expiring contract and slide under the luxury tax), but it also allowed them to become a player in free agency. They started the move towards that direction, but the next step, the biggest step, is using the Amnesty on Carlos Boozer. Boozer isn’t a terrible basketball player, but he’s someone who can help a team. Odds are, someone will place an amnesty bid for him, resulting in Chicago paying a bit less than the 16.8 tab. If the Bulls do amnesty him, I fully expect them to look towards nabbing someone in this free agency market, and that someone should be Lance Stephenson.

Tags: Chicago Bulls

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    I tired of hearing about next season!!!!! what are they doing in the front office to win a champion ship this year? no year should never be waisted to meet that goal. If our players haven’t givin up then the front office shouldnt nither. I understand your trying to bild for the future but dont give up on yor player that are out there working there asses off!!!