As we approach the Feb 24th trade deadline, we will soon be able to celebrate Thanksgiving 9 months earlier, as what can only be considered the most agonizing NBA trade saga in recent memory, comes to a merciful end – and I for one could not be more thrilled. The Summer of Lebron was fun, and Kobe “playing on Pluto” was intriguing, but “Melo-drama” has been simply unbearable. I have officially hit my wall.
While the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks remain front runners for acquiring Carmelo Anthony, one team that has been mentioned as a potential trade partner has been the Chicago Bulls, though the Bulls have quietly downplayed the possibility of a rumored package of Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and draft picks, which should be considered about as real as the Loch Ness Monster. Trust me Bulls fans, this trade will never happen, and you should be thankful for it.
Tom Thibodeau has done a masterful job this season of molding the Bulls into a defensive stalwart, ranking #1 in Defensive Efficiency, #2 in points per game allowed, and #2 in Defensive FG%, all the while missing his primary defensive anchor in Joakim Noah. I know that it is tempting to have a 3-star lineup similar to the Miami Heat, but adding Carmelo to the mix would be a defensive disaster by destabilizing a front line that has been successful in masking Carlos Boozer’s deficiencies. Carmelo has never shown an interest in defense, is often slow with his rotations, and not particularly adept at playing either the passing lanes or on-the-ball defense. Moreover, a Carmelo/Boozer front line would place additional pressure on Joakim Noah to protect the paint, leaving him vulnerable to foul trouble during late stages of ball games.
The offensive end is no gimme either. Carmelo Anthony, similar to Derrick Rose, is accustomed to having the ball in his hands. His team relies on him to create plays, make decisions, and generate open shots. The problem however is that there is only one basketball, and as the Brown Mamba eluded to in a prior post, Carmelo Anthony is a “#2 guy masquerading as a #1.” Adding Carmelo to the mix would take away from Rose’s touches and development, and create confusion over who should be the primary go-to guy. Despite the success of the Miami Heat this season, we still see instances during late-game situations where they struggle to find their identity. It’s as if Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are playing a game of my turn-your turn.
What should also not be lost in all of this is the impact that a Melo trade would have on Carlos Boozer. By adding Anthony, Boozer would be relegated to the #3 option, and anyone who has watched Boozer play throughout his career knows that he has a tendency to check-out when he does not receive enough touches.
Trust me Bulls fans, the best course of action will be for your team to do absolutely nothing at the trade deadline. Stay the course, manage your cap space, continue developing your young players, and wait until the season is over with the hopes of utilizing the mid-level exemption to obtain a starting caliber shooting guard (assuming the existing CBA rules stay in tact). Another, better opportunity will present itself, as long as you manage your cap space well, you will be in position to do something about it. Luol Deng may be a 12 million dollar black hole, but he is a much better fit with Rose and Boozer than Carmelo Anthony would be. Deng has improved his 3-point shooting this season, can move without the ball, helps spread the floor, and has learned to use his length on defense. Role players are essential in basketball, and you need those who can remain happy if they do not see 20 shots per game.
One other option would be to find a taker for Boozer, allowing the Bulls to then acquire Anthony, move salary, and potentially even start Taj Gibson who would be a defensive upgrade. Obviously, given the cap restrictions, this is much easier said than done. Moreover, trading Boozer would be extremely disruptive to the chemistry the Bulls have built this season while leaving them without a true low-post big man.
One way or another, this saga is going to come to end and as long as the Bulls mind their own business, they should be well positioned to make some solid moves this off-season.