Dwight Howard conjured another media storm earlier this week after the Orlando Magic lost in an embarrassing fashion to the New Orleans Hornets, when he told the Chicago Tribune he'd be willing to join Derrick Rose in playing for the Chicago Bulls.
As predicted, this spawned a furious debate confronting the pros and cons that such a move would bring to Chicago. The Bulls have the opportunity to land two of the top-five players in the game right now—giving them a point guard-center combination that would be unmatched for the next decade.
Teams generally look to double team Rose or Howard when playing the Bulls or Magic, so what could the opposition possibly do to contain both of them at once?
Furthermore, the Miami Heat (the Bulls' only legitimate road block to the finals) still have a deficiency at the center position.
So what better way to exploit that than by landing the best center in the league?
The question that everyone else has raised, obviously, is whether the cost is too high.
Do the Bulls really want to blow up the team that had the best record in the league last season to land a seemingly immature and indecisive man-child that brings them no guarantees?
The deal would surely cost the Bulls most of their current front line, and the Magic may want more than Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik and/or Luol Deng (Hint: Unloading Hedo Turkoglu's obscene contract).
Why tamper with a system proven to deliver, especially when it's been greatly upgraded from Keith Bogans to Rip Hamilton?
The consensus seems to be that Howard just isn't worth it. And I'm inclined to agree that while the prospect is tempting—it doesn't make sense to sacrifice this season to "rebuilding" when the Bulls are so close. John Paxon and Gar Forman, who have proven to be very careful and meticulous managers, probably think the same.
So I wouldn't count on Howard making it to Chicago anytime soon.
But after the Bulls' heartbreaking 97-93 loss to the Heat on Sunday—which, although greatly altered by injuries to Deng, Watson, and Hamilton, was still painfully reminiscent of last season's playoff series—it seems almost necessary to yet again question whether or not the Bulls have enough to get past their Eastern Conference rivals.
The teams are nearly identical to their 2010-2011 prototypes—the notable additions being Hamilton for the Bulls and Shane Battier for the Heat.
While Battier has reportedly lost a step, he still adds an elite defender to an already tight Miami defense. Not to mention a 6'8" body to battle on the boards (remember that Carlos Boozer is only 6'9"—and he's a PF).
Hamilton, on the other hand, does provide more scoring at shooting guard. However, his looks are reliant on ball movement and screening. He doesn't take the ball out of Rose's hands to create his own shot—on the contrary, I'd argue that he relies on Rose to lure the defense so he can get his looks much like Kyle Korver does to get his shots.
Sounds sort of like a rich man's Bogans (provided Hamilton can even stay healthy), and he certainly doesn't alleviate any offensive pressure Rose has in that respect.
In short, while the Bulls have found an upgrade—they haven't necessarily fixed the problem. The Heat's acquisition is only going to make it harder for them to score.
Enter Eric Gordon, who will become a restricted free agent next season and whose refusal to sign an extension with the Hornets seems to have gotten lost in the Howard whirlwind. While Gordon has only played two games this season because of injury, his career with the Clippers had everyone buzzing about the 24-year-old's potential—until they shipped him off to The Big Easy (22.3 PPG last season).
If he were on the Bulls, it would add another dynamic scorer to their backcourt. His young age could keep him paired with Rose for a long time.
His downside though, is that he's only 6'3" (the same height as Rose). Also, he has been somewhat injury prone in only three years of action.
But a deal for Gordon would surely cost far less than Howard. It would address more immediate issues—allowing another guard to take the ball out of Rose's hands and put more pressure on the defense from the perimeter (a guard that can create his own shot and hit the three). Gordon could even run the point in some instances, giving the Bulls' backcourt even more flexibility.
The trade would presumably call for the Bulls to part with at least Omer Asik and/or Taj Gibson. If they are worried about depleting their frontcourt (losing both would leave them with only Boozer and Noah), they could try and get Chris Kaman as well—an old but serviceable center being actively shopped by the Hornets. His downside, however, is that his expiring contract is worth $14 million—something the Bulls cannot afford without some creative tinkering.
If the Bulls were to make a move this season (and I highly doubt it, given their consistent success and generally prudent management), the safer, less invasive procedure would be to deal with the Hornets—allowing them to procure a budding, independent shooting guard.
Granted, this idea could be somewhat premature given that Hamilton hasn't been healthy enough to have a legitimate chance to showcase his potential in Tom Thibodeau's system (even his performance against the Heat was mired in leg injuries), but with the Bulls' offensive woes returning in Miami on Sunday—it's enough to wonder whether they really do have enough to win now.
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