Reggie Rose, older brother and manager to the Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose, recently skewered the Bulls for not making a trade at the deadline. The Bulls were right to stand pat, however, and the criticism is off base.
The Chicago Bulls were embarrassed and obliterated by the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder over the last week, but that doesn’t change my opinion nor should it. It doesn’t change it, because the reasons why no move was made haven't changed.
Fans, and Reggie (I’ll refer to the Rose brothers as Reggie and Derrick to avoid confusion) need to understand that GMing at the NBA level is not the same as GMing in your fantasy league. Trades aren’t just about trying to trick some clueless rookie player into taking your trade offer.
Nor are trades as simple as just making something work on the ESPN Trade Machine. The trade machine only tells you if they work according to NBA rules, and gives an estimate of how many games it would help or hurt each team, but even those estimates can be off.
A trade meeting trade rules doesn’t mean that it “works” for both teams. There are several factors which need to be considered, such as how much time is left on each contract, how the trade synchronizes with other expiring contacts, luxury taxes, whether the trade fills the needs of both teams and so on.
Teams have two or three year plans with their caps. This is exacerbated with the new escalating structure of the current agreement which also includes repeater taxes. Teams are trying to shoot for two- or three-year windows to win titles without having to pay a heavy luxury tax.
Another thing that has to be considered is that every GM is looking to get back more than what they are sending out. That goes for the front-office team of Gar Forman and John Paxson and it holds true for every other management in the league.
With that backdrop let’s look at Reggie’s comments to ESPN Chicago:
What have you pieced together? Have you made any moves? Have you made any trades to get better? You know all roads to the championship lead through Miami. What pieces have you put together for the physical playoffs?
Joakim Noah is a great player. Luol Deng is a great player. But you need more than that. You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much. It's up to the organization to make them better.
It's frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him.
The problems with Reggie Rose’s comments are plentiful, but primarily it's built on a false premise. He asks what moves have the Bulls made? How about—with the exception of Deng, Noah and Taj Gibson—breaking apart the entire roster that represented the Bulls in the postseason just two years ago?
Because they haven’t won a title in the one go-around they had with Derrick (playing hurt) in the lineup doesn’t mean they haven’t done anything at all.
Whom have they added? Before the 2010-11 season, the Bulls added Carlos Boozer. The Monday morning quarterbacks of the world will point out that this was some kind of mistake, but they will ignore that virtually the entire world felt at the time that Boozer was one of the best options available.
In retrospect David Lee might have been better, but hindsight is 20/20, and it’s doubtful that he would have made that dramatic a difference if he made any at all.
The Bulls made an earnest effort at landing Dwyane Wade and/or LeBron James, but that didn’t work out. That doesn't mean they didn’t make the attempt, though. Depending on whom and what you believe, they may have made up their mind beforehand.
Some have argued that the pitch Paxson and Forman gave was weak. If you listen to Dwyane Wade though, he came very close to signing with the Bulls.
It was very tough, it was one of the hardest decision I had to make in my life. I’m a Chicago guy and I grew up idolizing the Chicago Bulls, idolizing Michael Jordan and wanted to wear that jersey. So the day I went for the Chicago visit and they gave me the No. 3 jersey, I mean, that day messed me up. I went back home and I had the jersey on and, I mean, I turned into a kid again.
But what does Wade know about what Wade thinks?
Some will say Reggie’s comments just refer to what’s happened since then, but that’s part of the problem with the comments. They’re shortsighted. They overlook the fact that the Bulls just overhauled their roster to build a team around Derrick two years ago.
Chicago won the most games in the NBA’s regular season in both 2011 and 2012. They went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011. They’ve won 85 percent of their games when Boozer, Deng, Noah and Derrick have started. You can do a lot worse than that.
Some would still argue that the regular season “doesn’t mean anything,"—one of the most remarkably stupid arguments in all of sports. The regular season doesn’t mean “everything” but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean “anything.”
The fact that the Bulls win in the regular season is better than if they lost in the regular season. Getting the No. 1 seed is better than getting the No. 8 seed.
And no, they didn’t win that one time that they had their core together but that doesn't mean they need to scrap the whole project.
You know that old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, tear about the entire the thing into pieces and give up.” No? Maybe that’s because no one with a modicum of wisdom thinks that way.
In the history of the NBA, there is only one team that I’m aware of that won an NBA title with a freshly assembled core, the 2008 Boston Celtics, and they never won another one after that.
Winning titles is not the only measure of team success. It is the ultimate measure of success, yes. But the Thunder didn’t count last season a ‘”failure” and go into rebuilding mode when they lost in the NBA Finals.
You don’t go into rebuilding mode every time you don’t win the title. Otherwise you’d have 29 teams going into rebuilding mode every season. If you have a contender that comes up short you tweak it; your don't revamp it.
It’s also important to realize that just rebuilding on a whim isn’t exactly possible either. The Bulls have tried to add better pieces, but they've done the best they can with the situation they're in.
This, the real crux of Reggie’s argument, is what is so fundamentally flawed, and frankly, stupid. What move was there to make? He assumes there is one.
This is the point where the fans and Reggies of the world go and play with the Trade Machine and say, “send Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love” or some such nonsense. “Love wants out!” they claim.
And the ‘Wolves are just salivating at the idea of getting Boozer and Hamilton for Love. And they can’t get anyone else. All other NBA GMs live to serve the Chicago Bulls and make them better.
When Boozer was NBA Player of the Week they did try and shop him, and they had an ear from the Toronto Raptors who would have sent Andrea Bargnani in return. That's the best they could even get entertained for.
If you really want to talk about acquiring a piece, think more Barngani and less Love. And would Bargnani really have been the piece that would put the Bulls over the top this year?
Remember we’re also taking about a trade deadline at which the big piece that was moved was J.J. Reddick. Is he the superstar that the Bulls could have added alongside Rose to win a title?
Over the last two years, what true superstars have been traded? There have been a few, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. There are a smattering of other All-Star players such as Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay and Andrew Bynum you can throw on that list as well.
The deal for Anthony wasn’t realistic, even if the Bulls wanted to go for it. The package they got in return from the New York Knicks isn’t really one the Bulls could have matched. But even if they could, Chicago wasn’t on his list.
The same goes with Howard. What difference does it make what they offer if he doesn’t want to stay?
Williams and Paul are point guards, so they’d have been redundant. There’s no point in discussing them.
Joe Johnson would be a nice shooting guard to put beside Rose, but his contract is massive and would have required sending over Deng or Noah and other pieces, including existing players and future pieces. That wouldn’t make the Bulls any better. It would simply be digging two or three holes to fill one.
The same essential argument applies to Rudy Gay. Sure, they could have sent Deng and parts, but that would have created holes and lost future assets. They wouldn't have really ended up any better.
Andrew Bynum? Well, he’s had just as good of a season as Rose I guess. The only difference is that Derrick has a future, which Bynum probably doesn’t.
So again, I ask, what move should they have made? Sure you can nitpick about Kirk Hinrich getting signed to a mid-level exception, since they traded Kyle Korver for a trade exception just weeks later. The Bulls aren't perfect, but nothing in that really would be the difference between adding a superstar or not.
The really nice thing about GMing from home is that no trades have to be realistic; no moves actually have to be made. There are no consequences for any decision, and you’re never proven wrong. The big move that Bulls fans keep wanting just hasn’t been out there.
The few teams that do have true superstars are also looking to add another. Very few teams look to deal such players, and when they do, they don’t do it at bargain-basement prices.
Coulda’s best friends are Woulda and Shoulda and none of them ever get anything accomplished. Questioning the decision-making of a front-office tandem that has assembled one of the most winning teams in the last three seasons is spurious. Doing so without a realistic alternative is downright specious.
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