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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As we’re often reminded during free agency, for most teams it’s not about what you need but what you can afford. Or better yet, what you are willing to pay for.
The Chicago Bulls represent that theory perfectly as they search for the right shooting guard play alongside reigning league MVP Derrick Rose this season as they chase the NBA title. They’ve courted Caron Butler and chatted up the likes of Jason Richardson and Jamal Crawford, all three of them ideal candidate for the job.
But there is a catch, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune explains:
The strategy appears to be to let the market come to them as they try to upgrade at shooting guard, armed only with salary cap exceptions. With other candidates like the Suns’ Vince Carter not officially waived yet, management sounds confident one player will sign for the right price for the chance to play for a title contender alongside Derrick Rose.
According to league sources, the Bulls have not yet offered the $5 million mid-level exception to any player, including Butler, who is meeting with the Nets on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, last season’s starter, Keith Bogans, continues to work out at Berto Center and looks to be in great shape.
So, it’s not just about who the Bulls want as much it is who is willing to come and play alongside a young superstar like Rose for the right price. On a team built on a bedrock of defense first, Crawford probably seems like a strange choice. But from this vantage point, he’s the no-brainer choice from a purely basketball standpoint.
You watched the Bulls’ run to the Eastern Conference finals last year just like we did. So you know exactly what they need (especially with Bogans returning in some capacity): another scorer, pure and simple. And in that department, none of the other players on the Bulls’ short-list measure up to the explosive Crawford. Good luck to the team trying to slow down Rose late in games with Crawford on the floor to take advantage of that strategy.
As Crawford proved in his two-year stint with the Hawks, he is at least a willing defender and a player able to subjugate his own ego and personal goals for the good of the team and the chance to win (two unfair knocks on him throughout his career that trailed him from spot to spot).
Normally, history with a franchise would throw a twist in the process. Crawford was drafted by Cleveland in the 2000 Draft but was sent to Chicago in a Draft-day deal (for Chris Mihm) and spent his first four seasons in the Windy City. He remains a media favorite among those who were working the beat when he played there.
While Butler appears to be the Bulls’ top choice, the same goes for the Spurs and at least a couple of other suitors, Crawford would be the wise choice. Because as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has shown in both Boston and Chicago, you don’t need great defenders to craft a great defensive team. You only need willing subjects.
But to solve the scoring problems that cost them throughout the postseason, the Bulls need a hired assassin, a player capable of huge scoring nights whenever you need to dial one up. That’s a luxury Crawford would give the Bulls that few others in this free agent market can provide.