As strong as the Chicago Bulls are on defense, the offense has been another story entirely. Thus, it’s little surprise that the Bulls are considering an upgrade prior to the February 21 trade deadline.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls initiated talks with the Toronto Raptors about acquiring former No. 1 draft pick Andrea Bargnani in exchange for power forward Carlos Boozer. The Raptors have already shown a willingness to pull the trigger on big-ticket deals, having acquired Rudy Gay from Memphis in a three-team trade last week.
Whether or not Toronto turns out to show some interest in the pricey Boozer—or in a possible sidebar deal swapping backup point guards Nate Robinson and John Lucas III—is hardly relevant. There are few players in the NBA who would be worse fits in Chicago than Bargnani, and it’s mind-boggling that Bulls management isn’t acutely aware of that fact.
Yes, the 7’0” Italian is a fine offensive weapon, having averaged as many as 21.4 points per game in his pro career. He also comes cheaper than Boozer by a margin of $9.1 million over the next two years.
None of that, however, changes the fact that Bargnani is one of the most appallingly weak defenders in any starting lineup in the NBA. He’s an ineffective shot-blocker, a dreadful rebounder for his size (4.3 boards a night this season), and he’s shown little interest in improving his defense over his first six-plus pro seasons.
As Bulls fans are well aware—and Bulls management should be—any player who can’t play defense is going to sit on the bench as long as Tom Thibodeau is the head coach. There’s absolutely no possibility of Bargnani being a strong enough defender to hold down a starting job in Chicago.
Even if the Bulls’ plan is to promote the multitalented Taj Gibson to the starting lineup and use Bargnani only in a reserve role, it’s hard to see how the team would benefit from the new addition. After all, Chicago’s bench already includes Vladimir Radmanovic, who has a similar skill set and stands only two inches shorter than Bargnani.
Radmanovic is playing all of 3.5 minutes per game.
The likeliest motivation for the potential trade appears to be the money the Bulls would save, but they can accomplish that goal just as easily by using their still-available amnesty clause to jettison Boozer’s contract over the offseason. Wasting a roster spot on a player who isn’t good enough to start and is still too expensive to bring off the bench really isn’t the way to go.