McGraw: 15 free agents the Bulls should pursue
There has been speculation in recent days that the Bulls might lay low this summer to save money for a big splash in 2017 free-agency.
Bad idea. The Bulls are losing Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah off a 42-40 team and so far they've added Robin Lopez, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon as replacements.
Jerry Reinsdorf and Gar Forman shouldn't need a refresher course on what happened in 2000, but it became obvious back then that top-line free agents won't join losing teams. And that year, only one other team -- Orlando -- had cap room. Next summer, at least 25 of 30 NBA teams will have ample cap space.
The Bulls might strike out this summer, but they should at least try to land a starting-caliber player. They'll have more luck in free-agency next year if they make the playoffs this season.
When it comes to need, there's a vacancy at point guard, but the Bulls also could use an athletic wing to pair with Jimmy Butler. A big man isn't really a priority unless they trade Taj Gibson.
And don't bother asking whether a guy is worth the money the Bulls would need to spend -- this is the summer of salary inflation in the NBA. The guy can either help your team or he can't.
So here's a list of targets for the Bulls, in order of who should have gotten the first calls starting at 11:01 p.m. on Thursday night:
1. Harrison Barnes, Warriors
It's debatable whether Barnes is the best pick for the Bulls, but he fits their needs in a number of ways. First of all, he's a better fit at small forward and has experience playing power forward in small lineups, so he might mesh well with Butler. Barnes is a decent 3-point shooter and a good defender. If the Bulls really want to play a Warriors-style fast-pace, why not add someone who's done it?
The Bulls also have connections here, since Doug McDermott was a teammate at Ames (Iowa) High School and coach Fred Hoiberg is the Mayor of Ames. Some team will give Barnes a max offer sheet worth about $95 million over four years, and it might as well be the Bulls. Of course, the gamble is whether Barnes will increase his production when given more opportunity. He was the No. 7 pick in the draft for a reason, so it's a logical risk.
The downside here is Golden State could match the offer sheet, making the pursuit futile. But maybe the Bulls could interest the Warriors in a sign-and-trade for Gibson, who would give Golden State a good defensive option beyond Andrew Bogut.
2. Mike Conley, Grizzlies
Conley has been one of the more underrated point guards for a while. The expectation is he'll stay in Memphis and be loyal to teammates Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, who re-signed with the Grizzlies when they could have gone elsewhere.
But it's worth a call to check his interest. The Grizzlies could be fading, so maybe a "Hoiball" pitch could beat out the Memphis Grind House.
3. Nicolas Batum, Hornets
It's easy to say Batum isn't worth $20 million, but he'd fit the same role as Barnes. While Batum isn't a great 3-point shooter (36 percent career), he's an underrated playmaker (5.8 assists last season), and the Bulls need a playmaker.
4. Chandler Parsons, Mavericks
With Dallas chasing other free agents, Parsons might switch teams. Based on numbers, Parsons would be a great fit. He averaged 16.6 points in 2013-14, which is better than Barnes or Batum has done. He's averaged as many as 4.0 assists and shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season.
There seems to be concern about torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee that kept Parsons out 21 games last season. If healthy, he's a nice addition.
5. Kent Bazemore, Hawks
A pleasant surprise for Atlanta last season, Bazemore jumped into the small forward spot after DeMarre Carroll's exit and averaged 11.6 points. If Hawks break the bank to keep Al Horford, a team could try to beat Atlanta's offer to Bazemore.
6. Dwyane Wade, Heat
He's probably not leaving Miami, but if Wade continues to balk at what the Heat is offering to pay, why shouldn't the Bulls try to bring him home on a short-term deal? He'd bring some respect here.
7. Evan Fournier, Magic
A restricted free agent who averaged 15.4 points last season. The Magic doesn't seem to know what it wants these days, so an offer sheet wouldn't be out of line.
8. Evan Turner, Celtics
Another Chicago native whom the Bulls could try to lure home. After bouncing around, Turner might be in demand this summer. He's 6-7, a great athlete and started hitting clutch baskets for Boston.
9. Jeremy Lin, Hornets
A fad no more, Lin looked really good in Charlotte last season. He can run the point for a fast-paced team.
10. Ryan Anderson, Pelicans
He's a sweet-shooting forward, but has had injury issues and doesn't necessarily improve the Bulls' athleticism. When he's on, he's a big-time scorer, though.
11. Marreese Speight, Warriors
Like I said, the Bulls don't really need another big man. But if they do start shopping, might as well get someone with championship experience.
12. Gerald Henderson, Blazers
He averaged 15.5 points for Charlotte in 2012-13. Unfortunately, he has not been much of a 3-point shooter.
13. Jared Dudley, Wizards
A role player, but someone who shot 42 percent from 3-point range last season.
14. Greivis Vasquez, Bucks
If the Bulls are looking for value in an experienced point guard, Vasquez is worth a call. He was injured most of last season, but has been solid during six years in the league.
15. E'Twaun Moore, Bulls
Since he's been on the team for two years, let's assume Moore will get a call. He can get a raise and still be a good value for the Bulls.
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