NBA Roundtable

Chicago Sign Nazr and Belinelli

In Free Agency on July 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

ESPN reports

The Chicago Bulls are finalizing details on a one-year deal for Marco Belinelli while also putting finishing touches on a deal that would bring Chicago native Nazr Mohammed to the Bulls, a source familiar with the situation told’s Nick Friedell.

The 6-foot-5 Belinelli, who is a former first-round pick (18th overall) by Golden State, averaged 11.8 points last season with the New Orleans Hornets. He is expected to sign for the bi-annual exception, which is just under $2 million.

By using the bi-annual exception, the Bulls hard cap themselves at $74 million for the season. As ESPN salary cap expert Larry Coon has stated, the hard cap may preclude the Bulls from making any major in-season acquisitions. They will have to add minimum salaried players to fill out the roster.

Mohammed is expected to sign for the veteran’s minimum, which is $1.3 million.


New Additions

Nazr Mohammed is a below average but decent backup center. He lacks mobility defensively and is a subpar defender overall. A serviceable rebounder. A good offensive player who is equipped with a quality midrange jump shot.

Marco Belinelli is a combo guard. A good ball-handler and passer. A streaky shooter/scorer who’s dodgy shot-selection holds him back. A below average defender/rebounder. Has below average size at 6-5 200lbs and can struggle against bigger guards. A weak backup shooting guard.

Always liked Belinelli more as a big point guard and a shooting guard.

Replacing More Talented Reserves

Omer Asik was the best backup center in the league. So there is a pretty big drop-off there.

Kyle Korver was an above average backup SG due to his highly efficient offense and floor spacing. Again, a significant drop-off.

Chicago’s Bench

The Bulls had a top five bench last year … for my money, the best bench in the league.

PG: CJ Watson
SG: Kyle Korver
SF: Ronnie Brewer
PF: Taj Gibson
C:  Omer Asik

I thought Omer Asik and Taj Gibson were respectively the best backup center and the best backup power forward in the league (with Al Harrington giving Taj Gibson a run for his money) last season. I rated all three of their perimeter players as above average but unexceptional reserves at their respective positions.

Fast forward to this season’s roster

PG: Marquis Teague
SG: Marco Belinelli
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Taj Gibson
C:  Nazr Mohammed

For the time being at least, this appears to be the Bulls bench heading into next season.

  • Only one high level bench player remains – Taj Gibson.
  • No other above average bench players
  • One below average but decent reserve
  • Three more reserves (Teague, Belinelli, Butler) who figure to be well below average and liabilities in their respective roles.

Overall, the Bulls bench figures to go from one of the strongest benches in the league last season (arguably the strongest) to a below average and probably one of the bottom third (bottom 10) benches in the league next season.

This is a major decrease in Chicago’s talent base.

No Derrick Rose, Chicago’s Hopes Next Year

Even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls still had enough of a talent base to threaten for 47-52 wins next season if they kept the cast together and signed a quality interim PG for the midlevel.

However, with the loss of Rose (who reportedly won’t be back until March) + with Chicago signing Kirk Hinrich as their interim PG (who appears to have fallen off in a major way over the last few years) + now after decimating their bench = it’s hard to see Chicago being anything more than a .500 team next season and even that may be optimistic.

I think the Bulls will either finish as a low playoff seed or finish just outside of the playoffs and with a low lottery pick.

I think the combination of Thibodeau + Deng and Noah as leaders + with a couple of quality contributors in Boozer, Rip and Taj Gibson = should be enough to keep Chicago competitive most nights. A scrappy team that guts out wins. A .500 team.

Of course, if they suffer some injures (Deng, Rip, Noah and Boozer have all spent significant time on the sidelines over the past two years), the Bulls could easily fall back into that 25 win caliber team category.

Quick Summary

Anyway, getting a little sidetracked — my point is :

(1) Chicago has seriously hurt their bench by letting several quality pros leave and today’s moves in signing Nazr and Belinelli has done little to replace them.

(2) The Bulls figure to go from one of the strongest benches to one of the weaker benches in the league and that drop-off will have a major effect in the W-L column (possibly 7-10 wins).

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