All of the Bulls off-season moves will be based on whether or not Phil
Jackson re-signs as head coach. Michael Jordan has made it clear that his
future with the Bulls depends on the re-signing of Jackson. MJ does NOT
want to play for another coach. Therefore, the Bulls biggest priority is
to re-sign Phil, ASAP. Ideally, the Bulls should sign Jackson before
June 25, so they know where they stand going into the NBA Draft.
With the recent big dollar signings of less experienced and less
successful coaches such as Rick Pitino, Larry Brown, and Larry Bird,
Jackson should command at least $5 million per year. Phil has made it
clear that he wants to take it one season at a time, but the Bulls will
try to entice him with a multi-year deal. With such few options, if
Jackson does not re-sign, he may opt to take a break from coaching,
rather than coach another team.
In the end, the Bulls off-season goal is to maintain a championship
caliber team while also preparing for the future.
Michael Jordan (6'6", 216) is without a doubt the reason for the Bulls
success. Five NBA titles, five-time finals MVP. Michael has shown night
in and night out that he can flat out get it done. Bulls owner, Jerry
Reinsdorf, says he'll do whatever it takes to get Jordan back next
season, and he's willing to drop another $30 million to do so. Once
again, the situation is: No Jackson = No Jordan.
After a season filled with health and discipline problems, not to mention
a sub-par performance in the Finals, few think the Bulls will take
another $9 million gamble on the Worm. Despite all of his antics,
both on and off the court, Dennis Rodman (6'8", 220) is the greatest
rebounder in the NBA. His passing and defense are excellent, and he
never hesitates to dive for a loose ball. Rodman spends so much time
going for rebounds, his offensive output is negligible. Still, Michael
Jordan says he want's to have the whole team back next year, including
Rodman, but Bulls management doesn't seem to want to take that risk.
Brian Williams (6'11", 260) was a great late-season pickup for the Bulls.
His performance in the playoffs was crucial to the Bulls title run.
Although the Bulls would love to have him back next season, it is
unlikely that he will be back next year. Here's why, according to the
The problem for the Bulls is a quirk in the new labor agreement
that allows a team over the salary cap--which the Bulls are--to
tender only a 20 percent raise to a free agent not with the team
for several years. So Williams, if he plays well here, cannot use
the so-called Larry Bird exemption to re-sign with the Bulls for
an amount above the salary cap.
Plus the Bulls have used their extra $1 million exemption for
Robert Parish, so all they could offer the 6-foot-11-inch,
260-pound Williams next season is about $50,000 above the
$247,500 league minimum. And Williams is sure to get offers
well exceeding that.
Bill Wennington (7'0", 277) is basically a poor man's Luc Longley. He has
good range and a soft touch, but lacks pretty much everything else.
Still, he gives the Bulls some good minutes off the bench when needed.
Although Bill didn't play in the playoffs, there's a good possibility
the Bulls will lose Robert Parish and Brian Williams next season, so the
Bulls may have no choice but to re-sign Wennington for another season.
Matt Steigenga (6'7", 225) called Jerry Krause late last season asking
for Bulls tickets. Krause gave him the best seat in the house. With Bill
Wennington and Toni Kukoc injured, Krause signed Matt for the league
minimum for the remainder of the season. Steigenga, drafted in the
second round of the 1992 draft, played in just 2 games (12 minutes) last
season... and he still got a ring! He'll be in the Bulls training camp
next season, but it's unlikely he'll make the final cut.
Luc Longley (7'2" 292) had another solid season despite a shoulder injury
that kept him out for two months. Luc did a decent job in the playoffs
against big name centers like Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. Luc
is a decent shot blocker, a great passer, has a good outside shot, and is
one of the better free-throw shooting centers in the league. Still,
Longley is foul prone and sometimes hesitant with the ball. He is, at
best, a mediocre center.
Robert Parish (7'1", 244) was seldom used throughout the season. In the
few minutes he played, however, he did produce. The Chief said after the
Finals that it's time for him to finally call it quits after ending a
10-year championship dry spell. He says there's a 98% chance he won't be
back next season. At least now he has more rings than Larry Bird.
With Williams and Parish gone next season, the Bulls will be thin at
center. They will have no choice but to re-sign Wennington, and will also
look to the draft to pick up another backup.
Jason Caffey (6'8", 256) emerged last season while starting for the
injured/suspended Rodman. Caffey averaged 7.3 points per game last
season and has proven to be a solid rebounder, averaging 4 per game.
Caffey still misses a lot of easy shots (mostly dunks) and has some work
to do this summer, but is the most likely candidate to fill Dennis
Rodman's shoes should he not return next season.
Toni Kukoc (6'11", 242) is listed as a power forward, but he is usually
used as a small forward or a guard. Kukoc had trouble playing the 4
during the 1994-95 season, and is not likely to be used at that position
much. Kukoc is a great passer and penetrator, but a terrible defender.
He is a streaky shooter from outside, but can often be counted on in clutch
situations. His performance in the playoffs was hampered by a foot
injury he suffered late in the regular season. A few months rest should
be enough to return Kukoc to shape as one of the league's top sixth men.
Dickey Simpkins (6'10", 264) was even less productive than Robert Parish
if you can imagine that! Simpkins played in only 48 games while averaging
close to 2 points and 2 rebounds per game. Simpkins, who has been left
off the playoff roster for all three seasons of his career, will be back
The Bulls also hold the rights to C/F Dragan Tarlac (6'10", 268), who was
drafted in the second round of the 1994 draft. Tarlac spent the last two
seasons finishing out his contract with Olympiakos Piraeus in Greece,
where he won a EuroLeague Championship. Whether he will be in a Bulls
uniform next season is still uncertain. Either way, the Bulls will see
him in October in the McDonald's World Championship.
Without Rodman, the Bulls are weak at the power forward position.
Hopefully the Bulls can sign Tarlac, but I haven't heard anything about
him since he was drafted two years ago. If Rodman does not re-sign, the
Bulls might look to free-agency to fill the void, or they might also look
to draft a power forward if a decent center isn't available.
Scottie Pippen (6'7", 228) is, without a doubt, one of the greatest
players in the league. Pip is a great defender, passer, rebounder, and
has developed his three-point shot. Scottie Pippen, the most underpaid
player in the league ($2.25 million last season), has one more year on
his contract. Pip is once again the subject of trade rumors. The most
recent: Pip to Philadelphia for Jerry Stackhouse and the #2 pick in the
draft. Another rumor has him going to Golden State for Joe Smith. The
only way Scottie would be traded is if both Phil and MJ did not re-sign.
Michael made it clear that Pippen must remain with the team if he is
going to come back next season.
Jud Buechler (6'6", 228) had a sub-par season, but bounced back in the
playoffs just when the Bulls needed him. Jud is a great spot-up shooter
and a good defender as well. He always gives the Bulls a good spark off
the bench when called upon. He'll be back in the same role next season.
With Kukoc and Ron Harper able to play the small forward, the Bulls are
pretty solid at the 3 spot.
Ron Harper (6'6", 216) has never matched his Cavs/Clippers days since
coming to the Bulls. He has, however, provided solid defense and given
Michael Jordan a break from guarding smaller, quicker point guards.
Harper was another key contributor in the Bulls recent title run. Still,
Harper's contract, which paid him $3.8 million last year, makes him
nearly impossible to trade. The Bulls might just have to squeeze
whatever they can out of him until his contract expires in two years.
Randy Brown (6'2", 190) is really to small to be a shooting guard, but
not exactly a point guard either. Brown has been used almost exclusively
as a defensive stopper against some of the league's quicker point guards.
Randy can always be counted on to play tough D, but not much else.
Steve Kerr (6'3", 180) is the closest thing to a point guard the Bulls
have. Steve is a clutch shooter, as he showed in Game 6 of the NBA
Finals, but is only a mediocre defender. Still, he's a bargain at
Beacuse of the triangle offense, in which many players handle the
ball, the point guard position is obsolete. Scottie Pippen usually plays
"point-forward" for the Bulls. Many of the Bulls (Pippen, Jordan, Harper,
and Kukoc) are able to play multiple postions including point guard.
Should Jackson leave (and presumably Jordan), it is unlikely that the
Bulls will stay with the triangle offense. In that case, the Bulls are in
DIRE need of a true point guard. If Jordan didn't return, it is likely
that Pippen would be traded and Rodman certainly wouldn't be back. In
that case, the Bulls may try to trade for a point guard, or maybe pick
one up in the draft.
Serge Zwikker C (7'2", 275) - North Carolina +
Zwikker averaged 11.5 points and 8.1 rebounds during his senior year at
North Carolina, and helped the Tarheels make it to the Final Four for
the 2nd time in his college career. Serge is a hard-working big man with
a soft touch who can also block shots. The biggest complaint about
Zwikker is his lack of mobility. Still, he would fit nicely into the
Bulls system. Zwikker has improved steadily throughout his college career
and should continue to improve in the NBA.
With Zwikker in the lineup, the Bulls would again have a three-headed
monster with Longley, Zwikker, and hopefully Wennington. Zwikker should
emerge as a competent backup center, and should last a while in the NBA.
Maurice Taylor PF (6'9", 255) - Michigan +
I can't believe Taylor slipped this far! Utah got themselves a steal.
Taylor is easily one of the best players available at this point, and in
the unlikely event that he slips this far in the real draft, the Bulls
would snatch him up in a second. Taylor's stock may have dropped because
the Wolverines failed to make the NCAA Tournament last year, but he did
lead them to a NIT Tournament win. Taylor averaged 12.3 points and 6.2
rebounds as a junior, while shooting over 50% from the field and 70% from
the line. Taylor should have a chance to improve tremendously in the NBA,
as he isn't as likely to be double-teamed as much as he was in college.
Kiwane Garris PG (6'2", 187) - Illinois
I'm kind of partial to Kiwane because he's a fellow Illini, but Garris
showed last season that he's ready to play in the NBA. Garris lead the
Illini to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, surpassing the
expectaions of many sportswriters. Kiwane can penetrate, pass, and
defend, as well as hit from the outside. The Bulls should closely
consider Garris if they're looking for a true point guard. Garris
finished second in the Big Ten last season in points (19.4) and assists
(5.6) and earned a spot on the All Big Ten team. He also averaged 12
points and 12 assists at the Nike Desert Classic with just one turnover.
Unfortunately, a big man takes priority for the Bulls.
God Shammgod PG (6'1", 178) - Providence
Shammgod is the highest ranked point guard that is available at this
point, but it's unlikely he'll last this long in the real draft.
Shammgod can penetrate, but his shooting needs work. His stock would
probably go up if he decided to stay in school for another year or two.
I don't think he's ready to play in the NBA.
Chris Anstey C (7'0", 235) - Australia
Anstey is the highest rated center available, but doesn't have the size
that Zwikker does. Anstey won a NBL Championship last year with the
Southeast Melbourne Magic, as well as the NBL Most-Improved Player Award,
and finished second in voting for the NBL Sixth Man Award. In his last
season in the NBL he averaged 12.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. The
main reason I didn't choose Anstey is his size. But also, can you see the
Bulls with TWO Australian centers?
Some other players that I didn't consider taking, but I think will do
well in the NBA: Johnny Taylor (SF), UT-Chattanooga; Jason Lawson (PF),
Villanova; Dedric Willoughby (SG), Iowa State.
Who The Bulls Will Probably Take
Serge Zwikker. There's no way Taylor will drop to 28. The Bulls are in
dire need of a big man, regardless of what direction they decide to go
in. Zwikker seems to be the best center available at this point.
Other Moves The Bulls Should Make
While nearly every Bulls fan wants Michael and Phil and Scottie to be
back next year, Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause must also look to the
future. If they begin rebuilding too late, they could lose Pippen to
free-agency, lose Jordan to retirement, and end up in the same position
as the Boston Celtics in a year or two. I don't see the Bulls keeping all
of last year's championship squad, especially Dennis Rodman. At this
point Pippen's fate will be an early indicator of the team's future. If
he's traded, the Bulls may be without the services of Jordan and Rodman
next season, but will add some talent and youth that will keep them
playoff contenders. If the whole cast returns, the Bulls will win their
sixth championship, and will be in an even tougher position next season.
In either case, the Bulls might look at Loy Vaught or Jayson Williams,
both of whom the Bulls have shown interest in before, and both of whom
are free agents this summer. Vaught averaged 14.9 points and 10 rebounds
per game while leading the Clippers to the playoffs. Williams averaged
13.4 points and 13.5 rebounds for the Nets, and can play both center and
power forward. The Bulls may also take a look at the Kings' Brian Grant,
who averaged 10.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in his second NBA season.
Hopefully the Bulls will be able to sign Dragan Tarlac, which would add
depth, youth, and versatility to their front-court.