As NBA free agency approaches, and the NBA draft behind us, it’s to examine the aftermath of the trade between the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls, with Derrick Rose at the center of it.
Rose was traded along with Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick to the Knicks, who in return sent Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez to Chicago. The Knicks wanted to get better right away, the Bulls just wanted to get rid of Rose’s contract, expiring at the end of this season, and make the team some sort of clean slate for Jimmy Butler.
Are the Knicks better? Sure. Assuming Rose, who played in 66 games last season, is going to be healthy, it gives the Knicks a very nice trio in the form of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Rose. Without any draft picks, they had to do more than just wait for someone in free agency. They shedded Robin Lopez’ contract, which runs through the 2018-2019 season with $42 million remaining it, got rid of Calderon who makes $7.7 million next season and then hits free agency, while Grant, after one season in the NBA, is someone else’s project now.
With Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams opting out of their contracts, the Knicks have more than $30 million in cap space heading into free agency, with some big plans. Obviously, they can re-sign both, but they’re planning on going after a center – Dwight Howard or Hassan Whiteside, and they have the money to do it after a few years of being pretty much limited in terms of offseason maneuverability. After three consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, the Knicks might finally be in position to think about more than just finishing 8th.
The thing is, the NBA is a weird place. If you’re going to make moves for the short term, it better be about becoming a championship contender. If you’re thinking about the future, get rid of those useless assets and start adding draft picks. It doesn’t promise anything (look at the Boston Celtics decision making), but it sets you on a certain direction. The Knicks want to win now, but their moves mean they’ll be in line for more adjustments in the future, and aren’t good enough to do anything out of the ordinary right now.
The Bulls are in a weird place. They have cap space with Pau Gasol opting out and Joakim Noah not coming back. Lopez is a solid center to have in a league that doesn’t require their big men to do more than rebound and defend. Calderon will be bought out most likely at some point, or at least that’ll be the plan. Grant gives the Bulls some nice upside off the bench, although there’s no guarantee it’ll work out. He shot just 39.4% from the field last season.
More than anything, this makes it Jimmy Butler’s team, unless the front office plans on trading him too. There are a lot of questions around what kind of team Chicago will be next season. Not contenders. Maybe they’re thinking about how things turned out for the Portland Trail Blazers after their 2015 mass exodus. It’s not a complete rebuild. It’s in between, but doubting the decision making of Forman and Paxson is rightfully placed considering their previous decisions. Sending Rose away wasn’t a bad idea, maybe a necessary one. But the deal that came from it might not be the best one in terms of positioning the Bulls ideally towards the next year or two.