Ah, speculation. Sports wouldn’t be so fun without it. We wouldn’t be able to belly up the bar with our buddies and waste so much time talking about our favorite teams. In this context, speculation is just another word for bonding. And as John Lennon once said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
So speculate we will.
To start, Grantland.com is doing a fun NBA preview series where Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose break down each NBA team. Simmons has already pre-ranked all 30 teams, and Grantland has been releasing one team each day, in descending order. Today on Grantland’s YouTube channel, the No. 22 ranked Atlanta Hawks were up.
In a segment affectionately deemed “Clairvoyant Bill,” Simmons goes over some bold predictions for each team. Here’s where it get’s fun for Bulls fans.
Simmons introduced the idea of reuniting former college teammates Al Horford and Joakim Noah, who played together on two Florida Gator championship teams under Coach Billy Donovan.
Simmons and Rose discussed the likelihood of a deal making sense for both sides. Simmons proposed the following package to Jalen, while Jalen momentarily put on his Hawks GM hat to mull the offer.
Atlanta Hawks get: PF Carlos Boozer, PF Nikola Mirotić, Charlotte Bobcats first round draft pick (unprotected in 2016), Bulls 2014 first round draft choice
Chicago Bulls get: PF/C Al Horford
Rose and Simmons came to the conclusion that the deal made sense. Horford is owed $12 million each season for the 2013-14, ’14-15 and ’15-16 seasons, respectively. Boozer is set to make $15.3 million in 2013-14 and $16.8 million in ’14-15 before coming off the books in ’15-16.
In order to take that extra $8.1 million on the first two years of the 31-year-old Boozer’s deal, the Hawks would undoubtedly need to be blown away with young talent/draft choices, and this deal qualifies.
Here’s how it looks using ESPN’s NBA trade machine: (link)
When I mentioned Grantland’s dreamed-up trade scenario on Twitter, I was a bit surprised to see that many were vehemently opposed to the deal.
So is making a “Godfather” offer for Horford worthwhile?
Admittedly, giving up the highly regarded Mirotić, who’s still only 22, is quite a lot to lose. Especially when paired with the Bobcats future first-rounder, which may end up being top five choice, and a Bulls first rounder–not to be dismissed because the Bulls front office has continually struck gold late in the first round. Names like Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Nikola Mirotić are some examples of Gar/Pax’s aptitude for finding high-end talent late in the first round.
That said, I think if this deal ever came available, the Bulls should say yes.
Let’s start with what Horford would mean to Chicago.
Horford is a tantalizing talent. Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations John Hollinger called Horford an elite-level big man with a great mid-range shot. His ability to run the floor, handle the ball, pass, finish and shoot make him one of the most versatile players in the League.
Horford is also an extremely efficient player, averaging 53.9% from the field in his career. Last season, he averaged 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds on 54.3% shooting. Boozer on the other hand, was much less efficient, getting his 16.2 points on 47.7% shooting.
NBA players on average, according to AskMen.com, typically peak at 26.9. That makes Horford, who just turned 27 on June 3rd, smack dab in the middle of his NBA prime.
Horford’s reputation is rock-solid, in the locker room and on the court. It has been since his days as a Gator. There’s also clearly an element of chemistry between Horford and Noah that would likely re-spark in a reunion.
“You can hear Joakim telling his players what Al’s going to do and you can hear Al telling us what Joakim’s going to do,” Atlanta swingman Damien Wilkins told NBA.com‘s Steve Aschburner in this story published during a 2011 playoff match-up between the Bulls and Hawks. ”I don’t think there’s any secrets between them. You can tell by looking at ‘em that the one definitely wants to one-up the other.”
Can you imagine what that kind of on-court cohesionwould lead to? With all due respect to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, I think you may have to elevate an Al-Jo combo-punch to most formidable frontcourt in the L. How could you not? They would be the picture of versatility. Both have high basketball IQ’s. Neither needs the ball to affect the outcome of the game. Yahtzee.
But what about the Hawks?
The Hawks have nothing to complain about in this deal. It’s something that former Spurs front office man and current Hawks GM Danny Ferry would have to consider. The value of a first-round NBA draft choice has never been higher and he would be getting two if you call Mirotić a pick, (It’s been said that Mirotić would have been the top overall pick in this past June’s draft) and possibly three first-round draft choices.
By downgrading from Horford to Boozer, which isn’t all that dramatic, the Hawks would also conceivably improve their chances (by losing a game or two more) in June 2014′s draft, which is being heralded as the best since 2003. And that ’03 draft was nothing to sneeze at, as it featured superstars like: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh .
Does Horford make more sense then LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love?
Which is a big reason why I was so perplexed when so many people rejected this trade. Horford is signed at an affordable rate for the next three seasons. Aldridge and Love are almost certainly going to command max deals, or at least near-max. The Aldridge and Love pairings with Noah also may be a bit clumsy. Especially Aldridge, who is probably better suited as a center.
Not only do we know Horford meshes beautifully with Noah, we know he’s a winner. He never complains in that seemingly difficult Atlanta situation where they have been stuck in playoff purgatory for years.
He’s tough-minded and, plainly, he fits the makeup of this Bulls team better than Aldridge, Love or Boozer.
So what’s the overall likelihood of a deal getting done?
Minuscule. Call it less than 5%.
But why not talk about it? This is sports. And hey, a lot stranger trades have happened. This one is not so far-fetched when you work through it.
Ideally, the Bulls would be able to get away with holding on to their first-round pick. With the track record they have scoring high-quality talent at affordable prices, it’s difficult to imagine the Bulls parting with that entire package.
In the mean time, Bulls fans are free to speculate.