Trade deadline fixes: Central Division
Bulls and Pacers could use tweaks, but rest of developing Central might stand pat
Basketball Prospectus is taking a look at the NBA division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the upcoming trade deadline, starting Tuesday with a look at the Pacific Division. Wednesday dealt with the Southwest, Thursday was the Northwest, Friday looked at the Southeast, and today is the Central.
The NBA trade deadline drops at 3 p.m. ET March 15, and while all eyes remain on Orlando's Dwight Howard, most teams in the league will be trying to improve their position. For some teams, it's the immediate future that is the biggest concern, and they will be looking to fill holes for a springtime playoff run. Others are looking more at the big picture, and they'll be looking for young talent, salary-cap flexibility and other franchise-building assets.
The primary statistic you'll encounter will be wins above replacement player. We're presenting WARP for each feature player in two flavors, separated by a slash. The first number measures a player's WARP value based on his productivity for this season to date, prorated to 82 games. The second projects his combined WARP value for the next two seasons. This will give you a quick glimpse of both short- and long-term value.
The problem: The Bulls are right back where they were last year, sitting on top of the Eastern Conference standings. They've gotten there despite having their starting five together for just eight games. They've gotten there despite the fact that reigning MVP Derrick Rose has missed 10 games. They've gotten there even though they've played just 16 of their 38 games at home. Despite all of these things, the Bulls are in great position. Chicago ranks in the top three of the league on both ends of the floor. The Bulls' point differential is the best in the NBA, and at 9.6 points per game, that margin is clearly of championship quality. Unfortunately for Chicago, there is that Miami team lingering out there and the primary question for this year's Bulls hasn't changed since the day they were eliminated from last season's Eastern Conference finals: Can they beat the Heat in a seven-game series? Right now, we really don't know. No team has a more clear-cut obstacle than Chicago.
The fix: The Bulls had more continuity from last season than most teams coming out of the lockout, which has helped them sustain a strong start despite the injury woes. Richard Hamilton is the only significant newcomer and even though his availability has been severely limited by a nagging groin injury, he's fit like a glove into Chicago's system when he's managed to suit up. Chicago just needs him -- and everyone else -- as close to healthy as possible entering the postseason. Chicago can't match Miami's star power and unless it really tries to make a splash by breaking up its amazing chemistry in pursuit of Howard, the Bulls' greatest ally in the inevitable showdown with the Heat is depth. They need all hands on deck.The one tweak might be to add another scorer to the third unit, someone who can get hot from long range. Yes, we said third unit, because we're not envisioning another rotation player, just someone that can be called upon in a pinch. Miami's weakest spot has been the number of 3-point looks it has allowed. How about going after Phoenix's Michael Redd? Redd has shown glimpses of his former scoring ability and, given the Bulls' ability to spread the floor, it seems like he'd be a perfect fit. And, he's making the minimum.
Redd WARP: -0.2(this season)/0.7 (next two seasons)
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