Friday, September 22, 2006

Bulls in '07?

Our boy Chris Mannix, whom I praised as insightful a mere 4 weeks ago, has gone WAY OUT on a limb and picked the Bulls to win the Championship this season.

As you might imagine, this has generated as much of a buzz as one can get for basketball in September over at blogabull.com (amid the speculation that Mannix could be either too far on or too far off his meds).

I always intended to post something about the Bulls signing of Ben Wallace. In fact, I kind of thought I did, but then I checked the archives and couldn't find anything. Nothing in email either. I guess all of my (brilliant) analysis was on the phone or in IM with Timmy T, a Detroit fan and Ben-lover.

I've never been very secretive about my opinion that Ben Wallace is perhaps the most over-rated player in the NBA. Not that he isn't great; he's just not 5 consecutive all NBA selections great. The best is when I explain to Timmy T how Ben is no where near the player Marcus Camby is, just for kicks. He gets particularly perturbed by that. Good times.

At the time the Bulls signed Ben, several things struck me. One was that in addition to being over-rated, Ben was now overpaid. And of course there is the massive miscalculation the Pistons made by trading Darko for nothing, assuming Ben would re-sign. But the overwhelming feeling I got at the time was how it made no sense for Chicago. The only way it made sense to sign a 32 year old for 4/$60 was if they were going to win a ring THIS YEAR, a concept I find laughable. And yet, here is a guy who apparently gets paid to write about the NBA (lucky bastard) who has predicted exactly that. Wow. I did not see that coming.

Ben's numbers have been declining for 3 seasons. While his rebounding and shot blocking are still terrific, it has been several years since he has led the league in either category, although everyone seems to think that he is the be-all end-all in each discipline. I will not disparage his intensity - he certainly has the heart of a champion. But he has the hands of a stone mason. He is the single biggest offensive liability in the league.

To think that Chicago would win an NBA championship this season, when their best low post scorer is... um... is... give me a minute... is... Kirk Hinrich? Chris Duhon? THEY DON'T HAVE A SINGLE LOW POST SCORER ON THEIR ROSTER! OK, maybe Sweetney. But C'MON! And I know that the game is changed, I know it's more of a perimeter game now, I know, I know. But when was the last time a team won a ring with an exclusively perimeter oriented offense? Even Detroit had 'Sheed to post up from time to time.

The ultimate irony (and I am undoubtedly the only one who believes this) is that I think they were probably closer to a ring BEFORE this summer's machinations. I'll admit, I never had to watch Tyson Chandler day in and day out, and I'm sure Bulls fans will inform me of how much he is the anti-Ben, but speaking as a guy who follows stats for a fantasy league, there was a time when a healthy Tyson Chandler playing solid minutes was putting up rebouding and block numbers that were positively Wallasian (Ben-esque?). Will they be better this season? Sure. But they won't win a ring during the 4 years Wallace is in town (not without another major influx of talent, which I suppose could arrive in the form of Greg Oden if the Knicks oblige). Meanwhile, although it was a long shot, if Tyson Chandler ever reached his full potential, they would have been terrific in a few years, when Chandler is 27 and Ben is 35.

Not that I'm a big Tony Mejia fan, but in his pre-season center rankings, he has Ben as the 7th best Center, and Tyson as the 13th best. Most people might not agree, but it's not absurd. Are the Bulls going to win a ring based on that relatively minor upgrade? Hard to see it. And that's this season, when Ben is 32 and Tyson is 24. Project out 4 years. You get the idea.

I guess it's nice for Paxson to get a LITTLE justification for the signing. He had to know that the only way it made since was if it produced a ring, and now here is someone else who thinks that could happen. And plenty of people have correctly pointed out that Wallace had to be overpaid in order to leave a great situation in Detroit.

You have to gamble to win a ring. But there's no way it's happening. No way.