With the western conference stronger than ever, it seems that San Antonio isn’t going to get many more chances at competing for a championship. This year might be it, and Ginobili’s recent injury has substantially endangered their chances. While the safe move for the Spurs is to stick with what’s been working so well for so long, maybe it’s time to mix it up with a big-time trade. Here’s why:
- The Spurs struggle to put points on the board, which puts a lot of pressure on their franchise player Tim Duncan to produce night-in and night-out.
- Duncan is getting older and the championship window opens or closes with him.
- Manu Ginobili, arguably the Spurs best pure scorer, could miss the first month or two of the season.
The Chicago Bulls have some problems as well, and a trade or two seems inevitable:
- With Luol Deng’s big new contract, Nocioni’s contract is a luxury they can’t afford.
- Captain Kirk Hinrich doesn’t fit their long term plans.
- Chicago isn’t in a very good position to participate in free agency in 2010, at least not without renouncing the rights to a young player or two.
- Chicago is a team without a clear-cut leader or go-to scorer.
So why don’t these two teams make a trade? San Antonio sends Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, and a throw-in (Matt Bonner) to Chicago for Andres Nocioni and Kirk Hinrich.
Here’s how San Antonio improves: Hinrich and Nocioni can start at the 2 and the 3, respectively. Captain Kirk is just as capable of a ball handler and passer as Manu Ginobili, and while he’s not as good of a 3pt shooter as Manu according to the stats, I’d like to see what Kirk can do when he gets wide open (something he hasn’t enjoyed much in Chicago). Besides, Hinrich wouldn’t need to knock down as many 3′s with Nocioni on the floor. The Captain can also backup Tony Parker as needed, another bonus for the Spurs.
Nocioni’s hustle play, 3pt range, and solid mid-range game would help to compensate for a lot of Manu’s intangibles (Nocioni seems ideal for the Spurs by the way). Even better, Nocioni and Hinrich would provide comparable defense to the combo of Manu Ginobili and the aging Bruce Bowen – while also offering quite a bit more offense. Team rebounding would improve, and because of these two new players San Antonio’s offensive attack would be more balanced. Tim Duncan’s workload would also be reduced with Hinrich and Nocioni on the floor to score and rebound.
If the Spurs make this trade they get younger, score easier, and don’t skip a beat in terms of defense. Since the contracts of Hinrich and Nocioni get smaller every year, the Spurs would still have a chance of landing a solid free agent in 2010 provided they avoid any more long-term deals. With 4 starters signed, that’s a good bet.
One more benefit for the Spurs – they probably won’t be dropping any close games when the season starts. If San Antonio doesn’t make this move and instead waits for Ginobili to get healthy, there’s a good chance they’ll miss a few early-season wins. That could translate into a much tougher post-season (and another missed opportunity).
What’s in it for Chicago: The Bulls need leadership – badly. When he returns from his injury, Ginobili brings that leadership along with a will to win that ignites this young team. He becomes the leader the Bulls are lacking. He has enough talent to lead the Bulls back into the playoffs now. Bruce Bowen provides toughness and leadership (and most likely limited minutes), as well as giving the Bulls some real defensive chops. Just imagine how much better of a player Luol Deng will become if he practices with Bowen. Bowen and Ginobili also help freshman coach Vinny Del Negro get up to speeed and set the right tone in the locker room.
Perhaps just as importantly, Chicago gets rid of two long term contracts that they really don’t need. Hinrich’s PG skills are officially redundant with Derrick Rose on the roster. Nocioni is a great energy guy, but his contract is too expensive for a bench player. With contracts pending for Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas in the summer of 2010, moving the contracts of Nocioni and Hinrich clears plenty of space for Chicago to re-sign their own young talent while also being able to participate in the big free-agent market.
Bottom line: What this really comes down to for San Antonio is that it gives them at least one more shot at a title, and probably 2 or 3. The triumvirate of Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan almost got it done last year, but with Bowen showing his age and Ginobili’s helter-skelter playing style, it seems risky to rely on either one of those players much longer. The Spurs need to do something to make their team better, and as important as Ginobili is, his injury risk is too great. His prime is just about past – why not trade him now for maximum value? Indeed this deal is such a no-brainer for Chicago that they would likely part with a first round pick or two. Chicago is going to try and trade Hinrich and Nocioni anyways – the prospect of getting back a real team leader in Manu Ginobili should be enough to get Chicago to cough up a couple of picks.
Why doesn’t this deal make sense? Chemistry perhaps – moving Manu is breaking up the three amigos. However, the truth is that Duncan is the Spurs. He is the most important player, and everyone else is expendable.
But what do you think??