Kobe wouldn’t make sense for young nucleus

By Jeremy Werner

I had been planning on using my column this week to campaign Rashard Mendenhall for Heisman, but he curiously only touched the ball 18 times against the Hawkeyes. So, in lieu of the Illini’s heartbreaking loss, I decided to focus on something that makes me smile: the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls are coming off their best season (49-33) since Mr. Jordan went to Washington. Their first-round playoff sweep over the defending champion Miami Heat raised expectations. But Detroit’s six-game downing of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals revealed the Bulls’ youth and inexperience.

This season, though, the Bulls are a favorite among sportswriters to compete for an Eastern Conference championship and possibly an NBA title. Despite the high expectations, the media have reported numerous trade rumors surrounding the Bulls adding an NBA superstar.

The juiciest rumor has been a proposed deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that would send disgruntled superstar Kobe Bryant to the Bulls for a package of young talent. At first glance, adding a player of Kobe Bryant’s ability is a no-brainer. Bryant has already won three titles in L.A. and is arguably the closest thing to Michael Jordan that the NBA has ever seen.

But adding Bryant wouldn’t give the Bulls any better of a chance at winning an NBA title. Any deal for Bryant would decimate the Bulls’ roster. The Lakers will not even think about trading Kobe unless they received Luol Deng and Ben Gordon. The Bulls would also have to package another young player, such as Tyrus Thomas or rookie Joakim Noah.

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That would give the Bulls a starting lineup of Kirk Hinrich, Kobe Bryant, Andres Nocioni, Joe Smith and Ben Wallace. This lineup shows no improvement over the Bulls’ current lineup. The Bulls still would be in need of a low-post scorer and would lose one of their biggest strengths: depth on the bench.

Kobe would give the Bulls a go-to guy that can take over games, but unless he scored 35 points per game, the Bulls would struggle to add any victories. Kobe would have little help on the offensive end; Hinrich and Nocioni do not have the offensive tools to be dangerous alternatives to Bryant.

More importantly, adding Bryant would severely disrupt the Bulls’ chemistry. It is common knowledge that Kobe is not the most well-liked teammate. He ran Shaquille O’Neal out of L.A. just so he could be the center of attention.

Bulls General Manager John Paxson has done a great job in building a team of proven collegiate winners. The core has now been together for three seasons and works extremely well together.

“Captain” Kirk Hinrich has developed as the leader of the Bulls, while Deng has emerged as a possible NBA superstar in the mold of Scottie Pippen at the young age of 22. Ben Gordon has the ability to take over games with his scoring ability; he has also proven to be the Bulls go-to guy in the clutch.

The addition of four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace has helped the Bulls go from a pretty good defensive team to one of the best in the league. Chicago led the league in defensive efficiency and allowed only 93.8 points per game, good for sixth best in the NBA according to ESPN.com.

The problem with adding Wallace, though, is in addition to adding his defense, he brings one of the ugliest jump shots ever seen in the NBA. He makes Shaq look like Ray Allen at the free-throw line. His career free-throw percentage is a paltry 41.7 percent. This has created a need for the Bulls to add a low-post scorer. The Bulls added former overall No. 1 draft pick and proven veteran power forward Joe Smith to add some scoring in the post, but he won’t scare any opposing teams. The Bulls are hoping Deng can add an inside game or that Tyrus Thomas develops some kind of offensive attack.

Paxson has been smart enough to be patient with his team, allowing them to develop along together much like the Detroit Pistons. Adding a proven star like Kobe Bryant or Memphis Grizzlies center Pau Gasol is very tempting for the Bulls because they have the resources.

But the Bulls have already proven they can compete and win against the best the East has to offer. With one more year of experience under their belts together, they are now the best team the East has to offer.

Jeremy Werner is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].