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With $20 million in hand, Bulls play free-agent game
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Chicago could turn out to be an ideal place for the Raptors' Chris Bosh to continue his NBA career.


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Published: 4/28/2010 7:16 PM

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The Bulls are going to take a few days to settle their coaching situation.

The biggest story of the summer, though, won't be the coach, but how the Bulls spend the roughly $20 million in cap room they saved up.

After being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Cleveland, Wednesday marked the start of the Bulls' off-season.

The two biggest free agents of 2010, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, are likely to stay put. But the Bulls also have strong interest in Atlanta guard Joe Johnson, Toronto forward Chris Bosh and a few others.

Following his exit interview with the Bulls' management team of John Paxson and Gar Forman, veteran center Brad Miller described the situation as well as any basketball analyst.

"You have the option to sign a max player," Miller said. "Well, there are max players in Bosh, Joe Johnson, obviously you throw Wade out there. There are a lot of options. You could go guard, you could go post guy. So you don't know.

"It's stuck right in that middle of do you bring another guard in to go with Derrick (Rose) or do you bring in another big to go with Jo (Noah)? You can honestly go either way."

Well, Miller just had an audience with the bosses, which path did he recommend?

"This is why I only come upstairs (at the Berto Center) a couple times a year," he said. "I stay downstairs most of the time. Honestly, I really don't know."

The Bulls have just six players under contract for next season:

• Luol Deng, $11.4 million

• Kirk Hinrich, $9 million

• Derrick Rose, $5.5 million

• Joakim Noah, $3.1 million

• James Johnson, $1.7 million

• Taj Gibson, $1.1 million

Commissioner David Stern said recently he expects the salary cap to be set near $56 million, although the official number won't be released until July. Tack on the No. 17 draft pick and enough minimum salaries to fill out the roster, and the Bulls could have even a little more than $20 million to spend.

The Bulls need better outside shooting. The final count in 3-point baskets during the Cleveland series was 52 for the Cavs and 16 for the Bulls.

The best shooting guard available is Johnson, and there isn't a clear second choice. Johnson and Bulls guard Jannero Pargo were college teammates at Arkansas and remain close friends.

At power forward, there are several all-stars on the market. Besides Bosh, Utah's Carlos Boozer, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire and New York's David Lee should also be available.

Bosh is one of the league's best at his position and figures to be ready to switch teams after Toronto failed to make the playoffs once again. So maybe the Bulls should bolster the front line and make Bosh their first choice.

In order to sign Johnson and a power forward, the Bulls would need to make a trade and most likely find a team to take Hinrich or Deng.

"I trust Gar and Paxson, the moves they're going to make," Deng said. "I've been here six years and I want things to get better. I know those guys are really trying hard and hopefully this will be a good summer."

Here's one idea for a lower-priced shooting guard: Utah's Kyle Korver. He broke Steve Kerr's NBA record for 3-point percentage, shooting .536 this season. Maybe Hinrich and Korver could emulate the 1990s combo of Ron Harper and Kerr - one defensive specialist and one long-range shooter.

"It's one of those things where the organization feels like it's in a good position," Hinrich said. "Hopefully, they can get some things done to help us win games.

"I've kind of been here before where everybody thinks we're on the brink of taking it to he next level. The challenge is to make sure it happens this time."