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07/04/2006: "Chicago Bulls: 2009 NBA Champions?"

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Chicago Bulls: 2009 NBA Champions
Written By Jarrod Halsey
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Make no mistake, Ben Wallace signing a four-year, $60 million contract with the Chicago Bulls will prove to be the best free agent acquisition in the franchise’s history. The Heat better get another one next year, because this deal signifies a huge swing in power in the NBA’s Eastern Conference in the long run........

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Before I get into exactly how the Bulls will dominate the East, let’s look at some of the numbers of the key contributors on the ’05-’06 Bulls roster:

Ben Gordon: 16.9 ppg, 3.0 apg, 23 years old
Kirk Hinrich: 15.9 ppg, 6.3 apg, 24 years old
Luol Deng: 14.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 20 years old
Andres Nocioni: 13.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 26 years old
Chris Duhon: 8.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 24 years old

The addition of 31 year-old Ben Wallace will not only bring instant defensive credibility, but it will also bring the locker room presence that this young team needs. Ben Wallace is the benchmark when it comes to players who earned everything they achieved in their career. A seasoned vet who keeps himself in peak physical condition, who plays every game like it’s his last and who wears a championship ring to the gym daily?! How could you not bring your A game every night for a teammate like this?
The only place where the Bulls lacked defensively last year was in the middle. Their perimeter defenders are athletic and tenacious. None of them have yet proven that they can lock down a potent scorer. But they have active hands, they like to get physical, and they have a knack for shooting the passing lanes. This scrappy defense is part of the reason why they gave the Heat such fits in the first round of this year’s playoffs. And so what Wallace is 31. Outside of Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett and maybe Jermaine O’neal, what big man is going to give Wallace any real challenge for the next 5 or 6 years?

I can already hear the haters. But the Pistons offense was stagnant for long periods of time with Ben Wallace in the game. The Bulls overpaid for him. Blah blah blah. The Pistons played a slow half-court offense. They moved the ball, played the match-ups, grinded down the clock and waited for the best shot. (Going away from this in the Playoffs is exactly why they lost. But that’s neither here nor there.) An offense like this for a player with Ben Wallace’s limited skills is, well, a nightmare. Ben Wallace is best when he’s driving to the basket from the foul line in and when he’s putting back offensive rebounds. Nowhere else. The Pistons offense often left him in spots where he had to take jumpshots or where he had to create his own shot with his back to the basket. This will not be the case with the Bulls.
The Bulls offense is more about slashing, cutting, penetrate-and-dish and marksman-like jump shooting. With so many slashers on the team, the help defense will have no choice but to leave Wallace and try to cut off penetration. This will lead to at least two or three easy buckets for the big fella. Any team with good jump shooters creates increased offensive rebounding opportunities for ball hawks like Wallace. And we cannot forget all the alley-oops he will get from Hinrich in transition. Quite frankly, this may be an ideal situation for Wallace.

And of course they over paid for him. This type of player is the reason why the Bulls have been spending the past few years getting their money right. When you are $18.7 million dollars under the salary cap, spending more than you need to is kinda like insurance. The Bulls were willing to pay more, so they got him off the market fast.

Acquiring Ben Wallace was a statement to the rest of the conference. This signing, the stellar draft (Tyrus Thomas #4 out of LSU and Thabo Sefolosha #13 out of Switzerland) and trade rumors of Tyson Chandler to the Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith shows that the Bulls plan to take a legitimate run at the title in the next few years.

And the Knicks drafted Renaldo Balkman in the first round…