After acquiring sophomore guard Cameron Payne from the Oklahoma City Thunder during the trade deadline, the Bulls now have too many guards occupying a roster spot. Coming to this realisation, the Bulls are likely to waive one of their guards, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Easing the guard logjam makes complete sense, particularly as each player is at a similar level in ability and mimic many of the same flaws. Naturally, until we learn who in fact the Bulls will release, we can only speculate.
The safe money would be on Payne remaining with the team. As the central returning piece in the Thunder deal, there’s almost no chance he is waived. The 22-year-old Murray State product has yet to audition as the team’s starting point guard, so he won’t be moving. Importantly, his rookie-scale contract was signed in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will remain a cost-controlled asset for two further seasons.
Taken in the same draft class as Payne, Jerian Grant also has a team-friendly deal for two more seasons. He’s also shown signs of improving his jump shot, making 40.7 percent of his three-point attempts since Jan. 1.
With these two players earning a combined $3.9 million next season, they will remain with team, leaving the following three players as the likely candidates who may be on the move.
Rondo was the first free agent the Bulls targeted in the offseason, signing the veteran guard to a two-year, $28 million deal. Releasing him now, before the first year of his deal has concluded, would be a huge admission of failure by management. For this reason, a cynic would suggest General Manager Gar Forman wouldn’t be prepared to take on such a media hit.
Admitting such an error is the first hurdle in waiving Rondo, but the Bulls have all but confirmed they will not be letting Rondo go. At least not in the interim. Forman has expressed a desire to use Rondo’s deal as an asset in future trades, either before or after July 1. While that scenario is possible, it hardly seems plausible. Nevertheless, in theory, it’s sound asset management.
We also have to consider how Rondo has adapted to the role as the primary backup point guard. The drama surrounding his demotion from starter to bench player has all but disappeared. To his credit, Rondo has had some good moments leading the second unit.
Overall, his numbers are still poor and there’s no way his signing can ever be parsed as a good one, but there are benefits to keeping Rondo around for the final portions of the season.
Trading Tony Snell for Michael Carter-Williams, a former Rookie of the Year, was considered a win by the majority. Fast forward four months, is the sentiment still the same? Maybe, but Snell has played well for the Bucks this season. Since Jan. 1, the former Bull is shooting over 50 percent from three. He also recently hit this game-winning jumper.
Tony Snell game winner, replays. pic.twitter.com/ZKYj8VCPE6
— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) February 26, 2017
Meanwhile, in Chicago…
First shot for the Bulls post All-Star break. Yeah this is gonna be rough. pic.twitter.com/MMg5wL4p9F
— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) February 25, 2017
In some ways, it’s unfair to compare Snell and his new-found role on a team that required his skill-set. The Bulls already had too many non-shooting threats on the roster, which has only exacerbated Carter-Williams’ flaws. His shooting woes have become a problem too big to bare, making the guard expendable.
Macro factors outside of MCW’s control are affecting his worth, so too is his status as a free agent in the offseason. If the Bulls have no intentions of keeping him (or his cap hold) into the future, a sudden split between team and player is logical.
While waiving Carter-Williams would again signal another botched player acquisition, his departure would be far less egregious from a PR standpoint than letting go of Rondo.
Moving on from Canaan is the easiest sell to the masses. Too small to defend shooting guards and unable to run an offense, Canaan is a combo guard who offers little. Hoiberg seems to agree, only playing the guard in seven games this calendar year.
Unlike Rondo or Carter-Williams, the Bulls wouldn’t be losing a player currently in the rotation if they choose to waive Canaan. Though he’s proven to be a great locker room addition and an excellent, towel-waving 12th man, Canaan’s limited on-court presence wouldn’t be missed.
For reasons not pertaining to on-court value, it would be a shock to see Rondo waived. It would be much easier to save face by keeping him around. Pedaling the theory of using contract as trade chip in the offseason is a nice selling technique for Forman, too.
That only leaves Carter-Williams and Canaan. Whilst it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bulls waive Carter-Williams and his redundant skill-set, Canaan is the most obvious option to see his Bulls career come to a close. Should this occur, let’s hope the Bulls scour the buyout market for a wing capable of hitting threes.