Larry Hughes: Part II. What to do?


Dec 6

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It’s conundrum No. 2 regarding Larry Hughes

Hughes actually is having one of the best, or at least most efficient, seasons of his career. The 6-5 guard in his 11th season, now coming off the bench again with Luol Deng back starting, is shooting career bests in three pointers and free throws and shooting his second best field goal percentage.

So do you trade him, especially with an eye toward the Washington Wizards, who are in Chicago to play the Bulls Saturday night?

That’s because Hughes had his best seasons with Washington, the Wizards starting backcourt is the lowest functioning in the NBA with Gilbert Arenas still out after surgery, and the Wizards earlier this season expressed interest in reacquiring Hughes.

So why should the Bulls even think of moving Hughes given the best they’d get in return is backups like Etan Thomas, rarely playing under new coach Ed Tapscott, and nowhere near as talented as Hughes. A deal would be difficult in any case given Hughes’ $12.8 million salary for this season.

Though Hughes objected some earlier this season to his role coming off the bench, he’s talked with team management and has seemed to settle in exceptionally well as a reserve the last three games. In that span coming off the bench, Hughes is averaging 12.7 points in just 24 minutes and shooting 56 percent and 64 percent on threes, the latter seven for 11. It’s more efficient than anyone on the team.

But there remains a major issue concerning Hughes and one of the team will have to address.

With Hughes playing a significant role along with Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon in the backcourt and Deng and Andres Nocioni at forward, there has been no time left for Thabo Sefolosha.

If this season is primarily about developing a plan to build around Rose and analyze the players the team has, either the Bulls may not be finding out enough about the 24-year-old Sefolosha or already have decided he is not in their plans.

I doubt it’s the latter given how little he’s played with Rose this season.

Perhaps Sefolosha can gather his time backing up Deng as some believe Sefolosha fits better at small forward. Though what then becomes of Nocioni?

Though now it’s difficult to say what Sefolosha is.

The long armed 6-7 mostly guard from Switzerland hasn’t played in four of the last five games and hasn’t scored a point in the last six, playing 12 and three minutes in the two games he’s played. That was since getting 12 points and six rebounds and hitting two of three three pointers in 28 minutes against Golden State Nov. 21 Since then, he’s rarely played, 15 overall minutes in six games.

So what’s a team to do?

Hughes is producing and Sefolosha isn’t. But Sefolosha isn’t playing and rarely with any regularity. He is a good defender. We’ve seen that. But he is quiet. Because he accepts his role and doesn’t complain, is he being forgotten about? Or is it that Hughes is a much better three point shooter and thus a better option to put with Rose since Sefolosha is a career 32 percent three point shooter and 18 percent this season? And that Hughes with his veteran knowledge gives the Bulls a better chance to win?

But Hughes, while shooting his career high 41 percent on threes this season, actually is a poorer career three point shooter than Sefolosha. Hughes 30 percent for his career on threes. Sefolosha also is a better career overall shooter than Hughes at 43 percent to 41 percent for Hughes. Thus it’s difficult to judge Sefolosha’s production this season with two games played of more than 20 minutes while Hughes has played more than 20 minutes in the last eight games and nine of 11 since returning from a preseason shoulder injury.

And this only figures to become more complicated when Kirk Hinrich returns from injury, though that may not be for two more months.

So with Washington in and the starting backcourt of DeShawn Stevenson shooting 32.9 percent and Dee Brown shooting 36.8 percent, is it a good time to showcase Hughes for a trade? Perhaps less to enhance the Bulls’ talent, but to give Sefolosha a chance to show whether he fits into the team’s plans. Which we doubt Hughes does when his contract ends after next season.

Thomas is at least a forward who may bang around some and whom the Wizards are said to be anxious to move. They like their young big guys like Chicagoan JaVale McGee, so maybe they’d move former Bull Darius Songaila, and they don’t use Oleksiy Pecherov, though matching salaries could be an issue. There’s likely nothing close to a deal at this time.

But this remains a question that could hang over the Bulls for awhile. Just what is the right thing to do?

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

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