Bulls find a point guard in Warriors’ C.J. Watson


Jul 19

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In the Bulls’ detective work searching out a backup point guard, it looks like it’s Watson.

The Bulls late Monday, league sources confirmed, agreed with the Golden State Warriors on a sign-and-trade deal that will bring C.J. Watson to the Bulls for a second round pick. Watson, 26, from the University of Tennessee, will earn about $10 million for three years, with the first two fully guaranteed. The deal leaves the Bulls about $4.5 million to sign free agents with the next priority believed to be another shooting guard.

Watson has been a player on the Bulls’ radar for at least a year, as there were some trade talks with the Warriors after the Magic went hard after Watson last summer before settling on Jason Williams.

Watson chose to become a restricted free agent and hopefully get a better deal this summer.

He’s more of a scoring point guard or combo guard because of his penchant for scoring, and he had a 40-point game last season against Sacramento while starting for Monta Ellis.

Watson last season averaged 10.3 points in 27.5 minutes per game. He is a career 35 percent three point shooter, though he only shot 31 percent on threes last season. But he shot 40 percent on threes in 2008-09 in 77 games for the Warriors with 18 starts. He is known more for his mid range shooting game. He has been compared to a long ago Bulls backup point, Steve Colter.

He is considered a passable defender with his main strength shooting. But Watson is another player, like Ronnie Brewer who was officially signed earlier Monday, who has quick hands and high steal numbers. Watson averaged 1.6 steals per game last season, which would have been good enough for 11th in the league. But he didn’t have the minutes to qualify in averaging about 27 minutes per game.

He is an 82 percent career free throw shooter, which is vital for a player with the ball in his hands. The addition of Watson is a solid backup pickup for the Bulls given Rose will play most of the time at point. But given Watson’s shooting ability the two can play together at times.

Watson was undrafted in 2006 and went to play in Italy and Greece. He played summer league for the Spurs and was in the Bobcats camp in 2007. He then went to the D-league, where he was LeBron James, averaging 26.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists and ended up sticking with the Warriors after two 10-day contracts.

In his first full season with the Warriors in 2008-09, he averaged 9.5 points on 40 percent three point shooting. He missed 17 games last season for the injury plagued Warriors with illness and a rib injury. But he started 15 games and in those starts averaged 15.4 points and shot 49.7 percent overall in almost 39 minutes per game.

Watson’s addition gives the Bulls a nice three guard rotation with Rose and Brewer since Watson played off the ball quite a bit in Golden State. And both Brewer and Watson were among the league leaders in steals.

The Bulls now have Joakim Noah, Omer Asik, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson up front and Kyle Korver, Luol Deng and James Johnson as wing players. It gives the team added shooting to space the floor and speed in transition.

They likely will add another shooter and another big man with a roster that is likely to be at 13 again.

Watson will be giving up his number as he wore No. 23 in Golden State. As one of the players wearing No. 23, he was asked last season by reporters about surrendering the number when James suggested the NBA retire No. 23 for Michael Jordan.

“I’d feel very honored to give up my number,” Watson said then. “He was the greatest player who ever played, so it wouldn’t be a problem or anything like that. He’s accomplished everything there is to do in basketball.”

Now, Watson tries to add to that Bulls history as well. The game is on.

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