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Bulls Get Their Top Target

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jul 16, 2007 3:30PM

2007_07_sports_joe_smith.jpgWith the draft behind him, Bulls GM John Paxson hoped to fill the Bulls' need for a low-post scorer via trade or free agency. Without wanting to break up the team's young core, and without much cap room, Paxson didn't have a lot of options as the free agency period began last Wednesday.

Given those limited options, Paxson got his key target by agreeing to a two-year deal with Joe Smith worth about $5 million a season.

“Joe fits what we are trying to do,” Paxson said. “He is a pro in how he approaches the game. ... From a basketball standpoint I felt we needed another big, preferably one who can shoot from the perimeter if we couldn’t get a legitimate post player.”

The 6'10" power forward has averaged 12.1 points and 7 rebounds per game over his 12-year career. While not exactly the stats one expects from a first-overall pick, as he was coming out of Maryland in 1995, Smith has a reputation for being a solid pro who understands his role within a team.

Smith can expect to fill the role that P.J. Brown filled over the past couple seasons. The Bulls plan to insert Smith into the starting lineup on the front line alongside Ben Wallace and Luol Deng — at least initially, while Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah continue to mature.

Having also re-signed Andres Nocioni to a five-year, $38 million deal last week, the Bulls look to have their roster for the 2007-2008 season pretty much in place. Now Paxson can turn his focus to extensions for Ben Gordon and Luol Deng.

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