Heading into this NBA season, I wasn’t expecting much from my Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose, the player the entire roster was built around, was out with a torn ACL and his return date was unknown.
Personally, I wanted Rose to take the entire season off. Even if it meant Chicago missed the playoffs this year, I was perfectly fine with Rose waiting until that knee was completely healthy.
What I failed to realize was how good of a coach Tom Thibodeau was. He kept the Bulls playing hard all season and got them to the playoffs as the No. 5 seed.
Chicago went on to beat the Nets in a thrilling seven-game series and made the Heat work to beat them in the conference semifinals. I’m usually not a fan of “morale victories,” but what the Bulls accomplished in the playoffs was more than I could ever imagine.
With Rose set to return at hopefully full strength next year, Chicago could move back into the elite echelon of teams again. Of course, there are several roster decisions that need to be made first.
Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, two key guys from this year’s playoff run are both free agents. I think the Bulls would love to sign both, but I’m pretty sure Nate will get a contract offer that they can’t match. Re-signing Belinelli is much more likely.
The emergence of Jimmy Butler in the playoffs was great and I expect him to be a key part to the Bulls next year whether it is in a starting role or coming off the bench. Rookie point guard Marquis Teague could also see increased minutes as he improves.
Joakim Noah and Luol Deng will also be back and completely healthy, making Chicago a given to be one of the league’s best defensive teams.
All of that said, I still want to see the Bulls try and make a bold move this summer. Carlos Boozer has been solid for Chicago the past three years, but his defense (or lack thereof) makes him a poor fit for the team. If there is a position on the team to be upgraded, it is power forward.
Due to salary cap restraints, the only way for Chicago to upgrade at PF is to make a trade. It does have a few nice pieces that could help in their quest to find the missing piece to take down Miami in the East.
The first is a future first-round pick from the Charlotte Bobcats. This is attractive, because it has the chance to be a good lottery pick. It is top 10 protected in 2014, top 8 in 2015 and UNPROTECTED in 2016. Judging by the state of the Bobcats, that pick could be real high and is a real asset for trades.
The Bulls also have Nikola Mirotic to dangle in trade talks. Don’t know who he is? Bleacher Report actually has a good breakdown of this potential Euro star.
While Mirotic looks to be a potential stud, Euro players are never a sure thing. That’s why the Bulls could try and see if a team would want him in a potential blockbuster trade.
Finally, they do have Rip Hamilton, who is definitely approaching the end of his career. His salary is $5M for next season, but he does have a $1M buyout. That could be a nice piece to help teams drop team payroll and their salary cap penalties.
With that in mind, here are three scenarios I think the Bulls should/will consider. It’s doubtful the first two will happen, but hey, a Bulls fan can dream!
Dream Scenario 1: Kevin Love
This is a stretch, mostly because Love is under contract for three more years. The only thing going in Chicago’s favor is that Love is unhappy in Minnesota.
Love would be an ideal fit for Chicago, because his skills go well with Rose and Noah. Love isn’t a great defender (though he is better than Boozer), but he is a great rebounder. Offensively, he can stretch the floor, opening up the lane for Rose to drive like he prefers.
It wouldn’t be cheap to get Love from Minnesota. It may even require that coveted Bobcats pick.
Here is an offer that might get it done.
That certainly is a big price to get Love, but that might be the only way for Minnesota to listen. Getting Williams would be nice, who despite falling out of favor with the T-Wolves, still has potential. I would hate to give up Butler and probably Mirotic, but you have to give up something to get something.
The Bulls starting five would be Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Deng, Love and Noah, with a bench of Taj Gibson, Williams and hopefully Belinelli.
All that said, I don’t think this is likely to happen.
Dream Scenario 2: Pau Gasol
While some media may make you believe Dwight Howard will leave the Lakers, I just don’t see it happening. With Kobe likely out for most of next season, this will be Howard’s team, which he prefers.
We saw last season that Howard and Gasol are not a good fit. Coach Mike D’Antoni wants more of a jump shooting PF, which is not Gasol’s strong suit.
With that in mind, here is an offer that could very well interest the Lakers:
Several reasons this makes sense for L.A.
a) Boozer not only is a better fit for D’Antoni’s offense, but he is cheaper than Gasol.
b) Remember, the Lakers are in line to pay a big luxury tax, so having the option to buy out Hamilton would be a big plus.
c) The Lakers don’t have a first-round pick due to the Steve Nash trade. They need to get younger, and getting the 20th pick in the draft would be a good pick-up.
This gives the Bulls a starting lineup of Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Gasol and Noah, with a bench led by Butler and Gibson. That is a team that could beat Miami!
Chances of this happening – I’d say better than some might think.
Likely Scenario: Stand pat
I’m not a big fan of this scenario, but I think this is the way the Bulls are likely to go.
I’d say it would be a certainty that Chicago would buy out Hamilton for $1M. They would try to re-sign Nate Robinson, but I’m sure he will get a bigger offer somewhere else.
I could see Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed getting re-signed for a decent price. It may be time for Mirotic to come over as well.
So the starting five would be Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Boozer and Noah, with a bench of Butler, Gibson, Belinelli, Mirotic(?) and Mohammed. If healthy, that is a top four seed in the East and one that could challenge Miami. But ultimately, I’m not sure if they can beat the Heat with Boozer at PF.
No matter what direction the Bulls choose to go, I’m still excited about next season. This team was a lot of fun to watch the past few weeks and should be a lot better with the return of their MVP.
• Memphis looks really strong now and appears to have a great shot at facing Miami in the NBA Finals.
On paper, the Grizzlies appear to have a team constructed to beat the Heat. However, Miami has the star power, and usually that means the benefit of the doubt with officials. I have a feeling officiating would be a huge factor in that series in a good way.
Also, I’m not sure I’m ready to live in a world where Memphis is holding up a championship trophy. I guarantee David Stern feels the same way.
• My “Angels winning the World Series” pick is already looking like a disaster. Glad to see my horrible predictions are living up to their name this year.
• I saw Iron Man 3, and while it was a good movie, I did not like the ending. AT ALL. I feel like it really downgraded the flick for me. Still worth seeing on the big screen, but be prepared to be irritated at the end.
• My favorite book is finally being made into a movie. I’m pretty stoked to see Ender’s Game on the big screen. Stellar cast, too. I’m not sure how true it will stay to the source material, but the first trailer looks awesome.
• I’m seeing Star Trek Into Darkness tonight. I’ll be sure and submit my review next blog.
• It wasn’t cheap, but Patty and I officially got our tickets for the Alabama at Texas A&M football game in September. We are sitting in the lower level of the Alabama section. Should be an awesome game between top 5 teams!
Bear Down and Keep the Faith!