State of the Chicago Bulls

Nothing But the Truth

Sometimes as a die-hard fan of your favorite team, you want to be proven wrong. Time and time again, all season long, I was right to doubt the Chicago Bulls.

There are a few teams that, regardless of how they perform during the regular season, it wouldn’t mean as much because they are the class of the NBA. I measure elite teams by their playoff production and winning, not by grading their regular season. Teams in that upper echelon are the Heat, Bulls, Thunder, and Lakers.

There are no excuses in professional sports, nor are there moral victories. Especially if you’re a title contender. Now, I didn’t expect Chicago to advance to the finals by beating Miami. Not with reigning MVP Derrick Rose, so definitely not without him. The Bulls were the deepest team in basketball the past couple of seasons, so my simple expectations were for them to beat the 76ers in the first round. That wasn’t the case. Congratulations to Philadelphia, but their run will end soon because they barely survived Chicago injuries and biased officiating in their favor.

To premise the roster breakdown, I believe in my team whole heartedly. With that said, I don’t trust the front office until they prove it by forming a championship caliber team. This isn’t an exaggerated reaction to being eliminated, it’s actually what I’ve been saying all along.

Roster Breakdown

Starters

Derrick Rose got that knee injury and will miss a significant portion of next season. In my estimation the target time frame is around the all star break. If he is unable to return at 100%, then they should hold him out and evaluate him again for the playoffs, if they get in.

Joakim Noah could be an all star player if he scored consistently. The Bulls tried to run plays for him and that’s just not his thing. He is big man that brings energy by rebounding and defending. Noah has some success when switching on pick and rolls. He’s a good passer that was used as a facilitator when the team struggled, but should have been more involved. He rolled his ankle and will be fine, but you his youth and salary will have teams calling for his services in possible trade scenarios.

Luol Deng made the all star team this season because of his defense, but not doesn’t produce like you would expect. Deng’s salary puts him in hot water in my eyes. A lot of people give Deng a pass because he’s been with the team for awhile, through the struggles and he’s a community guy. There’s a lot of good guys out there, whether they’re popular or not. Luol doesn’t have the all-around game you would hope, which is why I’ve said he’s overpaid and overrated. He’s not a scorer, but I give him credit for stepping up offensively the last two games against Philadelphia. In short, the NBA is a business and here is an opportunity to sell high.

Carlos Boozer became the top option and folded. The reason he gets ridiculed by Bulls fans is because of his salary. With Boozer, you have a one-dimensional player. He is allergic to defense, and a nightmare in the paint offensively. This guy is simply a mid-range shooter, and I had no idea the type of player he truly was before signing with Chicago. At first he got a pass for being injured in a non-basketball incident, then the excuse was that he didn’t have ample time to gel with everyone. Boozer is another candidate for trade, and perhaps his stock went down after his poor playoff outings the last two years.

Richard Hamilton gave the Bulls some valuable minutes by scoring the basketball. He is 34 years old, so his durability has to worry you if he’s the starting shooting guard next year. I would love to bring Rip off the bench in limited minutes, and he can have an occasional breakout game. He would be best suited as a role player in the bench mob. I don’t think his level of play has declined that much, but more of him being sidelined to injury and people forgot what he brings to the table. He’s a lanky and savvy veteran that can do more than catch and shoot. Hamilton can create his own shot, distribute a little bit, nag you on the defensive end, and he will get into his counterpart’s head.

Bench Mob

Taj Gibson plays like a big man is supposed to play. He goes strong and attacks the rim. If you don’t get the slam dunk, more times than not you’re going to draw a foul. That gets the other team in foul trouble, puts points on the board, and sets the tone for your team and the game. That also shows the referees that you are aggressive, leading to more fouls called for you and your team. Gibson isn’t all world, but clearly ready to start whether it’s on the Bulls or elsewhere. He has a nice mid-range touch, and will need to stay out of foul trouble if he allocates more playing time. He has earned the starting spot on the Bulls by outplaying Boozer, and can only grow if he’s on the court. Gibson is an energy guy that will clean the glass and block shots. He is great in defending the pick and rolls, forcing guards to pass or taking bad shots. He does a little bit of everything. It’s time for the Taj Gibson era to begin.

Omer Asik proved his worth in the past two postseasons. I love his volleyball style defense, going straight up to block shots and he carves out space on the boards. Asik is a project in terms of offense. He has hands of stone and doesn’t finish well enough at the rim. He’s a restricted free agent, and the early word is that he will draw interest from several teams. Chicago may have to make a decision here if they want to keep him or move on without him. The decision might be delayed for another season, but eventually decide between Noah and Asik in the long term.

Rookie Jimmy Butler didn’t see many minutes, then again this was the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference two years in a row. Butler joined a team with the reigning MVP, an all star, a former all star, and coach of the year. The Bulls were a well-oiled machine until a barrage of injuries ruined their playoff hopes. Anyways, Butler is a tough defender that runs the floor well. Not the most polished offensive player, but moves without the ball and makes the simple pass in rotations. He doesn’t try to do too much, and more times than not will take good, open shots. The rookie will have time to develop, he could have a bright future in this league with his work ethic.

As for the rest of the bench mob: Chicago put themselves in position to either keep the team as is, or to keep their options open for a bench mob overhaul.

Team Options

Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer

These role players have one year left on their contracts. If the team picks up their option, they will play next season in a Bulls uniform, or be included in possible trade scenarios by the all star deadline.

Unrestricted Free Agents

John Lucas III, Brian Scalabrine, Mike James

John Lucas has certainly earned a roster spot with the Bulls in my eyes, but at the very least should don a uniform elsewhere. Brian Scalabrine might be brought back for the veteran minimum, but I would fill the position via draft or free agency. Mike James joined the team on several stints this season as an emergency point guard. He played well in the NBA Developmental League, but at age 35 he probably won’t be with the team next year.

Overseas

Chicago could go into the offseason with a minimal 8 players under contract. We will soon find out if last year’s draft prospect Nikola Mirotic will join the team. Mirotic is a stretch big man with versatility and shot blocking ability. He was the Rising Star Player of the Year for the past two seasons overseas. He is under contract with Real Madrid and Chicago will have to buyout that contract to gain his services. Last season he averaged 12.6 points per game, shooting 57% from the field and 44% from downtown.

Needs

With Rose missing at least half the season, they will have to find not only a replacement, but someone that will fit into the rotation when Rose returns to good form. Here are some players available via free agency, aside from their own free agents and player options.

Guards (Unrestricted Free Agents)

Deron Williams, Steve Nash, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson, Goran Dragic, Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups, Moe Williams, Leandro Barbosa, Randy Foye, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Delonte West, Shannon Brown, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Jonny Flynn, Jerryd Bayless, Ramon Sessions

Guards (Restricted Free Agents)

Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Aaron Brooks, George Hill, Courtney Lee, D.J. Augustin, Jeremy Lin, Rudy Fernandez, Landry Fields, Patrick Mills

Here’s a list of 2012 and 2013 free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. Quite a few wing players and bigs on the list.

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/FreeAgents-12-13/nba-free-agents-2012-2013

My Top Trade Targets

Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay

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