After the Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cavaliers, you might have thought they were throwing in the towel for the season. Their former MVP point guard, Derrick Rose, was out for the season with another knee injury and Deng had just been traded. It seemed the team was in full rebuild mode, something that Rose is on record of saying he doesn’t want to happen. Guess again. The team is 15-7 since the trade and in 4th place and a half game out of 3rd in the Eastern Conference. The team might make some noise in the playoffs, but the future is only looking brighter for the franchise.
The Bulls are one of the better teams that can build through the draft and that can be attributed to their coach, Tom Thibodeau. Next to Gregg Popovich, he is the best coach in the NBA. Thibs and John Paxson do a great job selecting players that fit their system. Along with their own 1st round pick, the Bulls were able to trade for the Bobcats’ top 12 protected 1st round pick. The Bobcats look to be closing in on making the playoffs, so the Bulls would get whatever pick the Bobcats finish with. Imagine that – Michael Jordan helping his old team. In recent drafts, the team has been rock solid in selecting players that can help. Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell most recently have shown this. Butler was unleashed in the playoffs last season when he played excellent defense on LeBron. Tony Snell is a very good defender, as well, and is improving as a shooter. I look for both of their picks to be in the 15-20 range. Both players need to play defense for Thibs. My expectations would be for them to select Rodney Hood and/or Adrian Payne.
Free agency could be a big factor for the Bulls as well. They don’t have a lot of money available to spend without getting hit with a luxury tax. Carlos Boozer has been the subject of amnesty rumors. Boozer isn’t a bad player, but his value on the court doesn’t bode well with his $16.8 million next year. I highly doubt a team would want to trade for him either. The Bulls should amnesty him so they can use that money on more players. Their deal with Mike Dunleavy was very good, and they’ll need to replicate that this offseason. There is no guarantee that Kirk Hinrich will re-sign with the team. Though, he probably will accept a team friendly deal. D.J. Augustin has been a decent pickup for the team, but don’t count out Jordan Crawford. Before his trade to the Warriors, he was playing great with the Celtics. With so many injuries mounting on Derrick Rose, the Bulls need to have enough guards as an insurance policy. The team also needs help scoring the ball from the wing. Rumors have been swirling about Carmelo Anthony joining the team, but I don’t think the Bulls can pay him enough. ‘Melo doesn’t fit well with Chicago when it comes to defense. A veteran, that is chasing a title, is a better option.
The Bulls’ biggest not so biggest secret might not lie in the United States, but in Spain. Nikola Mirotic is a 23 year old power forward whose rights are owned by the Bulls. From what I’ve heard and read, the team is ready to spend a lot of money to bring him overseas. He can shoot from anywhere on the court. His offensive game reminds me of a less physical Kevin Love. He loves the top of the key 3-pointer. Coach Thibs will love his ability to learn. Scouts overseas have been raving about his work ethic. From a lot of highlights, he lacks strength to battle down low. He will need to improve there before next season. His strength is not the only problem; his cost could be even larger. His current team, Real Madrid has been rumored to be offering him a contract extension on top of the equivalent of $4.7 million U.S. dollars he is making. Mirotic’s buyout is $3.4 million from Real Madrid. By NBA rules, the Bulls can only pay $625,000 leaving him to pay the remaining $2.775 million. To put it in laymen’s terms: The Bulls need to pay up or shut up.
Hat tip to DraftExpress for the video.
Either way, I fully expect the team to succeed. Thibs will be at the helm for years to come and will lead the team back to a championship. With a history like this franchise, players will gladly accept team friendly deals to join this championship contender. The future is looking very bright, Chicago fans.