Nearly two years ago on the dot, I started GoatSports mostly to voice my frustrations over my beloved Chicago Bulls. Sure, we’ve had our ups, and most certainly our downs, but in the process I learned to watch this team from more of an unbiased view. Of course I’m still biased as hell no question, but you get what I mean.
So as I sat down to write my first blog in May of 2012, the Bulls lost their most prized possession for what would be for more than a year, and had plenty of other roster problems to deal with. If that isn’t irony than I’m not really sure what that term means. Here we are again, 99 blogs, 2 years and a few heart aches/attacks later, Derrick Rose will be coming off a knee injury, and the Bulls have an off-season filled with plenty of unanswered questions in front of them. Happy 100th blog, GoatSports. Here are the 5 key off-season plans to be on watch for:
1) A look back
Before we look ahead, we must glance back at yet another over-achieving season from our Bulls. Rose goes down in Portland and everyone including myself is thinking, ” LOTTERY BABY!!! JABARI PARKER COMING HOME!” Without even thinking that a Thibs team would ever do that. It wasn’t until the acquisition of D.J. Augustin and the trade of a fan favorite Luol Deng, did everyone give up hope. Giving up the teams leading scorer for a washed up backup PG? That’s the essence of tanking. But you know the Bulls by now, they ended up winning every game they shouldn’t have and grabbed the fourth seed only to be knocked out by a young, athletic and more talented Wizards team. Yes Jo, Taj and DJ had career years, but there wasn’t much of a fight in the end. Another enjoyable season gone to waste, sadly becoming a Chicago forte.
2) Finally Amnestied.
Since the new CBA in 2012, the amnesty rule ( which allows teams to clean sweep any player’s contract with a year remaining on his contract without taking a salary cap hit) has been taken out of the league. They’re few remaining players that can be amnestied, all of which are superstars that would never be amnestied by their teams (Tony Parker, Kevin Durant etc.) Yet there is one man that may receive the final amnesty in league history, Carlos Boozer. Ever since he was signed in June of 2010, Chicago fans wanted him gone. Unable to get LeBron, Bosh and Wade, the Bulls settled for Carlos Boozer, who at the time was in the prime of his career, a true 20-10 guy.
Bulls fans thought, Hey if he was so good in Utah with Deron Williams, he should be even better with Rose, right? It didn’t work out obviously. Lack of commitment to defense and inconsistency on offense really drove a lot Bulls fans nuts in his four years. And while I completely agree that he is not worth $16.8 million that the Bulls paid him, don’t be that guy who hates Boozer just because everyone else does. For a decade the Bulls were looking for a post-scorer who could also solidify a front-court with rebounding abilities as well. By definition, that is what Carlos Boozer was to the Bulls. He averaged 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds a game in just 30 minutes per game in his career in Chicago. After the 2010-2011, he was an iron man for the Bulls appearing in nearly every game (221 out of possible 230 games) it’s hard to find a big man past the age of 30 who did that. Amare Stoudemire was suppose to be the better Free-Agent in that year, he barely saw the court in the past four years.
Point is, it’s immature to say Carlos Boozer was a complete bust in Chicago, he truly wasn’t. He was a professional through all the criticism he received and continued to do his job, score from the post and rebound. As Bulls fans we expected too much from him from the start because he wasn’t LeBron James and frankly anyone that wasn’t named LeBron James was set up to be deemed a failure in Chicago after that off-season. Was he overpaid? Absolutely. Overrated on defense? Atrocious. But he wasn’t as horrible as many thought.
If John Paxson & Gar Forman don’t push all their chips into Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes this off-season, the Bulls truly don’t want
to win anytime soon. Whether Anthony does come is a different story, but Amnestying Boozer will create around $30 million in cap space, considering Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is more than willing to pay the Luxury tax for a winner. First add in the Bulls two 1st round draft picks (16th and 19th) that will cost about $2.73 million according to RealGM. Next is the issue of whether European star Nikola Mirotic comes over sea to play with Chicago and at what cost. Many believe that he will cost anywhere from $6 million to upward around $10 million. Let’s say in the region of $8 million. That theoretically leaves $20-21 million leftover with 10 men already on the roster. If the Bulls resign Augustin, that could be a game-changer, but I assume he will be getting a pay-day somewhere else.
Melo has spoken out about this topic on numerous occasions and while he hasn’t offered up much to write home about, he has said that winning is the most important thing, and money is not an issue. New York can offer up the most money of any team, but their roster is a rebuild waiting to happen and no established coach yet. Meanwhile the pitch for the Bulls is this: We have Tom Thibodeau, a coach well respected around the league, and one you have a great relationship. Joakim Noah is playing the best basketball of his career and so is Taj Gibson. If you come, it will relieve plenty of pressure off of Derrick who will be coming back from another injury. He should recover fully and play at an MVP level once again. Yes we will have to pay you less money, but if you want to win, you will come here.
If Melo really wants to win, it’s clear cut. But of course, no one will know, until we all know.
4) Possible Draft picks and Free Agents
The Draft discussion won’t heat up until the Finals are over, but it’s never to early to look ahead, especially for the Bulls who were bounced early. While no workouts have been conducted, we already have an idea of how one of the most anticipated drafts of all time will shape out. The Bulls of course won’t be looking for a franchise-changer because they already have one, more so looking for a wing that can shoot and has athleticism and a big to give Noah more of a break.
Yet another thing to consider is that the Bulls have a “type.” You know, like some dudes are blonde or brunette guys when it comes to women, the Bulls are no different and have a type when it comes to drafting guys. Usually, they look for a guy who has been in College for more than a year or two, has a winners mentality and is willing to play defense. With that in mind here are some early options:
1. Rodney Hood, 6’8″, Small Forward, Sophomore, Duke.
It’s no secret that the Bulls are exceptionally bad from behind the arc, next to last in making three’s. Hood is a big wing that shot 42% from downtown and offers some wing-versatility offensively. He has yet to grow fully into his body, and he isn’t very good on defense, but that’s what Thibs is for.
2. Cleathony Early, 6’8″, Small Forward, Senior, Witchita State.
Regarded as the man that led Witchita State to perfect regular season, Early (right) fine- tuned his jumper at Witchita state and turned into a guy that can one-on-one create his own shot from anywhere on the floor. Exactly what the Bulls need, lacks defensive ability like Hood, but he is a winner, leader and mature beyond his age.
3. Shabazz Napier, 6’1″, Point Guard, Senior, Uconn.
All depending on if DJ Augustin re-signs with the Bulls, if not, Chicago is in good shape to be able to draft Napier who just led his Huskies on an incredible tournament run. PG depth is what the Bulls will need as another contingency plan in case the worst happens again to Rose, but make no mistake Napier is one of those guys who has the intangibles to be a shot-creator and floor general right out of the gate.
4. Patric Young, 6’9″, PF/C, Senior, Florida
An undersized Center in NBA terms, Young would be a solid 2nd round selection for the Bulls. In dire need of someone to give Jo a break throughout games, Young isn’t a skilled offensive player by any means, but is a beast on defense and the boards. He has no issue with being physical and wins plenty of hustle points which Thibs and the Bulls seem to cherish most of all.
If the whole Melo to Chicago thing doesn’t go the way the Bulls wanted to, a solid back up plan would be Indiana’s Lance Stephenson. A man who has yet to receive a contract in the NBA over a million dollars still, he will be looking for a decent sized pay-day ( which he deserves) after leading the league in triple-doubles and playing lock down defense. The Bulls would gain another wing defender to join Bulter and Stephenson is a guy who can create his own shot off the dribble as well. The question is, will Indiana let him go to the Bulls?
5) Return Part 2
More so than the season before, the Bulls missed Rose the most this season and in the playoffs. In the handful of games he played this season, he flashed much of the Rose we fell in love with before hand and proved to still have the one thing the Bulls desperately needed down the stretch against Washington. Finishing. In only his second game back against New York, he didn’t shoot well at all, but in the final seconds he came up with the winner the Bulls needed, that is why he paid $18 million a year, he has a gift to be that guy down the stretch every night. Once again, I fully expect him to c0me back healthy and ready to go, hopefully with another guy named Melo by his side, he is determined as ever, with only one thing on his mind, championship.
It’ll be a fun off-season for the Bulls who NEED to make moves this summer in order to contend next winter. Rose has begun to take contact and is on his way back to another return, lets just hope I’m not sitting here again, talking about what should have been for the Bulls.