Not meaning to be all gloom and doom, but for Chicago Bulls fans, this current version of the team that you have grown to love has run its course as a true championship contender. Next year is already a lost season, and 2013-14 is not going to be much better if your definition of success is winning a title.
There are no sure things in this draft. The Bulls need another elite scorer to team with Derrick Rose, who by the way will be gone probably until February or beyond.
Even if they pull off trading Deng for a pick, how soon will that player be ready to contribute to a championship contender? The answer is probably three years from now. That is when the Bulls will again be players in the playoff picture if everything goes right for them.
On WMVP Chicago radio this morning, Nick Friedell spelled out the cold, hard facts I have been telling you here. "They're a try-hard team. You could already make the case they're not good enough (the way they're constructed)."
I know it's hard to hear if you're a Bulls fan, but it is the truth.
One caller to the show credited Friedell for being honest, saying, "I applaud you for telling the truth about the Bulls."
I know Friedell, and I have always found him to be as honest about the Bulls' chances as anyone in town who covers them. He doesn't sugarcoat things or say what you want to hear—he tells it like he sees it.
That's what I've done since I started writing here, and I have been criticized for it to no end.
There are those who are homers for the team and always try to find that one silver lining. I prefer the cold, stark reality.
With Rose gone and Deng probably out starting next season, there is not a lot to look forward to. The Bulls could make the playoffs, but realistically there is little-to-no chance of them winning.
Everything points to the 2013-14 season, but even that's not very realistic. Rose will hopefully be back to the player Bulls fans have watched since he came into the league by that time. But who else will he have to help him?
Assuming the Bulls don't pull off some blockbuster trade and Dwight Howard is wearing a Bulls uniform, are they going to be good enough to compete for a title at that time?
They'll have this year's draft pick, along with whichever pick they end up with next year. Unless they end up in the lotto and with the top pick or two, the Bulls probably won't get a difference-maker who can put them over the top.
Boozer could be amnestied after next season, but it's more likely to happen the year after. Deng's contract also comes off the books at that time, so the Bulls should have salary cap space of around $29.6 million.
There will be a bigger crop of free agents available at that time, assuming they don't re-sign with their own teams, but after looking at what's available on Hoopsworld, I'm more discouraged.
Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bogut and Danny Granger are the cream of the crop of the unrestricted free agents. You're talking about retirement-home candidates, an injury case and another not-good-enough-to-get-you-over-the-hump player.
The early-termination candidates are better assuming they exercise their option, but that's a big if. And would any of them want to come to the Bulls?
The Knicks' duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire round out that group. While Carmelo would definitely be that second big-time scorer, he's probably not the right fit for the Bulls.
The best available with player options are Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph.
So, as you can see, it's not looking very hopeful for Chicago.
The following season, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler are unrestricted. Rondo and Parker play Rose's position, so that's not a help.
Gasol and Chandler are not really improvements over Noah, so that leaves Aldridge. He would be a nice addition, but the player the Bulls are waiting for overseas is Nikola Mirotic, and he will probably be here by then.
So, what are the Bulls to do? Their once-bright future is not looking so good when you look at things realistically.
Miami will be good for at least a few more years, so even when Wade eventually hits the wall, they'll still have LeBron and Bosh young enough to compete, plus whoever else they add to them.
In the West, the OKC Thunder are young and only getting better. They will have a couple of contracts they will have to deal with in James Harden and Serge Ibaka, but they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
I didn't know where this was going when I started to write, but after looking into the future, I don't like what I'm seeing. Unless the Bulls can get lucky and find a gem in the draft in the next few years or pull off a trade for a difference-maker without severely hurting the team, their once-bright future is not looking so good.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes the truth hurts.
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