Breaking Down Tom Thibodeau's Ideal 4-Year Plan for the Chicago Bulls
Tom Thibodeau will be the coach of the Chicago Bulls for at least the next four years. After his first two years, it's bound to be a promising four years considering that he became the first coach in NBA history to lead the league in wins his first two seasons as a head coach.
Granted, he's probably not going to do that all four years.
It will be a challenge for Thibodeau and the Bulls, as each year, there will be a dual challenge. First, he'll be expected to keep the Bulls in contention for a title. Second, he'll be expected to do so with a team that will be in transition this year, and again over the next two to three years.
Here is a year-by-year blueprint of how he can do that starting with this season and then projecting goals for each of the following four for which he is under contract.
Year 1, 2012-13: Manage Without Derrick Rose Until There Is Derrick Rose
This year will be the biggest challenge Thibodeau will face as a head coach, as he'll be forced to face two unique challenges.
First, he'll have to manage the first part of the season without his MVP, Derrick Rose, who is recovering from ACL surgery. No date has been set for Rose to return, though there's a lot of random speculation that it will be after the All-Star break. However, it should be noted that this is nothing but speculation.
Until Rose returns, there will need to be a re-configuring of the offense. The Bulls' new starter, Kirk Hinrich, just does not have the same ability to penetrate off the dribble and run the Bulls' drive-and-kick offense the way that Rose does.
Both Marquis Teague and Nate Robinson have the ability to penetrate, but neither has the same ability to pass or the same vision that Rose does.
Thibodeau will need to manage his offense and adjust it on the fly depending on who is in the game.
This is in addition to the new bench coming in with four key players, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver all being replaced; five if you count John Lucas III.
Most importantly will be the new players learning Thibodeau's defense, which has kept the Bulls in games, even when their offense struggled. While some of the players, such as Marco Belinelli, have more offensive ability, they are defensively more challenged.
Thibodeau's second big challenge will be getting them up to speed on his defense and maintaining the Bulls as an elite defense this year.
If he can manage both of these aspects of the game, the Bulls should have a better team than many project until the #thereturn of Derrick Rose.
There are two teams in the NBA whose entire starting five has been either All-Star or All-Defense in their careers, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls, and that's with Kirk Hinrich starting.
No, the Bulls won't be the Lakers, but they'll be a lot better than the lottery team or bottom-tier playoff team that many predict. They should stay in contention for a top-four seed, and Rose's return should help them secure one.
Once they get to the postseason, if Rose returns and is up to speed, they have a real shot at a deep postseason run.
Thibodeau's job this year is to just keep the Bulls in position to be able to do that.
Year 2, 2013-14, Win a Title in Transition?
The Chicago Bulls will face another challenge in 2013-14, provided that they don't amnesty Carlos Boozer.
On the one hand, they'll have a core group of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah that has gone to the Eastern Conference Finals and has won 85 percent of the games which all four started.
This could spell the last year for Luol Deng, as it is the final year of his contract. Carlos Boozer could be amnestied after this season, especially with Nikloa Mirotic waiting in the wings and Taj Gibson (hopefully) warming the bench.
Thibodeau's challenge will be working in the young talent while working out the veteran talent and keeping the Bulls in contention for a title. He'll need to cultivate the likes of Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague, gradually bringing them up to be key role players.
Hopefully, the Bulls can keep Deng. If they can't, though, who will step up to fill his "glue-all" role? Can Jimmy Butler be that player? Can he groom Marquis Teague to run the offense as adeptly as Derrick Rose?
The Chicago Bulls could have Rose, Noah and Gibson, the youngsters and an entirely different cast three years from now. How well they handle that transition will depend on Thibodeau's coaching.
But here's the rub. While he's doing all that, he won't be allowed a "rebuilding" period. That group that won 85 percent of their games will be healthy and ready to go in 2013-14. The Bulls and their fans will be gunning for a title.
Thibodeau's mission will be to be balance winning with cultivating his young players to prepare them for bigger roles in the coming seasons.
The best-case scenario is a title, but with the player turnover, it would be a difficult task.
Year 3, 2014-15: Blend the Young with the Old
In the 2014-15 season, Thibodeau will continue to face the challenge of the ever-changing roster. He'll have at least one, if not two, new key players. As a result, the Bulls may take a step backwards.
It is likely that this will be European star Nikola Mirotic's first season with the Bulls. It may very well be the first year for the Charlotte Bobcats draft pick as well.
Furthermore, depending on what happens with Luol Deng, whose contract expires, and Carlos Boozer, who may be amnestied, the Bulls could very well be inking a major free agent at this time.
This would make for the third group of supporting players and the first major change to the core group of players that Thibodeau could eventually face.
Yet in many ways, this could also be the best team that the Bulls will have.
Joakim Noah will be 29 and will be the veteran leader of the team. Derrick Rose will be in his prime. He'll also arguably have the most talented teammate of his NBA career in Mirotic.
This is why it's important for Thibodeau to integrate the new talent with the old over the next few seasons. How he does that will make a big difference as to how well the team plays in the 2014-15 season.
While this team will be arguably more talented than any he's had, it would be hard to imagine that any team that has so many changes to its core could win a title in just one year.
Thibodeau's main job will be to simply keep the Bulls in contention while cultivating the younger players.
Year 4, 2015-16: Another Dynasty in the Making?
Tom Thibodeau may be facing something for the first time since he did in the 2011-12 season: a little roster stability.
By then, the roster will have been completely revamped, depending on what happens with Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, but the new players will be returning players by then.
With the gradual addition of the Bobcats pick, a potential major signing and the development of lottery talent Marquis Teague and Nikola Mirotic, this could be the best team that Thibodeau will have coached.
Furthermore, they'll be a group that has been well-tutored in his system; in particular, his defensive system.
This will be the year that Thibodeau and Rose have the true chance to shine. Rose could be the best player in the league by then, and Thibodeau could establish himself as the best coach in the NBA.
The Bulls will be favorites to win a title, as the Miami Heat will be fading with age.
Year 5, 2016-17: Back to Back
Tom Thibodeau could be leading a team that is very similar to what the Miami Heat are this year.
The Bulls could be the defending NBA champions.
Rose may well be considered the best player in the NBA at this time, and let's face it, that's not a stretch. LeBron James will be 34 and past his prime.
It will come to either Rose or Durant, and Rose may be captaining the better team, which rightly or wrongly is a large measure of who the "best" player is.
Beyond that, Rose could be coming off an Olympic performance similar to what James' was this year.
The rest of the team should be returning older and wiser.
The demand on Thibodeau will be higher than ever. Bulls fans won't be hoping for a title by then; they'll be demanding one, especially if he hasn't won one yet.
A failure to win a title could well mean a failure to stay as the Bulls head coach. Thibodeau will face unique challenges over the next five years, but he is a unique talent. The Bulls should win a title during his tenure.