Biggest Questions Facing Chicago Bulls in Defining 2013 Offseason
No matter how the Chicago Bulls' playoff run climaxes, they face a handful of questions that will define their 2013 offseason.
The manner in which they handle some weighty decisions could present major implications concerning their long-term outlook.
Quite frankly, nothing should surprise Bulls fans in the coming months. We know Derrick Rose is untouchable, but everyone else could potentially be dangled as trade bait. If the Bulls are proactive, they could enter 2013-14 with a new-look core.
Furthermore, they have a plethora of other less-significant choices on the horizon, such as draft targets and free agency.
These looming issues create intrigue for the Bulls' offseason. Will they play things conservatively and simply make some minor tweaks? Or, will they aggressively attack their burning questions and trigger some bold maneuvers?
They must discern the following questions wisely, because their handling of these questions could very well hold the keys to their championship potential.
Whom Should They Bring Back?
The Bulls have a handful of reserves who are not under contract for next season (see Chicago's salaries here). The Bulls must identify who is worth bringing back.
First of all, we will assume the Bulls won't pick up Richard Hamilton's $5 million team option (which would be senseless), and that they also won't re-sign Vladimir Radmanovic, Daequan Cook or Malcolm Thomas.
The key names in this conversation are Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed. These three have been serviceable, often providing heavy contributions. The likelihood is that they won't all return for 2013-14.
Robinson, in particular, is unlikely to remain in Chicago. This is largely because Rose will return and Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague are already under contract for next season. While Robinson's offensive potency has been valuable, his services quickly grow expendable once Rose is back in uniform and their point guard depth is solidified.
More importantly, his high level of play has heightened his value, and he'll likely receive a more lucrative offer as well as a more featured role elsewhere. Therefore, the excitement of Nate Rob in Chi-town will probably conclude soon.
Belinelli and Mohammed are different stories. The Bulls should bring both back—Belinelli to a two or three-year deal and Mohammed to the veteran's minimum. Belinelli gives their second unit some offensive firepower that will be especially needed if Robinson departs.
Mohammed is capable of spelling Joakim Noah for 10-15 minutes a game, and even if the Bulls find an upgrade at backup center, having Mohammed's veteran presence on the bench is helpful.
What Position Should They Target in the Draft?
Chicago's draft targets will likely come from one of two positions: shooting guard or center.
Shooting guard prospects that could still be around come the 20th pick include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Allen Crabbe (pictured). Both are adept offensive players who provide scoring, which is a clear need in the Windy City. The Bulls ranked second to last in points per game during the regular season (93.2).
Another need they could fill is at center, where they are limited after Noah. Mohammed has been decent (particularly as of late), but his aging legs are about on empty.
Centers that could be around at No. 20 include Kelly Olynyk, Steven Adams, Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Withey. Such a selection could help Chicago more adequately replace Omer Asik, now a Houston Rocket.
The Bulls will almost surely target one of these two positions, unless a "can't miss" player at another position slips down the draft board.
Whatever route they go, their draft strategy could potentially impact the rest of their offseason plans, such as if they have the depth to give away numerous pieces in a blockbuster trade.
Should They Pursue a Blockbuster Trade?
ESPN's Bill Simmons recently wrote a column that featured some Kevin Love-to-the-Bulls trade speculation.
He highlighted how much sense it makes for both teams. His potential package for Love included Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and the protected Charlotte Bobcats first-round pick the Bulls currently possess.
This nets the Bulls a true superstar to pair next to Derrick Rose while also giving the Minnesota Timberwolves an array of assets.
I have previously argued for the Bulls to pursue Love (here and here) and completely agree with Simmons on the logic behind such a blockbuster trade. There is such plausibility behind this speculation that Minnesota and Chicago must at least exchange some phone calls.
The bottom line is that the Bulls should be aggressors and thoroughly examine scenarios involving Love. They shouldn't foolishly deal four or five quality components for him, but they should certainly be willing to part with a few.
A lineup featuring Rose, Love, Deng and Noah would be scary for years to come. Therefore, Chicago shouldn't take the conservative approach in this matter. It has a rare opportunity this summer that must be explored.
Whom Should They Lure in Free Agency?
While the Bulls should be aggressors in terms of a blockbuster trade, they should take the conservative approach in free agency.
First of all, they have limited financial flexibility, and secondly, there aren't high-level players available who could become significant difference-makers.
For example, players like O.J. Mayo or J.J. Redick would be nice additions, but are they really going to get the Bulls closer to the NBA Finals?
What's more, they'll likely have a rather steep price tag (which the Bulls would likely be unable to afford anyway).
As a result, the Bulls should seek a reserve or two who will come at a manageable price. A couple veterans such as former Bull Ronnie Brewer and Samuel Dalembert (pictured) are reasonable options. Such players could find a niche in Chicago's second unit while also not straining their financial outlook.
Beyond such minor tweaks, the Bulls shouldn't entertain much else. It's simply unnecessary and they lack the means.
Will They Be Fully Healthy Come Training Camp?
The most important question of all is if they can enter next season at full strength. For the past two campaigns, a lack of health has inhibited their potential.
They thus need the summer to be free of setbacks, particularly in regards to Rose's ACL and Noah's plantar fasciitis. Come training camp, they need every member of their core rested and rejuvenated for the 2013-14 venture.
Will Rose be back to his old self?
Will Noah's painful plantar fasciitis be healed?
Can Luol Deng continue his current stretch of being injury-free?
The Bulls need the answers to all of these questions to be yes. If they're fully healthy, they're capable of contending with anybody.
Health, more than anything, is a vital component to the Bulls' offseason. If this area suffers, then the previous points are afterthoughts.
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