The Chicago Bulls aren’t going to capture a title this season, as they fell to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. But can they win one within the next few years while sticking with their current core?
The Bulls are a deeply-talented squad led by the quartet of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
Rose is arguably the best point guard on the planet; Noah may be the league’s most complete center; Deng plays shutdown defense and Boozer serves as a nightly double-double threat.
The supporting cast—which includes the likes of Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson—isn’t too shabby either.
The Bulls possess the talent needed to win an NBA championship. However, they have to avoid the dreaded injury bug, which has reared its ugly head quite a bit over the years.
Rose tore his ACL during last year’s playoff opener versus the Philadelphia 76ers. The injury would instantly squash the Bulls’ title dreams, as they failed to get past the first round.
Rose hasn’t played a game since and won’t until the start of next season. Although he was cleared to play in March, the Chicago native just didn’t feel comfortable returning to the court this season.
Noah has struggled to stay healthy as well. The All-Star big man has missed 80 regular-season games thus far during his six-year pro career.
He displayed a great deal of toughness in this year’s playoffs, appearing in all 12 of the Bulls’ contests despite battling a painful foot condition.
He described just how painful it feels (via ESPN Chicago).
It really sucks. Plantar fasciitis sucks. It feels like you have needles underneath your foot while you're playing. That's what it feels like. You can imagine; you need to jump, you need to run, you need to do a lot of things while you're playing basketball, so you don't want needles on your feet, right?
Deng isn’t a stranger to the injured list either. The former Duke Blue Devil has missed 108 regular-season games during his nine-year career. He missed seven playoff games this year.
Despite a boatload of injuries, the Bulls overachieved this season. The team managed to grab the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and impressively knock off the Brooklyn Nets during the first round of the playoffs.
Stifling defense—which is preached by coach Tom Thibodeau—is responsible for Chicago’s successful year.
Boozer is another reason, as he enjoyed his best season as a Bull, averaging 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest. He put together several big-time performances, including a 36-point, 12-rebound effort versus the Toronto Raptors in January.
There has been talk in the past about the Bulls using the amnesty clause on Boozer. However, don’t look for that to happen this summer following a strong campaign.
With a team full of injury-prone players, is it time for the Bulls to break up their core?
The Bulls have big contracts to make the trade work (Luol Deng on the enticing side, Carlos Boozer on the less enticing side); they're loaded with assets like Jimmy Butler (no. 49 on this year's list), the rights to Mirotic (a high lottery pick if he entered this year's draft), and the rights to Charlotte's future no. 1 pick (top-10 protected in 2014, top-eight protected in 2015, unprotected in 2016); and they're a big-market contender with a superstar in house (so they could keep Love for the long haul).
Let's say Chicago calls Minnesota in June and offers them Boozer's contract with Butler, Mirotic AND the Charlotte pick. How could the T-Wolves turn that down? And if you're the Bulls, how would you turn down the chance to (a) dump Boozer's deal, and (b) upend a potential Miami dynasty with a nucleus of Rose, Noah, Love, Deng, Taj Gibson and Tom Thibodeau these next few years?
Here’s a highlight video of Love.
Imagine him teamed up with Rose and Noah in Chicago. Now that’s what you call a big “Big Three.”
It’s unlikely, though, that a K-Love deal would happen. The Bulls just aren’t known for making blockbuster deals.
The Bulls should emerge as title contenders in 2013-14. They’ll have Rose running the show once again. Noah and Deng should be back to full strength. And the Deng-Butler defensive duo is something to brag about.
Plus, the team could have a solid bench consisting of guys like Gibson, Hinrich and Marco Belinelli (if he’s re-signed). Nate Robinson will probably be too expensive to keep, though.
Can the Bulls win it all in the near future? It all depends on health.