Will this be the last time fans see Joakim Noah and Luol Deng wearing the uniform?
There will be plenty of tough decisions that the Chicago Bulls will have to make this offseason. The Bulls, still stinging from 4-1 elimination by the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs, showed that they did not lack heart. What they were missing were healthy bodies.
Injuries are common in sports but few teams had to deal with as many injuries as the Bulls did.
Finding healthy players will not be a problem for Chicago. They have other questions to solve.
How the Bulls fill out their rosters and if any of their pending free agents return are just two of the questions that require solving.
Admit it—wanting the Bulls to sign Nate Robinson to a long-term contract is a guilty pleasure of yours. Well you are not alone. With his excellent play during the season and in the playoffs, bringing him back is the right thing to do, right?
While we are at it, what about a new deal for Marco Belinelli?
Sadly, the Bulls salary structure is a mess, according to hoopshype.com the Bulls owe $72.2 million to eight players next season. That does not include the No. 20 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Both Robinson and Belinelli will command at least three-year deals.
Along with two of the season’s unsung heroes, Richard Hamilton, Nazr Mohammed, Daequan Cook, Vladimir Radmanovic and Malcolm Thomas will become free agents.
Per NBA rules, the Bulls can go over the cap to sign their own free agents. It is difficult to imagine that team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf will be eager to pay the luxury tax penalty for a second consecutive season though.
Chicago will try to bring back backup center Mohammed, but Thomas has the best chance at returning. The late-season addition is a young, athletic player that can rebound and provide energy.
Look for the Bulls to reluctantly attempt trading one of their core players for the purpose of getting out of the luxury tax threshold.
What that means is every player not named Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and likely Jimmy Butler can be had for the right deal.
In a perfect world, the Bulls would love to rid themselves of Carlos Boozer’s contract that is worth $32.1 million over the next two years. Although this would make some fans happy, players who average near double digits in scoring and rebounds are not easy to find. Boozer had a renaissance season and probably improved his trade value in the process he can help several teams.
The problem the Bulls would face by trading him away is who can replace his output and be a solid defender?
I know that fans may not want to hear this but the best candidate the Bulls have that they can trade is Luol Deng. Trading Deng only makes sense if he does not fit into the team’s long-term plans.
Why keep Deng for next season and risk losing him for nothing during the 2014 free agency period?
He will be one of the most sought after players if he hits the open market. Can the Bulls take that chance?
As a 19-year-old rookie, Marquis Teague saw his share of ups and downs. This summer will be crucial for him.
First he will play in the NBA Summer League to show what he has learned thus far in the offseason. Then he will continue his workouts and conditioning sessions at the team facilities or at another gym.
There are several facets to Teague’s game that needs improvement.
- Ball-handling—He must become stronger with his dribble.
- Court-vision—His understanding of the passing lanes will help his development as a point guard.
- Shooting—Teague showed range on his shot but he has to improve his three-point shooting.
- Defense—He has to get a better feel on the defensive end regarding his footwork and court awareness.
If Teague can improve in these four areas he will effectively replace the contributions of Nate Robinson. Although he will not be the same type of scorer, his impact on the team as a true point guard will do just fine.
I cannot foresee Teague not developing as a player. His experience in the series against the Heat was invaluable and I expect him to learn from it.
Jimmy Butler had a breakout season first coming off the bench, then later as a starter.
As the bodies began to fall one by one, Butler’s stock rose higher. Clearly he is an early contender for the league’s Most Improved Player award next year.
Despite emerging as a player with star potential, Butler does not have a defined position on the basketball court.
Is Jimmy Butler a small forward or a 2-guard?
If the Bulls were to trade Luol Deng, then Butler will be the team’s new starter at the three. If Deng remains with Chicago, Butler moves to shooting guard.
What’s the difference?
At the off-guard position Butler will have to handle the ball at times. He must become faster with the ball in his hands. In other words, he has to work on dribbling and improve his passing.
Doing so will make the team better as a returning Derrick Rose will not have to be the lone ball-handler on the floor.
Another thing that Butler must work on is his shooting. If he can expand and solidify his shooting range during the summer, the entire team would reap the benefits.
Imagine how dangerous the Bulls would be if Butler can average 17 points a game. That would be the highest scoring average Chicago has had from a full-time starter at shooting since Michael Jordan.
Derrick Rose must understand that he does not have to be Derrick Rose in order to make a ripple on the team. He can dominate the game by slashing to the paint as he did prior to having knee surgery. He also can make his mark as a passer, one who will seek out scenarios in which he can notch assists.
Putting up 18 points and eight assists on a regular basis would do wonders for him. It would show that he can still perform at a high level. For him, it would boost his confidence.
Rose must continue to work hard in order to reach that plateau.
Hitting the gym daily and perhaps, dare I say, play in a couple of Summer League games just to shake off the rust and inactivity. Doing so will allow the Bulls to weigh their options this offseason.
Those options include which players they will target in the draft as well as in free agency. How well Rose can fare will go a long way in deciding both areas.
I believe that if Rose can regain his form. I also believe that the process will not take long.
The Bulls are in trouble. With eight players under contract and no money to sign a major free agent, once again the team will be handing out minimum deals to at least three players.
Adding three free agents and two draft picks would leave the Bulls with a roster of 13.
Do not expect Chicago to bring replacements for Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli of the same skill set. What they bought to the table, in terms of production cannot be outdone by anyone.
What the Bulls can do is add a specialist in these areas—three-point shooter, rugged defender and a slasher. They can also look at acquiring a shooter and a bruising defensive player in the draft.
It is time to think of a bigger picture and do something bold on draft day. They should make a trade.
They should trade up in the draft to select the perceived ideal shooter for the team, or trade for an additional second round pick that has a chance to make the roster. It is time to begin to shift the focus towards the long-term future.