After the thrilling series against the aging Boston Celtics it is clear the Bulls are on the verge of taking over as the Cavs No. 1 rival for the Eastern Conference title. If they play their cards right, the Bulls can be the second best team in the East as early as next season.
This off-season the Bulls will have some tough decisions to make.
Ben Gordon will go to the highest bidder and that looks to be the perpetual rival Detroit Pistons. Gordon may still sign with the Bulls as John Paxson has left the Bulls in great financial shape. But, the Bulls will not likely get involved in a bidding war.
They will set their price, and stick with it, as all good organizations do (i.e. the Theo Epstein Boston Red Sox). But, one of the few owners in sports who actually care about winning is Bulls/White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and he always opens the checkbook when his teams are on the brink of contention.
If the Bulls come to Reinsdorf and say, We need a little more cash to keep Gordon," they just might get involved in a bidding war for the fan favorite.
If Gordon leaves, the Bulls will have plenty of money to hold on to for Summer of 2010 (coming to a theatre near you!). They will not spend dumb money this off-season, as they need not to because their top seven players are set for the next two years. They can get creative via trades and draft picks but they will not be spending money on free agents—this off-season.
Scenario One: Bulls re-sign Ben Gordon. If this happens the Bulls are strapped for cash and in order to retain salary cap flexibility in the future they will need to trade Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich.
Pick two Bulls fans: Krik Hinrich, Luol Deng, or Ben Gordon, because you cannot have all three.
It is a tough decision. Hinrich is the best perimeter defender in the NBA. I will say it again: Kirk Hinrich is the best perimeter defender in the NBA. Luol is an ultra talented, young, athletic, smart but soft SF and we all know who and what Ben Gordon is.
The Bulls are not building around those three and will not place a considerable amount of money in the trio. The Bulls are planning to pair Derrick Rose with another superstar and the rest be role players.
In order for the Bulls to reach the next level they cannot wrap themselves into long-term contracts involving Gordon, Deng, and Hinrich, this is Derrick Rose’s team.
Scenario Two: Ben Gordon signs with another team.
If this happens, look for the Bulls to get creative around draft day. They will have plenty of financial flexibility, tradable assests (Hinrich, Deng, Ty Thomas, Joakim Noah, Brad Miller, John Salmons, and Tim Thomas’ expiring deal) and two first round draft picks.
The Bulls can package the two first round picks and—maybe—Luol for Amar’e Stoudemire. I do not see how the Phoenix Suns can pass that up for Amar’e Stoudemire.
The team would then be Rose, Stoudemire, Hinrich, Miller, Salmons, Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Tim Thomas, and hopefully Ben Gordon. Look out Cleveland, if the Bulls make the right moves LeBron’s quest for eight titles may be in jeopardy as early as next season.