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Would Chicago Bulls Panic-Trade Core Members If Slow Start Persists?

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04: Luol Deng #9 and Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls play against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on April 4, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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D.J. FosterContributor INovember 14, 2013

Before the season started, it was easy to dream on just how good the Chicago Bulls would be. Derrick Rose was coming back. Jimmy Butler was going to make the leap. Luol Deng was finally healthy.

The optimism was in full swing, but a sluggish start has tempered the optimism a bit.

It's almost as though everyone was reminded that, yes, this is still a team that will struggle mightily to score at times, and yes, the road to a full recovery can be a bumpy one.

While it's still extremely early, it's fair to wonder if the front office would consider something drastic if the Bulls don't look fully capable of contending for a title.

Luol Deng could leave next year, Carlos Boozer is only getting easier to trade, and ownership might not be wild about paying a pretty substantial amount in luxury tax this season.

Could a big trade actually be in the cards?

 

Readjusting Expectations

While it's been surprising to see the Bulls stumble, perhaps we should have seen this coming.

The starting lineup, talented as it may be, hadn't played a single minute together as a unit before the start of the season.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27: Chicago Bulls starters Luol Deng #9, Carlos Boozer #5 Jimmy Butler #21 and Joakim Noah #13 celebrate with Kirk Hinrich #12 during a time out in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Brooklyn Nets during the
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

That's problematic, particularly when the point guard of that unit is focused almost solely on getting himself on track. Rose's struggles as a scorer have been well-documented, but his failure to distribute or depend on teammates has been the bigger issue.

Until Rose is more comfortable, it's going to be hard for his teammates to really settle into their roles. The defense will be great because Tom Thibodeau's defenses are always great, but this offense isn't going to be cured overnight.

 

Balance Not Necessary

Even if the Bulls continue to struggle offensively, they can survive anything thanks to Thibodeau.

Through the first six games of the season, the Bulls are fourth in the league in defensive efficiency and 25th in offensive efficiency.

Can a team be so unbalanced and still have success?

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 14:  Luol Deng #9 and Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls high five after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on November 14, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.   The Bulls defeated the Suns 112-106 in
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Just last season, the Indiana Pacers provided a good example of what an elite defense can do. Through 35 games, Indiana ranked 29th in offensive efficiency, yet it still had a 21-14 record thanks to the league's stingiest defense.

It's not hard to see the Bulls following a similar path early on this season. Given the shaky state of nearly every team in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls could easily be on track for a playoff spot, even if the offense doesn't improve one bit, which seems incredibly unlikely given Rose's start.

 

No Need to Panic

Even if some of the problems persist and the front office loses faith in the defense to buoy the team for the time being, it's hard to envision a scenario where blowing up the core is a viable answer. 

The biggest personnel need for the Bulls is depth in the frontcourt, which wouldn't be accomplished by a big trade, but instead by moving a smaller piece like Marquis Teague.

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 15:  Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls celebrates with teammates Luol Deng #9, Joakim Noah #13 and Marquis Teague #25 during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on December 15, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The most realistic changes are minor ones, even if Chicago's ownership did decide that lessening the luxury tax payment was a priority.

There's just too much history here to make such drastic changes this season. The Bulls have pushed Miami and Indiana even when they weren't at full strength, and to deny Thibodeau the chance to make this unit work because of some early struggles would be incredibly hasty. 

We've heard about Thibodeau and the front office not always being on the same page, but you have to imagine he'd blow a gasket if one of the core pieces of his defense was traded.

Remember, Thibodeau's defensive system has a big learning curve, so any midseason trade could backfire quite a bit on that end of the floor.

So long as the Bulls are reasonably healthy and Thibodeau is on the sidelines, there won't be enough incentive to make a huge trade.

If anything, it seems more likely the Bulls would add to their core by trading off an asset like promising prospect Nikola Mirotic or the first-round draft pick owed from the Charlotte Bobcats. If that move helped lighten the luxury tax payment (perhaps by sending out Kirk Hinrich as well), all the better.

There may be minor tweaks to be made at the deadline, but exercising some patience is by far the best move. We still have every reason to believe that the Bulls will be a title contender this season, despite the slow start.

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