When will we see Derrick Rose in 2014?
The past two years have not been memorable ones for the Chicago Bulls. Bulls fans can only hope that 2014 is a fresh new chapter full of optimism, excitement, and most importantly, health.
What are 10 specific things that we want to see from the Bulls during the upcoming year?
From Rose's ACL tear to his recent meniscus injury, 2012 and 2013 have been decidedly disappointing. Aside from Chicago's playoff victory over the Brooklyn Nets last spring, Bulls fans have frequently been depressed and playing a game of "What If?"
But there remain reasons for intrigue in the Windy City, and 2014 could be full of it. Let's break down what we should long to witness as the new year begins.
This one is obvious since Carlos Boozer's carrying a hefty contract that runs through 2014-15 and his on-the-court production is limited.
If they don't trade him before the deadline, then they'll likely utilize the amnesty clause on him over the summer.
It will be tough to find a taker for Boozer, but perhaps a squad making a playoff push will desire a post threat with postseason experience.
In such a deal, Chicago would get nothing noteworthy in return, but there's no need to keep the Booze Cruise in Chicago any longer. Taj Gibson deserves the starting position, and the Bulls should be willing to take back seemingly any package a team is willing to send, even if it doesn't net future assets.
Boozer and Luol Deng should both be dealt during the early stages of 2014. The difference with Deng is that the Bulls should actually gain a quality piece or two in return for him.
Comcast Sportsnet Insider Aggrey Sam recently indicated that the Bulls desire a first-round pick and a productive young player in return for Deng. This is quite a high asking price, but you never know with desperate general managers as the trade deadline nears.
The Bulls should entertain a plethora of potential deals involving Deng. They'd be foolish to keep him since he's a free agent come the summer, and his price tag could be too expensive for what the Bulls can afford.
Therefore, it would be a success if the Bulls trade Deng in the coming weeks, preferably for a decent young piece and first-rounder.
However, even if they can only gain one of the two, the Bulls should still pull the trigger, especially if they can land a skilled youngster.
Since the Bulls' forecast for the remainder of the season is gloomy, they might as well provide Tony Snell with plenty of playing time.
He has already showed signs of promise, and they should enable him to build confidence and establish his niche in the league.
His shot has been inconsistent, but there have been some eye-opening games. He should only get better with more opportunities.
What's more, Snell isn't going to help the Bulls win many games, which isn't a problem. They're not going anywhere without Rose, so they can develop his skill set while also playing their way into a stellar draft pick.
Simply put, featuring Snell not only hones his skills, but it also enhances "tanking" efforts, which Bulls fans should not frown upon in this year's loaded draft.
The thought of Derrick Rose returning for the 2014 playoffs is compelling, but the chances of this happening are slim to none.
Despite the door being left open for such a return, the Bulls and Rose will almost surely take the most cautious route possible, just like they did with his torn ACL.
We can create hype about a possible comeback, but it will most likely lead to a big letdown when he never actually appears.
Thus, Chicago management should make a decision now to keep him out of a potential playoff appearance. Bulls fans should be content to forget about Rose in the short-term and focus on their long-term outlook.
This is why they should trade Boozer and Deng while looking toward how they can assemble a new-look core come 2014-15. In this process, the Bulls should zoom in on the future, even if Rose is genuinely worried about "rebuilding."
The best route toward championship contention is hitting the reset button and acquiring new pieces around Rose. They should thus discern who their new core should feature while anticipating a successful Rose return come next fall, not come the spring.
Bulls management should make it clear that this is the mindset.
Joakim Noah remains at the heart and soul of the Bulls' identity. He's the chief reason why they stay competitive even when Rose is sidelined.
The worry here, though, is two-fold.
First of all, should Noah, who has a history of foot troubles, exert excessive energy during the next few months when the Bulls' title hopes have already been dashed?
Playing heavy minutes could generate more victories for Chicago, but there's no point when it adds wear and tear to his soon-to-be 29-year-old body, and it's seemingly all for naught without Rose.
Secondly, since the Bulls will win more games with Noah, they'll move farther away from a high draft pick.
Therefore, the Bulls should honestly look for reasons to not play Noah. At the earliest sign of a muscle strain or discomfort anywhere, the Bulls should keep him in street clothes.
This will not only help Noah's long-term future, but it could also prompt the Bulls to attain prime draft position.
The chances of the Bulls landing a top-five pick are small, although you never know what will unfold in the lottery. Bulls fans know this better than anyone with they way they snatched D-Rose.
The likelihood, though, is that they snag a selection between Nos. 5-15. In this range, they should simply target the best player available.
Players like Joel Embiid (center, Kansas), Aaron Gordon (SF/PF, Arizona), Gary Harris (SG, Michigan State) and James Young (SG, Kentucky) would all be alluring options. Marcus Smart (PG/SG, Oklahoma State) would be a dream if the Bulls could sneak up around the fifth pick.
In a talented draft like this, the Bulls shouldn't focus on one position for a couple reasons. First of all, a stud may slip down the draft board and fall into their lap.
With the Bobcats looking like a potential playoff team, the Bulls will likely wind up with two first-round picks come June. This selection will likely fall in the teens.
The Bulls should get specific in their strategy with their second first-round pick. The ideal scenario would be to shore up their frontcourt, assuming they don't go this route with their initial selection.
Players like Willie Cauley-Stein (C, Kentucky), Noah Vonleh (PF, Indiana) and Montrezl Harrell (PF, Louisville) would all be nice fits if they're still available.
Cauley-Stein likely won't trickle this far, but he would fill a glaring need at backup center. The Bulls should strongly consider taking him with their first pick if players like Smart and Gordon are already gone.
With Boozer likely to depart soon, the Bulls will need more depth on their front line. A rookie big man would be a pleasant sight for Chicago.
The time has come for European stud Nikola Mirotic to arrive in Chicago, and Bulls management should jump through whatever hoops are necessary to bring the hyped prospect to the Windy City. Hopefully his asking price is reasonable.
Mirotic's ceiling is hard to gauge. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman recently touched on this topic, and it's clear that there's every reason to believe Mirotic can be a superb contributor.
His ability to play a stretch-4 position and space the floor for Rose and company is exciting. He should be able to produce effectively from the get-go, and who knows what his potential is?
Bulls fans should be stoked about Mirotic's arrival, because it could honestly be the most thrilling aspect of 2014.
Plus, his presence could provide them with three dandy rookies come next season. The Bulls' future is undoubtedly bright.
The recurring rumors of a rift between Tom Thibodeau and Bulls brass need to stop. The relationship here has been described as "toxic," and if this is true, it's time for some healing and renewal.
Thibodeau and Bulls management have too many things going for them to be bothered by petty disagreements. Thibs is an elite coach who the Bulls should clasp onto for the long-term future.
The thought of him leaving should be a dreadful one in the minds of Chicago management.
He's arguably the best defensive coach in the league, and who knows what he could've accomplished with a healthy Rose in recent playoffs?
Thibs should also get on the same page with Bulls management in a quest to retool the roster. Thibodeau is a big fan of Deng, but he shouldn't view him as an integral piece to the future. He should recognize the logic behind trading him for younger, cheaper assets.
In all of this, the hope is that peace will characterize the relationships between Thibs, Gar Forman and John Paxson. It will be sad if this isn't the case in 2014, because despite Rose's injuries, the Bulls still have something good brewing.
Come the fall of 2014, the Bulls will hopefully have a retooled, healthy roster that features a promising young core.
Rose, Noah, Gibson and Jimmy Butler should remain instrumental pieces, but there should be a bevy of new faces who embrace critical roles.
Between Mirotic, two first-round draft picks and whoever the Bulls potentially land in a deal for Deng, Chicago could possess an array of new weapons.
These tweaks to the roster should create some entertaining storylines for the 2014-15 Bulls. Perhaps they'll assemble a young nucleus that propels them towards title contention.
Most importantly, hopefully the Bulls encounter complete health, something that has unfortunately avoided them in the past couple years.