Do Chicago Bulls Need Multiple Superstars to Contend?

Haddon Anderson@HaddonAndersonAnalyst IMarch 7, 2014

Should the Bulls chase Carmelo Anthony?
Should the Bulls chase Carmelo Anthony?Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The typical conclusion regarding the Chicago Bulls' outlook is that they need another superstar outside of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah before they can really contend.

But could such an assumption be misleading?

There's no denying that having multiple superstars, like the Miami Heat, is a quality formula for success. With the recent news from ESPN's Chris Broussard that Joakim Noah made a Bulls pitch to Carmelo Anthony, the speculation has begun if the Bulls could soon form a team with star power.

Broussard indicated this,

The sources said Noah told Anthony something to this effect: You can go to Los Angeles, but if you really want a ring, if you really want your legacy to be about winning, you should come to Chicago.

Anthony, Noah and a healthy Derrick Rose would be a phenomenal threesome. This would solidify their roster with multiple superstars in their quest for a championship.

However, is this Chicago's only hope to soon contend for a title?

While adding Anthony should certainly be considered and could push the Bulls towards contention, it's not the only route that can get them there.

Let's break down why it's not a must for them to have numerous superstars.

An Unproven Assumption

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 21:  Joakim Noah #13 and Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls talk during the game against the Denver Nuggets on November 21, 2013 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Bart Young/Getty Images

Those who highlight that Chicago lacks firepower overlook that the Bulls haven't had a healthy chance in the playoffs since 2011, when they were young and in their first year under coach Tom Thibodeau. Keep in mind that they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in that season, before losing to the Heat.

Their postseason runs during 2012 and 2013 were inhibited due to Rose's absence and it looks like that same story will plague them again in 2014.

Therefore, we really don't know the potential of the Bulls as they are. There's no way to decidedly prove that they couldn't win a title if they had a healthy Rose. All we know is that they've stayed pretty darn competitive without Rose and are an elite team with him.

It's simply misleading to conclude that they'll never win unless they get Rose some help. We don't know that. For all we know, they could have all the ingredients in place, but they just need complete health.

Furthermore, the accomplishments of one-star teams further verify how the common Bulls sentiment is unwarranted. Consider the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, who took down the star-studded Heat with Dirk Nowitzki and a handful of stellar role players.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12: (L-R) LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat and Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks look on in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Mavericks won 105-95. NOTE TO USER: Us
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Look at last year's San Antonio Spurs, who could've easily won the championship if it weren't for some Game 6 drama. While Tony Parker remains a superstar, it's hard to deem Tim Duncan a stud at the age of 37. The Spurs competed because of their overall chemistry and defense, not because they matched the Heat's star power.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

You can even examine the Indiana Pacers, who have given Miami problems in the past couple playoffs with their size and defense. Paul George has emerged as a superstar, but their recipe for success isn't centered upon forming the league's best duo or trio.

Feb 9, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) and Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) high five against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This analysis pinpoints why the Bulls don't have to assemble a squad full of stars. It's an option to consider, but it's not the only one.

What Makes the Bulls Unique

The primary reason why the Bulls don't need multiple superstars is their defense. Thibodeau is a defensive mastermind and will seemingly always make the Bulls effective because of their intellect and grit.

Check out how Chicago has ranked in points allowed per game since Thibs arrived.

Bulls' Points Against
YearPoints Allowed Per GameNBA Rank

The Bulls will always be a top-notch defensive ball club with Thibodeau around. They've even exhibited this consistency with subpar defensive forward Carlos Boozer playing heavy minutes. This attests to Thibodeau's creativity and crafty schemes.

The bottom line is that the Bulls showcase remarkably unique effort on the defensive end, and this truly makes them unique.

Feb 28, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) celebrate the win over the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Bulls defeated the Mavericks 100-91. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

They've shown the ability to win plenty of games without multiple stars averaging 20-plus points per game. Their style isn't focused on scoring more than you. It's on wearing you down defensively and grinding out just enough offense.

Now, can they win a title with this approach? Well, once again, we don't know, but based on their defensive prowess, there's reason to believe that it's more than possible.

If teams like San Antonio and Indiana can give Miami a run for their money, then a healthy Chicago squad should also be considered a worthy threat.

An Alternative Approach

I must stress that 'Melo joining the Bulls wouldn't be a bad thing. He's one of the best scorers in the league, and the Bulls could use some more scoring. If he wants to come to the Windy City, the Bulls should explore making that happen.

But they are far from hopeless if this doesn't occur. In fact, while Anthony could be a good option, there could be an alternative approach that's more logical when looking at Chicago's long-term future.

Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta recently outlined how the Bulls should make their primary free agent target Lance Stephenson, rather than Anthony. 

Feb 27, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) holds the ball against the Milwaukee Bucks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory  Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The featured points from Scaletta touch on how Lance Stephenson would fit well and also comes at a much cheaper price. If the Bulls chase Anthony, it would limit the Bulls' flexibility in terms of finances, and it would presumably mean losing certain current pieces, like Taj Gibson.

Yet, if they lure Stephenson, they should be able to keep Gibson and could also potentially bring over foreign stud Nikola Mirotic (read Scaletta's article for a financial breakdown of this).

Envision the depth and future of a Bulls team containing Rose, Noah, Stephenson, Gibson, Mirotic and Jimmy Butler. It may not have as much "star power" as a team with 'Melo on it, but give me a good reason why it wouldn't be every bit as competitive, if not better.

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 28: Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls stretches before a game against the Dallas Mavericks on February 28, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloa
Glenn James/Getty Images

One thing is for sure: It would most certainly be younger.

The superstar model is trending in the NBA, but there are still other ways to win. The alternative idea, namely seeking after Stephenson and Mirotic, isn't as flashy as going "all-in" for 'Melo, but it could bolster Chicago's title chances every bit as much, if not more.

The superstar approach is nice, but the Bulls have such a superb makeup that it's not a must for them. Bulls fans may be quick to assert that landing 'Melo holds the key to their future, and if they do get him, it's a move that could strike gold. But there are other places to find gold, too.

Perhaps health and a couple offseason maneuvers (like nabbing Stephenson and Mirotic) could soon vault Chicago towards the NBA pinnacle, with their defense and offensive chemistry carrying them--not multiple superstars.

Haddon Anderson is a Chicago Bulls Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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