The Chicago Bulls want to compete for a title, but before they can, changes must be made during the offseason.
The Bulls will probably never be a potent offensive team as defense and rebounding is Tom Thibodeau's main focus. However, Chicago desperately needs a scorer to lift its offense from the bottom ranks, but an elite scorer doesn’t come cheap.
A lack of depth has also hurt them a bit, forcing them as few as eight players during a game, not including games where multiple injuries were present.
However, in order to make these additions, the Bulls have to be willing to spend money and perhaps get back in the luxury tax if it means putting together a championship team.
Some roster changes will also be required before Chicago can even offer a max contract. It made the right moves during the season to get under the tax, but it’s nowhere near enough if it wants to compete with the top-tier teams.
What changes do the Bulls have to make this offseason?
This is a popular opinion among Bulls fans, but it seems like management is weighing its options.
Those are decisions that are made down the road. I think Carlos has had a good year also... It's really an advantage to have two guys at that position that can give you that production both in points and rebounding on a nightly basis, and that's a plus for our team moving forward.
While he didn’t explicitly say the Bulls are keeping him, it seems like they are keeping their options open.
The more serious report came from TNT’s Craig Sager who reported during a live broadcast that the 12-year forward was told that he would not be traded or bought out unless the Bulls were able to land a star during free agency (h/t Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders).
But the problem isn’t just the $16.8 million he’s due in 2014-15, it’s that Taj Gibson has become a more productive player. Not only has his offense made leaps and bounds since last season, he’s a much better defender than Boozer and his rim protection is among the league’s best.
According to NBA.com, Gibson holds opponents to 42.7 percent shooting on attempts near the rim, ranking him third among the league's top 15 shot blockers.
Using the amnesty provision on Boozer wouldn’t just free up a large amount of cap space, it would also allow the better player the opportunity to start for the Bulls.
Get Back to Spending Money
The Bulls have made it a mission to evade paying luxury tax in 2013-14, but winning a championship usually requires doling out the big bucks.
Forman spoke with Bulls.com about the team's future, saying Chicago would go into the tax again when it felt it had a chance to build a championship team. Well, it’s getting nearer and nearer.
Chicago has to do whatever it can to get a star player this offseason.
LeBron James seems unlikely, but Carmelo Anthony looks like a more realistic option the more the New York Knicks continue to lose. Unless they can promise him a competitive team—given their cap situation it could take an extra year or two—the only reason Anthony would stay is for the extra $30 million they can offer.
It would then be on the Bulls to convince him to take less money for a chance to win an NBA title. A sign-and-trade situation would destroy the Bulls’ cap room, so we’re going to assume they wouldn’t go down that route.
Anthony isn’t the only option, though.
If Nikola Mirotic was in the 2014 draft? “Top 2 or 3 for sure,” says an exec back from Europe. “Maybe even 1.” Bulls got him at 23 in 2011.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) February 14, 2014
Chicago also has European star Nikola Mirotic, who could turn into a star in the NBA given his offensive versatility.
It’s also good news for Chicago that he may want to join them sooner rather than later. According to Javier Maestro of encestando.es (article in Spanish), Real Madrid president Florentino Perez knows that keeping Mirotic will prove to be difficult, especially since the Bulls could offer a contract worth up to $10 million.
Anthony is a proven star, but it will take a lot for Chicago to sign him. Mirotic’s track record doesn’t exactly suggest that he’s a bad second choice, though.
Adding Quality Three-Point Shooters
Chances are only one of the above signings will occur—with Mirotic being the more likely candidate—leaving the Bulls with some room to add quality role players.
Re-signing D.J. Augustin should definitely be in their sights as well as extending the recently acquired Jimmer Fredette who could provide some top-notch three-point shooting. The Bulls could also add a player like Jodie Meeks who is shooting 40 percent from downtown this season.
The Bulls could also elect to sign another second-tier free agent.
If the Bulls were able to add him, however, it would limit any other moves they would want to make considering they would have offered a similar contract to Mirotic.
No matter who the Bulls' big pickup this summer is, they have to make sure to attack the market to fill out the rest of their roster with quality role players.
As it stands, the Bulls aren’t that far from another championship roster.
Derrick Rose will return next season, and while there are some questions as to whether or not he’ll be at his former MVP level, he’s still an All-Star player.
Along with Gibson, Joakim Noah and the potential signings of a top-tier or second-tier free agent—and some solid role players—the Bulls could challenge for a championship as early as next year with their gritty defense and (hopefully) an improved offense.