Biggest Needs for Chicago Bulls During 2014 Offseason
A season that started with hopes as high as title aspirations has ended early once again for the Chicago Bulls.
Thibodeau on the offseason: "We were short-handed this year, but we're positioned well. ... How we surround Derrick will be critical."— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 30, 2014
Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and midseason signee D.J. Augustin were then left to carry most of the load in dragging the Bulls to the postseason. And they showed a ton of grit in doing so.
Thibodeau: "The foundation is in place. We have great character on the team."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 30, 2014
Ultimately, they were unable to overcome their extreme deficiencies on offense and were overwhelmed by a younger, more talented Washington Wizards team.
Addressing this roster's inability to score is of paramount importance for Chicago's front office. And there are a few ways to attack the issue head-on.
Backup Point Guard
With Kirk Hinrich and Augustin already on the roster, and Rose coming back from injury, you'd think the Bulls would be set at point guard heading into next season. But that's not the case, as both Hinrich and Augustin will be free agents, according to Sham Sports.
With their eyes possibly set on potential big-name signings like Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls may not have the money or cap space to re-sign both guards. It's a shame, since each contributed to the team's success in different ways.
If it comes down to a choice between the two, Chicago will have to choose between offense and defense.
Because of his ability to score, Augustin got a lot of the hype throughout the season, but Hinrich was the better defender:
If the Bulls are confident that Rose can stay healthy and provide a punch on offense, they may go with Hinrich. If not, Augustin would make more sense, as he was one of the only consistent sources of offense Chicago had.
A huge part of the Bulls' struggles on offense was their poor outside shooting. They were 24th in the league in three-point percentage at 34.8 and 27th in threes made per game at 6.2.
They only had two players in their rotation who were a consistent threat from outside and shot better than the league average of 36 percent—Augustin and Mike Dunleavy.
Compounding the problem was the sheer volume of attempts by Jimmy Butler. Among players who took at least 240 threes—the number Butler hoisted up—only Josh Smith's percentage of 26.4 was worse than Butler's 28.3.
Unless he puts in a ton of time over the offseason and shows some serious improvement, the coaching staff may need to limit his attempts.
When you miss a three or long jump shot, the rebound often goes long, essentially making it an automatic outlet pass for the opposition. Those long boards turn into transition opportunities, making it harder to get stops.
Chicago needs fewer of those bricks and more makes. With two draft picks in the middle of the first round, the Bulls may be able to find a floor spacer who can make their offense run more efficiently.
The Amnesty Provision
Whenever I advocate a player losing his job, I feel like Kramer's friend Toby heckling Jerry in the fifth season of Seinfeld. I feel bad, but at least in this case, there's clearly some writing on the wall.
Carlos Boozer is set to make $16.8 million next season. It's cap space that could be better spent on someone else.
He's already averaging fewer minutes than his backup—28.2 compared to 28.7—and the team is more effective when Gibson is on the floor.
One difference is defense. When Boozer's in the game, opponents score 3.2 more points per 100 possessions than when he's on the bench. When Gibson plays, opponents score 1.4 fewer points per 100 possessions.
But that's not all. The offense was better with Gibson this season too—plus-3.4 points when Gibson plays and minus-4.9 with Boozer.
A few reasons Chicago is better offensively with Gibson include his shooting, offensive rebounding and ability to draw fouls:
Gibson is ready to be the starting power forward for the Bulls, and since that's the case, Boozer's huge salary is really just clogging Chicago's cap sheet.
Don't feel bad for him if he does get released with the amnesty provision though. He'll still get paid, but that money won't count against the cap. Plus, he can come heckle the heckler if he'd like. I wouldn't blame him.
Offense, Offense, Offense!
The Bulls were a fun watch for the last couple months of the season because of their gritty style and the inspired play of Noah. But ultimately, they need someone who can score.
The speculation over Carmelo Anthony signing and eliminating that problem has run rampant. Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta wrote a great piece on Chicago's possible pursuit of Melo, saying:
Anthony, who has the 12th-best scoring averaging in NBA history, would be a pretty big step in the right direction. He’s one of the two or three best pure scorers in the league, along with Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Assuming Rose can stay healthy, a lineup with him, Butler, Anthony, Gibson and Noah would challenge the reign of whatever team wins the 2014 title.
The offense would be propelled by Melo's pure scoring ability, Rose's explosiveness, Noah's point-center abilities and Gibson's offensive rebounding.
The defense would be spearheaded by Butler on the perimeter and anchored by Gibson and Noah inside.
And Tom Thibodeau may be the perfect guy to make all the pieces fit together. Anthony commented on Chicago's coach in early April:
Carmelo on the Bulls success despite injuries: "Thibs is a great coach, his system kind of reminds me of a Gregg Popovich's system." (Cont)— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) April 12, 2014
More Melo: on the Bulls: "You put anybody in that system and it’s going to work. That’s what they’ve been doing."— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) April 12, 2014
If Chicago can clear enough cap space by amnestying Boozer and letting a couple other free agents walk, it should be a very tempting destination for Anthony.
Just like 2013-14, much of next season depends on whether the superstar point guard and former league MVP Rose can stay healthy.
After missing all of the 2012-13 campaign recovering from a torn ACL, Rose was primed for a big comeback last October. After just 10 games, he tore the meniscus in his right knee and was shut down yet again.
The last time Rose played the majority of a season was the lockout-shortened 2011-12, when the Bulls finished fifth in offensive rating.
There's no doubt that he has an impact on that end of the floor. And even if Chicago doesn't land Anthony, a healthy Rose should make the team better offensively.
He's already given fans some reason for excitement, as he was recently spotted riding a bike in Washington, D.C. during the Bulls' first-round series with the Wizards:
If he spends the summer strengthening those knees on bikes, in the pool and in the weight room, he'll be more likely to avoid another knee injury. Oh yeah, knee braces would help too.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.