The Chicago Bulls hold the Nos. 16 and 19 overall picks in the 2014 NBA draft. In a class that features considerable depth and plenty of teams in the market to rebuild in a top-heavy league, Chicago has the opportunity to clear cap space or trade its draft assets to improve the team enough to win now.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, this is a strategy the front office is at least willing to explore:
The Bulls have shown a strong interest in moving one of their top picks in a deal and have been open to trading the 19th overall pick for a future first-round selection, league sources said. The Bulls are trying to be careful to preserve salary cap space for July free agency and are leery of two rookie-scale first-round picks on the roster, sources said.
In that report, Wojnarowski cites Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo as a potential trade target. That would be a good place to start for the Bulls in terms of upgrading the roster and, in particular, bringing in offensive help.
Grantland's Bill Simmons brings up a plausible scenario that could see Afflalo land in the Windy City:
NBA peeps are worried about the Bulls right now. A starting 5 of Rose, Afflalo, Carmelo, Taj + Noah w/ Butler as 6th man is VERY doable.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) June 22, 2014
FYI - Bulls could trade Boozer's expiring + 16 + 19 to Orlando for Afflalo and 2 waivable deals. Then use Mirotic to dump Snell/Dunleavy.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) June 22, 2014
The other major rumor circulating has more to do with New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. He has been heavily linked to Chicago and is opting out of his contract, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne.
Getting rid of the two draft picks would at least help this projection from Bleacher Report's Howard Beck come to fruition:
Prediction: Carmelo Anthony will be taking a pay cut regardless of where he lands, including NY. Just a matter of how much.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) June 22, 2014
In the grand scheme, Chicago would save approximately $2.73 million by shipping off the 16th and 19th picks and a little more in the years after that, according to Basketball Insiders.
Although that doesn't seem like much money, the cost of seeing whether those two players will develop doesn't have a value. That's especially true if a big-market team such as the Bulls misses out on a chance to land a proven, marquee player.
Should either or both of the middle first-rounders bust, it would be an opportunity lost. Elite point guard Derrick Rose is returning to the fold, and with that, expectations soar. Head coach Tom Thibodeau understands the magnitude of this offseason:
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
Yes, positioned well—as in one or two pieces away from being a legitimate title contender. Not one or two rookies away, though.
And let's table Mike Dunleavy and 2013 first-rounder Tony Snell as the potential saviors for the league's worst offensive team. Dunleavy is 33, and Snell, who showed some promise as a rookie, is another wait-and-see building block. Snell's contract has a club option in each of the two seasons after this one, so he may not even be around.
What should the Bulls emphasize this offseason?
Presuming Chicago amnesties aging big man Carlos Boozer—who's due $16.8 million this coming season, according to Spotrac—there should be room to bring in Anthony. On top of that, general manager Gar Forman could really swing for the fences by swapping his two draft picks and perhaps a lesser core player than Anthony for another premier asset—such as Afflalo.
While there's a chance to land a future All-Star on the cheap through the draft thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement's rookie salary scale, it's time for the Bulls to perform at a championship level.
Rose is coming back in 2014-15 and should be as good as ever. When he is on the floor, this elite defensive squad is already much improved. However, Rose can't be the only one who can create his own shot or fill it up. The Bulls need another premier scoring option—or two—and the odds of attaining that immediately through the draft are extremely slim.
With Afflalo or Anthony or through other more experienced means, Forman and Co. can finally give an elite coach in Thibodeau some offensive firepower to complement his indefatigable defense. The draft is not the swiftest or most logical path to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The Bulls must enter a brave new world, take a bold leap forward and follow through on landing an All-Star. After years of assembling a promising core through the draft with Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, it's time to change tactics and achieve a gettable edge in the weak Eastern Conference.