Chicago Bulls' Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2014 Offseason
The Bulls struck out on their No. 1 target in Carmelo Anthony, but in doing so, they were able to fill out the roster with some high-quality players and now boast one of the NBA's deepest teams.
From Pau Gasol to rookie Doug McDermott to signing 2011 draft pick Nikola Mirotic, Chicago has built a team ready to contend for the Eastern Conference crown. There are only 240 minutes to dole out, though, and on a deep team like this, some players could be short-changed.
But there are a lot of positives in having such a robust roster.
Rose, who's coming off of two major knee surgeries, will benefit from all of the help around him, and he may be able to play off the ball quite a bit now. There may even be a chance for one of the Bulls' rookies to step in and make an impact right away, something seldom seen during the Tom Thibodeau era.
So, who are the winners and losers of this offseason?
Loser: Chicago's Allure
Despite playing in the third-biggest television market, the Bulls have struggled to get marquee free agents to sign with them, often settling for second-tier players.
Miami's Big Three chose to play together in South Beach, and then 'Melo chose a lucrative contract only the New York Knicks could offer him. Chicago's failure to get a high-profile free agent could be a lack of persistent recruiting from Rose and other key players or something to do with the front office or the Windy City itself.
Whatever it is, the Bulls have now missed out twice on franchise-changing moves.
Chicago salvaged it this year by constructing a versatile roster, but it still doesn't have that second ball-handling scorer it has needed for so long. It could hurt the Bulls again come playoff time once teams start double-teaming Rose or if he gets hurt again during the regular season and is forced to miss significant time.
If players continue to turn down Chicago, it could bode very badly for the Bulls later on down the road.
Winner: Doug McDermott
The former Creighton star might be in the best position any of the Bulls' rookies have been in under Thibodeau.
The small forward position isn't the Bulls' strongest, and with an all-around offensive game, McDermott is likely to see his fair share of minutes right away.
Mike Dunleavy will be 34 by the time the season starts, and at this stage of his career, he probably isn't the best choice as a starter given he's lost quickness and athleticism with age.
This is where McDermott can use his youth and versatile game to gain an edge over him. He can do all the things Dunleavy can—come off screens and shoot threes—but he also has a solid post-up game and is crafty when attacking the rim.
It could be a while before the 22-year-old gets the starting job—possibly not until next year—but McDermott is in a great position to make an immediate impact. If he stands out, he could start stealing playing time from Dunleavy by the end of the calendar year, and if he clearly outshines him, he could see the lion's share of minutes going his way.
Loser: Nikola Mirotic
Mirotic got a nice three-year, $16.6 million deal—per ShamSports.com—but he still has to adjust to the NBA.
Thibodeau addressed those concerns on Chicago's Kap and Haugh, although he sees his stretch 4 capabilities as a big plus, per CSN Chicago.
You have Mirotic, who's coming in from overseas, so he's adjusting to a new culture and the NBA coming from a different league. I think Mirotic is something that we haven't had: a four that can shoot the 3. But we'll see how long it takes him to adjust. I think with [him] we're not going to know until we see the preseason and how that unfolds. There's a big difference between… the Euro league and the NBA. So it's going to take a little bit of time, but it's the skill set of the shooting that I think is important.
While his offense should translate fairly easily, it's his defense that could be a problem. He'll have to guard bigger, faster and more athletic forwards now, and if he can't keep up, he could see limited time early in the season.
Not to mention the logjam at the the 4 and 5 with Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.
There are only so many minutes Thibodeau has to give to his bigs, and unless the former Real Madrid star can slide down and play some 3, he's going to get the short end of the stick.
Winner: Pau Gasol
Gasol had more lucrative offers, but he chose a team that he felt offered him the best chance to win a championship.
Chicago is primed to contend for a title once again with Rose returning and a team that can go 10 deep with All-Stars and established veterans alike.
Gasol hasn't had playoff success since being swept by the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games the following year, so signing with a team that has six consecutive playoff appearances was the right move. Along with a full roster, an elite defense and Thibodeau, one of the league's top two or three coaches, Gasol has a chance to add to his postseason resume.
The Spaniard will be the only player on the Bulls with a championship ring—two of them—giving Chicago a particular veteran presence it hasn't had recently. Also, with Rose and Noah leading the way, the four-time All-Star won't have the same pressures he had with the Los Angeles Lakers.
While he will be looked upon to score, he can also be more of a facilitator, which fits perfectly into the Bulls' style. He's also on a team where his defense can be compensated for. Gasol can guard centers while Noah takes on 4s; it's a luxury the Bulls didn't have with Carlos Boozer because of his shorter height as well as his late rotations.
Gasol is no Carmelo, but he's a consolation prize that shouldn't be overlooked.
Loser: Taj GIbson
When rumors began floating around about Boozer's departure, Gibson was next in line to become the Bulls' starter at the 4.
Coming off of a career year that saw him heralded as one of the league's best sixth men, the 29-year-old forward proved he was much more than a defensive stalwart. His improved offense turned him into a better option than Boozer in most cases given his superior one-on-one defense and rim protection.
However, when Chicago struck out on Anthony, they turned their attention to another All-Star forward in Gasol.
While it's a great pickup for the team, this likely means Gibson will be relegated to a bench role once again. Thibodeau said on Kap and Haugh all three bigs will be key players in the Bulls' rotation regardless of who starts, per CSN Chicago:
I'm not sure on who's starting and who's finishing yet. Here's the thing, I know all three are going to have a significant role. I have 96 minutes there and I look at all three of those guys as starters. We'll see how it unfolds when we get to training camp and we let them play together. We're always going to do what's best for the team and make us function at the highest level.
Still, it takes away from the opportunity Gibson was going to be given before the Gasol deal. Mirotic—who has a vast offensive skill set—will probably take some of the frontcourt minutes as well, provided he's ready to play at the NBA level.
This isn't to say Gibson will have a bad year, as he had a career year off the bench last season. But his role could more or less remain the same now.
Winner: Derrick Rose
Rose will once again lead Chicago's offense, but he will have tons of help, especially in the frontcourt. As if having Noah, arguably the league's best passing big, wasn't enough, the Bulls added the second- or third-best distributing center in Gasol.
The Bulls can run sets through either center, placing them at the top of the key to look for cutters. Rose’s elite speed and quickness can free him from defenders as he attacks the baseline.
It's also a great sign that he's been doing so well with Team USA. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has praised Rose from the get-go, per ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell:
I think he's exceptional in every way. He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball handler, moving his feet, attacking him. There was a buzz right away because it was basically his saying, 'Look, I'm not just back. I'm back at a level that's elite'... Derrick was sensational the whole week. He really did that every day, how fast and strong and decisive he was. He really created an air of excitement for the team because we all were anxious to see who he was right now. And who he is is very, very good.
Chicago also got some perimeter help in McDermott and Euro transplant Mirotic. Add Dunleavy and an improving Tony Snell, and Rose will have at least two shooters on the court at all times, allowing him to drive and kick.
The depth at the point guard position is also a big help. Kirk Hinrich can play alongside Rose, allowing him to play off the ball, and Aaron Brooks can be a spark off the bench—if he gets solid minutes, that is. Given Rose's injury history, having two experienced guards behind him is a very smart move.
This current roster is the best the 25-year-old star has been around. He has help at every position as well as the second unit, and if everything goes right, he could help lead Chicago to another Eastern Conference Finals appearance—or perhaps further.
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