As America barrels toward November, a single choice will define the course of the next four years and beyond.
What is more important, toughness or charisma? Proven accomplishments or potential? Passing or rebounding?
While the rest of the country remains divided over petty things like the next President of the United States, Chicago has turned toward the upcoming NBA draft.
Holding the first pick, the Bulls have a choice to make that will shape the path that their franchise will follow for the next several years. Who will it be, Rose or Beasley?
After Michael Jordan left Chicago ten years ago, the Bulls have experienced their share of failure, suffering through some of the worst seasons in NBA history. The names that passed through the United Center are enough to make even a the dancing Matadors sick.
Tim Floyd. Ron Mercer. Marcus Fizer. Khalid El-Amin. Lonny Baxter. Fred Hoiberg. These are the guys that Bulls fans had to watch after riding that wonderful wave that was the Jordan Era.
That remarkable group of talent granted the Bulls with a staggering number of lottery selections since 1999. That number would be 11.
Think about that. Eleven lottery picks in nine years! It seems like even an average executive would have stumbled upon some talented players to build a team around.
Sure, the Bulls had some success. Elton Brand was a nice player, but everyone's favorite fatty Jerry Krause traded him for Tyson Chandler, who was later let go for Ben Wallace, who was traded for Drew Gooden (and others), who contributes little more than the worst hairstyle in NBA history and a McDonalds' tab that rivals Hillary Clinton's campaign debt.
Guys like Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, and Ben Gordon have all contributed to playoff teams, but failures like Eddy Curry and Jay Williams really stand out.
All of these players were selected in the top ten in their respective drafts and have combined for a whopping zero All-Star appearances as Bulls. In fact, the Bulls haven't had a representative in the All-Star Game since 1998.
There lies the problem the Bulls continue to face, even after years of high draft picks—they have yet to find a go-to player to build around.
Many of their players—the Hinrichs, the Gordons, the Chandlers—could be contributors on a championship team. But it has become painfully obvious that the Bulls' roster is entirely devoid of a player worth building around. When you have that many high draft picks, that is simply inexcusable.
The 2008 draft has the potential to change all that. One pick could right the ship of a franchise that has been rudderless for 10 years.
This year's draft has several players that could become stars for a championship team. The two names that dominate the pre-draft discussion are Kansas State forward Michael Beasley and Memphis point guard Derrick Rose.
The Bulls need to decide which of these players gives them the best chance to win a championship in the years to come.
Both Beasley and Rose enjoyed considerable success at the college level. As a freshman at Kansas State, Beasley was a beast in the post, averaging 26.2 points per game and racking up 12.4 rebounds per contest. He also broke the freshman record for double-doubles in a season, and led his team into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
At Memphis, Rose excelled running a fast-paced offense as a freshman point guard. He averaged 14.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists a game for a Tiger team that lost only one regular-season game.
Rose played exceptionally in the tournament, guiding his Tigers all the way to the Championship game. Scouts across the board expect both of these players to continue to prosper as professionals.
If you're looking for a big man in this draft, Michael Beasley is your man. At 6-10 and 235 pounds, Beasley is big enough to dominate the paint on Day One. He has excellent rebounding instincts and good touch around the hoop.
The Bulls have been looking for a low post scorer for two years now, and Beasley would certainly fill that void nicely. However, good power forwards are much more available on the market than point guards, whether through trades or free agency.
While Beasley could easily become an All-Star big man who could lead a team on deep playoff runs, there are other players like him who fit that same mold.
Derrick Rose brings abilities to the table as a point guard that an NBA executive would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. At 6-3, 205 pounds, Rose is built like a tank. He has the quickness to take defenders off the dribble. He has the shooting ability to keep defenders honest. He has the passing skills and court vision to be an elite distributor.
And maybe most importantly, Rose has the leadership ability to lead a team to a championship, as he nearly did this past April. By nearly all accounts, Rose is a can't-miss player with potential for greatness.
Even though the Bulls currently have a point guard in Hinrich, the list of players in the NBA right now with Rose's combination of skills is short, including only Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Steve Nash.
All of these players have led their teams on deep playoff runs over the past several years. Most importantly, they are all the centerpieces of their teams, players that their respective franchises can build around.
None of them look like they will become a free agent any time soon. That is because their management recognizes the necessity of excellent point guard play and the benefits that it brings to the rest of the players on the court.
Sure, the Bulls would be getting a good player, whether they take Beasley or Rose. But the fact is Rose brings things to the table in terms of passing, leadership, and uniquenss that make him the superior choice as the first overall pick.
The question remains, will the Bulls recognize how special Rose can be, or will it be four more years of the same decisions that have plagued the franchise for the last decade?