On Thursday night the Chicago Bulls took hometown kid Derrick Rose with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. They passed on Michael Beasley, a sure 20-10 future All-Star who was drafted by the Miami Heat with the second pick. But even though they passed on an interior threat player that they have desperately been seeking since Elton Brand was traded, they still got a soon to be top five point guard for the next ten years.
But now what?
The Bulls are packed with guards, have young players with attitude problems, and still no true post-up player. The only two positions they have set are point guard and small forward, where Luol Deng will become an All-Star now that he has someone to pass him the ball.
But what about the 2, 4, and 5 positions? Which of the restricted free agents will be signed to big contracts? Who will be traded? Where are the assistant coaches that are suppose to cover up the lack of experience of Vinny Del Negro? All these questions and more have to be answered by GM John Paxson (who has been held back by cheap owner Jerry Reinsdorf) in the next four months.
Paxson must have been praying to the basketball gods because landing the first pick and being able to draft between Rose and Beasley was nothing less than a blessing. The draft has passed, and Paxson made the right move by picking a player that comes once every ten years. The decisions was not that hard even thought many still believe the Bulls were better off picking Beasley. But now all the difficult questions have to be answered.
The two biggest questions in the Bulls off-season are how the contract negotiations will be settled with Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, and who will be traded after drafting Rose, a point guard, in a team that already has Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes, Thabo Sefolosha, and Shannon Brown.
Both Deng and Gordon turned down contract extensions last year worth more than $50 million. Both players did not live up to the money they were offered and are probably still going to ask for more after July 1, when free agents can start talking to teams.
Luol Deng is most likely to get offered a big contract by the Bulls. His numbers went down from last year but now with Derrick Rose in the mix, Deng does not have to be the leader that he was asked to be and he can concentrate on helping the team by hitting his consistent 18-20 foot jump shot, driving to the basket for easy lay-ups, getting to the foul line, and playing the hard-nosed defense that comes easy with his long arms.
Ben Gordon is a tough one to predict. He has been the top scorer for the Bulls for the last two years but has been a streaky shooter when starting. He’s short for the 2 spot and does not play defense. But when coming off the bench, he is at his best. And with Deng and Rose driving to the basket they can pass it to him to knock down the three. He’s a valuable scorer off the bench. But is he worth more than $50 million?
Paxson will most likely offer Deng a $50-$55 million contract for five years. Any team who will raise the price will be disappointed because Deng is not going anywhere. But for Gordon, Paxson will probably let the free agent market set his value. If a team offers Gordon a contract, Paxson will match if it is a reasonable price and keep their two top scorers for a future playoff push with Rose. But if it is too high of a price, expect Paxson to do a sign-and-trade. Paxson has said he’s not leaving empty-handed.
If it does comes down to a sign-and-trade, then the other team be will be getting more then one Bulls player. The Bulls have too many guards and no post-up player, they will most likely trade away Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, and Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah for the other teams best power forward or center. If the other team does not have any good power forwards or centers, then Ben Gordon will be traded for anyone Paxson thinks can improve the Bulls.
There has been reports that Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich are on the trading block because there are too many guards on the team. Larry Hughes can try to be traded as well, but his big contract and small numbers are going to make it difficult to find a taker. Thabo Sefolosha is a young talent that has much to develop and will not be going anywhere unless it is in a blockbuster trade. Shannon Brown will most likely be playing in Iowa next year.
If Paxson can not pull off a trade that brings a post-up player to Chicago (which he probably won’t because he has not been able to in the past years) then the Bulls are stuck with Drew Gooden and Tyrus Thomas at the 4, which is not all that bad.
Drew Gooden averaged close to a double-double in 18 games with the Bulls. He would have had the same impact in Cleveland, but did not get enough touches because of LeBron James. Gooden is still a young player that can develop post moves, and it certainly will not hurt having Rose. Expect the Bulls to play a lot of pick-and-roll with Rose and Gooden.
Rose is a type of player that can make everyone on the team better. Just like Chris Paul made David West into an All-Star, look for Rose to do the same for Gooden.
Tyrus Thomas is an athletic freak. With Rose's vision and passing abilities, and Thomas' over-the-rim hops, there are going to be a lot of highlight alley-oop dunks from Rose to Thomas. He is too skinny to ever be a dominant post player, but if he can improve his outside shot and continue getting rebounds, then the Bulls will be fine. Just like Paul gives Tyson Chandler offensive numbers, look for Rose to do the same for Thomas.
As you can see, if everything goes to plan, the Chicago Bulls could be the next New Orleans Hornets. An All-Star point guard in Rose could lead a young and talented bunch in a weak conference to the top by making everyone around him better.
Paxson has a lot on his list this summer to figure out before the next season starts. He can change up the team by making a trade and getting Elton Brand and win a title in the next two years or he can keep the team intact and hope for a future championship with the young Bulls. Either way, it is going to be fun for Bulls fans for the next ten years.