The summer of 2013 will be the most important offseason in Chicago Bulls' franchise history.
Rose will also be a free agent.
But where will the Bulls' proverbial championship probability arrow be pointing then? Will the Rose-led Bulls be contenders for the Eastern Conference championship, or will the franchise be wallowing in the blob above the bottom feeders but below the elite NBA teams?
The Bulls' front office believed following the 2007 season where Scott Skiles' bunch finished the campaign 49-33 with a first-round sweep of then-world champion Miami Heat, and an impressive showing versus the seasoned Detroit Pistons during the Eastern Conference semifinals. Forward Luol Deng was the next Bulls' budding star, averaging 20 points per game in the playoffs.
Lottery draft pick Tyrus Thomas was making significant strides alongside free-agent acquisition Ben Wallace, and the backcourt combination of Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich had seemingly set up Chicago for a run at a championship for years to come.
Too bad prognosticators could not predict Wallace's skill would erode so quickly, Thomas would transform into a malcontent, and Hinrich and Deng—the team's most consistent contributors—would be struck by injuries and a decline in production.
Skiles was fired a third of the way through a disappointing 2008 season, and eventually replaced by current coach Vinny Del Negro.
Back to square one.
The Bulls winning the NBA Lottery and drafting Rose saved the franchise. Shuffling through most mock NBA Draft,s the names of Kevin Love, Eric Gordon, Joe Alexander (who is ironically on the team now following a trade deadline deal), and Brook Lopez were slated to be selections then-general manager John Paxson would make.
The improbable Rose development immediately fast-forwarded the Bulls into a win-now mode. Until then, Chicago had been in a malaise for a year and a half.
Rose's rapid jump from one-and-done at Memphis to the NBA All-Star Game in less than two years means the organization has to get down on both knees and grovel at the feet of their young star in a similar fashion the Cleveland Cavaliers have the last few years with LeBron James. First-year general manager Gar Foreman, with Paxson in tow playing the role of wing-man can't afford to miss on the juicy 2010 free agent class that includes the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carlos Boozer, among others.
Right now, Rose is a star. He needs to ball alongside another proven young NBA stud to not only improve the Bulls' chances of making a run at a world title, but to ensure the franchise's best player since Michael Jordan retired stays in Chicago for years to come.
Trading away Thomas and John Salmons last week to open up $20 million in salary cap space was a good start. It allows Bulls brass to offer a max contract to a superstar free agent and possibly have enough left over to acquire a second-tier piece down the road to build a championship contender around Rose.
Firing Del Negro would be another great move for the Bulls this off season. While it appears the second-year head coach is going to led the team to another postseason appearance in the weak Eastern Conference, he is still learning on the job. With a player of Rose's caliber, and the franchise seeking to land a quality piece in the summer, the team needs a more veteran presence on the bench.
Hello, Bryon Scott, Avery Johnson, and Sam Mitchell.
If Skiles was perceived as a point A to point B coach, Del Negro certainly has shown he does not have what it takes to lead the Bulls to the next step. In fact, Chicago has won in spite of Del Negro instead of because of him. The Bulls can't win with a young point guard, a limited supporting cast and a green head coach.
It would be wise for the Bulls to address these issues before 2013 or Rose might want to blossom somewhere else when his contract expires.