Now that a fairy tale season has come to a crashing end for the Chicago Bulls, it's time to look back at what just happened, and what needs to happen in the future for them to overcome a foe that will be a thorn in their side for many years to come unless they take drastic measures.
The Bulls exceeded everyone's expectations this year, winning 62 games and getting to the conference finals. Before the season, achieving what they did would have fans elated.
Coming together sooner than expected turned an overachieving season into a disappointment.
You can look at the Miami series and say the Bulls are really close, or you can say this was their best chance to win, and things look grim in the future.
Chicago could easily have won Game 2, and Games 4 and 5 were there for the taking, but the Bulls didn't have the talent to take it.
Perhaps things wouldn't look so dire now if they had beaten the Heat and went to the NBA finals, but that didn't happen, and reality is now setting in.
The Bulls are not that close to winning a championship.
Nobody knows what is going to happen after the season with the collective bargaining agreement, but Miami's key players are still young, and they are going to add on.
Just getting Udonis Haslem back made them much better, along with Mike Miller finally playing the way they were hoping he would in the fourth quarter of Game 4.
It's going to be scary for the Bulls in the future, because they are so close, and yet so far.
They will be competing with the Heat for the next several years in the Eastern Conference, but only one can win (sorry, New York Knick fans, but your team will not be in the mix).
Just getting there will not be enough from now on. The Bulls will have to beat the Heat, and the only way they are going to do that is by busting out of their conservative mode and making a game-changing trade.
The Bulls need Superman to come to Chicago to save Derrick Rose and quash the Heat's possible dynasty.
Dwight Howard has one year left on his contract with Orlando and is not likely to stick around once it's up. Orlando is going to have to trade him if they want to get something in return, and the Bulls can offer the best package.
Everyone thinks he will go to the Lakers, with possibly Andrew Bynum and some other combination coming back to Orlando. The thought is he wants to play there, and that Orlando doesn't want to trade him in the conference.
But why would he want to go to the Lakers? And wouldn't Orlando want to get the best return they can for him?
Every decade or so, another great center gets traded to the Lakers, starting with Wilt Chamberlain, then Kareem, Shaq and Pau Gasol (okay, he's not great, but he's damn good).
Does Howard want to go there and be their next great center or become the best center in Bull's history as he helps lead them to their next phase of championships?
Playing with Kobe and the glamor of Hollywood is attractive, but Kobe's shelf life is short. The cost of talent it would take to get him would deplete their team and leave him in the same position as he currently is in Orlando.
Atlanta surprised the Magic in the first round as they let Howard go off and stopped the rest of the team. He couldn't win it by himself, and neither can Rose.
While the Bulls have more talent than Orlando, they are missing that other dominant player they need to compete with Miami.
The Bulls have the most attractive group of players and draft picks to send back to Orlando.
With a choice of Joakim Noah, Omer Asik, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, along with three first round draft picks, the Bulls have the tools to get it done.
There is enough there to make the numbers work, and I'm sure Noah would look attractive to Orlando, having played in Florida and winning two championships with the Gators.
The Bulls also need to add a shooting guard they can count on, with Ray Allen at the top of the list. He has a player option with Boston, and could want out knowing that the Celtics run is over.
He's the player the Bulls should have pursued last year when he was a free-agent, because if they did sign him, the Bulls would be preparing for the NBA finals now.
O.J. Mayo and Arron Afflalo are other possibilities that you might be able to work something out with.
I think any one of the three could have helped the Bulls get past Miami this year, but next year and what follows are another story, and that's why Howard should be the main target.
Rose and Howard are good friends, and would be a perfect fit for the inside/outside game coach Tom Thibodeau likes to play. You couldn't double them, because the other one would kill you if you did.
Kryptonite may be Superman's weakness, but putting Howard together with Rose would be kryptonite for Miami, and finally wipe those smug smiles off their faces.
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