We've only just begun.
After showing the world they have the hearts of lions, the Chicago Bulls enter the offseason with a sour taste of a gazelle that got away.
The Bulls were eliminated in seven games by the defending champion Boston Celtics, and GM John Paxson now enters the most important offseason of his career. The '09 offseason will pave the way to the much-heralded 2010 offseason, where big names like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare' Stoudamire, and Dwayne Wade will potentially hit the market.
After pushing the Celtics to the brink, Chicago fans have high hopes for the future. Let's take a look at where the Bulls should go with the most important areas the Bulls need to look at this offseason.
Vinny Del Negro
What to do: Keep him
Plenty of people wanted Del Negro ousted before his first ever season was finished. After losing in Game Seven, he once again has detractors, with more than enough people saying, "Now all we need is a real coach."
I don't see where he fails to qualify as a real coach. His biggest problem was with timeout management and player rotation, both things that take time to develop. Being a coach for the first time on any level, Del Negro showed he has a great basketball mind that needs experience.
His pick and roll offense worked perfectly at times, and his in-game changes, however untimely they may be, usually are up to par.
If, by the end of next year, Del Negro doesn't show improvement in his knowledge of his own players, then it will be time to consider a change. As of now, let him develop a game plan around Derrick Rose and enjoy the ride.
What to do: Let him go
Gordon is certainly the best pure shooter on the Bulls, and he is loved by his teammates and his fans. However, after turning down a $50 million+ offer, he believes in his mind that he is a bona fide superstar.
His streaky shooting causes headaches, and his undeniable tendancy to put up wild, contested air-balls does not warrant the contract he is looking for.
If the Bulls can sign him to a contract lucrative enough to make a play in 2010, then there is no reason to let him go. If he still wants a contract similar, or larger, watch him walk out the door.
This would leave a back court of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich used to be the starting point guard, but he has shown he has a home in the two-guard spot. The loss of Gordon could end up biting them, but having a smart basketball player in his empty void will make the Bulls a better unit.
We all know who is going to be out there in 2010, but if the Bulls want to win now, and have a backup plan in case 2010 nets them nothing, this free agent class offers some big name players that could improve the squad.
After averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds on the James-dominated Cavaliers, Ilgauskas will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The problem with signing Ilgauskas is that he is a similar, but much better, version of Brad Miller, so he would have to be moved, which some fans don't want. He would add that post presence the Bulls have been looking for, and adds a veteran (and possible championship) experience to the front court.
He will more than likely be back with the Lakers, but he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His name has been floating around the rumor mill in Chicago for years, and if he wants play in a Bulls uniform, 2010 would not even be a mission for them anymore. The (assumed) departure of Ben Gordon would keep that cap open, and a back court of Rose and Bryant is championship caliber.
He would be the best fit in Chicago from anyone in the class, and he is likely to leave Utah forever after hitting the unrestricted free agent market. Only problem is, he has had his eye on Miami. However, with Dwanye Wade a threat to leave, and Derrick Rose proving to be at least the same caliber player as Deron Williams, Boozer may find it more prosperous in Chicago. He would too give the Bulls the post threat they need, but would take the Bulls basically out of the running for the 2010 class.
After leaving the Bulls, Artest became one of the best forwards in the leagues, but also one of the biggest headaches. He has caused no problems in Houston, and Chicago desperately needs a shooting forward with the lock-down defense Artest brings to the table. Plus, with his troubled past, Artest could have trouble finding more than a one-year deal, leaving them the possibility of a play in 2010.
By making the playoffs, the Bulls have assured a zero percent chance of catching lightning in a bottle twice and nabbing Blake Griffen. However, this draft offers a very deep class of fowards, and the Bulls could use a role player on the post.
Tyler Hansbrough, forward, North Carolina
Several early Mock Drafts have the ACC's all-time leading scorer going to the Bulls, and it would be the perfect fit. With a great 10-15 foot jump shot and plenty of energy, Hansbrough would add a winning attitude with a great basketball IQ to the team.
Terrence Williams, guard/forward, Louisville
Williams needs help with his jumpshot, but he is known more for his great team play and willingness to win, which a young team like the Bulls needs from it's role players. He has precision passing, which the Bulls showed in the playoffs is something they need.
DeJaun Blair, forward, Pittsburgh
Blair's best asset is his ability to back down a defender, which is something the Bulls have not had since Elton Brand. He is undersized, but as he showed by dominating the towering Hasheen Thabeet, he doesn't play like it. He would add a pounding element the Bulls need up front.
Chase Budinger, guard/forward, Arizona
Assuming Gordon leaves, the Bulls would be without a go-to three point shooter. Enter Budinger. His long-rage shooting is his best asset and would be a perfect target for Rose to kick out to after driving the lane. He would be a great player to rotate with Hinrich.
Patrick Patterson, forward, Kentucky
Patterson has a nice combination of size, strength, and athleticism, but he underachieved in college, which may just be because of the coaching. He would be a perfect rotation player with Joakim Noah.