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Bulls Roster 2014: Tom Thibodeau's Dream

Updated on August 3, 2013

Who's Next for the Bulls?

Bulls Warm Up at the United Center
Bulls Warm Up at the United Center | Source

Nice, Try Bulls. Nice Try.

The 2012-2013 campaign was simultaneously the most frustrating and uplifting season a Chicago Bulls team has had since Jordan's bittersweet return-from-baseball year.

A team with more heart and less talent. They were a team of Forrest Gumps clad in red. They were what happened if Disney had called its own bluff and had the Mighty Ducks lose in the tournament.

To recap: their star (Rose) tears his ACL, and is lost for a year. There is a media circus of epic proportions. They lost half their bench to free agency, including a quality NBA starting center (Omer Asik), their backup point guard (C.J. Watson), and one of the best sharpshooters in the NBA (Kyle Korver). Their new best scorer (Deng) has a torn ligament in his wrist and averages a paltry 32% from 3 point range. Their top bench defender (Taj Gibson) is injured and only plays 65 games. THEN, in the playoffs, the team catches the NBA equivalent of the plague and loses Deng for the remainder of the year with health complications. The Bulls' starting center (Noah) and shooting guard (Hinrich) were hampered by injury as well. So what did the Bulls do with the season from hell?

They only managed to go 45-37, get the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, beat a favored Brooklyn Nets team on their home floor in 7 games, and take a game from one of the greatest NBA juggernauts of all time in the 2013 Miami Heat.

Well done, Bulls.

Chicago Heart

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2014: Who Needs to Stay?

On Chicago sports radio, I often here that only a single piece is immoveable in Chicago: former NBA MVP Derrick Rose.

I completely and totally disagree. The Bulls have two other invaluable, irreplaceable pieces. I list the players the Bulls should keep in the summer of 2014 below.

  1. Derrick Rose: the Bulls should never part with the best basketball player Chicago has seen since Jordan. Injury and all, the former MVP has more than lived up to the standard required of a number one overall NBA draft pick.
  2. Joakim Noah: Joakim Noah is a leader in the locker room, a source of passion and energy, and an excellent NBA center. According to an MIT advanced analytics breakdown, Joakim Noah's internal defense was ranked number 9 in the NBA. This ranks him ahead of premier defensive frontcourt players including Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Marc Gasol. He also averages 4 assists and 11.1 rebounds per game, which are some titanic numbers. He is irreplaceable on defense in much the same way that Derrick Rose is on offense.
  3. Jimmy Butler: the 2011 late first round draft choice is not entirely replaceable due to his affordable contract, excellent production, and his rumored relationship with Miley Cyrus. He is still progressing in development, and his contract will be more manageable than virtually any other rotation-quality wing player. Listed below is the Bulls' remaining salary obligation to Butler, with team and player options :
    2013-14: $1,112,880
    2014-15: $2,008,748 [Team Option]
    2015-16: $3,013,123 {Qualifying Offer}


Noah is Necessary

Joakim Noah (13) shows grit and tenacity on the boards.
Joakim Noah (13) shows grit and tenacity on the boards. | Source

Who Needs to Leave?

The Chicago Bulls, while a stalwart defensive squad and a high character team, have seemed to hit their ceiling. In this section, I make a case for the current members of the Chicago Bulls that should not be signed prior to the 2014-2015 NBA campaign.

  1. Carlos Boozer: Boozer has been considered an albatross contract since he signed with the Bulls in the vaunted free agent class of 2010. Unlike many other members of the Chicago media, I don't consider him an underachiever. I would contend that he is an atrocious fit for the Head Coach Tom Thibodeau's style of basketball. This Bulls team is constructed to be athletic, tall, and defensively attentive. It is built around drive-and-kick offensive sets, transition offense off of turnovers, and lightning quick defensive rotations. Carlos Boozer is a slow-paced, offensive oriented player who is best suited playing in the high post. Mr. Boozer is the ideal choice for the Bulls' amnesty provision.
  2. Kirk Hinrich: "Captain Kirk" has seen better days. He has virtually no shooting touch, has lost a step defensively, and struggles to stay on the floor due to injury. He was of virtually no assistance in either Bulls playoff series last season. As the Bulls become more of Derrick Rose's team, his veteran leadership traits will cease be as helpful as they once were.
  3. Nazr Mohammed: Mr. Mohammed has filled in admirably, but he is thirty-five years old and well past his prime. By the summer of 2014, a more permanent solution should be in place to back up Joakim Noah.



MVP

Rose will need to return to form to give his team hope
Rose will need to return to form to give his team hope | Source

Moveable Assets

Moveable assets, which the Bulls may be able to trade in order to clear cap room, include rookie contracts and draft picks. The Bulls will have Tony Snell and Eric Murphy on salary, two players that look to be lower-level NBA rotation players with some scoring punch. They also will have a first round pick from the Charlotte Bobcats, which is protected through the top ten picks in 2014 as well as the top eight picks in 2015. Depending on the quality of his 2013-2014 season, the Bulls may be able to keep or trade sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy is currently signed to a two-year, six million dollar contract.

Taj Gibson's contract hangs in the balance between being an asset and a hindrance. Gibson is a quick, aggressive front-court player with elite defensive instincts. The issue with Gibson is that he is offensively impaired: he averaged a mere 7.9 points per game in 2012. Also, his contract is fairly lucrative: he causes salary cap hits of eight to nine million dollars for the next three seasons. Whether or not the Bulls can or should keep Gibson depends on his health. Either way, he will likely stay in a Bulls uniform, or Tom Thibodeau will punch John Paxson right in the mouth.

Finally, the Bulls will likely have signed European phenom Nikola Mirotic by next summer. Mirotic is rumored to be an excellent shooting European big man, in the vein of Toni Kukoc or Dirk Nowitzki. He does not have a ball-dominant type of game, and would be an excellent supplemental piece to Derrick Rose's attacking style. Mirotic is already experienced for a draft choice, and he was refined enough to claim the Euroleague MVP award this past season. I believe Mirotic may be a future NBA All Star, so keeping him in Chicago should be a priority for the Bulls' front office.

Nikola Mirotic Euroleague Highlights: Future All Star?

Evaluating the Best Free Agent Targets, Summer 2014

For all of the hoopla about 2014, I believe many key free agents may stay where they are. LeBron James is rumored to be flirting with Cleveland, but I believe he would be afraid to leave Miami and become a town scourge yet again. It seems he has found a comfortable home, and Pat Riley's front office always excels at building a roster. Regardless of circumstance, the Bulls would be farther down the list than both Miami and Cleveland, but likely ahead of Los Angeles.

Carmelo Anthony may flee for Los Angeles if the Knicks have another poor year. I believe the odds are split as to where Anthony ends up. His half-court, ball dominant offensive style and matador defense would be poorly suited for the Bulls playing style.

Then there are five aging superstars to choose from: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade. I believe that Wade will not exercise his early termination option and stay with the Heat due to injury, and I see Duncan/ Pierce retiring or staying put.

Bryant is an interesting possibility, though, because he may want a few more championships and a change of scenery from the smoldering chaos that is the Lakers franchise. Still, Bryant would be effective at an elite level for two or three years at best.

The best options after that would include Rudy Gay, Luol Deng, and Chris Bosh. None of these players, I believe, would be enough to win any NBA titles if the Bulls were to sign them.

Which leads me to the best option: Kevin Love. He could be traded during the season/next offseason for any of the moveable assets, and he is likely to opt out of his deal in 2014-2015. Kevin Love may be the top power forward in the game, almost reminiscent of a Karl Malone that can shoot three pointers. The Bulls reportedly have an excellent shot at Love, who practices with Derrick Rose in the offseason and now is connected with Tom Thibodeau through USA basketball.


I believe if the Bulls are patient, they could have a starting five that includes Rose, Butler, Mirotic, Love, and Noah. They would be big, fast, physical, and loaded with scoring punch.


Who do you believe the Bulls will get in the 2014 free agency sweepstakes?

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