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The Chicago Bulls NBA Off-Season Blueprint to a Championship
Is it arrogant to think one has all the answers to how the Chicago Bulls can get their roster ready for a championship run in the 2013-2014 NBA season? Very much so. Still, this writer feels confident enough in his knowledge of the game to formulate a plan that can accomplish the single task they've been building towards for three years: unseating the Miami Heat as masters of the Eastern Conference.
Limit Derrick Rose
With all the playoff hoopla at an end, the real return of Derrick Rose next season will probably seem anti-climactic to a lot of fans who hoped he would step in to save the day against Miami. Sadly that vision was unrealistic. Whether he should've come back or not, Rose needs time to trust his surgically-repaired knee. A full off-season and preseason should serve him well and get him off to a better start than a quick return may have. From there the responsibility falls to head coach Tom Thibodeau. Despite his typical compulsions to play his best players most of the game, he must keep the minutes Rose plays to a minimum. It isn't just about health. Thibs must also learn the value of keeping his superstar on the bench even when a game might not be going well. After all, fans haven't forgotten how he kept Rose on the floor in that fateful playoff game against the 76ers despite a comfortable lead. That has to change.
Get Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng on the floor at the same time
This may sound like a no brainer to a lot of Bulls fans. Everybody knows the merit of Luol Deng: All-Star, elite defender, good three-point shooter and team leader. The bigger surprise of the season was Jimmy Butler, who showed his expanding game during the playoffs. Like Deng he is becoming an outstanding defender and a better shooter from long range. His ability to guard LeBron James was one of the reasons Chicago managed to win a game in the semifinals before injuries forced them to bow out. Wouldn't putting two outstanding defenders on the floor at the same time only make the Bulls more suffocating? It is a good possibility, but also not that simple. Butler was drafted as a small forward out of college, the same position Deng plays. So if the third-year man wants to make the starting lineup he would have to switch to shooting guard, which should become vacant with the departure of Rip Hamilton. It sounds easy, but guards have a number of different responsibilities than forwards. However, given how quickly Butler has absorbed the pro game it makes one believe such a switch is very possible.
Find a way to bring back Nate Robinson
That leads nicely into the next stage of the plan. If Butler joins the starting lineup, then the Bulls must do everything in their power to keep the bench intact. Almost every expert who covers the team believe that simply isn't possible because of money issues. Nate Robinson is the biggest loss expected. His offensive production and playmaking ability were the reasons Chicago made the playoffs and beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Those showings make him a popular free agent target and too expensive to keep. So what? The mortal fear Chicago has of the luxury tax borders on the boogeyman. They will already have to pay a penalty next season anyway. What is the point of saving a few extra dollars if it means costing the team a potential spark plug in the one spot he is needed most? That has never stopped the Lakers from doing what they have to. Given how much money the Bulls should rake in with the return of Rose and prospects of a championship, paying a small fee for a difference maker like Nate is worth every penny.
Go after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
That leaves the most unorthodox move of the off-season. Chicago GM Gar Forman must find a way to land Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the NBA draft. Why him? The Georgia product has drawn serious interest from a lot of teams. At 6'6" he is the prototypical shooting guard with athletic skills, speed and the ability to play great defense. Those alone make him a Bulls kind of player. The reason they must have him is his shooting. ESPN went so far as to describe it as "deadly." His shot is quick, accurate and has plenty of range. His 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals per game put a lock on his all-around ability. Somebody will take him in the lottery part of the draft. That means the Bulls would have to trade up from #20 to get him. Seeing as how the Minnesota Timberwolves have expressed deep interest at #9, that is a sizeable leap that would cost a lot for Chicago. Yet Caldwell-Pope is worth it. Not only would he bring offensive help the Bulls have sorely lacked, but he also fills a need position. If they are serious about winning a championship, this is the kind of move that can tip the scales.
Which move can help the Bulls the most in 2013?
Teams don't win titles in the NBA off-season, at least not usually. What it takes is building the foundation and then letting grow from there. Derrick Rose is coming back and Jimmy Butler is getting better. That alone will improve the Bulls. Keeping Nate Robinson and drafting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would make them something new. It would make them a team nobody wants to play.