This is brutal. Bulls “basketball” right now is boring, tiring and (occasionally) down right ugly these days. I’d rather watch the latest Bob Rohrman commercial on loop for two hours than subject myself to the torture of watching Marquis Teague try to split double teams off the dribble. Tom Thibodeau’s squad will look like the basketball version of the Little Giants on the court for the majority of the remainder of the 2013-14 season, particularly when they play any team west of the Mississippi- outmatched, outgunned and outmanned. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t have a secret weapon like the “Annexation of Puerto Rico” to win games for them.
However, this will all change immediately in 2014 when Derrick Rose steps back on the court and Gar Foreman has asked me (ok, not really) to write a three part guide for the Bulls GM to follow while crafting the team’s 2014-15 roster. Check out Part 1 (trading Luol Deng) and Part 2 (playing Tony Snell and Erik Murphy) to catch up on my plan to reload the team to compete immediately. Then continue down the page to read Part Three of my scheme to bring a seventh Larry O’Brien Trophy to West Madison St.
Key to the Bulls’ Continued Success #3: Fill Out the Roster (for the lack of a more clever title)
Ok, so now let’s work on what the 12 man roster could actually look like next year. We will start with our core group: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. Tony Snell will definitely be back, as he is still on his club friendly rookie deal, and Mike Dunleavy will return for the final year of his contract. This leaves us with six spots to fill- let’s start.
First, we are assuming Luol Deng will be traded (which isn’t anywhere close to a sure thing, although it should be). I think one team that could really use him is the Celtics- particularly if they trade Jeff Green as part of a deal for Omer Asik, opening up a hole at small forward. Brad Stevens has his team competing and adding Deng and Asik might make them the third best team in the East. So, let’s say the Celtics take him. Who do we get back? The C’s aren’t going to give up one of their stock of first round picks, and they don’t have a 2014 2nd rounder. But the Cavaliers have 2, and the Cavaliers are a part of the rumored three team deal that would move Asik to Boston. So, let’s make it a four team trade for fun. After looking at draft picks, salary constraints and 2013-14 season goals for the Bulls, Celtics, Cavaliers and Rockets, I came up with the following trade:
Bulls: Receive one of Cleveland’s second round picks and the 2015 first round pick the Cavs got from Miami, plus they get Kris Humphries from the Celtics for salary cap reasons.
Cavaliers: Receive Jeff Green and Marshon Brooks from Celtics
Celtics: Receive Luol Deng from Bulls, and Omer Asik from Rockets
Rockets: Receives one of Boston’s two first round draft picks in 2015, and one of the Cavaliers’ two second round picks in 2015
We then go into the offseason with a first round pick, two second round picks and a boatload of cash to spend after using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer’s $17 million and with Kris Humphries’ $12 million coming off the book. That’s perfect, because it is looking very promising that Nikola Mirotic will be in the Windy City by June. It is usually very hard to tell exactly how a player’s talent will translate from a European league to the NBA, but the skilled power forward is extremely polished with a highly transferrable skill set. He can come to the Bulls and be immediately placed into the rotation. Thibodeau also will have the luxury of being able to start Taj Gibson while Mirotic gets his feet wet. With Mirotic in tow, Foreman now needs a starting wing player, a backup for Rose, another reserve big man and two other backups.
So, let’s take a look at the free agent class for shooting guards and small forwards. Jimmy Butler can start at either wing spot, so the Bulls have a little flexibility. Let’s be realistic, the Bulls probably aren’t going to get one of the elite guys in the class. Carmelo will resign with the Knicks, LeBron will not come to Chicago and Rudy Gay is probably set in Sacramento. Vince Carter and Paul Pierce could be possibilities, but neither really fit very well into Thibodeau’s system. Hmmm…well, there are a lot of rumors that the Magic are trying to move Arron Afflalo. They probably won’t be asking a lot, since the team that trades for him will have to take on another two seasons at $7.5 million a pop (which the Bulls can afford). So, let’s package the Bulls’ second round draft picks in both of the next two years and bring Afflalo in to start at shooting guard. I love what D.J. Augustin has done so far since he was signed, so resigning him to back up Derrick makes sense. To eliminate as much unnecessary change as possible, let’s also bring back Nazr Mohammed (even if it’s just because he did this) and Erik Murphy (even if it’s just because of the fact that he has the same name as a character in Entourage). The Bulls then head into the draft with no gaping holes and with the ability to draft the best player available.
If the season ended today, the Bulls would have the number eight pick in the draft (assuming they don’t get lucky in the lottery). Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky’s athletic center, would be a great fit in Tom Thibodeau’s system and would have time to develop and learn behind Joakim Noah before he was forced to contribute significant minutes. Let’s have the Bulls draft him to complete their roster and head into training camp with the following depth chart (starters in bold):
PG: Derrick Rose, D.J. Augustin
SG: Arron Afflalo, Mike Dunleavy
SF: Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell
PF: Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Erik Murphy
C: Joakim Noah, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nazr Mohammed
I think most Bulls fans would be extremely happy with this lineup. While Forman obviously won’t construct an identical one this offseason, I think Chicago will head into the 2014-15 season with a very similar one. It seems clear the their number one priority will be to bring Mirotic over the pond, and that most likely requires using the amnesty clause on Boozer. It’s also clear that, despite the signing of Dunleavy this year, that the Bulls still need more three point shooting. The roster I have constructed here clears enough salary room for Mirotic to come over, improves the three point shooting by adding a true shooting guard like Afflalo and would allow the Bulls to reclaim the title of Eastern Conference contender. First, however, they have to drudge their way through the rest of this debacle of a season.