Those who know Fred Pfeiffer, know he's in a very dark place right now. The police have been notified and are on suicide watch now that Ben Gordon is officially gone. We were speaking recently about the Bulls season next year and whether the loss of Gordon would cause them to take a step back. No, it wouldn't. This team's going to win around 45 games I predicted, comfortably besting last year's 41. At this point, an agitated Pfeiffer told me to back up the truck. 41 wins isn't matching last season, but rather this team needed to win at least 50 games to match the pace it had after the Salmons trade which represents the team going into next season.
After arguing with him a good deal over the topic, I've come to the conclusion that he's at least partially correct. I don't think it's fair to pro-rate a full 82 game season based on the 1/3rd of a season post trade deadline roster performance, but at the same time it's not fair to set the bar of the team for this summer at 41 games when comparing whether or not the loss of Ben Gordon hurt the team. This team was beating the best teams in the league regularly post deadline on their amazing run to close the season.
Salmons/Miller brought in a significnat talent upgrade that exists now that didn't exist prior to the trade deadline. This brings up a couple points to me.
First, I think many will see a 41-42 win team and say "See Ben Gordon leaving didn't hurt the team at all". I don't think that would be a fair statement at that point. Presumably Derrick Rose is getting better, Luol Deng (cross fingers) will be healthier, and we'll have a full season of Salmons and Miller. Those things should add up to a much more talented group regardless of Gordon's status.
Next, where should the bar be set for next season given our loss of Gordon, growth of pieces on the roster, additions in free agency, and draft picks coming into the team? My hopes for the season is 45 wins. At that level, I'll feel the team was successful in utilizing their talent. That number may change with a trade, but that's my target right now.
45 wins also should be good enough to keep our momentum as "team on the rise", reach the playoffs, and hopefully lure a star back to Chicago in 2010. It should be good enough for a 4th/5th seed in the playoffs where the Bulls have a realistic chance at reaching the second round, my goal to ensure 2010 free agent success.