The Bulls opted to cut costs this off-season. The bench mob has turned into the bench mop, a unit more fitted to cleaning up blowouts than creating leads and extending leads. From a business standpoint, I hardly can blame ownership for wanting to save around 20 million dollars by not putting the best team possible on the floor, from a fan perspective it sucks.
If the latest rumors go down, the Bulls will look something like this to start the season:
PG: Rose, Hinrich, Teague, player to be named
SG: Hamilton, Belinelli
SF: Deng, Butler, Radmanovic
PF: Boozer, Gibson
C: Noah, Mohammed
Of course, Belinelli and Mohammed haven't officially agreed to terms yet, so we won't know how that's shaping up just yet. I would have preferred that the Bulls landed Darko, however, he may have been Miami bound regardless of whether the Bulls wanted him or not. If you had a choice between Miami and Chicago for the same money would you even consider Chicago? I wouldn't.
So summing up the replacements, you look something like this:
PG: Stayed about the same
The Bulls downgraded at three of the five positions on the court from a team that may or may not have had enough to win last season if healthy. Their primary nemesis, which won the title, comes back with significant improvements.
Part of my fear with the Bulls cost cutting isn't merely the fact that they're not fielding the best team [or even the best team they could]. I generally agree with thoughts that the Bulls aren't set up to win the ring this year, but it's also the message sent to Derrick Rose, to Tom Thibodeau, to every free agent who will consider the team in the future.
"Winning is not our priority. Profit is our priority"
No message could be more clear than this one about this off-season. This is a team that has made gobs of money since Jordan retired. My estimates put it close to 700 million in cash not counting franchise appreciation or united center profits but simply in net operating income [estimate based on Forbes articles over the years].
It's far more than the Lakers [who've won five titles over this stretch and had gobs of extra playoff revenue], far more than the Knicks, far more than any team in the NBA or MLB, and more than all but one team in the NFL despite the NFL averaging more than double the revenue. The Bulls are financial champions with a strong commitment to the bottom line.
Despite making all of that money, the Bulls aren't willing to dip to a 45 million dollar yearly profit. An amount which would likely leave them as the second or third most profitable team in the NBA this year. They won't do that to win. Coming second in profits simply isn't good enough.
The Bulls are likely going to need to sign ring chasers for the next few seasons, but no ring chaser is going to Chicago first. None of them will feel this team is really committed to winning. None of them will feel it's their best opportunity to win. Not unless Miami simply isn't interested.
The Bulls never had a chance to get Miami's starpower. The big three agreed to play together long before free agency hit, we just didn't know it. Maybe they never had a chance to attract the ring chasers either. Maybe they're simply destined to play Patrick Ewing or Reggie Miller to LeBron's Jordan in this generation. I could live with that outcome if I felt the team was doing all they could to fight against it. They're not.
Ownership, not management, but ownership is content to make the ECF, rake in profits, and go home without the ring every year. They're in it for the money, not the love of the game. That's their prerogative. They own the team. It's our fault for loving it.