Several Bulls media outlets have noted that the Bulls are working on a "2014" plan now. A plan in which they can rebuild the core starting in 2014 rather than maximizing their opportunity to win right now. What exactly is the 2014 plan and how will it work?
In theory, the 2014 plan goes like this:
Luol Deng comes off the books
Carlos Boozer will be amnestied
Nikola Mirotic will come over from Europe
The theory goes that the Bulls will be maximum room under the cap in order to make a bunch of moves, however, it's unlikely to work out nearly so well in practice.
Derrick Rose will make about 19.2 million [most salary sites still show his salary at 17.8, but the max contract went up]. Joakim Noah will make 12.2. They'll have about five million tied up in Butler, Teague, a 2013 rookie, and a 2014 rookie, and they'll likely have to pay Mirotic at least three million to come over. That puts them at 39 million. Let's assume they keep Taj Gibson, now the salary is back up to 48-50 million.
The salary cap will likely rise to around 62 million over this stretch, but if the Bulls go into this off-season with a core of:
They'll have less than max cap room to fill out the team. If they drop off Gibson, they'll have max cap room, but they'll also need to fill up the roster with another starting caliber player.
Theoretically, 2014 could boast many of the stars from the 2010 draft class that passed on us the first time. Bosh, Wade, and LeBron all have opt outs for that season as do Carmelo and Amare. However, would you really want to pursue that class again after the 2010 debacle? In theory, it's a VERY strong free agent class, but the odds of luring anyone seem absurdly low.
The Bulls will have some additional flexibility to do some other things in terms of trades by having the cap space, but again, who are they going to target? Two years is a long time and maybe Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge will be frustrated with their roles on their teams by that point, but there's just as good a chance that it will be Derrick Rose pissed off.
Now instead of this, let's say the Bulls dumped Deng for Richard Jefferson and Harrison Barnes, a deal that was reportedly on the table. The Bulls would add Barnes and about four million in salary to this current core. All of a sudden things look a lot better. Maybe they also dumped Noah for Thomas Robinson, a deal that may have also been on the table, and they don't keep Taj Gibson and amnesty Boozer immediately.
Now instead of
Rose, Noah, Gibson, Mirotic, Butler, Teague, 2 likely mediocre draft picks and a salary of 50 million
Rose, Barnes, Robinson, Mirotic, Butler, Teague, 2 draft picks, one of which is likely a high lotto pick, and about 30 million in salary
If you were really playing for 2014 which of those situations is really better? The second one, it's not even close. The Bulls would have significantly more financial flexibility as well as young lottery talent in a strong draft class just beginning to enter its prime similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Granted, much depends on how much you believe in Robinson/Barnes, and the Bulls may have selected different players in slots 5/7, but if they wanted to really rebuild this thing for 2014 then THAT is a 2014 plan. The present plan is to field as competitive team as they can without spending much money while simply noting that in 2014 they'll likely have significant roster turnover. However, that roster turnover won't likely lead to a significant improvement over what they have. There are no pieces aligned to make it happen.
In an attempt to maximize their odds for a championship the Bulls could do a full rebuild around 2014, or they could try and maximize their talent around Rose every year. Right now, they're stuck in the middle of the street with a plan that neither maximizes their talent nor maximizes their future talent. The present plan has seen assets walk away for nothing, lessening the Bulls ability to make a move to implement either of the previously mentioned plans at a later date as well.
In short, the 2014 plan is equivalent to the underwear gnome plan
1: Make it to 2014
As soon as someone can fill in the ???? with something other than "well they'll bring over Mirotic and clear Boozer off the books and be under the cap" let me know, because if you think swapping Boozer for Mirotic and Deng for some dude making 12 million a year is going to raise the Bulls to championship level, I've got some great bridge investment opportunities for you.