Chicago Bulls won't, can't tank for a draft pick

I read this theory all of the time. The Bulls should throw in the towel on this season and rebuild around Rose. There are several problems with this theory, but the biggest problem is that they already missed their window of opportunity to do it. Attempting it now would provide a half-assed attempt that would not facilitate rebuilding but only weaken the team.

The case for tanking

There was a case to be made for tanking. The time to make that case was in the summer. If Chicago looked at the NBA landscape and said, "We're not reasonably going to compete with the Heat for at least two years, let's aim to rebuild in the third year and do it right now." then they could have made an attempt to rebuild from scratch.

Trade Luol Deng for Harrison Barnes and Richard Jefferson? Done.

Move Taj Gibson for a draft pick? Done.

Swap C.J. Watson for a pick and contract (done, and they had this option for awhile, but it expired after Jarrett Jack fell into Golden State's lap).

Trade Korver/Brewer to Detroit for Ben Gordon and a draft pick, done.

Force Derrick Rose to sit out as absolutely long as possible [still likely couldn't sit him all season] done.

What would the result of this team be? A crapload of young players, future picks, and only Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose on the books in three years (Boozer would likely be amnestied in the final year of his deal to be off the books that year). Chicago would then have oodles of cap space, and lots of bullets in the next few drafts [though they'd be shooting bullets out of a pistol aiming for targets at rifle range].

They'd also be bad enough to likely pick in the top 5-6 this season.

You do all that and hope that you luck into some good players late in the draft simply due to the number of opportunities you have. I don't think it would be likely to work, but it was a somewhat viable plan that could at least be argued for. You'd grab a ton of draft choices to go with a team that would have the cap room to absorb contracts or sign free agents in a couple of seasons.

You'd also probably lose a tons of money over the next two years (that's a Jerry Reinsdorf no-no), enrage the many fans who actually want to see the Bulls win, and alienate veteran players who wouldn't understand why you blew up the team. However, in the long run, the plan would have some chance of success as long as you hit big on your early pick and drafted good players with your mid to late 1sts and 2nds.

The case for not tanking this summer

Even if you do all of the above, you're not likely to get the difference making lottery picks that land you a superstar. Once Rose is back tanking will be out of the question as he'll single handedly get the Bulls too many wins to finish in the bottom five.

All of the picks you get via trade outside of Harrison Barnes (or whomever you'd have taken with the GS pick) are likely mid to late 1st rounders and unlikely to yield anything better than role players. The Bulls would count themselves lucky to simply get players as good as Taj Gibson and Luol Deng back with these picks.

In the end, getting a second superstar wouldn't be likely, and they'd look like a farce to players around the league further hurting their ability to recruit players to come play here. It'd effectively be a hail mary that would only work out if they were able to delay Rose's return long enough [don't underestimate how hard Rose will fight you on this and the PR battle you'd lose if you tried to stop him] to ensure a top pick next year and then got your star.

Those are long odds, since Rose will probably be back for half the season, next year's class isn't loaded with stars, and the Bulls would probably pick outside the top six slots.

For making this hail mary, you'd alienate your fan base, alienate yourself from veteran players, and lose a ton of money.

I'm not surprised (or upset) that the Bulls didn't make that attempt.

That was then, this is now

The case for tanking back then was somewhat flimsy. The case for tanking now is eye-poppingly bad. I've heard people say things like "tell Deng he has to get the surgery and fake an injury with Joakim Noah". Really? REALLY?

You're going to go to a player and force him to get surgery? You're going to tell Joakim Noah that he can't play? You do realize that these players believe they can win right now right? You do realize they have pride and want to win right now right?

No one will go along with this plan. It will (obviously) leak out what's going on as the players will go right to the press and bitch out loud about how the Bulls don't care about winning and want to throw the season. There's a good chance the NBA straight up sanctions them for even attempting it in such an obvious way.

Why don't we go ask Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau what they think of the "tanking" plan and see how it works out for the coach and franchise player. I'm guessing that it won't be viewed too favorably, but that's just me.

However, let's move beyond the fact that there's no reasonable or rational way to pull of this plan at this point anyway and assume against all evidence that everyone on the team is willing to go along with it.

The Bulls already missed the window.

If you wanted to reposition the team to rebuild then you don't sign Taj Gibson to a four year deal for over eight million per year. You're not getting a 1st rounder back for Taj anymore now that he's at the high end of his market value for four seasons.

You're not likely getting a lotto pick for Luol Deng with only one season left on his contract from someone in the summer.

All the guys you could have traded away to bring back additional picks by taking on short term bad contracts are gone and can't be traded away.

If you attempt the tank plan now, you're going to do it without Detroit's pick for taking on Gordon, without the #8 pick in this year's class you could have had for Luol Deng, and without the mid to late 1st you would have had for Taj Gibson. You're going to do it without as much salary flexibility to make unbalanced trades, and in effect, you're going to be doing it completely half-assed.

The original plan likely wasn't going to yield a better team than what the Bulls have now. The completely half-assed version of the plan is assuredly not going to yield a better team than what the Bulls had now. Whatever window the Bulls had to attempt a successful complete rebuild and roster turnover is closed.

Chicago will need to look to trades, MLEs, and the future assets they have to improve the team incrementally from where it presently is. For better or worse the complete rebuild train left the station on draft day when the Bulls didn't make any moves.

Chicago's still positioned well if Rose makes a full recovery

The hardest thing to do in the NBA is get a superstar. If Rose recovers fully then the Bulls still have one which puts them in better position than 25 other teams in the NBA. Yes, it will be extraordinarily difficult to put together a team to compete for the championship, however, stop and think about how hard that is regardless.

Is there any reasonable way that a team can build to have more talent than the Miami Heat when they turn it on right now? The Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a core of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and I still think they're significant underdogs. The Bulls only play to get on the same level as the Heat was to get Dwight Howard themselves, and Dwight Howard made it clear he did not want to play here.

Once Howard passed, Chicago's best hope is to simply build as good a team as possible and get lucky. Sorry folks, if there was a reasonable plan that landed them a second and third star player to matching the Heat's talent level then I'm pretty sure the Bulls would already have taken it.

However, there's not. There's no reasonable "get two superstar" plan available. Only one in 5-6 teams has a single superstar, so to get two is a daunting task with no obvious path from here to there.

The Bulls have a very good team. They need to add talent to it to seriously compete for the title, but tearing it down is far more likely to waste two years and build up to something that's not as good as what they already have. I don't like their odds moving forward, but I like them more than pissing away two years on an attempted rebuild and hoping for the best. Especially since we'd be doing it with three or four less first rounders than if we attempted it five months ago.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Tags: chicago bulls, draft, nba, tank


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  • I agree that the time to tank has long since passed. Everything you could do now would really just set the team further back, unfortunately.

    I disagree, sort of, about the fans being pissed. I think many 'real' fans are already pissed about the makeup of this team.

    Last year, I would have been all over Thibs for playing Deng the way he did against the Bucks, and then turning around and playing him the way he did against the Mavs (he was in well into the end of the 4th quarter with a 20+ plus lead).

    This year, I hate to say, but I almost understand his line of thinking. The bench is horrible collectively. There are some nice aspects here and there (Robinson's scoring, Gibson's tenacity), but every thing doesn't fit well cohesively.

    Say what you will about taking time to build chemistry, but I don't see unfamiliarity as the issue. The parts just don't fit together well.

    I can't see how GarPax, knowing what made them successful the last two years (superior star and the ability to overcome loss via superior depth), put this team together with any semblance of basketball acumen being part of the decision.

    From what I hear from fellow fans, they see the same thing. This team is about one thing only: straight cash homey. I see it, most fans see it, and it is not appreciated.

  • In reply to Salvamini:

    I think very few fans would be happy about the Bulls blowing up this team and trying to win 15 games to get a lotto pick, and the ones that were happy certainly aren't going to go fill the stadium and buy lots of merchandise.

    If the plan fails to work (which is a virtual certainty), fans will the discuss at tremendous length how the front office was complete idiots for blowing up a 60+ win team to try and get a mid lottery draft choice in a crappy draft.

  • The bulls are an injury away from tanking whether they like it or not...unless it's hinie.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    That was another thing I was considering touching upon: The way Thibs is riding Deng, they may not need to ask him to get surgery, he may be forced into it.

    Again, with the bench as craptacular as it has been, I almost understand. Still, it concerns me that starters need to play NBA Finals-type minutes and we're not even into December.

  • In my opinion the Bulls F O has already alienated the fans with the Bulls team as constructed. They did nothing to improve this team, I understand Rose will miss most if not all of the season but to strip this team of the descent players that were on the team over the last 2 years was a disgrace and should not be tolerated by none of the Bulls fans, the real fans that actually know the game and what it will take for the Bulls to actually compete for championships and the of course homer fans that cheer for the Bulls for entertainment purposes. I've said before in the past, the only way for this team to be a contender again is to make trades with fan favorite players and for once not to be cheap and spend money on players that has the talent to come to the Bulls and help Rose take this team to the next level. And as for a 2014-2015 plan... there is no DAMN plan, every fan should know and see this. The Bulls F O is full of "IT" and trying to sell the fans on some stupid plan. This team will not be any better til the owner either sell the DAMN team, get serious about winning again for this Bulls team, or the fans stop being stupid in supporting this B.S. As long as the UC continue to sell out, The owner will continue to put a B.S. product on the floor. Chicago Bulls fans better WAKE THE HELL UP and show the arrogant Bulls owner that they do not appreciate what's going on with this team, that's why Thibs is giving his best players that can produce on the floor heavy minutes cause he don't appreciate the garbage of a bench he's been given this year. Sure he's going to say that's not the reason, but we all should know better.

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    In reply to Reese1:

    it was not the owner who put the team in this position this is Paxton all the way every time he leaves his mark or put his touch on this team it usually spells disaster I was done with him when he made the dreaded draft day trades that netted us Thomas then he pulled the same garbage this year by year buy drafting that Kentucky guard who in my opinion is already a bust the Bulls need to read themselves up Paxton

  • In reply to Reese1:

    The team won the most games in the NBA the past two seasons. Their inability to compete seriously for the title is more about the Heat assembling a historically good talent level that would be nearly impossible to defeat in any era than a lack of execution by the Bulls.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    But its not about the Heat Doug, its about the Bulls F O letting the bench leave for nothing. It's about the Bulls F O trying to rebuild around Rose when he does return but they did nothing. Who cares about the Bulls regular season record the past 2 seasons. The question is what are they going to do to build off of having the best regular season record the past 2 seasons. So far they have done nothing but get bounced in the playoffs before reaching the finals. And yes Rose got injured but that's no reason for the F O to put this team in a position not to contend for a title. It's just senseless imo.

  • The Bulls could end up with two first middling draft picks they could package to move into the late lottery so I don't think they need to "tank" and its not a good idea anyway. I read on the tribune about the Bulls selling naming rights to their new practice facility......Great idea, I would like the Bulls to have gobbles of money like NY and LA get from TV deals and naming rights BUT would like to see the younger more savy Michael Reinsdorf spend the money to put the best basketball product that the 10 million Chicagoland can be proud of. Enough of this small market cut costs depression era mentality of Jerry Reinsdorf. You have a superstar, now treat him like one and get him the supporting cast to win a ring or two. Kevin Love would be a great second superstar who could be available in the next few years, a package deal of mirotic and deng might get the wolves to bite if they see the writing on the wall.

    The Bench has been pretty awful this year but its because of several factors we didn't see coming. Did anyone imagine Taj Gibson struggling this year? I thought for sure he was the better overall talent compared to Asik. I think Jimmy Butler has done well but he needs to show more offense, he's starting to stick jumpers which is good but he needs to show confidence in the corner 3 and attacking the basket more. Belinelli has been the biggest disappoinment for me, I was hoping he could be at least more aggressive offensively and he might get going and of course the massive loss of Asik which can't really be calculated how he affected game with his defense and rebounding. With Rose back, this is still an 8th or 7th seed and management will ride it. Of course the real show begins in the summer of 2013 when some pretty good shooting guards are available.

  • I think my comments have been misunderstood on a couple of points, since I was the one who said Deng should get surgery and the Bulls should tank, many times. You tell me the bulls shoulda done this during the summer... well, I think it was well after the draft that we found out the bulls were basically letting everyone go so I will be the first to say that last year's bulls team with a healthy Rose and a few good moves could have remained a contender and it was not necesary to do all that bs. If anything, the FO did some kind of half ass tank job already, but they tanked to the 8th seed in the east, which is the dumbest single move I have ever witnessed in basketball. Knowing the team that is out there now, I propose tanking cause it's a hell of a lot better to get pick #5 in the draft than to be an 8 seed in the east playoffs. It's not like this is an up and coming team that needs the boost of just getting into the playoffs, these guys know what is like and they should also know that they have no chance this year at all, other than chance for Deng and Noah to sustain 2 years worth of wear and tear to their bodies in a single season. I advocate tanking now because i dont think the buls need to get rid of deng or taj or noah for younger pieces such as harrison barnes. They need to get rid of Bozo and get a secondary reliable shot creator, which I believe is only possible through high draft picks (we know the bulls suck at trades and basically have no tradeable pieces anyway). And this draft pick doesnt need to be a second superstar, just a solid reliable second option who can get this mess of an offense off the ground when need. Everyone says Rose will fix all, but you have to remember that in the playoffs all teams bottle Rose up with extreme effectiveness, and nobody steps up. I'm not saying the bulls will ever have more or equivalent talent to the heat and lakers, cause they cheated, but the same bulls core plus a solid no. 2 guy might you a 20% chance to beat the super teams (if they are banged up, or you just lucky for example). The absolute best team doesnt always win, many things can happen if you can get to a certain point (ask the 04 pistons or the mavericks.) But I believe this bulls team + Rose has no chance to win the east, that's why I think the bulls right now have 0% plan. A true half-assed tank job.

  • In reply to ixonflex69:

    oh, and i never said the bulls players would buy into it, I just said it was the smart thing to do if take your stupid pride and your cock out of the equation.

  • Look, right after the draft lottery order was slotted, it took me but 2 days to come up with a plan (IF the Bulls wanted to go that route), and it took me about one of those days to come to terms with potentially blowing up the team.

    But here was my plan:

    1. Trade Noah to SAC for their pick...and Draft Barnes.

    2. You didn't even need to trade with GSW and take back a bad contract. TOR needed an Allstar SF and would still trade for Deng now. 8th pick plus Calderon's expiring...Draft Drummond.

    3. Trade Taj, who was due for a pay raise to DET or MIL and draft a replacement like Henson.

    4. Amnesty Boozer, pick up Scola and/or Brand on bargain basement amnesty deals.

    5. You sit Rose out for the season to tank. all your young players get experience. You probably end up with a top-4 pick with this lineup:

    C. Asik (Drummond)
    PF. Scola (Henson)
    SF. Barnes
    SG. Butler
    PG. Calderon (Teague)

    6. So for 2013-14, if we can't get Shabazz or McAdoo or any other top SG prospect, you have about $30mil in cap space to not only sign someone like Iggy, but plenty leftover to fill the other positions.

    C. Asik (Drummond)
    PF. Scola (Henson)
    SF. Barnes (Butler)
    SG. Iggy (Kmart)
    PG. Rose (Teague)

    Plus top-4 pick and probably $10mil in cap space.

    This is how they should have 'tanked' and rebuild.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    None of this matters now because they can tank. The guys we have now would never go for it.

    Right now Bulls just have to play Boozer and hope some team wants to trade for Him. All we need is an expiring, but if we can't get that, I have come to terms with packaging Deng with boozer if we could get something solid back, like Pau or Bargnani+Ross.

    Also, Marshon Brooks is getting ZERO minutes in BKN. Bulls need to offer up a future pick to steal him away.

  • Great piece! I think after reading comments on here over the years, fans will be mad at ownership no matter what they do. bulls win 60 games, fans are mad because they don't beat the heat. They win 40 games, fans are mad because they are not a contender. They win 20 games, fans are mad because they stink.

    I agree with a commenter above that my biggest dissapointment is Marco. I thought he would provide shooting and push Rip for the starting job. He has been relevent in about two games so far. Muhammed is up on my list to. After not expecting anything from him, he blows me away in preseason only to do nothing in the regular season.

    My only hope is that players come around. I think the "bench mob" was highly criticised two years ago after a slow start. They finally got it together around January or something and took off from there. Maybe this group can do something like that.

  • Does anyone know if the Bulls are in any position to make a bid on Mayo if he is availible next year?

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    Nope. No cap space.

    Even if they Amnesty Boozer (which I have no faith they ever will), their cap space would be right close to the $58mil salary cap, leaving them only the full $5mil MLE.

    Mayo took less money to showcase himself and he proved right in doing so. Mayo isn't taking $5mil...he's looking closer to $8mil.

    If the Bulls could get him for $5mil, I'm all for it, but if its more, even if he's balling now, I think it's too much for him. If we get in a bidding war for another million, fine, do it, but if someone wants to overpay for Mayo, let them.

    I think most fans are mad because we could be having Mauo so what he's doing right now for us, for $4mil

  • There's really nothing I can add that hasn't been touched on already. I'm just glad that fans are finally starting to see how incompetent the Bulls Front Office really is. I am a true Bulls fan but I have honestly stopped supporting the team until some serious internal changes are made. I really don't appreciate the lackluster team that has been assembled this year.

    I think Thibs is a great coach and is worth every penny on his contract. I'm impressed with Noah's performance this year, he's stepped his game up and it shows. Nate Robinson's done a great job in fulfilling his role and even exceeding expectations. I'm a little disappointed in Taj offensively but that was to be expected after signing his contract. Players always tend to struggle after receiving that big payday. As usual Deng is very consistent and if he can't find a way to score then he finds other ways to be effective such as rebounding and defense. THE REST OF THE TEAM IS ALL GARBAGE!

  • Bulls stupid asses shouldve traded for Melo

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