So lately, I've seen quite a few people discuss what a genius Daryl Morey is and how if only the Bulls had such an aggressive GM that would make big moves and plan ahead to strike at the right time then they'd have a title. Perhaps. But the Bulls front office is more aggressive than you think and just a tad less lucky.
The Houston Rockets were able to trade for James Harden, a young star player using a bunch of pedestrian assets. Middle first round picks and an aging offensive player largely because the Thunder were caught in strange conundrum. They wanted to still have a shot to win the title in the present season while still getting some future return.
Getting Kevin Martin and their draft picks allowed them that opportunity, however, the trade looks especially bad for Houston because the Raptors pick (guaranteed to be in the lottery) ended up in the worthless part of it, and Westbrook tore his meniscus rendering their title hopes moot.
The package overall wasn't amazingly attractive though, given that Martin was on a rental (rarely has value to a team trading a star) and the Raptors were projected to win 33 games by Hollinger in preseason (they won 34), and the 2013 draft was known to suck when the pick was likely to be delivered.
However, it was enough to make the deal work and outbid other teams because Washington was scared to offer Harden the max, and there weren't a lot of bidders at Harden's pricetag of the max.
With Harden, Parsens, Lin, and Asik, Houston became the best team with max cap room to pursue Dwight Howard. It seems a year with the Lakers was enough to convince Dwight he'd better look at the cast around him. Of course, if Dwight had done that a year earlier, then he might be sitting in a Bulls uniform right now, because quite frankly, that cast isn't incredibly appealing, but it's pretty good for a team with cap room.
Of course, people will say Morey did it again. He was in the right spot to capitalize on the situation and got it done. The sad thing about this is that the Bulls were WAY better positioned in 2010 with a better class of FAs to choose from. They had swung room for two max FAs to join a cast of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson. This was no accident. I interviewed John Paxson in the summer of 2007, and he told me they were planning for 2010 already.
The Bulls positioned themselves with a much better cast and much more cap room than the Rockets, but the whole NBA was blindsided by Miami and the premeditated plan to get the big three together. It didn't work out for Chicago, tough break for them.
The point isn't that Morey's awful and Gar Forman/John Paxson are great (or the reverse). The point is that luck will always play a huge factor in this league, and all a GM can do is put his team in position to succeed if luck favors them and not screw stuff up Otis Smith style. I think both Morey and GarPax have done that and work fairly similarly. They plan for the future, accumulate assets, stay flexible with their spending, and look to constantly be in position to make the big move if they can.
In the past two years, its worked out for Houston who looks like they've made a huge leap forward. Of course, we'll see if that leap is big enough to put them ahead of the Bulls team that fans are still complaining is too stagnant. My guess is it will be pretty close.
That said, it's much easier to make the leap from wins in the low 40s to wins in the mid to upper 50s. The Bulls already leaped into the 60s. Making the final leap to champion is quite difficult indeed.