While stories about the tensions between the Chicago Bulls front office and coaching staff are still making headlines, the real focus should be on the current 2014 team. Derrick Rose will be returning to the court after missing the entire 2013 season to a ACL injury. Rose will return and team up with Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, and etc to give it one last go with this roster. The goal this season is to add a trophy to the display case that hasn't had any additions since 97-98. The Bulls know that any path to a championship will likely mean going through Lebron James and the Miami Heat. While the Bulls did add free agent Mike Dunleavy in the offseason, they chose to hold off on any extension talks with forward Luol Deng. The reason for that? This roster is designed for one last go around and here's why.
Any team that is able to add a former MVP with the skill set Derrick Rose brings is getting a major upgrade. Essentially , that's what the Bulls are doing this season. Derrick ,through two pre season games, looks fully recovered from the ACL injury. Rose's return to lineup also increases the Bulls depth on the bench moving Kirk Hinrich to a backup role. Less minutes should help keep Kirk healthy. I also expect Kirk to have a bigger year offensively running the second unit. The Bulls will shift Jimmy Butler to a starting role at the shooting guard in 2014. Butler took huge strides last season and is expected to take another step in 2014. Butler, teamed with Rose, should also make for a speedy backcourt. Joakim Noah returns after his first All-Star bid last year. Noah grew as a player and a leader with Derrick off the court last season. Carlos Boozer will start at the power forward and be the "whipping boy" of the Chicago fan base once again. Boozer showed up to training camp leaner and quicker this season. Finally, Luol Deng, who is in his last year of a contract, will reprise his role as the "glue" on the court playing with both units. The additions of outside shooting with free agent Mike Dunleavy and rookie Tony Snell should help a Bulls team offensively. While Snell will only play limited minutes, Dunleavy will be big for this team playing the small forward and even power forward on occasion. The Bulls will also have Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed back on the bench this year. I expect Taj to have big year and work well with Kirk and Dunleavy in the second unit. Rookie Erik Murphy and second year man Marquis Teague will likely see limited time. One thing the Bulls should have is depth with this year's roster. So why would the front office want to break things up next year?
In all likelihood, the Bulls will let Luol Deng walk after this season. The organization seems fully prepared to make one final run with him before letting him go in the offseason for nothing. Why? Well , the Bulls are in the luxury tax already. Letting Luol Deng walk would give them cap flexibility. Also, in 2015 the Bulls would likely entertain the idea of amnestying Carlos Boozer. Kirk Hinrich's contract also ends this year potentially giving the Bulls flexibility to take this team in a different direction. The Bulls are looking at their long term future. Letting Deng walk and amnestying Boozer would allow them to be players once again in the free agency frenzy of 2014. While I would be surprised if Lebron opts out to come to Chicago, the Bulls want to be able to be involved in talks with players like Lebron, Carmelo Anthony, and etc. Also, the Bulls have in house needs for the money. Jimmy Butler is putting himself into the category of dynamic wing players. The Bulls will likely want to extend his contract. Also, European star Nikola Mirotic would be eligible to come over in the 2014-15 season.
So while it would hard to see Luol Deng walkout the door for no return, I fully understand the organizations plan. If the Bulls could add another star, preferably a scorer at the two guard, that is the best move to build around Derrick. The Bulls could move Butler over to small forward and his extension would be less than Deng. Mirotic could play the power forward or start of the year on the bench and let Taj slide into a starting role till he gets used to the NBA.
President John Paxson and GM Gar Forman know what they need to do to make this team a NBA champion. As its currently constructed, I think this Bulls team can give Miami a challenge. While I don't know if they have enough to get past team, it's always hard for a team to win that third championship in a row. This roster is set and ready to go for one last run. A championship is the ultimate goal, but if the Bulls fall short they will likely move in a different direction to establish a new roster to contend in 2015 and beyond.
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