Why the Bulls can never win the off-season

Every year, Bulls fans look forward to the off-season, waiting for the big move to put them over the top. Waiting for management to do something, anything, to get better than the Miami Heat. After all, we’d better answer Reggie Rose’s call and get some talent in here or perhaps Derrick Rose won’t play again. Every year the Bulls make some minor moves on the bench and appear to come back worse.

It started with Watson + Brewer + Korver + Asik turning into Teague + Hinrich + Nate + Belinelli + Nazr. It continues with Nate + Belinelli turning into Dunleavy Jr + Snell. Minor moves, no big splash, and we’re not even happy with the minor moves. How could you let go of Nate Robinson after all he did?

There are two dynamics at play here. The first is the lack of the big splash.

The Bulls aren’t in position to make a big splash. Who is the big splash player that puts you ahead of Miami? What roster move do you make and then say “the Bulls got this now”? Dwight Howard was the only player in the NBA (when healthy) that I would have said that about. Dwight Howard who didn’t want to come here and proved he had the balls to walk away from the extra year and leave as a free agent.

I was in the trade for Howard either way camp. Bullet dodged. Let’s be thankful I wasn’t the GM, the Bulls would be far worse off if we had traded for Howard.

After that? The Bulls will always be worse on paper than Miami. It doesn’t mean they’ll lose, but it does mean that we’ll enter the season feeling pretty uneasy about our chances. It does mean we’ll feel that we didn’t do enough. How could we have done enough if we still feel like the underdogs after all?

That’s crux of the Bulls position in terms of getting significantly better. However, in order to add a ‘star’, the Bulls would likely need to give up the Bobcats pick, Jimmy Butler, and Nikola Mirotic to make another team bite with Luol Deng matching salary, and even after that package you are only ‘maybe’ getting Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge who could both split in two years are your low tier stars not your superstars and both would play the same position as Carlos Boozer who wouldn’t be leaving in the trade package.

Don’t get me wrong, I drool at the idea of adding Love or Aldridge, but when the cost becomes two key rotation players, your two best future assets, and the result is a mismatched roster where you won’t easily be able to trade your way into a good one because no one wants Boozer? Time to stand back and say this probably isn’t worth it. Especially since after that mess everyone can walk away in two seasons.

Oh by the way, good chance that both teams would have said no to that package anyway given that they both rejected packages including the #1 pick for their players.

So when you slowly back away and realize the star route wasn’t the way to go (at least this season) that leaves us with discussing the bench. There was quite a bit of anger about the Bulls blowing up the bench mob last season, but in the end, the new bench mob lacked the big man depth of the previous one but added more of what this team really needed. Shot creation and scoring.

The Bulls last season were far better off with what they had than if they had kept the old group together even including Asik, and while I wish Asik was back here, if the Bulls stay healthy then they won’t miss him all that much. You can’t play four on five basketball against a team as athletic on the perimeter as the Heat.

Now we’re going through the motions again, watching the beloved Nate Robinson walk away, and I loved Nate Robinson as much as you. I think the Bulls needed someone with Robinson’s attitude coming off the bench, and I’m not sure I see that. However, much like Jimmy Butler stepped up and destroyed what Ronnie Brewer could have done, the Bulls will look to fill Robinson’s void internally.

The biggest way it gets filled is by Derrick Rose returning. In the end, the need for a Nate Robinson went from 48 minutes a game to about 10 minutes a game with the return of Derrick. Marquis Teague can’t shot like Nate, but he can get to the hole and create his own shot. I’m excited to see what he can do.

Jimmy Butler looks like he’s improved his shot creation skills as well. The Bulls don’t have that true ringer off the bench like they did with Nate, but going into the season, Nate was on a non guaranteed deal and wasn’t viewed as what he was either.

In the end, I think the Bulls can help make great bench players with their system, coach, and trust. When you look at the Bulls off-season in players in and out, it looks like a miss, but it looked like one last year too. Instead, I think Chicago will be better than Bulls fans think. A year without Rose has left us feeling that they’re mediocre.

They’re not. Make no mistake, the Bulls are coming back as one of the best teams in the NBA. They’ll threaten to win 60 games [and possibly win more], and they’ll be the Heat’s biggest nemesis this season. We’ll see Jimmy Butler step up, we’ll see Marquis Teague play better than expected, and the guys we thought we’d miss will be filled in for successfully.

The Bulls are a star player away from having a shot to look as good as Miami on paper, but they’re only a role playing big man away from hitting about as high a mark as they could in the off-season and still have a shot to fill that void.


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  • I think my main concern is injurys. I think we need another vet wing as well as big man to feel safe injury wise.

    Right now we dont have or need to play Snell or Murphy or even Teague if we wanted. But if one of the starters went down and none of the rookies are ready or Teague isnt playing well we dont have anywhere else to turn for bodies. Given our injury history, Injuries are my only concern. Talent wise, I think our 8 man rotation is one of the best in the league.

  • Careful, Doug — you're going to get a reputation as a front office defender. ;-)

    Nice summation, and while I don't agree with all of your views (particularly regarding Howard and Asik), I concur that the Bulls' decisions this offseason, and most of last, make sense to me.

  • Nate Robinson seems greatly overated by the Bulls fans base. Granted, he came through in some big games with great performances, but how many games did Bulls lose against not-elite teams because Nate is not a strong faciliator, and has more poor shooting games than good ones. Besides, he's essentially being replaced by Derrick friggin Rose. Does Nate Robinson really matter at this point?

    This is an elite-level team when healthy, and there is little that can be done in regard to personal upgrades, to improve this team significantly. Honestly though, is any Bulls fan that lived through the Jordan era going to be satisifed with anything less than multiple 'ships and record-breaking seasons?

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    Why let Nate go and replace him w/ a 6'9" stiff ie Mike Dunleavy? This is what concerns Bulls fans year after year. They replace proven players w/ unproven ones. There's not much that management could've done with Omer Asik, but what a blow it was to team depth to see him walk away for nothing.
    We get excited when the rumors fly about another big named player wanting to play for the Chicago Bulls. It started w/ Kobe Lebron, Bosh , Wade, Melo, and ended w/ LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love. But, like their agents who started the barn fire of rumors, this quickly flamed out in another farce.
    The Bulls aren't really that bad of a team if all goes well. They have a core that has played together for 4 years, and young rising talent to mix in with veterans. Add to that is Miami is starting to show signs of becoming Lebron and the ageing vets,or Cleveland II. But the Heat will not be the only team for the Bulls to contend with next season. Indy will be a formidable opponent with or without Rose and if the Bulls can't work it out this year and win it all, expect more off season rant in 2014

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    You're missing the point. The bulls take non-guaranteed, journeyman players (Robinson) and fit them into a system that maximizes their abilities. As long as the bulls continue to find the guys to fit into that system, they will have a legitimate shot to be champs.

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    In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I strongly agree with you Michael

  • I agree with you, Doug, and most of the comments. As you wrote, "The Bulls are a star player away from having a shot to look as good as Miami on paper." That player could be Mirotic or the Charlotte pick. If fact, it even could be Butler. Look at the jump he took last year. Another jump like that this year and he's almost there.

    So, to blow up those chances for Aldridge or Love is not playing the odds. Think about this senario: Deng leaves, but Butler becomes better than Deng; Hinrich leaves, but Teague becomes better than Hinrich; Snell develops like Butler did. So, next year the Bulls have a very strong team and only lost Deng.

    Now, if Mirotic comes over next year, and he quickly becomes a strong starter, the Bulls can challenge the Heat for the EC title. And they needed no trade to do it!

    Plus the following year, when Boozer leaves, there should be FAs dying to come to Chicago to have a solid shot at a ring.

    Meanwhile, this season if the Bulls are playing like contenders near the trade deadline, they can trade a pick for a good backup C and give it a shot this year. All of this depends on how Butler, Teague, and Snell continue to develop. I hope Thibs plays them enough so they have the opportunity to progress.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Great post. I agree that the Bulls should NOT trade Mirotic or the Charlotte pick unless it's just too good a deal to pass up.

    Mirotic may be about as good as Love, as the are about the same age and play the same game. Mirotic has more size and is probably a better shooter. Love is a much better rebounder. Both are great passers and average NBA athletes at best.

    Butler's emergence is key. If he only takes a small step forward beyond what he did late last year that would be HUGE.

    Snell is intriguing mostly because of his shooting, a big Bulls need, and ability to play D, a Thibs prerequisite to play. He may get some floor time later this season. If he can develop anything close to Butler, that's HUGE.

    Charlotte pick looking like it will be 2016 and be a top 10 pick for sure, probably even top 5. You just hope that draft class just does not suck.

    Deng: I'm in the resign Deng at all costs unless he wants over $12 million. Or, if Snell is better than we think.

    So, you put it all together and I don't think we need a superstar. The Bulls are one of the best teams in the NBA. If it were not for LeBron, many would view the Bulls as having as good a shot as anyone. Maybe LeBron will play football for a couple years?

  • Not sure where I read it, or if it matters, but supposedly the Bulls insiders are firmly convinced that this is the best roster that they have had in the Rose era.

    Maybe, it is just dog days of August optimism, but I am inclined to agree.

    Dunleavey is some combination of Korver and Belli, which makes him better than either individually.

    Butler should really take a leap in his 3rd year, which would make him the best non Rose, Deng or Noah player that we have had in the Rose era.

    Doubt it, but Taj could live up to his contract and become a consistent offensive threat.

    Even though we won't see it this year, athletically Snell has the potential to be as good as Butler and better than Deng.

    I expect that Mirotic will be at least as good as Toni Kukoc was, maybe a better shooter.

    and we only have one eye ball stabbing year left of having to watch the BozoHole. Yes, I guaratee amnesitization next summer.

    Health will likely be the determining factor between a great year and a disappointing one.

    Finally, I have to agree with Doug, it would not seem worth it to give up all our assets to get Aldridge or Love, but I guess I really couldn't make that call for real until that deal was on the table for real.

    I am ready for the end of baseball season and the start of the real sports season, football and basketball.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I COMPLETELY agree with everything you said. In fact, I would even add in the fact that Teague could pass Hinrich on the PG depth chart if he can prove he can play smart. The Bulls could desperately use his quickness and athletic abilities off the bench.

  • In reply to Motoman:

    Yeah Teague passing Kirk would be a nice move for a team sorely lacking athletes. I think the key to the season is the Health of Rose and Noah. Neither has a decent replacement. Rose misses much time we are going to struggle to score. Noah goes down we are playing Nazr which is enough said.

    They both stay pretty healthy don't miss any big chunks and we should have a great season.

    I am interested to see Jimmy Butlers development. I am not as wildly optimistic as some here are on him but do hope he worked hard on his offense this offseason. He has a big opportunity to step up this season.

    I am also expecting to see a new and improved Derrick Rose. Should have a nice 3 point stroke with all that time off!

  • In reply to Chad:

    I agree that replacements for Rose and Noah would be BIG Dropoffs. I keep writing if we added a younger, defensive-minded center, he could combine with Nazr when Noah is out, and we could still win a few of those games till he got back. I am now thinking that the Bulls strategy on another Center-big is:

    1) wait till the trading deadline and see if we are truly in position to WIN A TITLE, otherwise.., go with what we got. Be willing to trade one of next years No. 1 picks for a better center than we could have obtained these last few months.

    2) sign Aldrich once HE decided playing for the minimum is better than Not playing at all.

    3) wait till the final rosters shake out and pick up a center that gets cut Last Minute.

    Notice, ALL 3 choices have somethings in common.

    A)--Bulls buy only at league minimum

    B)--Bulls hope that the FUTURE holds better options than the present

    C)Bulls are willing to play Russian Roullete with Noah's Health

    D)Later, rather than Before/Now options means we can't use preseason practices to get this unknown center trained the Bulls Way.

    Just hope Bulls management's dice-roll Doesn't come up


  • In reply to BigWay:

    The point for angst is simply thattthere's a Wait process that theFO has, and there's a clock ticking. We damn well can't predict what will happen totally: so all we can go with is now. There IS a rest of the league not just Miami that retools , look at the Pacers the Clippers the Nets.
    We just seem to have a great opportunity to push others to greater heights because we're cautious. As a fan I just wish there were at least some more buzz about something other than Rose's return and a reshuffled bench for what, the 3rd year in a row.

  • In reply to mummuhwalde:

    All of us fans wish the same thing, more buzz, that is, another superstar. We agree with you.

    That player may be coming. He might be Mirotic. He might be the Charlotte pick. He might even be Butler or Snell. Or an FA next season or the following.

    The Bulls made mistakes in the past for the sake of doing something -- Boozer and Wallace, for example. Partly because they got Wallace, they then dumped Chandler and did not get Gasol. Partly because they signed Boozer they did not get Carmelo.

    So now patience may be the wisest course. If they trade a lot of assets for Love or Aldridge, they may miss on someone a lot better, or several really nice players. No more overpaying for players!

  • Bulls don't need to win the offseason. They sell out just about every game. The priority is winning, as it should be. Winning the offseason would mean going after Carmello or Dwight. Bulls know what they have and there is no need to blow up a good thing.

    As I said above, the future is bright:
    1. Butler emergence is huge
    2. Based on this summer's deals, and further angst due to increasing luxury tax penalties, Deng could resign for an ave salary for $10-11 mil, giving the Bulls the two best 2-way wing players in the league.
    3. Mirotic coming over next season, hopefully for the Full MLE if Boozer is amnestied.
    4. Charlotte pick looking like a definite top 10 in 2016. I bet it's top 3-4 based on the current Charlotte roster. Charlotte sucks, but they are definitely not going to finish in the bottom 4 teams this season (due to Jefferson signing), potentially missing out on the elite young studs this draft has to offer.
    5. Without making moves, the entire Bulls roster is young and can get better, including Teague, Butler, Rose, Snell and Noah.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Agreed. The Bulls have a good squad.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Deng and Butler the two best two way wings in the league? Come on now stop chugging the Koolaid... That is just crazy talk!

    Charlotte pick is far and away a lock for the top ten in 2016. My money is on it not making it to 2016. Al Jeff is a great add for them.

  • In reply to Chad:

    Agreed about the crazy talk. I seem to recall LeBron and Durant are both wings, amongst many others.

  • In reply to Chad:

    While I agree that the pick is not a lock to be top 10 in 2016, in fact I would be more likely to bet that by then it isn't in the top 10, not too sure that the bulls get the pick before then.

    the pick is top 10 protected in 2014 and top 8 in 2015 so the Hornets would have to be the 11th worst team this season or the 9 worst next for the Bulls to get the pick before 2016.

    Don't see them making that kind of leap this season. Next season they could make a jump if they add another free agent like Al Jefferson or they hit it big in the 2014 draft. I'd say 50/50 for 2015.

    The worst case and still most likely is that they finally competer for/make the playoffs in 2016 when the Bulls get the pick no matter what.

  • Even if you take out Carlos boozer and replace him with Kevin Love I wouldn't say confidently Chicago's got Miami. Kevin is a great rebounder and 3 point shooter but he doesn't create he's own shot. The Bulls need another shot creator to be above Miami. Now I'm not saying the Bulls can't beat Miami as presently constructed, because I feel they can, but if they had a player similar to Dwayne Wade's skill set next to DRose how can you not pick the bulls to beat the heat. They would have the scoring and rebounding to offset anything miami throws at them. Also, I strongly feel come February the Bulls are going to be rumored to be trading for nate back. I don't see nate getting minutes behind Lawson and Miller, so I can see the bulls realizing they miss nate's scoring sprees and they might be able to re acquire him. It might take Kirk and his expiring contract to land nate.

  • For the Antawn Jamison fans, apparently Clippers have chosen to re-sign Lamar Odom leaving Jamison still available.


  • If the Bulls have a shockingly healthy season, and Rose comes back to 90% or more of his previous Top 5-7 play then yes I agree the Bulls will be a good team no doubt. Do I believe they will stay healthy? More then likely no. Still, one can hope.

    I don't see Butler being a real scorer, but in his third season now is the time if he's going to really begin that progression 14-15ppg min at 35-38 mpg.

    I still see Derrick's A/TO ratio as less then stellar compared to other marquis PG's. Playing some off guard he would avoid all the fighting through pick and roll defending other PG's and walking up into double teams. Teague bringing any legit rotation PG play and Rose playing some significant minutes at SG would be my hope at least to start the season and see how it goes. And Butler becoming any kind of legit prolific scorer at 15ppg or more would mean big things for the Bulls come playoff time.

    And of course we need a healthy Joakim and Taj. A tall order(no pun intended). Finally, Lu needs a bounce back, chip on his shoulder FA year. Dunleavy if he stays healthy, could be a bigger add then maybe people think. Snell or Murphy doing anything is a long shot. If that happens you know just maybe this could be the Bulls year.

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