The 2013-2014 season for the Bulls was a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, despite high expectations, the Chicago Bulls are headed to the offseason; as a result, they are in need of significant changes, starting with offense.
Derrick Rose was the major reason why many in the NBA, along with commentators, thought that Chicago would challenge the Miami and Indiana for the best record in the Eastern Conference. However, bad luck struck the guard and team once again, as he was taken out for the entire season, only 10 games in.
While it is unfortunate that Rose was not able to play yet another season, the Bulls only had themselves to blame, in what resulted in a very trying season that held the team under 50 percent until January. Even though they ended up coming alive in the wake of the Luol Deng trade, their offense remained pitiful, as they finished dead last in points per game.
This is not a news bulletin though. The Bulls through the years have been known for their lackluster offense, despite having arguably the best defense in the league. However, when they had Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and even Nate Robinson, they had a fighting chance, as all three can be offensive threats. It is understandable why the Bulls traded Deng away. He was in the final year on his contract, and he most likely would have moved on anyways. However, not attempting to keep Robinson was a big mistake.
Last year it was Nate Robinson who came to the Bulls’ aid as a spark plug off the bench. In fact, he filled most of the void, with Rose being gone all of last season. However, with the Bulls thinking Rose would return this season, they had no interest in maintaining the little man. Instead, they kept the team as is for the most part. The only thing they did to attempt to improve their offense, was the addition of Mike Dunleavy. While he has proven to be a force, such as in Game Four’s 35-point performance, he is highly inconsistent.
Now, the Bulls are essentially in the same place they were last season. Rose is expected to come back to a team that may not to change a whole lot. Players on the Bulls who will be free agents include Kirk Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, D.J. Augustin, Jimmer Fredette, Ronnie Brewer, Mike James, Louis Amundson and Greg Smith. Of those players mentioned, only two players stand out — Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin.
Chicago has tried to make Kirk Hinrich into a good replacement for Derrick Rose, but the experiment has failed. Hinrich, who was once a good starting point guard for the Bulls early in his career, is a shell of his former self. He is only averaging 9.1 ppg and 3.9 apg. That simply does not cut it for a starting point guard in the NBA. It would be one thing if he had a good amount of assists or points; the fact that he does not do either well, makes him worthless to the Bulls. As a result, they should let him walk.
D.J. Augustin was the steal of the season in the NBA. He was waived early on in the season by Toronto and was picked up by the Bulls, where he averaged 14.9 ppg and 4.3 apg at 30 mpg. Those are solid numbers, and the Chicago Bulls should pursue him. The problem is that he will be highly sought after, considering his performance, particularly in the playoffs. The only way for the Bulls to keep him is that they either have to persuade him through a highly increased salary or, less likely, by bringing more players to the team. Chicago needs Augustin, as he is one of only a few guys that can put the numbers up on the team; however, if another team is willing to pay him more, he will be gone.
Who Can They Get?
In order for the Bulls to improve their squad, they are going to have to get rid of someone. It may be controversial, but the Bulls should cut Rose. Will it create an animosity amongst fans? Absolutely. Is it a risk if he is healthy on another team? Yes. However, Rose has had his chances. He has hurt the team more by sticking around hurt than by adding anything to the squad. As discussed, he gave the Bulls false hope last offseason, when they did not seek a solid replacement or backup for him.
The Bulls need to build around the core of Noah, Gibson and possibly Augustin and Dunleavy. As a result, they need to let go of their previous MVP to improve. Unfortunately, the Bulls will not do this. Instead, they will cut ties with Boozer, who while on the decline, still is a solid player on the offensive end.
Regardless of who the Bulls amnesty, they need to approach the offseason with an offensive focus. It would be nice for them to regain Augustin, but whether they do or not, they need to fill their massive hole at the offensive end.
Carmelo Anthony is a name that has been thrown out there as a possible free agent signing for the Bulls. He is arguably one of the best scorers in the league and has also increased his rebounding numbers. However, it is not difficult to see that he may not fit into the Bulls’ style. Yes, he does not play much defense, but that is not the only reason. Throughout his career, he has been accused for being selfish and not being the best team leader, i.e. making his teammates better. The Bulls currently have a great chemistry and they play like a team. Adding Anthony could be a disastrous mistake.
After Carmelo, there of course is the big three in Miami — Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, who have the option to exit their contracts. With the Bulls having Noah and Gibson, there is no need for them to even attempt Bosh. Dwayne Wade, while he has put together a good playoffs, seems to be on the final legs of his career, so Chicago would be foolish to sign him.
James, on the other hand, could work on the surface. The prime spot for Chicago to gain a shooter is at the small forward spot, a position previously taken by Luol Deng. There is no point in saying why the Bulls should attempt to get James. He is arguably the best player in the league. However, that does not make him the best fit for the team. Miami is Chicago’s number one rival, and as such, players like Noah and Rose, in particular, may not fancy playing with him, as he will suck up the spotlight. He also will wipe clean all of the money the Bulls have, which makes the pickup risky for them.
Eric Bledsoe, in all likelihood, will be the most desired point guard in the offseason. In 2013-2014, he was part of a contingent of players that pushed Phoenix a game away from the playoffs. He averaged 18 ppg and 5.8 apg. Having said that, the Bulls landing him seems unlikely. First, he plays the same position as Rose. Unless the Bulls decide to amnesty or move him to shooting guard, Bledsoe seems unlikely. Secondly, Bledsoe is a restricted free agent and may not be able to be plucked from the Suns.
Gordon Hayward is a small forward shooter who averaged 17.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg. He could be an excellent pickup for the Chicago Bulls, by not only adding to their offense, but he would also help with rebounding. Much like Bledsoe though, he has the problem of being a restricted free agent, and the Jazz may not be willing to give him up, though it is more likely.
Lance Stephenson could also be brought to the team. As one of the few consistent scorers on Indiana, while also having a knack for defense, he could be a target for the Bulls, especially if Indiana breaks the team up. The downside is that Stephenson can be a bit of a hothead and has shown his immaturity at times. He could hurt team chemistry potentially or be someone Thibodeau has no interest in coaching. However, it is possible that he could be the best fit of all free agents, considering he plays both ends of the floor.
Zach Randolph is a threat in the post, while also being able to shoot jumpers; not to mention he is one of the best rebounders in league. There are two sides of the argument for picking up Randolph. He will automatically make them a contender and a threat on the inside, alongside Noah and Gibson. At the same time though, if he is brought to the team, Gibson will be playing the same role he did this season, possibly with even less minutes.
Last but not least is Rudy Gay. He is known to be an inconsistent scorer, but he also can turn it on in a moment’s notice. He averaged 19.9 ppg. As a result, he could pose a huge threat to opposing teams. The question is: Do the Bulls want to risk putting money into someone, who has a reputation of sporadic play?
Beyond these guys, the Bulls may try to get role players or other offensive players through trades, at worst case. One thing is for sure though, they need at least a piece or two on offense, if the Chicago Bulls have a chance of contending for a championship. They cannot go through another season where they do everything right but score. It is the single most damaging thing that took them out of the playoffs, and the fact is they cannot risk another summer on Rose. If they want to keep him, fine, but they need a contingency plan if he falls again.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey