You know, it’s really tough to be a Chicago sports fan right about now. The baseball teams both sucked this past season, the Chicago Bears are decimated by injuries and Derrick Rose just went down with a four-to-six-month and more than likely season-ending injury for the Chicago Bulls.
Alas, I’ve unfortunately never been able to get into hockey, so the next five or six months for me are probably going to be filled with plenty of losing — something I surely wasn’t anticipating only a week ago.
Naturally, that has me looking at what the Bulls need to do to prepare this team to be a contender in the 2014-15 season. Everyone knows that this upcoming pool of free agents is loaded with talent, and so is the 2014 NBA Draft. I don’t anticipate the Bulls being a lottery team, of course, but even having a pick right around 20 could still land them a pretty good player.
Regardless of the draft at this point, preparing for that free agency period is absolutely crucial if they intend to be legitimate players come next July.
Before too long here, it’ll be apparent that this Rose-less Bulls team isn’t very good. I’m not one of those naive Bulls fans who think this team is better off without Rose, or follow that patented coach Tom Thibodeau saying, “We’ve got more than enough.” They may still play top tier defense, but their offense is going to be in the bottom third of the league. They don’t even have a guy like Nate Robinson this year, and certainly nobody to go to at the end of close games who can dependably create their own shot and win it. Not without Rose, that is. Even with D-Rose, they were struggling offensively — though, he was appearing to be getting closer to his old self which would’ve made them more efficient eventually. But none of that matters now.
The Bulls currently have about $79.3 million in total salaries. Luol Deng is set to come off the books, which will open up about $14.3M. Kirk Hinrich ($4.06M), Nazr Mohammed ($884K) and Mike James ($884K) all have expiring contracts as well.
Odds are Gar Forman and John Paxson will decide to amnesty Carlos Boozer after this season, which would then take another $16.8M away. Those are all the contracts that will most likely, if not definitely be gone by the start of the next offseason.
When you add up the rest of the projected contracts, the Bulls would be at a total of around $47.8M. According to hoopsworld.com, the latest cap projection for next year will be $62.1M — however, that could change a bit. Let’s say that it doesn’t change, though; that would mean Chicago would be looking at about $14.3M in cap space. But if they want to be major players in free agency, that’s not going to cut it, as it isn’t enough for a max contract.
In order for them to get closer to that $20M mark, they’re going to need to trade players away. Obviously, they’re going to want to keep Rose, as well as most likely Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. Those are their three most valuable pieces, and three pieces I’m sure they want to add to and build around. However, that means they should be looking to move Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Teague.
Now I know, a lot of people don’t want to hear about them possibly moving Gibson, but they need the space and his cap hit is large at $8M for next season. The Bulls would get good value back too in terms of some younger, cheaper players or maybe another first round pick in a good draft class.
One guy they should definitely be moving is Dunleavy. It’s clear they don’t really need him, and they should try to trade him for either an expiring deal or a draft pick. His cap hit is at just over $3.3M.
If they move those two players, the Bulls will have well over $20M in cap to play with and potentially bring in guy like Carmelo Anthony, who I think could mesh really well on a team that plays great defense and has a playmaking point guard.
The main point here is, Bulls management is going to need to be considering these moves in the next few months before the trade deadline. This season is not a championship season, and therefore the offseason is priority No. 1. Even if it costs them a few meaningless games in the second half of the season.