Chicago Bulls Must Learn From Their Mistakes Heading Into Free Agency

By Wally Jacobs
Getty Images
Getty Images

Even though it appears as if the Chicago Bulls are in the driver’s seat to land Carmelo Anthony this offseason, both the fans and the media around the Windy City have seen this same scenario too many times before.

After the Michael Jordan era ended in the late 90’s, there have been tons of free agent superstars flirt with the idea of signing Bulls during the free agency period, but very little lucky with signing those players. In the summer of 2000, it was young phenom Tracy McGrady poised to sign with the Bulls after his first three seasons with the Toronto Raptors. Former Bulls GM Jerry Krause had long coveted him since the 1997 NBA Draft when McGrady was taken 9th overall. It was rumored that Krause even went so far as to offer Scottie Pippen to the Raptors on draft night for McGrady before Jordan got wind of it and nixed the trade.

But in 2000, with Jordan in retirement and the Bulls in full rebuilding mode, Krause was finally going to get his man. McGrady even got Krause to offer him a max contract despite only averaging 15 points with the Raptors a season earlier; that turned out to be a big mistake. In the end, McGrady was only using the Bulls to garner a better deal out of his hometown team the Orlando Magic. The Magic ended up countering the Bulls’ offer, while Chicago was stuck signing the likes of Ron Mercer and an undeveloped Brad Miller.

The Bulls didn’t seem to learn from their mistakes even 10 years later, when LeBron James was a free agent. The Bulls were one of several teams that James was interested in during the summer of 2010. ESPN‘s Chris Broussard and his plethora of imaginary “sources” can attest to that. The Bulls even cleared extra cap by giving away Kirk Hinrich and their 17th overall draft pick for virtually nothing. Just when it appeared that the team was gaining momentum to sign James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh distracted the Bulls by showing phony interest in the team, giving the Miami Heat enough time to convince James to help form the Big Three in South Beach. The Bulls were again stuck signing another player in Carlos Boozer, who was far from their first choice.

Now, in the summer of 2014, the Bulls appear to be on the defensive before the free agency period has begun. They aggressively traded for scorer Doug McDermott in the draft, and also plucked more offensive firepower in Cameron Bairstow with the 49th pick. The Bulls are also fully prepared to bring over Nikola Mirotic from Europe in the event that they do not land a superstar player such as Anthony this offseason. This is already a better backup plan than signing random players such as Mercer, Miller and Boozer in order to save face.

The Bulls should also look to add another big man in the event that Anthony doesn’t sign. Marcin Gortat or Spencer Hawes would be adequate players to have on the Bulls. Also, the team could be inclined to try to bring Luol Deng, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January. The goal should continue to be adding quality system players who want to win and can fit in with the team. In essence, anything would be better than making panic signings such as Mercer and Miller in the event that Anthony signs elsewhere this summer.

Ultimately, Anthony is the only person that can decide if he’s coming to the Bulls or not. All that current Bulls GM Gar Forman can do is stay on the defensive all summer and not screw up the roster if Anthony says no. Forman seems to be a glutton for punishment, as his mentor Krause was in 2000.

Wally Jacobs is a Chicago Bulls writer for Follow him on Twitter @WJac1.

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