Some might say the Chicago Bulls were a loser in 2014 NBA free agency and those that say that would be wrong. The Bulls may not have landed prized free agent Carmelo Anthony, but they did upgrade their team, adding a former All-Star in the process and now have enough talent to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Some analysts and fans aren’t overjoyed with the signing of Pau Gasol, but once the disappointment over losing Anthony dissipates, fans should be pretty happy about adding a player that averaged 17.4 PPG on 48 percent shooting, while also grabbing 9.7 rebounds per game. Gasol is not the prolific scorer that Anthony is, yet he is the reliable low-post threat Chicago has been without since Elton Brand.
The Bulls thought they were getting that player when they signed Carlos Boozer in 2010, but he never did anything but put up meaningless stats on a team that needed much more. Gasol, on the other hand, is a real difference maker. He is an extremely skilled passer and will work extremely well with Joakim Noah.
Gasol also finally gives Derrick Rose a big man with a mid-range game that defenses have to respect when defending the pick-and-roll. Gasol, while slightly past his prime, will have a positive impact on the offense but Chicago upgraded its roster in other ways as well.
The Bulls finally reached a deal with Spanish standout Nikola Mirotic, who is the stretch four Chicago has been dreaming about for years. He averaged just 12.4 PPG and 4.8 rebounds last year playing professionally in Spain, but he also shoot over 50 percent from the field and better than 45 percent from beyond the arc. He can provide the type of perimeter shooting Chicago has been lacking.
The best part about signing Gasol and Mirotic is the Bulls did not have to give up any important assets to get them. The team will use the amnesty clause of Boozer to open up the space required to complete the signings. But because Chicago can sign them out right, Mike Dunleavy Jr., the Bulls best three-point shooter from a year ago can remain part of the roster.
Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler are also staying in Chicago, and with the re-signing of Kirk Hinrich to a new two-year deal using the room exception, plus the addition of lottery pick Doug McDermott; the Bulls will be among the deepest teams in basketball this season.
Rose will be the most important cog coming back, but as long as he is healthy and regains his old form, Chicago will be dangerous. Dunleavy Jr, McDermott, Snell and Mirotic are arguably the most talented shooters he has every played with and Gasol has a good enough mid-range game to make defenses pay for paying too much attention on Rose when he attacks the basket.
Chicago may not have the super team it was hoping to build with Carmelo Anthony, but now that LeBron James is back in Cleveland, the door is wide open for a deeper, more talented Chicago team to make its first finals appearance since the days of Michael Jordan.