Second Wind: Starting Over
All it takes is a split second. That’s all that was needed to end the title hopes of the 2013-14 Chicago Bulls.
The story has been well documented to this point that Derrick Rose, the face of the Chicago Bulls and basketball all over the city of Chicago, will miss yet another season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee this past weekend. Coming into the season with such high hopes after recovering from a torn ACL, nothing hurt more than to see Rose leave the floor with the help of team staff again.
As difficult as it was on the team after Rose tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, this injury is even more depressing because it means the end of a championship run for the current core of this Bulls roster.
It seems too soon for this team to begin rebuilding, but unfortunately that is what they will need to do. Tom Thibodeau will do all he can to prepare his players to play at the highest level night after night, but unlike last year, this team was built to play with Derrick Rose. Without him, they are better off breaking everything down and rebuilding.
It isn’t all bad news though. There is a way for the Chicago Bulls to make a relatively quick turnaround.
First off, there has been a lot of talk about the team “tanking” in order to better their chances at a high lottery pick at this season’s draft. As much as that word reminds everyone of the Charlotte Bobcats and their poor attempt at building a winning franchise, it is something that will need to happen with this Bulls team if they want to contend again soon.
They are lucky in the sense that this year’s draft is projected to be on the level of the one ten years ago that featured LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. Young talent like Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker of Duke are expected to be franchise-changers for whichever team they end up going to. The Bulls not only have their own first round pick, but they also hold the right to the Charlotte Bobcats pick if it falls outside the top 10. Accompany this with the probability of trading a few of their core players for draft picks and the Bulls could be looking at holding three to four first round picks in this year’s draft.
Another weapon the Bulls have is currently stashed away in Europe. 6-foot-10 Nikola Mirotic was acquired by the Bulls draft back in 2011 and is expected to join the NBA next year as long as the Bulls have enough money to offer him a contract.
Currently, the Bulls sit in the luxury tax after tying up so many of their core players in hopes of a title run. With Rose out, it is time to get rid of that money in any way possible. Carlos Boozer will either be amnestied or traded by the end of the season; Luol Deng will be off the books due to free agency. And they may have to end up getting rid of Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah to free up some extra space in exchange for young players or draft picks.
The question now becomes is it worth it? The answer is simple; yes. At 22 years old, Mirotic has already been the MVP of the Euroleague and is averaging 14 points in 22 mintues on 73% shooting this season. He has drawn multiple comparisons to NBA champion and league MVP Dirk Nowitzki for his ability to stretch the floor as a big man. Couple him with a possible lottery pick or two, Derrick Rose coming back, and possibly a superstar free agent signing, and this team will have made a turnaround rivaled only by the San Antonio Spurs in 1997.
As much as Tom Thibodeau believes in his team’s ability to contend for a title, the reality is that they won’t. Best case-scenario is that they make the playoffs as a low seed and get knocked out in the first round. If that scenario comes to fruition, the Bulls won’t be helping themselves because they will not have a high enough draft pick to get an impact player.
This team has a chance to be very good again, but unfortunately that means the possibility of a losing season. The front office has to, and will, make moves that will benefit this franchise in the future and not just focus on what is happening right now. With an influx of franchise-altering players ready to enter the league, Chicago should consider themselves lucky that this turnover is happening now and not last year.
Derrick Rose will be back, but for the good of the organization, it is better he comes back to a different group of players. He can still be a star in this league, but management needs to find a way to bring in another all-star caliber player to take the load off of him offensively.
It will be a difficult season for Bulls fans, but they shouldn’t keep their heads down for long. The light at the end of the tunnel is not too far off. Bulls Vice President John Paxson and General Manager Gar Forman just have to make some moves to insure this team is ready to compete again when Derrick is back on the court.