December 9, 2013 / 3:53 pm

Second Wind: Stuck in the Middle

It’s been a little over two weeks since Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose was lost for the season with a torn meniscus and rumors began to swirl about what the Bulls next move would be.

The word “tanking” came up repeatedly on the Chicago sports talk radio scene as people quickly tagged this season as a rebuilding year — a major swing in mindset from the title-contender dreams Bulls fans were having just a month ago.

As life without Derrick Rose began once again, names like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson came up as bait that the Bulls organization would dangle in front of their other NBA counterparts in an attempt to rebuild the roster quickly.

GM Gar Forman repeatedly denied the notion that the Bulls would be looking to trade any of these key pieces. Instead, he spoke with the same mindset that this team has been playing with for the past season: “We have enough to win”.

But do you Gar? This team has shown in the past two weeks that they are a mediocre team at best. Even though they found a way to pummel the Miami Heat last Thursday on national television, the Bulls have also had more than their fair share of headshaking moments. Including the game in which Rose went down, the Bulls have lost six of their last eight games. The resume for these games includes losses to the two-win Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Los Angeles Clippers by 29 points. Their only two wins came in blowout victories against the Heat and Detroit Pistons.

Unlike last year, this team is not built to win without Rose. Other than Luol Deng — who isn’t meant to play the role –, the Bulls don’t have a player that can create his own shot. Even though they currently rank fourth in points allowed and third in rebounds per game, this Bulls team has struggled mightily against some of the worst teams in the NBA, leaving us to question whether the makeup of this team just isn’t meant to succeed. As much as players like Noah, Deng, and Kirk Hinrich will battle night after night, this team doesn’t have enough to win… even in a miserable Eastern Conference that currently only has three teams over .500.

So where do you go from here?

As much as the word “tanking” may upset the Bulls organization to hear, that is really the only option. Even if they make it to the playoffs, they will be bumped in the first round because they just don’t have enough depth to compete. With right around two months until the NBA Trade Deadline, the Bulls should consider themselves lucky.

Some of their major trading pieces (i.e. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson) have been playing lights out since Rose got hurt. Gibson in particular, has 20+ points in his past three games after only doing so three times in his past three-hundred plus. Deng has also been averaging 26 points on 45 percent shooting from the field. Even Carlos Boozer, who many expect to be amnestied at the end of the season, is racking up just under 16 points per game in 30 minutes and could become the center of some serious trade discussion.

Credit has to be given to this team for battling every night, but it has been obvious over the past few games that they don’t have enough to compete right now. If they want a chance at a good pick in the draft and not get stuck in the Bermuda Triangle that is the 8, 9, and 10 seeds of the Eastern Conference, they will have to find a way to trade some of these pieces while their stock is so high. As much as it may pain Chicago fans to watch, a bad season this year could put the Bulls in great position to compete once the season tips off again next fall. It’ll be interesting to see what moves, if any, Forman decides to make in these next few weeks.

-Matthew Dlugie, @mdlugie