Bulls May Have Gotten It Right
Finally, Chicago plays a shrewd offseason.
by Quinn Peterson
I’m not writing this article as some die-hard Bulls fan who’s had his heart broken time after time since the end of the Jordan era. But rather, I’m writing this as merely a fan of the game. Having been in and around the City of Wind for the past couple decades, getting a chance to observe the Bulls pretty closely, it’s safe to say that when it comes to the roster, they have finally gotten it right.
It’s been a long time coming, too. Since His Airness departed, the Bulls may not have always had the worst record, but their rebuilding process has left much to be desired year after year — until this season.
See, since 1999, the Bulls have been that one team. The one that just always manages to botch something up — in a handful of ways: In some instances, they’ve been the team that simply makes senseless decisions; in others, they, for whatever reason, fall in love with guys who are mediocre at best; and yet, in different times, they’re that one squad that is rumored to be in the running for every big name player on the market, but always come up empty.
The first case began immediately following Jordan’s second retirement, as the Bulls hired Tim Floyd as head coach. A year later, with the No. 4 pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, the Bulls selected …. Marcus Fizer? Yeah. 2001 may have actually been the worst year, however, trading Elton Brand — co-ROY and an automatic 20 and 10 — for Brian Skinner and the draft rights to Tyson Chandler, drafting Eddy Curry, and signing the great Eddie Robinson. And this is only the beginning.
The following year, Ron Artest, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller — their top three scorers — were sent to the Pacers in exchange for Jalen Rose, Travis Best and Norm Richardson. In ’04, it was leading scorer Jamal Crawford on the move along with Jerome Williams. In return, the Knicks sent over Dikembe Mutumbo (who would never play a game for the Bulls, by the way), Othella Harrington, Frank Williams and some guy named Cezary Trybanski.
In 2006, first, LaMarcus Aldridge was traded for Tyrus Thomas. Then, despite being a team with very few offensive options, the Bulls went ahead and brought in an on-his-way-to-being-washed-up Ben Wallace. A week later, after snagging PJ Brown and JR Smith from New Orleans for Tyson Chandler, they shipped Smith to the Nuggets for Howard Eisley and two second-round draft picks — before Smith played a single game.
More recently, the Bulls are guilty of letting Ben Gordon walk for nothing. Not a bad move necessarily, as it left cap room for this offseason. But thinking John Salmons could step in as a number-one option on offense definitely is. Among other bad ideas have been signing Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng to massive, immovable contracts.
Granted, injuries to Jay Williams and Jamal Crawford were unfortunate — the two would have formed a pretty dope backcourt — but it’s fair to say that the Bulls haven’t always possessed the best decision-making.
In the second scenario, the Bulls, time and again, seem to become enamored with guys who just will not get the job done at the professional level. This is especially true of the time Scott Skiles was the head coach. In his five years, the Bulls made the Playoffs three times. Despite being sound defensive teams, the offensive deficiencies were glaring.
Each time, the post-season trips came after terrible starts to the regular season, giving nothing but false senses of hope, as the Bulls — and many of their fans — would enter the new season optimistic because of their late push the previous year. Each time, however, they failed to make any improvements during the offseason. It was during this time that guys like Andres Nocioni, Darius Songaila, Mike Sweetney and Othella Harrington emerged as “formidable” players. Role players maybe, but Andres Nocioni and Darius Songaila should never be two of your top five scorers. Never.
Lastly, in the third scenario, the Bulls have been the team rumored to be in the running for nearly every big name player, but never follow through on the deal. Back in ’03, the Bulls missed out on Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady when all three were free agents. Over the past few years, the Bulls have (according to rumors) missed out on McGrady (twice more), Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. Quite the list, and all would have certainly addressed major needs for the Bulls.
In the case of the latter three, the Bulls’ inability to part ways with Luol Deng, Ben Gordon or Tyrus Thomas have all been what has held the trades back.
The Bulls and their front office had come up short time and time again, which left the potential for this offseason to end the same way. But for a change, they didn’t, and it’s been nice to see because they’ve had one hell of an offseason and put together a damn good team.
Starting with moving Kirk Hinrich for cap room and bringing in well-respected defensive guru Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls have themselves in the best shape since Phil, Michael and Scottie ran the Madhouse on Madison.
While they weren’t fortunate enough to land LeBron, they still managed to put together, arguably, the best offseason in the League. Grabbing Carlos Boozer addressed their immediate need for a low-post scorer to compliment Joakim Noah, and Boozer — like Brand 10 years ago — is a surefire 20 and 10. Next, they inked Kyle Korver, filling the void for a deadeye three-point threat who could spot up when defenses collapse on Derrick Rose’s penetration.
For a second, it looked like they might revert to their old ways of senseless action, as, just after signing Korver, they offered JJ Redick. While Redick may have improved each season of his career, let’s be honest, him and Korver are virtually the same player. Luckily for the Bulls, the Magic matched their offer and kept Redick in the Sunshine State and out of a Bulls uniform.
Doing so allowed the Bulls to ink Ronnie Brewer, my personal favorite Bulls move of the offseason. Brewer fills their dire need for a 2-man who can guard, and at 6-7 — with a 6-11 wingspan — Brewer is can definitely do that. All coming from Utah, each player has been hardened Jerry Sloan, bringing a mandatory toughness that’s required to be a contender in the League.
Add those players to Rose, Noah, Taj Gibson and James Johnson, and you’ve got a team that has a chance to battle for the East consistently for the next five to 10 years. In addition, since they didn’t get King James, they still have money to blow, as well as Luol Deng on the roster, who’s now as expendable as ever (though getting a team to take his contract is another story).
So after years of failed attempts and disappointing endings, the Bulls may finally gotten it right. And if they did, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.