Another uneventful trade deadline for the Bulls shouldn’t come as a surprise to die-hards, but in another year in which a second round playoff appearance appears to be the ceiling, we are now beginning to wonder what future the Bulls’ brass has in mind. If anything, the Bulls’ silence has confirmed that they are not planning on changing their identity and following the star-piling trend of the league.
Historically the Bulls don’t make those big headlining moves. Trading Luol Deng for cap relief appears to be their high-profile move of the year. So what do we want the Bulls to do, hope the Bulls will do and think the Bulls will actually do by next season?
Carmelo Anthony is the guy everyone wants – a pure scorer who makes up for the Bulls’ biggest deficiency – scoring. And while it seems to be the obvious move going forward, I’m not convinced it’s the best move. But there are good arguments for what the Bulls should do next, and as I’ve not been able to stop thinking about them since Derrick Rose went down again earlier this season, let’s take a look at a couple of their options as we sit at the mid-season point of another lost season in Chicago.
To Melo or Not to Melo
The big free agent signing this off-season for the Bulls would be Carmelo Anthony. And there are a lot of reasons to believe this could work – Melo has said he would like to play for Tom Thibodeau, and he has said he wants to go somewhere he can win a title now. And with a core of Rose and Noah, the Bulls offer a better shot at that than the current Knicks team. The Bulls need a scorer and someone to take the pressure off of DRose at the end of games. Melo offers that and allows Rose to take a lot of the pressure off of his shoulders, which will likely be necessary as he comes off his second major knee surgery in as many seasons.
But at what cost will Carmelo come? They’d definitely need to part with Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer and if it comes in a sign-and-trade (which many think it will), they may have to give up Jimmy Butler too. And while this is a no-brainer argument for those who believe the Bulls over love their assets and believe Rose will not be the same again, is Carmelo Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now?
To me, he is Mr. Right Now. He is the guy we have the best chance of getting, but while he is insanely talented, he has not proven that he can lead a team and win. He doesn’t make players around him better and he is a me-first player. The stars we want make everyone around them better: Jordan did it, Magic did it, LeBron is doing it – Carmelo doesn’t do that. And I don’t think he wins a championship as the team’s leader and best player. As much as we don’t want to wait any longer, let’s also not settle because we are desperate and he’s the best we can get. That said, I’m not even convinced we can even get him, and is it worth it to clean house to clear the cap space needed to sign him, only to come up empty like we have so many times before.
Mirotic – Dirk or Kukoc?
The other option the Bulls have this off-season is using their amnesty on Boozer and trying to finally bring over Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic, however, wants a lot of money and is a total unknown in terms of what he can accomplish in the NBA. Scouting reports and highlights of him look really good, but anyone can make a compilation video that makes someone look really good. Great European players don’t always translate to the NBA. Does Mirotic with basically the same Bulls lineup we see now, plus a healthy Rose, make a big enough difference to make them contenders?
This is the much bigger unknown, but might be the most realistic option. Keep this core together, bring in Mirotic and hope he can be a difference maker. Our hope the Bulls would tank and fall into the lottery is dead, however, the Bulls have drafted really well and with potentially two mid first round picks this year in a deep and talented draft, they could still improve in the draft. But not knowing what Mirotic will be is the biggest factor in this decision, especially given how much he’ll be asking and how little flexibility it’ll give the Bulls with his contract on the books.
The biggest unknown of all of this is what Rose will be next year. Will he ever return to his MVP form? Will he have to adjust his game? The Bulls will either need to construct a team that takes the pressure off of his shoulders or commit to the guy they thought was their star, leader and franchise player and hope he will lead the Bulls back to the title.
Would the Bulls be making a mistake to count on Rose again to stay healthy? Do they stay the course, keep bringing in assets to create a winner around Rose, or does Rose become an above-average role guy so the Bulls can clean house and bring in a star? This will be a very important off season for the Bulls – they will need to take some risks, make some tough choices, and all we can hope is that they are the right ones.