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Chicago Bulls (Last Year: 41-41)
Live 2010 NBA Draft Grades:
2009-10 Season Summary:
Forget the first-round series loss to top-seeded Cleveland; the Chicago Bulls’ 2009-10 season actually begins on July 1, the opening of the free agent signing period.
NO ONE got excited about a 41-41 team barely sneaking into the playoffs and somehow taking one game of a series that everyone knew was a lost cause. After all, this was the same squad that went 0-10 down the stretch in every game played without center Joakim Noah. A week after the season ended, The Bulls finally fired their joke of a head coach Vinny Del Negro, whose greatest 2010 offenses included the international shoe-tying incident versus Toronto and blowing a record lead at home to lowly Sacramento.
Superstar-in-the-making and 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose took another step forward, becoming the franchise’s first All-Star since the Jordan era. He became the guy you can rely on to take the big shot at the end and also scored a new career-high 37 twice during the regular season. Now we move on to the opportunity to land LeBron, Dwanye Wade (born and raised just outside Chicago) Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson or one of the other marquee free agents. The Bulls could easily vault to the top of the East if they land a big name free agent to add to their current nucleus of Rose, Noah, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson. Add in James Johnson and those are the only players under contract for next season. Throw in the 17th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and a remaining $6-7 million in cap space (after spending a max contract on a free agent) and the Bulls are as big a player in free agency as anyone.
The immediate concern is more focused on coach than Craig T. Nelson. But once they find a new leader, things get real interesting, as the Bulls find out which superstar, if any, will take their money.
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Joakim Noah/Kurt Thomas/Omer Asik
PF: Carlos Boozer/Taj Gibson
SF: Luol Deng/James Johnson
SG: Ronnie Brewer/Kyle Korver/Keith Bogans
PG: Derrick Rose/C.J. Watson
NBA Free Agents:
SF Joe Alexander
G Flip Murray
SG Devin Brown
SF Rob Kurz
PF Chris Richard
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $56.8 million
2010-11 Salary Cap: $58 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Closing the free agent deal- We’ve all heard the hype, now it’s time to make it happen. Whoever signs with the Bulls will be in a MUCH better situation than New York or New Jersey because the Bulls are an excellent big-market destination, but not a complete rebuilding project. In Rose and Noah, the Bulls already have two legit pieces, and that’s a huge selling point.
However, here’s what they have going against them: the Michael Jordan factor. We all know the Bulls have had big trouble recently grabbing top tier free agents, and the reason why, according to Bulls insiders espousing their theories within the restricted areas of the United Center is MJ. Word got around quick about how management mistreated Jordan whenever he returned to the UC, and (supposedly) many players are hesitant to come to Chicago to try and live up to the great one’s legacy. Maybe this offseason will extinguish this theory?
2. Front-court offense- The Bulls’ biggest need is obviously a coach who cares about strategic substitution, game-planning and decision making, since Vinny Del Negro did none of that during his 2-year tenure. To his credit, he wasn’t the worst coach in the state of Illinois – Ron Zook still has that distinction.
After that, the team obviously needs front line consistency. They were finally able to find a buyer for Tyrus Thomas, a big step in the right direction, but the rise of Taj Gibson at the four will never equal consistent front court offense. In Chicago, it seems like the need for a scoring big has been as long as their championship droughts in hockey (Blackhawks 1961) and baseball (Cubs 1908).
But Joakim Noah’s arc trends upward. He followed through on his bulking up to augment his game talk. He’ll never be a big time scorer, but is among the best double-double machines in the league. The Bulls must find a scoring big to complement him down low. Chris Bosh set new career-highs in points, rebounds per game, and field goal percentage this past season. Since Chicago kept Toronto out of the playoffs, they might as well poach their best player too. Yes, karmic payback from the shoe-tying incident is a b—-!
3. Perimeter scoring� Since Ben Gordon left town a year ago, the Chi has had two huge voids at guard: 1.) somebody to take the scoring load off of Rose, letting him become more of a distributor. 2.) a legitimate, consistent three-point threat.
Other than Rose, they have no superstars or anyone with superstar potential. (Luol Deng’s contract, which will pay him $10 million-plus per year through 2014, is superstar, but his talent certainly is not) This team often settles for �the worst shot in all of basketball,� low percentage/long two point field goals, on so many of their offensive sets that you’d think they get more of their scoring from deep on the wings. I’d like to see the Bulls take Oklahoma State shooting guard James Anderson, who should be available when they’re on the clock at #17.
Anderson’s biggest strengths include his pull-up jump shot, the quick release he has on it and the fact that he doesn’t need much space to get it off. He’s a great free throw shooter, possesses ideal size for an NBA two-guard, and is an effective slasher to the basket (granting him more offensive versatility.) If not through the draft, a good chunk of their leftover cap space after signing one of the big-time free agents should go towards acquiring a sharpshooter even if he comes off the bench.
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