Oh the Bulls. I can’t remember a season that seemed so bipolar. At one point, the Bulls seemed like an unstoppable machine. It didn’t matter whether they had a full line-up or not; they operated like a machine, dismantling teams with mechanical efficiency. Their defense was tops in the league, and they did the best job in the league at controlling the pace, and getting teams to play their style of halfcourt basketball. They were also the best rebounding team in the league, as well as top five in assists, three point shooting, blocks and turnovers allowed. There were few areas the Bulls needed to improve upon – this was a team that was poised to compete for years to come.
And then Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the team’s first playoff game, and everything changed, perhaps forever.
Going into the offseason, the Bulls have one question to answer: are they still a contender? The Bulls are a proud but damaged group. Most reports indicate that Rose will miss most, if not all, of the 2012-2013 season rehabbing his knee, and nearly all of the starting lineup underwent some sort of surgical procedure as soon as they were defeated in the playoffs, or announced that they were planning on undergoing some sort of surgical procedure in the near future.
The team only has one free agent (their valuable backup center Omer Asik who, as a restricted free agent, will likely see most salary offers matched), so they already have a fair amount of salary committed to next season. Additionally, reports have indicated that the Bulls will not pick up backup point guard CJ Watson’s team option, and neither John Lucas III nor Mike James have contracts with the team next season. This seems like a team that is going to shake it up.
Right now, the Bulls have the 29th pick in the first round. Many nice players have been snagged at or around that pick (Tony Parker went 28th in 2001, Josh Howard went 29th in 2003, David Lee went 30th in 2005, Tiago Splitter went 28th in 2007, and Norris Cole went 28th in 2011) so the Bulls should do their homework and try and find a player that can immediately join the rotation. If they are able to do what it looks like they’re trying to do – shed some salary and get into the first round of the draft -- their primary tasks needs to be to find someone who can take over lead guard duties for a season, then either shift to the “2” or become a key sparkplug off the bench once D-Rose returns. If they choose to do that through free agency, Goran Dragic becomes an ideal candidate.