Where the Bulls Stand Going Into Free Agency
Yesterday, after the trade dust had settled and the Bulls had made their moves, Matt McHale at Bulls By the Horns wrote this (emphasis mine):
(...)All of which means Chicago will have some extra cash to play with next summer.Understandable, I suppose, but that's definitely not where I'm at right now as a Bulls fan.
If we could fast forward to July tomorrow, I'd so be down. F this cold weather, and give me some Chris Bosh in my life as soon as possible.
I realize the importance of making the playoffs this year - and with Noah out for who knows how long and only a 2.5 game lead over ninth seeded Milwaukee, I certainly wouldn't say the Bulls are a postseason shoe-in. But the Bulls' ceiling this year is just so well defined: if they reach their goal and make the playoffs, they will probably get trounced in the first round. Of course, I thought the same thing last year, and the Bulls did nothing less than provide us with one of the greatest first round playoff series of all-time. But when I looks at the Cavs, the Magic, the Hawks, and (maybe?) the Celtics, I don't really see the Bulls getting by any of those teams. Maybe they'd have a puncher's chance against Boston, so perhaps the real goal for this year should be to make sure they align with the C's again in the first round. But outside of that, yeah, the Bulls just don't have the horses to make any real noise this season.
But next year is different. Give this team a max free agent, improvement from Rose, Noah, and Taj, and continued steady play from Hinrich and Deng, and the Bulls could be trouble. How much trouble, of course, depends on who they bring in. If it's D-Wade or Chris Bosh, I believe they could probably compete in the East. If it's Carlos Boozer or Joe Johnson, they could compete with the top four in the conference but would still probably need to add another piece or two.
At the Fanhouse, Tom Ziller's got the breakdown on teams with max cash this offseason. Eight teams, Bulls included, will be able to offer max deals. The Knicks and Heat can get two max guys.
Since there aren't enough max players to go around - particularly if Amare goes through on his threats to not opt-out - some team is going to lose, and lose badly. But with the pieces they already have in place, and with the market they're in, I doubt it'll be the Bulls. They'll get someone, even if it's only Boozer, and they'll be in a much better place to start next season then they were when they started this one.
All of this is to say that I'm cautiously optimistic that the Bulls won't whiff like they did in 2000. Boozer reportedly prefers Chicago, and while that's not the best case scenario, it's definitely not the worst. Boozer isn't Ron Mercer, and he'd come in and give the Bulls the inside scoring and toughness they've craved so desperately for seemingly forever.
In other recent news: the Heat still suck (four game win streak be damned), and Bosh doesn't want to play second fiddle to anyone. So yes, there's a chance. And no, I probably won't stop thinking about this until it's all over.