This season's not yet over, but I'm not exactly confident that the Bulls are going places in the playoffs (aside from a quick trip to Boston). I think I speak for most Bulls fans when I say we have potential, but the puzzle is not exactly complete. Therefore, I came up with a few ideas for Pax and the front office that I think would improve this club, as well as what I believe are the chances of making those things happen. These are just a few ideas to jumpstart a discussion, so scroll down to the comment section after reading and drop some knowledge on the collective BaB ass.
NOTE: This is just my speculation, not some profound wisdom backed up by glowing statistical analysis. The purpose here is to start a discussion.
1. New coach
Outlook: bleak (like Cold War Siberia bleak)
General consensus says that VDN's not the guy to solve this aforementioned puzzle, and I'll jump on that bandwagon. The guy wasn't a great player, and I never saw anything about him that made me stop and marvel at his basketball IQ. However, this team went from lottery team to playoff team during his reign, and that will probably be enough to earn him another year. The team really won in spite of his efforts, rather than because of his efforts, but he exceeded the low expectations set for him, and Paxson has said that they expect him to fumble around and learn as he goes, so I'm thinking next year we'll be seeing The Pompadoured One: Season 2. If we do get to make a change though, I'd like to see someone who can get the offense to move the ball better, increase the offensive tempo, and defend with some pride. A special coach for the bigs would be nice, too (like Ewing for Howard in Orlando or Abdul-Jabbar for Bynum in LA).
2. New home for Kirk
Kirk has had a strong finish to this season, and the team has improved since his return. However, I think that the progress should be credited to adding Salmons and Miller more than Hinrich's return, and I feel like both he and the Bulls would be better off with a split. That strong finish and a good reputation could make him an appealing option for Portland, Indiana, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, Charlotte, Dallas, Sacramento, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Memphis, and Milwaukee. Some of those teams have interesting pieces, and none are current contenders, so a deal shoudn't be unreasonably difficult (although his contract might be something that makes a few teams hesitate).
3. Low-post scoring threat
Outlook: not good
The league is short on talent at the 4 and 5 spots right now, so teams will probably be reluctant to move their good bigs if they have any. This also looks to be a pretty poor summer for free agency, and the weak draft class probably won't have much to offer once the Bulls get their picks, so my guess is we'll have the same PF's and C's we had this season at the start of next season. One ray of hope, however, is that some teams will want to clear cap space for the 2010 free agent sweepstakes, so we might be able to capitalize on that line of thinking.
4. Wing depth
Outlook: very good
We could actually solve this problem with the pieces we have now. We just need everyone to be healthy at the same time, and we'll need Deng to get back some semblance of the game he had two seasons ago. But if Gordon leaves (and I expect him to) and Deng continues his mediocre, injury-riddled play (which is unfortunately all too likely), we'll be in trouble without reinforcements. Luckily, the league is absolutely stacked at the 2 and 3 spots, so those reinforcements wouldn't necessarily be too hard to bring in if we dangled the right pieces in front of the right teams.
5. Backup PG if Hinrich is gone
If Hinrich stays, this is a moot point. If he goes, the Bulls will need a serviceable PG with a good basketball IQ that could run the floor decently and teach Rose on the defensive end. This hypothetical PG could be similar to Hunter, who I think will retire after this season. One player I like is Jarrett Jack, who has a very good basketball IQ and a solid work ethic. Obviously, Jack isn't the kind of player that makes dreams come true and mediocre teams turn into contenders, but a guy like him would be a decent backup and mentor for Rose. Again though, if Hinrich stays, the need for Rose's backup vanishes.
6. Cap space for 2010
Outlook: need more time
If the team turns into a contender in the next year, then cap space is a nonissue. I don't see that happening, though, so clearing some space and going for Wade or Bosh wouldn't be a bad idea. I honestly think the team needs a superstar to contend, and Rose alone won't be enough. However, a guy like Wade might see Noah and Tyrus making big strides this year with the addition of Rose, and he might like the idea of joining this young, talented team. To lure those superstars, though, we'll need to offer big bucks, and, with every team salivating over summer of 2010, teams might be reluctant to take some of our contracts (especially Deng's). We'll have to see how the Bulls look next season to continue this part of the discussion.
So there are 6 things I think the Bulls would be wise to look into for next season. As always, fire away in the comment section below and tell me what the Bulls need to succeed.