Since the arrival of John Paxson in 2003, I've noticed there's been somewhat of a life cycle when it comes to the players the Bulls draft and try to "home-grow." Until last year, it seemed that Paxson was in love with his picks. But it turns out that we hadn't seen the cycle run its full course. There are variations, of course, but generally the cycle is as follows
1.) Year 1 -2: Bring the hope/awe the fans:
Get drafted, join the Bulls, impress in the first (or second) season and really just blow everyone away, "exceed all expectations," make everyone "excited about the potential the player brings," etc.
2004 - Ben Gordon - Holy crap, this guy is the best scorer we've had since Jordan, he led us back to the playoffs, 6th man of the year as a rookie, WOW
2004 - Chris Duhon - Wow this guy is such a good defensive stopper, we have one of the best offensive/defensive combos now with the Gordon/Hinrich/Duhon backout, man it's gonna be so good
2006 - Tyrus Thomas - Oh wow, this guy really brought it in the playoffs, without him we don't beat the heat, wow he's gonna be huge for us as a garbage man, amazing highlight reels, glad he got playing time w/Noc out.
2008 - Thabo Sefolosha- Man Thabo, all you needed was to be free of the evil yoke of Skiles and not have to worry about being yanked, now you're going off all the time! Damn that Nocioni, after you got injured he just upped and stole your minutes.
2008 - Derrick Rose - Oh man, he's gonna be the next CP3, he's gonna be a future HOF player, he's our unquestioned leader
2009 - Joakim Noah - Man, he rebounded so well after that rough first year to be the key player in Game 6, man after Rose he's the only untouchable guy, this guy is gonna be so good next year, wow he's bulking up in the offseason, yeah let him mess around in the offseason, that's okay he deserves the time off!
2009 - James Johnson - Oh man, this guy reminds me of Carmelo, he's so good, those other GMs are idiots for passing up on him, Im' sorry if I sound dumb but he has all-star written all over him, wow wow wow!
2.) Year 3-4: Time to turn the fans against the player:
After 1 or 2 good seasons and generally following their expected trajectory, the player comes into the dreaded third year (or 4th year), where suddenly they do everything wrong, they get blasted in the media, they are called "bonehead," "selfish," "mentally weak" in the media, and other players of clearly inferior talent, whether on this team or on other teams, are put on a pedestal to spite the player. Fans become convinced that the player's first three years were flukes, this is the best they will be, and it's time to cash them in for some big time all star while their value is still high.
2007 - Gordon - The Kobe rumors commence and when they don't go through, Gordon is labeled as greedy/selfish for turning down the Bulls extension, and then his play on the court somehow makes it look as though he is being mentally affected by the rumors, and the "all this guy does is chuck" arguments begin
2008 - Duhon - Even though everyone knew this guy was a party animal coming into the team, suddenly we are hearing all over the press how bad of an oversleeper he is as if it's something new, how he was always coming late to practices, how he was getting into it w/Boylan, getting benched, etc etc etc, even though he puts up huge numbers in a critical game against the warriors fans don't seem to care, the damage has been done, he's not a "hard worker."
2008 - Thabo - After the departure of Skiles and a good season under Boylan, everyone expected Thabo to take the next step, instead he gets benched repeatedly for Larry Hughes, and the same thing happens again, he goes back into the shell and worries about getting yanked.
2009 - Tyrus - After his best regular season as a Bull, where he proved that trade talk didn't affect him at all, he plays 4 bad games in the playoffs and suddenly fans want him out of the city, suddenly the Bulls don't have him in their future plans, suddenly he's in every trade rumor involving the Bulls.
3.) Year 4-5: Goodbye
2008 - Duhon - we let him walk for nothing. Seemed harmless enough at the time. Could we have s/t'd him for something better? I definitely think so.
2009 - Thabo - At the beginning of his fourth year we have moved on without him. We essentially traded him for nothing (unless you really think Taj Gibson is going to be in the league in another 3 years). His first few weeks in Oklahoma he lit it up, doing what he had never been able to do as a Bull getting over 30+ minutes when Durant was out.
2009 - Gordon - we let him walk for nothing.
--Tyrus - He has already gone through Steps 1 and 2. I firmly believe Step 3 will occur sometime this year or at the end of this year.
--Rose - Way too early in the honeymoon phase. Step 2 will begin in earnest in 2010-2011, after we come out of the big 2010 offseason with nothing but Rose, and all the pressure will be on him and every single mistake will become over analyzed.
--Noah - He will come back down to earth this year. The guy had one good playoff game and one flashy play within that game and suddenly everyone loves him. Remember how horrible our interior defense was last year? That wasn't just Tyrus' fault, and more often than not it was Noah who was getting slaughtered by random big guys.
Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich are the exceptions to this rule. Hinrich, because he was Paxson's first. Deng, because he was the only guy that had a good PR story (war-torn refugee, sportsmanship award...what's not to love about this guy?) These guys will be around for a long, long time.
4.) Wash, rinse, repeat.
What is the ultimate goal of this process? Save money, get fans excited, put butts in the seat, and stay competitive all while never actually making any progress.