I was talking to some buddies today and we got to thinking...what if the Kirk Hinrich/Scott Skiles rebuilding plan worked? What if Kobe rumors and a pissed off Ben Wallace didn't cause the dismanteling of the leagues best "up and coming" team.
The Bulls were fresh off two consecutive playoff appearances, both first round exits. They had what many thought to be a collection of future fringe all-stars and/or solid players in Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Andres Nocioni, Mike Sweetney, and Chris Duhon. They also had a slew of Knicks draft picks headed their way, and after giving the eventual champion Miami Heat a run for their money in the first round of the playoffs, they found themselves with a enough cap space to offer a max contract. Most believed they were a center away from competing for the title. It just so happend that the previous year's starting center for the east in the all-star game, Ben Wallace, was a free agent. The Bulls brought him in, and proceded to win 49 games.
What we didn't know then that they weren't up-and-coming when they were a 49 win team that couldn't get to 50 because they couldnt beat a Mikki Moore lead Nets team so long as Vince Carter was pissed off that Andres Nocioni tried to stop him from scoring and Jason Kidd had a vendetta against Scott Skiles.
They had a very good season, swept the champion Miami Heat in round one of the playoffs, but then were dismissed by the Pistons. It seemed to get ugly fast. Before the Kobe rumors started, there were plenty of sources (I remember Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, and Lindy's Basketball in particular) that predicted a Bulls/Suns finals. Then the trade winds swirled: Kobe to Chicago for Gordon, Deng, Nocioni, Hinrich, and picks. As we all know, this didn't happen. But the Bulls still had a team that many believed to be the best in the east going into the season. It didn't turn out that way.
Skiles and Wallace butted heads. Gordon and Deng played like the Kobe rumors really bothered them. Nocioni and Hinrich forgot how to shoot jumpers. Joakim Noah, then a rookie, acted like a clown and got suspended by Ben Wallace and Adrian Griffin. PJ Brown played too many minutes and killed his knees. Skiles ened up fired and Jim Boylan was told to take care of things until the end of the year. It all fell appart.
But what if it hadnt? What if the Bulls players tookt he Kobe rumors with a grain of salt? What if Ben Wallace and Scott Skiles never butted heads? What if Deng and Gordon became all-stars? What if this team turned out the way John Paxson intended it to?
If we are to believe what the sports writers told us, they would have gone to the finals against the Suns or Lakers, and possibly won. We could have our 7th banner already. But would we have ever gotten another one? To me, even if they panned out, that team seems more "one hit wonder" than dynasty or even back-to-back.
If that team panned out, a very loose guess (based on extensions that would have probably happened and moves that actually did happen since that time) on what our 2010-2011 Bulls would look like is (please dont focus on this part of this thread...this is just an example, basically):
What we know for sure wouldn't have happened:
1) Derrick Rose. We lucked into him because this team underperformed by so much. Had the team played out like we had hoped, we wouldn't have been anywhere near the lottery. Derrick Rose would more than likely be a Celtic or Timberwolf right now.
2) Boozer and The Summer of 2010. If the Bulls had made their Finals run, they surely would have maxed out Ben Gordon, as well as resigned Thomas, Wallace, and Nocioni. We wouldn't have been close to the capspace required to be major players in the free agent market, and we wouldnt have signed Carlos Boozer.
3) Vinny, then Thibs. Scott Skiles would more than likely still be coach of the Bulls.
So now my question is: was the Skiles/Hinrich/Wallace Bulls not panning out a blessing in disguise? The Bulls got the best player they've had in over a decade in Derrick Rose because that team didn't work. They've still made the playoffs every year since. Wallace's departure allowed Noah to start and become the player he is today. The losses of Gordon and Hinrich brought us Boozer. The loss of Sefolosha brought us Gibson. The loss of Skiles eventually brought us Thibs. The team still plays by the same philosophy: hustle and leave it all on the court, out work the other team. But this time, they aren't "overachieving." They're playing just as hard but because they have Rose and other better players, they're playing at a higher level than they were, which is extremley hard for an opponent to match.
The main thing that woul be different is that we wouldn't have is Rose, who seems like he really is a Hall of Fame level player, or at least will be very soon.
So what do you think? Is it good that the Skiles Bulls faltered and we had to rebuild? Do you think had that team worked out, they could have won more championships than a Derrick Rose/Carlos Boozer led Bulls team? If we hadn't been players in the free agent market and everything played out the same, Boozer would most likely be a Net. Would we even be able to compete in an East like that with the team we would have had? What if we made it to the ECF or NBA Finals that year and lost? Would we have ever gotten back since? Or would we still be looking for our 7th banner, still arguing about why the hell Denver wont take Deng's contract back for Carmelo Anthony, still trying to find out if we can get past Miami/Boston/Orlando, but trying to do it all without Derrick Rose?