One of the more interesting questions facing the Bulls right now is whether or not they should play their cards close to the vest, be patient, and wait until next year to go all out for a championship. One side argues that the Bulls are not in a position to win a championship this year: we lack playoff experience; we don't have the talent to compete with the top teams right now; it would cost us too much in the long term to make a run in the short term.
The other side argues that the Bulls can win a championship this year, and should pursue that goal. They note the Bulls superior defense; the fact that Rose is a legit MVP candidate; and, how seemingly open the race is with Miami still figuring things out, Orlando faultering, Boston old, and the Lakers, well being the Lakers. I believe the Bulls can win the championship this year. But it will take some steps by the players, coaches and management, to take this season from great to unFRIGGINGbelievable.
6 Steps to Win A Championship
1. Upgrade the 2 guard position
This would seemingly be the toughest thing to do, because it is partly out of the Bulls control. Having said that, I think there is a target on the table, and a possible deal to be made.
OJ Mayo is on the outs in Memphis. Since he has been suspended, the team has played better. He doesn't fit with Gay, Randolph and Conley - he needs the ball too much. He has run-ins with coaches and players. He may have an inflated sense of self worth.
Don't care. It is not often this amount of talent becomes available for seemingly so little. And if he is a problem, you don't resign him. You let him go and it wouldn't be a big loss. I wouldn't trade Asik for him (and I'm not sure Memphis would want Asik with Gasol, but you never know). But Taj, Bogans, JJ and a 2nd round pick for Mayo sounds good. You could also do Scal instead of JJ if they don't want the extra contract next season.
You would play Asik more, Noah at the 4 more and Deng at the 4 more, but I don't think Taj would be that sorely missed. If you can figure out a way of getting a starting 2 guard without giving up Taj or Omer, I'm open to it, but just know I don't believe Parker, Courtney Lee or starting Ronnie Brewer gets us over the hump.
Even if you don't start Mayo, the Bulls could use a scorer off the bench to increase the effectiveness of the 2nd unit. The 2nd unit plays great defense, but anytime your best option is a Taj Gibson jumper or a CJ Watson wild drive to the hoop, you are not going to be scoring to many points. Which gets us too -
2. Figure out the Offense
Even if we do trade for OJ Mayo, the Bulls offense needs to work out the kinks. I suspect much of this will be solved by adding Noah, but getting additional playmakers into the lineup is a must. Noah (and Mayo) will also help us increase the pace and get more fast break scores. Noah is also very good at turning offense rebounds into scores. The fact that the Bulls already play a playoff style will help them in the postseason, but finding additional scorers and playmakers is necessary. To that end, I suggest -
a. Giving the ball to Boozer more. He can be very good when he gets in a rhythm. I know Thibs loves D, but ironing out the trouble spots in the Boozer-Rose pick and roll will go along way to helping the Bulls win in the playoffs. The Bulls were better at the pick and roll vs. N.O, but they can still improve.
b. Decrease Deng's minutes to get him ready for the playoffs. He looks tired. When Deng is aggressive offensively, the Bulls offense really shines. An aggressive, efficient Luol Deng opens up the game for D. Rose. Plus you need your legs to hit 3s. Deng needs to be a proficient 3 pts shooter for the Bulls offense to be really effective. To that end -
c. Guys have to make open shots. It really is that simple. Bogans, Deng, Brewer, Taj, Kurt Thomas even Korver are getting a ton of open looks a game. You have to knock down wide open looks to make teams pay. In my opinion, hitting open shots is a weakness of this team, at least in comparison to the Celtics or Lakers. Guys hitting open shots would just open up the game for Rose, which is ultimately important if we want to win this year (see #6).
3. Get at least the #2 seed
I don't believe Carmelo Anthony will be traded before the deadline. But if he does, the Knicks are a disastrous #6 seed to face. Plus they play a style with a stretch 4 that gives Boozer, and therefore the Bulls, a problem. Much better to play Philly who plays our style but not as effectively.
But the most important thing, imo, is to have home court advantage as long as possible. The Celtics and Heat are both superior road teams to Chicago. Facing as few game 7's on opposing team's floors as possible is very important.
If you can get the #1 seed, and avoid having to play the Celtics and Heat - well life is too good.
4. Some old fashion luck
Obviously the Bulls need be healthy and take advantage of any unhealthy teams. It would be nice if the Lakers went down before the Finals as well, although Rose v. Kobe having shades of Jordan v. Magic gives me goose bumps. Miami possibly having more trouble with Orlando than one would expect, would also be helpful. But with a couple of breaks here or there, the Bulls could easily find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals.
5. Control the Paint
The Bulls have Noah, Asik, Boozer, Kurt Thomas, Taj and Deng - that is as rugged a front line as there is in the NBA. The Bulls need to be physical and play strong defense. Boozer I thought was turning a corner, but his performance on the road trip gave me pause. If the Bulls can clog the paint against the Heat and Celtics, and turn those teams into jumpshooting teams (especially the Heat) they can beat those teams in a series.
Omer Asik has the potential to play big dividends in a playoff run. Physical, athletic 7fters don't come around too often. Hopefully when Noah gets back, he continues to get minutes to develop. Thomas looks like he could use a 5 game break. He seemingly gets more surly and slower footed with each game.
Against Orlando or the Heat I don't want to hear any excuses. Orlando has 1 guy - we have 5. The Heat have 1 pseudo power forward and a bunch of scrubs who'd they gladly trade for Kurt Thomas. We need to control the paint area to win. That means scoring, rebounding and blocking shots.
6. D-Rose needs to go off
He has been going off, he needs to continue to go off. He needs to have a D-Wade 2006 type playoff run. In the 2006 Playoffs Wade was phenomenal averaging 28 pts, 6 ast, 6 reb. Rose needs to give us a 28 pt, 8ast, 5 reb playoffs for the Bulls to win a championship. I believe he has the tools and the mentality - lets hope it comes together.