Following two seasons in a row with the best record in the league makes it difficult to imagine attempting anything but retooling for another go at the title. Despite our terrible luck at the end of last year, I think every Bulls fan believes that come the end of the season we will still have the second or third best player in the East (depending on how you evaluate Howard's leadership skills) and a core nucleus that is a player away from taking another leap. However it is apparent from the Org's recent moves that they do not see it the same way.
In a sense I understand some moves that have been made. Brewer was always a one dimensional player who had lost some of the offensive skills he had with the Jazz after numerous injuries. Though Butler had minimal time on the court last year, he clearly has the physical tools to do things that Brewer couldn't and shows glimpses of strong defensive capabilities. CJ and Korver, to different extents, didn't show up for the playoffs (though some of this could be attributed to injuries); thus there is reason to want to go in a different direction. But when they were all signed with team options for the third year, the general assumption was that this flexibility would be used either to pick between the best performers and the underperformers, or to trade them for upgrades if need be. Instead we have made two apparent downgrades in Hinrich (who wasn't particularly good the last year we had him) and Radmonovic (who has never been good in his entire career). The Org sees this season as already folded and would prefer to save as much money as possible, rather than spend it on marginal players whom might not add up to the biggest on court difference. But the question remains, if an Eastern conference finals exit equals standing pat and a disappointing set back leads to financial stringency--under what conditions will the Org see it fit to invest in the team?
I am of the group who sees the statistical support for Asik's value in 15 minutes as a bit overstated, and committing 15 million dollars in cap space to him, given the Org's financial history would equal suicide. Yet if Asik commands this sort of salary, what will Taj be offered? And unlike Asik's value, it is impossible to deny Taj's universal impact on the team. To lose him because the Bulls do not wish to pay for Boozer without him playing would be a disaster. And though there is no actual indication that this will be the case, what historical cases offer any confidence that the Bulls will want to pay his worth?
With word that Belinelli is our next target, my feelings on this offseason are compounded. While he is a solid player and a fringe starter, as well as being more of a "scorer" than Korver, he also lacks any exceptional qualities. As far as I am concerned, if the Org had admitted their frugality, eventually allow Asik to walk and acquired a piece that represented an interest in the future of this team (Mayo for instance) I would have at least felt that they are cutting costs in preparation for next year. As stands, however, they appear to be continuing a methodology that will never put us in consistent position to win a title. And that is a method which emphasizes success late in the draft (now we hope that Teague, Butler and eventually Mirotic will have extreme value in proportion to their draft position) and second tier players (Noah, Deng and Boozer) instead of maximum talent.
It is extremely difficult to put together a championship team, and attracting star talent may be the only thing close to as difficult. However if any market should be able to do it, it is the Bulls. Reducing salary is not inherently negative, however missing opportunities to remain relatively frugal and simultaneously acquire talent is unacceptable. The Bulls' history of bad signings as well as letting guys like Gordon and now potentially the entire bench mob go for nothing does not bode well for Bulls fans. Nonetheless, until we know what the Bulls will do with Boozer (they have gotten rid of Nocioni, Hinrich, Wallace and Curry among others) and if they can acquire a quality two-guard, there is still some ambiguity of judgment left for this year.
But if the Bulls continue down this road, waiting for some miracle to fall in their lap, over and against their oncourt and offcourt talent; the Org may lose a fan to the NBA in general.