When Eddy Curry was traded right before the season, it was obvious to many that the Bulls would struggle in the post. I, however, was one of those championing the trade as the move that would finally release the awesome raw potential of Michael Sweetney. Sweetney has long been a pet of the basketball stat community, as he didn't look like a productive player but his stats always said otherwise, albeit in limited minutes. With an increased role it was assumed that Sweetney would have a breakout season, but after a hot start Sweetney fell so far out of Skiles' rotation that he even picked up a few DNP-CD by midseason. Big Sweets did find more minutes in the stretch run and playoffs, but that does not hide the fact that this season was a disappointment. Exorbitantly out of shape, Sweets struggled with conditioning and foul trouble, as he was simply too slow to keep up with his opponent. Sweentey look lost on offense too, as his once deft shooting touch forgot to appear in Chicago, dropping from 53% to 45% from the field, and even lost it at the line (dropped from 75% to 65%). Sweetney has one year remaining on his rookie deal, making him either prime for a contract year boost, or at the very least an expiring contract to deal (and at the very very least, the source of many fat jokes on this site). He's still only 23, so should still have some value this offseason. However with his value at it's absolute low, look for the Bulls to try and use this summer to finally get him in shape. I'm still holding out hope, but it's getting hard to believe in him while he's seemingly eating himself out of the league.
While Sweetney came over in the Curry deal, Tyson Chandler was the one who was truly expected to pick up the slack. With his Baby Bull partner gone, Tyson was no longer in the shadow of Curry, who seemed to always get more flack from disappointed Bulls fans. Add in the lucrative 6-year contract extension he had recently signed as a restricted free agent, and Tyson had serious pressure coming into the year. Unfortunately, that restricted free agency status also meant that Tyson did very little work over the Summer, and Chandler was ineffective for much of the year. He still rebounded the ball well, but failed to make any improvements with his offensive game, exacerbated by his propensity for turnovers and awful foul shooting (which plummeted to 50%). Defensively he was often charged with guarding bigger stronger players (who Eddy Curry used to 'handle'), and it kept Tyson from shotblocking and instead often sending him to the bench with foul trouble. It was pretty much a lost year for Chandler, who when right is an extremely effective player, if only on one side of the ball. With his tiny girl-hands, Tyson will likely never be a scoring threat, but with even modest improvements in his post moves, jump shot, and foul shooting he can improve to the point of not being a complete offensive sinkhole. And defensively he can still be a major factor to the point where I honestly believe he'll be an All-NBA defender by the time he hits his prime. This past offseason aside (and I'll give him a pass, just look at what happened to Willie Green), Tyson's always been known as a hard worker. He fits with the team, he's signed long-term, and the offseason is practically geared to getting him an offensive-minded frontcourt mate. I predict he'll be back in the starting lineup next year, and will be just fine.
Darius Songaila was signed near the end of the offseason, and turned out to be a bargain. He started the year poorly until Skiles moved him to the bench, where he played very well before breaking his foot and prematurely ending his season. He was one of the rare Bulls frontcourt players who could run a play and hit a shot (and, my god, a free throw!). One of his detriments was that his defensive and rebounding deficiencies hurt the team unless Chandler or Sweetney was out there with him. And with their own inconsistencies it was oftentimes the case where he'd be helping the team offensively but they'd be getting killed in other areas. I'd love to have Songaila back, but he signed last season's contract with a cheap enough player option where you'd have to think he's looking for a raise this offseason. Can the Bulls afford to give him one? I think that Malik Allen was a very similar player to Songaila, not as good of a passer but better defensively. Allen has a team option for around $2m next season, so if it becomes a situation where the Bulls have to choose between Allen and Songaila the Bulls can save money by keeping Allen.
But that choice may not be required, as there will be a couple cuts from the current frontcourt, namely Othella Harrington and Luke Schenscher. After a resurgence last year, Othella regressed to the downward career trend that started a few seasons ago in New York. Besides a few great shooting nights, it looked like he had little left. Harrington was one of the few veterans on the roster, but like I mentioned when discussing the guards, when you can't play you can hardly lead. Unless Harrington wanted to come back for the minimum (he has a team option for around $3.5m, although that is not confirmed) and be last man off the bench, I don't see him returning.
Schencher will likely be invited to the summer league, as the resident undrafted-guy-who-sucks-but-works-hard that Skiles likes to have hang around. But with the draft brining at least one big man and free agency bringing another, the "Luuuuke" chants will have to be retired until the next big goofy Australian comes to play for the Bulls. (I always thought the comparisons to Luc Longley was insulting to Longley, actually.)
So it took a while, but that's it for the roster reset. Predicting next seasons roster is tough considering that a few of these players may be used in a blockbuster deal (or Sweetney and Duhon in minor deals), but here's a quick overview of the roster status:
Under Contract: Hinrich, Duhon, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni, Chandler, Sweetney, Allen(team option)
Possibly back: Songaila(player option), Pargo, Basden
Likely gone: Piatkowski, Harrington, Schenscher, Livingston