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To Mediocrity! Now,, not forever.

One of the common arguments against signing Ben Gordon to a long-term deal (and to a lesser extent, doing the same with Luol Deng) is the idea that the Bulls will become "locked in" to a salary structure, with talent not sufficient to win a title.

It's bolstered by the lame "studies" that say there's only one way to win a title (and that MVP votes are somehow useful...I've always been annoyed that bloviating thing). I've heard Simmons on a recent podcast (he's given up column-writing for an NBA book that's likely to entertain me while also pissing me off) deride the Deng signing already with similar reasoning.

These are two separate issues, so to not go on two rants, I'll handle the first quickly: You need a really good team to win a title, and the Bulls likely don't have it, even with everyone at their primes.

Now the bigger point concerning Deng, Gordon, and the rest of the team: are the Bulls guaranteeing themselves mediocrity by resigning these players for the long term?

Sure they are. I'll take mediocre over decline of the Krause era, and the pitiful display we had to watch last season. But they would not be locking themselves into that mediocrity, or keeping themselves from acquiring a talent upgrade that gets them to title contention.

Gordon is 25 and even a 6 year deal pays for his prime. Even if overpaid, he'll be good, valuable, and tradeable, which puts him in common with a majority of the roster.

The other route, stripping the roster and getting under the cap, is a romantic, yet silly, idea. Paxson has already spent 5 years accumulating lottery picks. This is not the time to rebuild, considering he's not even done building what he started. Maybe it's almost more fun to see a team strip and get real young, than the next (and harder) part. But while it can be intriguing to imagine an even younger team with more picks and more rookie contracts, the odds are against them even getting players as good as the ones they have, let alone better. There's only so many truly outstanding players in the league.

If this was a team of vets who'd run their course, than the worry of being consistently average is more intense. However, if you have players that are young and good, that's an asset worth holding on to. And while they're being held on to, and the team stays competitive (and - gasp - mediocre), the team can look to make an upgrade if needed.

I still believe the better shot of upgrading this roster is packaging the talent that exists, as opposed to stripping it and hoping to acquire one great player through the draft or free agency (plus I'm not sure Benny can afford those drives to the airport anymore). Heck, getting a max free-agent is possible in 2010 even if they signed Gordon. But think of how free agency works: since players can make more money signing with their own teams, the Heat and Dwyane Wade (for instance) would both benefit dealing him to the Bulls rather than a straight free agent defection.

That'd be a longshot, but it always is when talking about acquiring truly great players. And in the meantime, the Bulls can win, be entertaining, and show Rose, Thomas, Noah, etc. how to win instead of how to count cap holds and tax thresholds.