As I see it, regardless, almost, of how the playoffs go, our offseason priorities should be something like this:
1. Keep Thibs to coach the team. Anything else is going to set the Bulls further back at a time when several key players who we wouldn't seem to be able to easily trade (Gasol, Noah, Rose) are on the wrong side of 30 and/or have significant injury histories. Starting over with a new coach is going to waste a year they don't have to waste.
2. Re-sign Jimmy Butler. No controversy there. It'd be #1 if it weren't such a foregone conclusion.
3. Take a realistic look at the roster and realize we have very little going on the wings or in the backup guard spots.
PF- Mirotic, Gibson
C- Noah, Gasol
Note that Snell is mostly invisible, Hinrich should retire, Dunleavy is a 35 year old free agent, and McDermott was both injury prone and terrible as a rookie. A contending team would rely on exactly 0 of these guys to be part of a regular 9 man rotation.
That being said, we can re-sign Dunleavy without using our MLE, I think, so my hope would be to fill the 9th spot by re-signing him. Still, don't rely on a 35 year old guy to give more than spot minutes. I think if he's our 9th man we're in good shape. If he's starting, we're in trouble.
Further, such a team wouldn't rely on its draft choice to be part of a championship rotation either. So the draft pick is either for down the road talent or trade fodder.
This means we have only 7 players out of the nine we probably need. To be contenders, the Bulls need an offseason in which they use free agency and trades to create a net addition of 2 players. And these three players have to be the good players.
My general line of thought is we need to get a valuable player with both the MLE and BAE, and then trade Taj and possibly picks for a third player.
Who we can realistically land in trade probably needs to be determined first. If we can get a bigger PG/SG, then we go wing with the MLE. If we can't trade for a guard, I guess we have to look for one with the MLE, but as far as I can tell the big PG pickings are pretty slim in free agency. Hence, I think the likely best course is to target a PG/SG in trade, then use the MLE to fill in on the wing.
Targets for a big PG who can play SG too
a. Brandon Knight (age 23, 38.9% 3 point shooter this year, 75.8 percentile at defending the ball handler in pick and roll) via a sign and trade for Taj (and Snell, Hinrich, and/or pick. Whatever is needed to get it done). Knight is a solid defender who can defend either guard spot. He's probably going to want more money than the Bulls would be comfortable giving $10-12M, but we really need to find a guy who can both fill in and play next to Rose. Knight is the only guy I see as remotely likely as a FA target. The other FA PGs of note seem very unlikely to be available. Rondo is old and not a good fit. Patrick Beverly is a heck of a defender, but would push Rose to SG full time because he's not a very big guy. And why would Houston let him go? They'd be crazy to. Likewise the Pistons traded a lot to get Reggie Jackson and the Heat traded a lot to get Dragic. Those guys aren't going anywhere.
b. George Hill (will be 29, career 37% 3pt shooter, 66 percentile at defending the ball handler in pick and roll). I'm not sure the Pacers would entertain a trade, but I think they know Hill isn't really the answer as a full time PG. That being said, he's a good defender at both guard spots, solid with the ball, and has tons of quality playoff experience.
c. Greivis Vasquez (just turned 28, 37% 3pt shooter, 38.4th percentile at defending the ball handler in pick and roll). I would like him to be a little better defender than he actually is, but you have to realize that even at this rate he's a significant upgrade defensively to what Hinrich (19.4th) or Brooks (19.6th) bring to the table. He's decent across the board, and he might well be gettable without trading Taj to get him (for instance, Hinrich, Snell, pick for Vasquez).
Targets on the wing
a. DeMarre Carroll. Offer him the full MLE (or whatever contract he wants that we can offer). He's a UFA, and he plays for a team that's competing with us, so getting him would both be easier than dealing with an RFA (like Middleton) and helpful in the sense that it undermines the Hawks. His stats aren't quite as gaudy as Middleton's, but he's a well above average defender across the board and shoots the three well. He's routinely one of the better players under the RAPM metric. He guards the opponent's best player and does a good job with it. He's so under the radar it makes him a better target than the other guys we talk about (Tobias Harris, Middleton, etc).
b. Khris Middleton. It's been well documented that he defends well and shoots the 3 well. He'll probably get a ton of money thrown at him, so I don't expect he's really an option. Still, I'd love to have him. Again, he's a RFA, so we probably need to make up a sign and trade for Taj to get him. I'd rather go for Carroll, who we could just sign outright.
c. Danilo Gallinari. Seems to finally be coming around after his knee got messed up. Shouldn't be slept on as a defender. He rates out well for closing out on spot up shooters (86.7 percentile) and is in the 72.7th percentile for defending ISOs. He's got a sweet shot and he's young.
d. Tobias Harris. Probably will be priced out of competition for him, but I don't look at this guy and immediately think he's worth a big contract. He's a risk for some team like the Knicks (who he openly flirted with) to give a boatload of money to even though he's demonstrated very little in the way of success. I'd hope for getting him on a shorter term deal with the idea that he'd build value by playing for a winner. Would likely have to trade a pick to get him. Would trade Taj in a sign and trade for him, I guess, but I'd much prefer to get Brandon Knight or George Hill for Taj than I would Harris.
Targets with the BAE
a. CJ Watson via the BAE. OK, he's not big enough to fill the combo roll that well, but let's look at the Play tracking stats. Watson is at the 70th percentile in defending the PnR and 81.7th at closing out on spot up shooters. Kirk Hinrich is at 19.3 and 28.8 respectively.People bag on him for that pass to Asik, but he played very well for us that year, and kept us winning games when Rose was hurt. He's one of the better defenders out there and we would have done better over the last three years to simply keep him than drop him and sign Hinrich. He's still defending at a high level.
b. Marco Belinelli. Another former Bull. Won the 3 point contest, and handles the ball pretty well. He's a shitty defender across the board, but as the 4-5th guy on the wings, I'd feel really good about him.
c. Jonas Jerebko, Ed Davis, Brandon Bass- One of these guys should be available. They've all been ok as bigs and assuming we trade Taj, we'll need a fill in. I can't see any team dumping a lot of money on these guys, so I'd think we could scoop one of them up.
BEST CASE SCENARIO for next year
PG- Rose 32, Brandon Knight 16
SG- Brandon Knight 16, Butler 22
SF- Butler 16, DeMarre Carroll 32, Dunleavy
PF- Mirotic 32, Noah 16, Ed Davis
C- Noah 16, Gasol 30
Deep Bench: McDermott, Hinrich, Moore (we have a team option on him IIRC), Bairstow, etc