2016 NBA Off Season Preview: Chicago Bulls



Chicago Bulls

2015-2016 Record: 42-40
Projected Maximum Cap Space: $16,343,300.00

Players Under Contract for 2016-2017

G Derrick Rose ($21,323,252)
G Jimmy Butler ($17,552,209)
F Taj Gibson ($8,950,000)
F Nikola Mirotic ($5,782,450)
GF Mike Dunleavy ($4,837,500)
F Doug McDermott ($2,483,040)
GF Tony Snell ($2,368,327)
F Bobby Portis ($1,404,600)
G Justin Holiday ($1,015,696)

Player Options

FC Pau Gasol ($7,769,520)

Team Options

F Cameron Bairstow ($980,431)
GF Cristiano Felicio ($874,636)

Unrestricted Free Agents

FC Joakim Noah
G Aaron Brooks
G E'Twaun Moore


2015-2016 Recap

The Chicago Bulls had their sixth straight winning season, but missed out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. The first year without Tom Thibedeau was a mixed bag. Fred Hoiberg's offensive pace did not drastically improve points per game, but it did cause defensive efficiency to suffer. The main culprit once again may have been injuries. Derrick Rose stayed relatively healthy but Mike Dunleay and Joakim Noah missed large chunks of the season.

Players Under Contract

This team will go as far as the highly paid back court of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler will take them. Rose will probably never get back to his MVP quality of play as his first three seasons, but played in 66 games and showed that he is still a tough, aggressive scorer.

Butler signed a max extension and was worth every penny on the floor. Once again a 20 point per game scorer, he also led the team in assists, steals and minutes played. There have been rumblings that Butler is a headache off the court, and does not get along with some members of the coaching staff. Trade rumors aside, Butler is not going anywhere for 2016, at least.

Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott all played the roles of key reserves. Gibson, a long time backup, actually started most of the season. Depending on how free agency shakes out, Gibson could be the starting center in 2016. He fits best as a backup energy big who can come in, rebound and block shots.

Mirotic's second season awas nearly identical to his first. A good shooter for his size, and a solid rebounder, Mirotic improved his three point percentage by a good deal. With two ball dominant guards on offense, Hoiberg's system needs big men who can shoot, and Mirotic could be relied on to play 30 minutes per night next year.

McDermott rebounded from a terrible rookie campaign to become a key contributor in the Chicago rotation. In 2015-2016, he was exactly as advertised, as he parked himself at the three point line and knocked down 42% of his shots from the arc. With increased confidence, he could be a 15 point per game scorer next year.

Bobby Portis had an up and down rookie season, but should get more minutes as he moves up in the big man pecking order. He still seems lost on defense at times, but is adept at getting those hustle points and rebounds, a must for a backup big man.

Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell will be back to provide depth to the wing positions. Dunleavy will probably still start for Chicago, but offers little more than the occasional three point shot at this point in his career.

Free Agents

Pau Gasol had another very solid season, and has plenty of gas left in the tank. He will likely opt out, as a playoff team could pay him twice as much as the $7 million he is on the books for. Every playoff caliber team, such as the Spurs, Cavaliers, Celtics and Heat will be looking at him.

The more realistic goal could be to try to resign Joakim Noah. Noah has played his entire nine year career with the Bulls, but had his least productive season in 2015-2016, mostly due to injuries. That issue may mean his days of playing 35 minutes per night is long gone. It will be tough for Chicago to lose both big men, but it is a possibility.

Aaron Brooks had a decent season as Derrick Rose's backup, but Chicago may look to aim higher for such an important insurance piece.

Free Agent Targets

Chicago will have the fourth least cap space, but of course, with the salary cap set to greatly increase, will still have $16 million to spend. That could bring in a couple of solid rotation pieces.

Priority number one will be to replace Gasol and/or Noah with size. One big who could generate a solid bit of interest on the free agent market is Festus Ezeli. Like Noah, Ezeli has durability issues of his own but could be a solid part of a big man rotation. Other likely cheaper options include Roy Hibbert, Timofey Mozgov and Zaza Pachulia.

Chicago could look for an additional wing who can play defense and shoot. Shooting is always a need, especially for a Fred Hoiberg led team who relies on slashing guards like Butler and Rose. Eric Gordon could come cheap. He would be a solid source of buckets. Injuries (apparently a common theme of this preview) have sapped him of much of his athleticism, but he could be a quality reserve who can give the team 10-15 points on about 25 minutes per night. Other shooting options could include Kent Bazemore, Courtney Lee or Jamal Crawford.

Having a solid back up point guard for Derrick Rose is always an issue. Assuming Rajon Rondo finds a starting job, Chicago could go after a guy with plenty of starting experience such as Brandon Jennings or Ty Lawson.

Trade Proposal

Bulls trade Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy to Celtics for Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, RJ Hunter and a 2017 first round draft pick (from Nets).

I do not expect the Bulls to hit the explosion button on this roster until possibly next off season, when Rose's contract comes off the books, but if they do decide to see what value they can get for Jimmy Butler, I am calling Danny Ainge.

In this proposal, Chicago gets back two starters and a key rotation piece. Neither Crowder or Bradley are the shooters Chicago requires, but both are versatile wings who can play solid defense, two musts for Hoiberg's scheme.

Terry Rozier could develop into a solid long term back up point guard.

Chicago was able to convince Ainge to trade the Nets pick in 2017 instead of 2016. The 2017 draft looks to be very deep, and that pick should wind up as a top five selection. With Rose's contract freed up, Chicago will have a ton of cap space and a potential young superstar to build around.

NBA Draft

The last time the Bulls were in the lottery, they defied the odds to move up from ninth to first to select Derrick Rose. With even worse odds, the Bulls will most likely be picking at 14.

Even in a weak draft, Chicago should find a solid rotational piece. Front court depth is seriously lacking, and I would look that direction if I was the Bulls. Perhaps someone like Diamond Stone or Stephen Zimmerman. Henry Ellenson would be a solid fit if he slipped that far.

In Summary

Even after letting go of Tom Thibedeau, the Bulls kept it status quo personnel wise, with virtually the same roster for Hoiberg's first go around. Expect that to gradually change. Hoibert wants players who can do a variety of things and play a variety of positions. The front office seems to be on board, and will possibly move away from lumbering big men and more towards an up tempo roster. It will take time, and for right now, it seems that Chicago's championship window has closed.

Jonathan Carrano

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