This offseason there has been much speculation weather Chicago will try to make any trades, particularly involving reserve power forward Taj Gibson and starting center Joakim Noah.
After the way the Bulls exited the playoffs last season, many people are entertaining the idea of trading the two aging but still highly productive big men to free up cap space to potentially sign a star player. Although it sounds like a good idea now that every franchise wants to make a super team, I believe the front office will stand pat this offseason and give the players another shot before breaking the team up and that is the smartest move they can make.
The core group of players for this Bulls team are a special bunch. Although they have yet to win a championship, this team has been very successful over the years. Since the 2008-09 season when Derrick Rose was a rookie and Joakim Noah only a 2nd year player, the Bulls have made it to the playoffs seven straight years. That is the 2nd longest streak of playoff appearances in Chicago Bulls history behind the Michael Jordan led squads from 1984-85 to 1997-98 who made 14 straight playoff appearances (two without Jordan 1993-94,1994-95).
Every year they have been competitive, even making it to the conference finals with a young and incomplete team in 2010, and although I might be beating a dead horse, injuries have been the main contributor to this team not getting to the promised land. Next year should be no different, besides the injuries I hope.
Even though Chicago did not sign another high-caliber player and will basically have the same team as last year; with the only additions being rookie Bobby Portis and Head Coach Fred Hoiberg, they will still be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Chicago will have a deep bench again this season, and with all of the players getting a whole year of basketball experience plus this offseason under their belts, they should be even better next season. Joakim has one year remaining on his contract before they can decide to let him go. Gar Forman and John Paxson should give this group one more opportunity to go for it all. After so many seasons crushed because of Derrick Rose’s knees, these guys earned the right to play another season together.
Besides Gibson, the Bulls should enter the year healthy which is a key factor to their success throughout the season. The players also have the whole offseason to work on their game which shouldn’t be undervalued. Last offseason, Jimmy Butler worked his way from a lock down defender to a flat-out two-way star the upcoming season.
Chicago has many other young players on their bench who showed potential last year to be impact players of the future. Tony Snell will be entering his 3rd year in the league and Last year’s rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will be in there 2nd years. They all have the summer to work on their game, and will all likely come into next season improved players, but if even one of them makes a major jump the way Butler did, and the Bulls will be nearly unstoppable.
Snell and Mirotic had many brilliant moments last season and both look ready to take on a bigger role this season. McDermott did not see much playing time last year but may find a role in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive friendly system.
Contrary to what LeBron James thinks, teams don’t win titles by winning free agency, they win it through the draft. Last season, the Warriors won the title with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes. All of the players listed were drafted by the Warriors.
The 5-time champion San Antonio Spurs won their titles with David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobilli, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonord: All players they drafted. Great teams come together because of smart drafting from the front office. Free agency is to fill the remaining gaps that a team has, not assemble a roster with 3 max contract players and the rest scrubs playing for the minimum. LeBron has made it to the finals five years in a row and only won twice because he didn’t have a TEAM. It takes the whole roster to win a title not a few players.
If the Warriors and Spurs aren’t proof enough then I don’t know what is. Over the years Chicago’s front office has done an amazing job in the draft. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson. The Bulls drafted every one of them, they didn’t “win” them in free agency. Maybe when LeBron loses another finals people will understand it takes a team to win not just superstars.
If not for any other reason, it’s not like there are many trade options out there for the Bulls that would make them better. Joakim probably has a higher value, but many teams are not going to trade away prized assets for a 30-year-old center coming off an underwhelming, injury plagued year. Same for Gibson. He is a valuable contributor but at 30 years old, the Bulls wouldn’t be able to get anything of value to help them right now that would be a better option than what they currently have. They both hold the most value for Chicago by staying on the team.
Trading away Taj and Joakim for future assets makes no sense if they are trying to win now. If theses players are traded, the team could not only go through chemistry issues, they would have destroyed their front court depth that makes them so hard to face. Pau Gasol would have to play center if Joakim is traded, and that is not where Pau plays best nor does he want to play the 5 spot. Trading Taj Gibson means putting many of his minutes in the hands of rookie Bobby Portis, which isn’t a bad thing but a team looking to win a championship is best suited to have a proven veteran play Taj’s important 6th man role instead of an unknown rookie.
The best thing for Chicago to do is let Joakim play out the last year of his contract and decide what to do with Gibson next offseason. It may not be what some fans want, but keeping this team together is the best option for the Chicago Bulls at this time.