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updated: 7/12/2014 8:01 PM

Bulls in pretty good spot

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  • LeBron James is heading back to Cleveland and throwing the NBA East up for grabs.

    LeBron James is heading back to Cleveland and throwing the NBA East up for grabs.
    Associated Press


Bulls fans might be passing through the five stages of rejection after an agonizingly long flirtation with Carmelo Anthony ended with no connection Saturday.

This appeared to be a chance for the Bulls to answer Boston 2007, Miami 2010 and Cleveland 2014 by producing a collection of stars capable of dominating the conference. Or at least giving LeBron James a challenge in the East finals.

That quest is over now, but it's worth taking a step back to evaluate the Bulls' off-season. Thanks to the draft pick obtained for Tyrus Thomas, they were able to move up in the draft and get one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history in Doug McDermott.

Coming soon, they'll add one of the best young talents from Europe in 6-10 Nikola Mirotic, who helped lead Real Madrid to a second-place finish in the EuroLeague last season. They now have Pau Gasol, who's averaged at least 17.4 points in 12 of his 13 NBA seasons.

Of course, if all goes well, they'll plug a former MVP winner back into the lineup and, hopefully, Derrick Rose will be able to play a full season this time.

So that's an add of Rose, Gasol, McDermott and Mirotic, while subtracting Carlos Boozer and perhaps D.J. Augustin. McDermott and Mirotic will be unpredictable rookies, but overall, that haul isn't bad if you scrub Anthony's snub from the memory banks.

James' decision to leave Miami and return to Cleveland seemed to throw the Eastern Conference up for grabs. In some ways it has, but most of the contenders are staying roughly the same.

The Heat figures to take a fall, but should stay competitive by keeping Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. No compassionate Bulls fan truly wants to see Luol Deng be the guy who replaces LeBron, but that's a possibility.

Cleveland has loads of talent, but not many veterans right now (assuming the Cavs don't flip No. 1 overall draft picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett for Minnesota's Kevin Love). Kyrie Irving was an all-star starter last year, but shooting guard Dion Waiters hasn't been a great fit, forward Tristan Thompson has been nothing special and Anderson Varejao is pretty much all they have in the post.

Former Miami sidekick Mike Miller is talking about joining James in Cleveland and the Cavs could use more experienced guys like him.

Indiana and Toronto haven't changed much. The Pacers have yet to re-sign shooting guard Lance Stephenson, but he doesn't seem to be in heavy demand right now. The Raptors did well to re-sign their own free agents, but keeping a young team moving up instead of down can be a challenge.

Washington, which pounded the Bulls in the playoffs last season, lost starting forward Trevor Ariza to Houston. Martell Webster can step in, but he isn't as good. That's one promising squad that hit a speed bump.

Atlanta still has cap space to add a player and should get Al Horford back from injury. The Hawks could move up.

Anthony's team, the New York Knicks, are a work in progress. Already, team president Phil Jackson has replaced point guard Raymond Felton and center Tyson Chandler with Jose Calderon and Sam Dalembert. An improvement? Calderon is more consistent than Felton, no doubt, but defense has often been a question.

The Knicks' best chance to improve will be next summer when the contracts of Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani expire. Still, with Anthony taking a near-max contract and Calderon's $7 million salary added to the payroll, New York has to move some pieces to sign one of those "full-boat" free agents Jerry Krause used to talk about.

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