Bulls have work to do on 2017 plan
If the Bulls did one thing right this summer, it was accurately predict the climate in the NBA.
Kevin Durant's decision to join the Golden State Warriors continued the "superteam" trend that began when LeBron James moved to Miami in 2010.
Heading into the next season, it's tough to give much of anyone a chance to win the title besides the Warriors and James' latest collection of stars in Cleveland. Traditional team building has been rendered ineffective.
That's why the Bulls decided to sit this one out. While most NBA teams went on a wild spending spree this summer, the Bulls' plan is to have a chance to create a rival superteam in 2017.
Maybe the idea is genius. Maybe it will be a colossal failure. But the Bulls set out on this path before Durant announced his next chapter, so if nothing else, they were onto something.
Anyway, here's the breakdown: Based on the current roster, the Bulls will head into next summer with one of the best two-way players in the league, Jimmy Butler. They'll also have Robin Lopez, Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis, Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine under contract, along with roughly $65 million in cap space.
The Bulls will have the ability to sign two major free agents next year. The best-case scenario, based on availability, would be Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.
Some other guys who could be on the market are the Clippers' Chris Paul, Utah's Gordon Hayward, Toronto's Kyle Lowry, Atlanta's Paul Millsap, Sacramento's Rudy Gay, Orlando's Serge Ibaka, Denver's Danilo Gallinari and Golden State's Andre Igudala.
The Bulls' decision to sign Rajon Rondo was a 2017 move. He's a guy who might help the cause this season, but wasn't in high demand. So the Bulls were able to get Rondo on a two-year deal with an option, which means they could move his salary off the books if needed.
That's also why the Bulls have been persistent with Dwyane Wade. The aging guard was the ringleader of Miami's 2010 plan, which brought in James and Chris Bosh. The Bulls can't offer a ton of money, but could try to sell him on helping recruit another superteam to his hometown.
Golden State showed that when the major players are locked in, the supporting cast jumps into place. Already, the Warriors have commitments from big men Zaza Pachulia and David West at bargain prices for a seat on the bandwagon. Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson will be Bulls' free agents next summer who might be persuaded to stick around.
That's the Bulls' dream, anyway. Plenty of other teams will be attempting the same. Now how do they make it happen?
In some ways, the plan sells itself. Guys would have the chance to collect a full salary, play in a major market and, in theory, have a squad that could challenge the Warriors and Cavs.
The first things the Bulls need to do is show some promise next season. Make the playoffs, score some points, get the young guys resembling competent NBA players or trade them for guys who are. Free agents won't join a lost cause.
They also need a good showing from coach Fred Hoiberg. People know of him, but he has no reputation as a quality NBA coach. Free agents want a coach who knows what he's doing, so Hoiberg's performance will be important. Tim Floyd might have been the biggest mistake of the 2000 free-agent failure, simply because he had no rep in the league.
The Bulls need a respected voice. Miami had Pat Riley. Golden State had Jerry West contact Durant. The Bulls management team of John Paxson and Gar Forman took some hits during the discord with ex-coach Tom Thibodeau. So they might need someone else. Scottie Pippen, maybe? Eddie Vedder?
Most of all, the pressure's on Butler. As it stands now, he's the one all-star the Bulls are building around, so it would help if he plays well this season and makes friends around the league.
The Olympic team won't be much help, since Lowry is the only guy on the roster who will be a free agent next summer. But Westbrook is a fellow Mountain Dew pitch man, so Butler is bound to cross paths with candidates this summer.
Maybe Butler's best selling point is his reputation as an all-defensive team player. If any potential new recruits want to take a break on defense, they're covered.
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