First off, let's look at the draft. The Bulls had their own first round pick as well as Charlotte's, so they had a good shot of adding not one but two impact players. Still, Thibodeau has not been one to give rookies a lot of minutes, so a great impact for their rookie year would be tough to expect. On draft night, the Bulls turned two assets into one better asset when they traded the two picks for a slightly higher one in order to select Doug McDermott from Creighton. Many people thought they gave up too much to get McDermott, but if that is the player they really wanted, then it makes sense to do what is necessary to get him. There are only five guys on the floor, so getting one that you really like is a smart move. Also, one very underrated aspect of the Bulls front office is doing a very good job of acquiring talent through the draft. Taj, Joakim, and Jimmy Butler were all picks that didn't get them much acclaim but have worked out very well for the team.
Before the free agency period began, the Bulls were involved in three credible rumors, two of which were good, and one of which was terrifying. The good was a possibility of trading for Kevin Love or signing Carmelo Anthony. The bad was that the Bulls would just keep Carlos Boozer and do nothing. That last one had me waking up in cold sweats. Let's attack them one by one.
This first one is still a possibility, but I don't really think the Bulls have what it takes to get Love at this point. They could trade Taj, Mirotic, one of their wings (Snell, who looked much improved in Summer League, McDermott, or Butler) and a couple first round picks. If I were Minnesota, I'd definitely take the lottery tickets of Wiggins and Bennett, but maybe they really love Mirotic. Still, this is very doubtful, and I'm okay with that.
Signing Carmelo Anthony did not happen and looking back had very little chance of happening. The Bulls simply didn't clear enough cap space to make a competitive offer. I think Carmelo would have happily gone to the Bulls had they been able to keep the roster in place and make the same offer the Knicks made. I think it was a strong possibility that they could have gotten them had they made the same offer the Lakers made as well, but it was not meant to be. We blame athletes like Carmelo for taking the money, but basketball is only going to last the next few years, and even on a good team, it's really hard to win a championship. I can't really blame the guy for staying in New York and hoping that Phil Jackson can luck into some game changing talents through free agency and the draft.
Finally, the last one did not come to fruition. Once the Bulls signed anybody, it was pretty clear that Boozer would no longer be with the team. Unlike most Bulls fans, I do not have animosity towards Boozer, as he was a fine player for the Bulls. He did not live up to his contract; he was not as good as Taj Gibson, but he still played hard. Still, he wore out his welcome, and it was pretty clear that the Bulls could not bring him back. I wish him luck as part of the new Big 3 with Jeremy Lin and Swaggy P.
But let's get back to what the Bulls actually did, from least exciting to most exciting:
Kirk Hinrich is back. Kirk Hinrich will always be back.
Nikola Mirotic is finally coming over to the United States. In my fantasies, he's a better version of Dirk Nowitzki. In reality, he should be a good offensive weapon, but the defense will likely leave something to be desired. He will be an interesting piece, and he can definitely step in right away to stretch defenses and cause matchup problems, especially when he is playing against second units.
The most exciting move was Pau Gasol. I love Pau. You love Pau. We all love Pau. Health is a concern, but when he was healthy, he was pretty damn good still. He nearly averaged a double-double, so having that as a backup big is a pretty nice improvement over Nazr Mohammed. And, like Mirotic, he will playing a lot of minutes against backups, which means he can cause serious issues against bench units. The Bulls will actually have scoring options on the floor for all 48 minutes of the game. Pau turned down offers for more money, so overall, this is just great news for the Bulls.
Finally, the Summer League happened. Doug McDermott was the only rookie to make the All Summer League first team, and you could make the argument that last year's first round pick, Tony Snell, played even better. This solidifies the bench for the Bulls. The starters still project to be Noah, Gibson, Dunleavy, Butler, and Rose with Gasol, Mirotic, McDermott, Snell, and Hinrich coming off the bench. I would definitely like to see Thibodeau be more willing to mix and match the big guys, as Mirotic could use a guy like Noah to protect him on defense, while Gibson can do the heavy work on defense with Gasol in at Center.
So that wraps it up. The Bulls have convinced me, yet again, that they are going to be the dominant force in the East. If Derrick Rose stays healthy (his stats may not have been great during his comeback last year, but a lot of that was just figuring out his touch around the rim as the explosiveness was still there), they are the favorites to win the East, and I don't see why they can't compete with the top teams in the West.
It may not be the Jordan years, but it's still a good time to be a Bulls fan.