If we are, we can thank Ernie Grunfeld. Thanks to Grunfeld's preposterous decision to take on 17,000,000 dollars worth of Kirk Hinrich for the luxury of pissing away the 17th pick in the draft, the Bulls are in a position to take on two max free agents.
Who might those be? That's anyone's guess. But right now, "anyone" seems to be guessing LeBron James and Chris Bosh. And so I ask, are we doomed? Find out after the jump...Let's begin with a discussion of what it means for an NBA fan to be doomed. Under the NBA's bargaining agreement, at worst, a fan will root for a team that has no chance to escape it's conference over the course of the next five years.
That sounds like a good working definition, yes? Let's roll!
To assist us in determining whether we would be doomed, let's employ what the British like to call maths. The British don't play basketball (because when they do, it turns them gay), but they do know how to properly abbreviate "mathematics", so we'll use their method.
Using maths, and fundamental assumptions about what the Bulls rotation will look like with the inclusion of LeBron and co. (if this goes through, Chris Bosh's nickname henceforth is "andco."), I will try to determine whether this summer's events have doomed us.
I have no idea, btw, whether I punctuated that sentence correctly.
Let's look at what the Bulls would be getting, based on win shares. LeBron sits at about .3 ws/48, while Bosh is good for about .18. What this means, if you believe the metrics people, is that a lineup of Chris Bosh's will win 90% of the time, and that a lineup of three LeBron James's and two bags of peanuts would win 90%, so long as those peanuts manage not to kick the ball into the stands, punch referees, or do whatever the hell it is Kwame Brown does.
So far so good for the Bulls. And we haven't even gotten to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. 70 wins is the basement, right?
Probably not. Read on.
First of all, contrary to popular belief, Derrick Rose is not yet a star. His ws/48 was .1, which is the league average. Of course, he's still very young, and obviously athletic, so we can project some increase in effectiveness next year. But the fact is that he's a solid, but unspectacular offensive weapon (as his player efficiency rating suggests), and a terrible defender (as everyone who has watched him play suggests).
Noah, on the other hand, was pretty brilliant for the Bulls, especially in the last half of the season. His ws/48 of .15 led the team, and he demonstrated similar value as his minutes increased. Next year, and with Vinny Del Negro out of the way, it's probably safe to say he gets full-time minutes.
Then there is Luol Deng. There has been talk the Bulls might need to give him up in order to secure James, who may demand to exercise his bird rights. But why would Cleveland take on an albatross of a contract for such an average player, when they will certainly need to rebuild? I'm pissing on that theory right now. Of course, with the addition of James, Deng's minutes look to be subject to reduction.
I'll just assume Taj Gibson continues to be Taj Gibson, and that James Johnson will continue to suck.
Outside of that, the Bulls won't have much room to make any more moves this off-season. They didn't have any draft picks, and can only offer the minimum to incoming players. Their last, best hope is either players who got overlooked in free agency, or ring chasers.
I think it's a given that a Bulls team loaded with Bosh and James will attract at least one veteran looking for a ring, don't you? It's also probable that one savvy veteran will try to raise his stock by playing a role on a championship squad. So add to more competent players to the fold.
Add that up, and you get (drum roll, please... Oh, wait, this is a blog without sound)
That's not chicken scratch, but it's no better or worse than you would expect from a favorite to win a conference championship.
Initially, the Bulls are going to have to give minutes to some pretty bad players. It's easy to look at the top of the roster, and declare victory, but ask the Miami Heat how that goes. Three-point specialists cost money, for example.
Further, there is no guarantee that Rose is going to take the next step. He has a mediocre perimeter game, and has spent two years learning a role that is going to change substantially with the addition of James. Who's to say he won't regress a bit? If he does, the win projection goes down substantially.
Of course, even if the Bulls don't pull down a ring right away, they can flesh out the roster with draft picks and exceptions. But, at the same time, they have to re-up players like Noah, who may command max money next year from a metrics-inclined team.
In other words, there is no doom in sight. The present cap rules were designed, in part, to keep a team from becoming an insurmountable dynastic franchise. Even if the Bulls hit the jackpot, the cap will do its job.
To add a bit of perspective, let me take you back to a decade ago. In the summer of 2000, Grant Hill and T-Mac were headed to Orlando, while the Heat had consolidated a slew of top-flight talent. The only question was, which team would win game 7 of the Eastern conference finals.
Which team won? The Philadelphia 76ers, of course, who defeated the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat and Magic managed to win one playoff game combined. Three seasons later, a team that certainly seemed doomed managed to not only win the conference, but the championship as well.