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Rose, Deng and the Future of the Bulls

Had to see this coming: Derrick Rose is reportedly unhappy with the potential direction the Bulls are heading in following his knee surgery. This news comes amid the team’s continued plummeting to the basement of an awful Eastern Conference. With a tentative, speculated plan in place to rebuild and revamp the roster, the look and feel of this team could be dramatically different come next September.

While Rose may see this as a waste of his time, if done correctly, it may serve to be the proverbial ‘one step back, two steps forward.’  The Bulls have pieces, expensive ones, that have become incredible expendable. They also have some young, unproven players brimming with potential (maybe not star potential, but potential nonetheless).

Jimmy Butler’s development has hit a snag in December, but that’s what turf toe and a twisted ankle will do to you. I still think Butler is more of a small forward than a two guard, which may come to fruition if the team parts with Deng for the right price. Regardless of Deng’s status, Butler has undoubtedly become a crucial cog in the looming rebuild. His skill set is akin to a young Scottie Pippen, now it’s a matter of refining the shooting stroke and staying healthy.

Tony Snell is very intriguing to me, mostly because of the physical tools he possesses. He is insanely lanky and may turn out to be a fantastic, versatile defender, but his offensive game is lagging to far behind. He appears uncomfortable and apprehensive of the offensive end. He’s tentative to put up shots, and the shots he does take look awkward and off-balance. The NBA however is a league where if you have the physical gifts, the shooting stroke can come later, and hopefully that’s the case with Snell.

Carlos Boozer is always on the amnesty radar for the Bulls, but with the lack of offensive development from Taj Gibson, the front office has no reason to rid themselves of the Booze Cruise, especially since they have to pay him either way. However, with a draft class stacked with power forwards far more athletic than Boozer, the time to pull the trigger on the escape clause may be this off-season.

Speaking of that dream draft class, there were reports that surfaced around draft time this past summer that linked Luol Deng to the third pick in the draft… straight up. Obviously that wouldn’t happen again with Parker, Wiggins and Co. coming out of the college ranks, but a top-10, maybe 15 pick may be plausible. Deng was boosting his already high stock prior to his achilles problem, which he should be back from early next week. He’s been a consistent second option throughout his ten-year career and could really bolster a team’s roster week at the 3-position. 

If they Bulls do decide to exchange Deng for a ticket stub to the 2014 NBA draft, it could give them three first round draft picks in the strongest class since the 2003 Lebron James-led class. Remember that trade made with the Bobcats that gave the Bulls a conditional first round draft pick, well this may finally be the year they use it. If the Bobcats finish outside the top ten, the Bulls have the option to claim the pick as their own. Considering the Cats are 12-14 this season and currently sit in front of the Bulls, this may be a very realistic possibility.

When you add three first round picks with an abundance of cap space from unloading Boozer and Deng, the Bulls might find themselves retooling on the run. Maybe the will find the flexibility to bring another marque player to play alongside Rose, Butler, and Noah.

Things aren’t as desperate as Rose is reportedly making them out to be. It may get a whole lot worse before it gets better, but this is a city that has endured the Cubs for over a century and still clings to the “next year” mantra. The Bulls will be fine, so long as the front office does a sufficient job with the options in front of them. As far as Rose should be concerned, heal up, get strong and keep your nose out of the business side of the game, you’ll have a chance at a ring sooner or later.