What if the Orlando Magic would have traded Anfernee Hardaway in 1997 for one of the top picks in the draft?
At the time, Hardaway was a young superstar battling back from injury, but those injuries ultimately denigrated his abilities to the point that this once perennial MVP candidate spent more time in a suit than in a uniform. Had the Magic made the tough decision to trade Hardaway early, they could have had the opportunity to rebuild their franchise around Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups or Tracy McGrady.
Chicago finds itself in a similar position as superstar point guard Derrick Rose has suddenly begun following in the footsteps of the Hardaways and Grant Hills of the game. Injuries to both knees in corresponding seasons have allowed Rose to see the court in only 49 total games over the last two years.
It may be hard for most fans to even allow themselves to consider the idea of moving the Chicago native, but, if the Bulls could get back one of the top picks for a draft class expected to rival that of 2003, should Chicago trade Rose and start over?
The Rose You Remember
I can see the indignation creeping into your thought bubbles as you read this article. I can only imagine your first reaction would be something along the lines of, "This writer is stupid. Why would they trade the most explosive point guard in the league who averaged 25 and 7 the year he won MVP?"
And you are exactly right. A team would have to be out of its mind to trade a player that productive for an unproven rookie. But is that really what the Bulls would be doing?
The Same Rose after Two Knee Injuries?
Rose was never a great shooter. The thing that made him a difference-maker was his quickness and his explosive jumping ability that allowed him to drive the lane and play among the trees near the rim. If Rose goes up to dunk and finds his explosion is not longer there, is he really worth $20 million per year to be a jump-shooter?
After Hardaway's first injury cost him 23 games in 1997, he came back and only averaged 35 games per season over his final two years in Orlando. Penny was only 25 years old at the time of his first injury, which happens to be exactly how old Rose is right now.
And the most troubling aspect of Rose's injuries is that they each occurred on non-contact plays. These were not freak accidents that happened during the course of a game, instead, these injuries could be signs of chronic problems that will plague Rose the rest of his career.
Chicago's Outlook Without Rose
Trading Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers allowed the Bulls some financial flexibility. Chicago is also expected to clear Carlos Boozer's money from its balance sheet after it pulls the trigger on the amnesty clause this offseason. If the Bulls were also able to remove Rose's money from the ledger, they could suddenly become a hot team-up destination for two high-profile free agents this summer.
Imagine if the Bulls could sign Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh and add them to a team that already has Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. Add in the fact that their high draft pick could turn into Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle or Joel Embiid, and the Bulls could really start building something special.
But the good news would not stop there. Chicago would also be sitting with two additional first-round draft picks in the middle of the draft that it could use or trade for additional pieces, and its highly touted 6-foot-10-inch international sharp shooter, Nikola Mirotic, is expected to finally come over to begin his reign as the next Dirk Nowitzki in 2015.
A Potential Chicago Roster Without Rose
*Additional First-Round Draft Pick
* Additional First-Round Draft Pick
Obviously, this roster would be wishful thinking and denotes a best-case scenario, but trading Rose would give the Bulls the resources it would need to assemble a roster similar to this one.
There would always be the chance Rose could become the NBA's version of Peyton Manning and come back stronger than ever and make the Bulls regret dealing him, but I think Chicago would have to take that gamble.
Rose's $20 million salary eats up too much cap space for a player who suddenly cannot be counted on stay healthy. There is a very small window for the Bulls to make the moves needed to immediately evolve into a championship contender, and one major step could be allowing themselves to part ways with Derrick Rose.
Dalton Russell is Chicago native and longtime follower of the Bulls. His championship expectations were irrevocably ruined by the Michael Jordan-led teams of the '90s and now impatiently awaits the next great chapter of Bulls basketball.
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- Derrick Rose
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- Anfernee Hardaway