COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bulls are mired in a season of never-ending disappointment, wedged in a vast whirlwind of the "what ifs" after seeing Derrick Rose go down with a torn right medial meniscus back in December.
Rose's season-ending injury was the first chip to fall that essentially pulled the cord on Chicago's hopes of competing with the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers atop the NBA's Eastern Conference. The second -- actually triggered by Rose's injury -- was the trade that sent long-time Bull Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In an obvious salary dump, the Bulls received Andrew Bynum (immediately waived, and recently signed by the Pacers) and three draft picks. Overall, Chicago saved the balance of Deng's $14.3 million contract and the roughly $6 million that was owed to Bynum. And with the Bulls still expected to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer in the offseason (further savings of $16.8 million off of next year's cap number), it is becoming obvious that there is some semblance of a rebuild happening in Chicago.
The question is just how far the organization is willing to go to overhaul its roster.
There has been plenty of chatter surrounding Chicago moving Boozer, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich, among others. But nothing has happened just yet, possibly signaling that the Bulls could be willing to stand pat and see how this season shakes out.
Or does it mean there is something bigger in the works, possibly involving Joakim Noah? If Chicago plans on a quick rise back to the top, however, the answer to that question should be an emphatic NO!
Noah is obviously the Bulls' most attractive trade piece. The (now) two-time Eastern Conference All-Star center has plenty left in the tank, and is signed through the 2015-16 season ($11.1 million this season; $12.2 million next season; and $13.4 million in the final year). He is a terrific rebounder and defender, and has the energy of a point guard. And his instincts on the court are rivaled by very few around the league.
Most notably of all, however, has been Noah's rise as the leader with Rose on the sideline -- which is a very difficult trait to quantify when determining value to potential trade partners.
Noah never waned as expectations in Chicago faded. And his determination is one of the biggest reasons why the Bulls have hovered around .500, and are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race for most of the season.
The Bulls have a solid nucleus to build around, and the moves they have made (and could still make) put them in position, from both a roster and financial standpoint, to return to expected form as early as next season.
Even when Rose returns, it might be just as well that Noah continues to be the unequivocal leader of this team -- making him untouchable in trade discussions.Jeremy Sickel has successfully created and operated numerous websites. His work can be read on Yahoo and Bleacher Report, and he has also appeared on various podcasts and sports talk shows around the country. Interact with Jeremy on Twitter @JeremySickel.
- Sports & Recreation
- Derrick Rose
- Chicago Bulls
- Joakim Noah
- Andrew Bynum