The 2013-14 season has come to a close with the San Antonio Spurs knocking off the two-time defending champions, the Miami Heat, in a five-game NBA Finals blowout which featured the emergence of Kawhi Leonard and the final stamp on the legacies of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
As one team is crowned world champions, 29 other teams are aspiring to mark their spot in history for next season. One franchise in particular that’s planning on doing whatever it takes to get back to their championship winning ways is the Chicago Bulls, whose title window appears to be closing at a faster rate than they hoped.
It’s easy to assume that the Bulls’ playoff finishes since their Eastern Conference Finals appearance back in 2011 have been utterly disappointing, even while playing without superstar Derrick Rose because of multiple injuries to his knees. Two early first-round exits and bouncing out of the semifinals in five games has caused Chicago to pull out their big guns in order to bring in New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony to the Windy City for 2014-15.
There’s no question that by acquiring the 30-year old would automatically improve Chicago’s chances to reign supreme in the Eastern Conference. While this scenario does seem ideal for a team that last hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy back in 1998, it will come at a cost that the Bulls are desperately willing to accept.
Chicago’s latest playoff failures over the last couple years and their desire to get over that first- and second-round hump has reportedly made the Bulls inclined to deal anyone on the roster not named Derrick Rose to land Carmelo Anthony or any other superstar this offseason. That includes 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times.
The report obviously has to deal with the fact that the Bulls missed out on their chance to receive the gold medal by landing LeBron James during the summer of 2010 and instead received Carlos Boozer as the silver medal.
James went on to play in four consecutive NBA Finals with the Heat while winning two. Boozer managed to shoot a career-high free throw percentage the previous year and is expected to earn $16.8 million next season.
Repeating what Cowley regarded in his article that Chicago “isn’t looking to repeat history.” The team is looking to add their version of James in Anthony and isn’t hoping to land another multimillion free agent bust, even if that means giving up arguably the top defensive payer in the league in Noah.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Rose, the NBA MVP in 2010-11, isn’t being mentioned in the list of Bulls players that could be dealt in order to acquire Anthony, but it should be a surprise that the front office isn’t afraid to give away Noah, their defensive anchor who took over the leadership duties when Rose went down.
Noah, 29, is coming off a year in which he averaged career-highs in points (12.6), rebounds (11.3), assists (5.4) and steals (1.2). His wins shared and player efficiency rating also skyrocketed from last year, giving the assumption that Noah’s value that he brings to the Bulls as a center will be hard to replace through the draft or free agency.
Cowley also wrote that Noah tried to recruit Anthony in coming to Chicago next season during the All-Star Game and throughout the second half of this year, but the former Florida Gator doesn’t want his teammate Taj Gibson “sacrificed” to bring in Anthony. Unfortunately for Noah, Gibson has been mentioned as one player on the Bulls roster that will have to be dealt in order to acquire a superstar free agent, like Anthony, Kevin Love or even LeBron James if he opts out of his contract this offseason.
Another roadblock that will affect Chicago’s efforts in landing Anthony is the fact that the seven-time All-Star will wait until the team makes enough cap space to sign him for the right price. Besides ‘Melo’s aspirations of winning an NBA title next season, he also wants to get paid.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, by opting out of his contract with the New York Knicks, Anthony will sign a max contract in the range of four years, $90 million-plus. Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls will need to amnesty Boozer, get rid of Taj Gibson and one other player, which could be Jimmy Butler or the rights to Nikola Mirotic.
Pairing up Anthony and Rose together, two of the top pure scorers in the league, to form a dynamic duo in Chicago would be difficult for any team to match up defensively. But giving up either Noah or Gibson or possibly even both will be tough for the Bulls’ front office to swallow.
Zach Libby covers the Chicago Bulls for HoopsHabit.com.