So the Bulls season ended with one of their better games in the playoffs as they took the Heat to the final seconds and had a good look - no, two good looks - at tying the game with a three. But alas, it didn't happen, and the Heat take the series in 5.
Mark Silverman on ESPN1000 just asked what the big picture was for this Bulls team next year.
I submit that it should be a fairly rosy picture. Everyone should be healthy to start the season, and everyone should be in their proper places. The starting point guard should be Derrick Rose, and Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson (if they resign him) should be playing the amount of minutes and against the players where they should have the better of the matchup. Hinrich showed his worth this year, I think - he's not a scorer, but he does do a better job of passing and defending than most any other Bull. Depending on matchups, he could start at the two guard or back up the point guard.
Carlos Boozer seemed, to me, to play far far better when Hinrich was playing point guard than when he wasn't. Would this be a way to get some real value out of Boozer? What if he was putting up a double double a night in part against second teamers? Start Boozer, play him 3 or 4 minutes, bring in Taj until the second team comes in and make sure Boozer and Hinrich get plenty of minutes together.
Backup center: A weakness for this year's team. Mohammed was okay in his limited minutes, but the Bulls ended up using Taj as the back-up center quite a bit, it seemed to me. Or Boozer, with Deng at power forward.
Jimmy Butler matured into a bonafide NBA player this year. Is he the starting two-guard next year? I think he's more of a small forward. Would I rather have Deng at SF? Sure, but Deng might also be the one guy on this team who could bring back real value in a deal. It would depend on what they could get for Deng in a trade as to whether I would consider moving him.
I'm not enamored with Marco Bellinelli, but I certainly wouldn't rule him out as the long range spot-up shooter and another backup two guard. I'm certain that Hamilton, who appeared to be poorly used in the playoffs, is going to be bought out and I won't have a problem with that, though I wonder if Rip's lack of contribution throughout the latter part of the year was his problem or Tom Thibodeau's problem. Thibodeau is a great coach, but he does seem to 1.) overwork his players a bit, too many minutes and too much pedal to the metal, and 2.) underutilize some players for whatever reason. As examples of the second, see Rip, Marcus Teague, and maybe even Vlad Rad. The guy ended up buried on the bench and really wasn't given any opportunity to contribute as far as I could see.
There will be a somewhat higher draft pick this year, and that may translate into a useful player, but with Thibodeau's tendency to sit young players, will it matter? With Rip going, will there be a spot for a veteran PF or center who can back up in the front court? Will some players look at the Bulls and say, now there's a team that can compete with Miami and I just might have a shot at getting to the Finals and getting a championship with this team, so I'll take the veteran's exception, or even the minimum, to play for them? (So many players seem to do that with Miami. There has to be someone who will do it with the Bulls...)
The Bulls got some real experience in the playoffs this year for players like Butler, Bellinelli and even a little bit for Marcus Teague. Can that translate to a much improved squad next year? Let's hope.
That's my big-picture view of the Bulls. Now it's on to watch the BlackHawks on their road to the Stanley Cup, then focus on the Cubs' rebuilding efforts this summer...