Gasol Rose Butler.

Here's how the Chicago Bulls could look next season with rebuild on the horizon

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On paper, the Chicago Bulls have one of the best rosters in the NBA. Unfortunately, paper wins you nothing in basketball, only hard work and the right mix of talent will bring success.

Despite having a plethora of said talent at their disposal, the Bulls failed to even make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this term as they limped to a disappointing ninth.

Under Tom Thibodeau, the Windy City was treated to five straight trips to the playoffs which included securing the number one seed on two occasions.

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One trip to the Conference Finals was deemed not quite enough during Thibodeau's tenure and his reign came to a rather acrimonious end in the summer of 2015 following numerous altercations with the Chicago front office.

Now, the Bulls have Fred Hoiberg and an uncertain, underachieving roster while Thibodeau has taken nearly full control of the brightest young squad in the NBA at the Minnesota Timberwolves. One has to wonder, which direction would the Bulls faithful have preferred?

Regardless, after such underwhelming results with big money on the table, there are three major periods that the Bulls front office have to get right if the once esteemed, Michael Jordan-led franchise can get back to the glorious perch they enjoyed in the nineties.

Chicago Bulls players Dennis Rodman (L), Scottie P


When you have a starting five resembling 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah with support from Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy, it's reasonable to expect that unit to at least make the top eight in the east.

The frontcourt of that lineup, at the very least, appear to be making moves this summer. Noah - who was Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 - looks set to depart the Bulls this summer in free agency that leaves a glaring hole at Chicago's five spot.

With Noah's numerous knee problems, Gasol had stepped in to man the pivot in his absence over the past two years, but the Spaniard is also expected to depart the United Center.

The former L.A. Lakers man has a player option in his contract and he is all but certain to exercise it and test free agency. Should he stay, he'd earn $7,769,520 next season, but with the salary cap exploding and Gasol's excellent form in a faltering unit, even at 35 he can expect to command more than that.

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

To put up an average of 18.5 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks a night last season is mightily impressive for the two-time NBA champion, but is he really going to go start for a contender if he decides to opt out? Should he opt to stay, there's plenty of reason to believe the Bulls will try and move his contract.

Those two may well depart on their own accord, the superstar backcourt of Butler and Rose are far less likely to.

Point guard Rose only has one more season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. How much do the Bulls really want to keep the injury-plagued hometown boy? Judging by their fortunes over the course of the last four years, they won't be in a rush to commit another $94,314,376 his way.

In truth, Rose has struggled to recapture his dazzling early-career form since injuring his ACL in the 2012 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.

IL: Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls

Ironically, that's the franchise who the Bulls have been linked with for trade negotiations, but instead of Rose on the move, it's his backcourt partner Butler who is thought to be worth center Nerlens Noel and, perhaps, the number one overall pick.

Common sense would say Rose should be on the move if they want to get value for him in the final year of his deal. But, if the rest of the league, like me, think his value has plummeted since his injuries, it doesn't matter how much extra cap space is available; $21 million is a big chunk of change.

Free Agency

Everybody knows that Kevin Durant is the biggest free agent since LeBron James in 2010, but could the Bulls really get him?

No, is the answer. In theory, they could make a solid run at him and afford to offer him a max-contract, assuming that Gasol does indeed opt out and give them roughly $23 million to play with on July 1.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game Five

Who can they attract? Yes, they are a historically valued franchise and in Butler and Rose, they have two building blocks that free agents might find attractive. However, if they have been paying attention to their inconsistent performances over the past year or two and the rumours of discontent in the locker room, it becomes a much less enticing prospect.

Hassan Whiteside could fill the void in the center. DeMar DeRozan would be a great get if Butler did indeed move on and Noel mans the pivot.

Team manager John Paxson could well decide that Mirotic and Gibson, alongside the youngsters Tony Snell and Bobby Portis, are ready to fill the void left by their front court stars and look towards a lottery draft pick next season.

There is a much deeper free agency pool next summer with Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin and Rudy Gobert amongst others available. The Bulls might just think biding their time and shedding themselves of Rose in the process could be the answer.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game Seven

2016 Draft

Chicago have the 14th pick in this year's NBA draft and the general consensus is that they will pick up 6'6" shooting guard Malachi Richardson from Syracuse - which spells yet more trouble for Butler.

Richardson is an attacking guard and a streaky scorer who can shoot the lights out on any given night. Given the way the NBA is going, perhaps a laser shooter is more valuable than a lockdown defender like Butler, but the fact that Chicago are showing great interest in a guard when they need to rebuild their front court tells you all you need to know regarding their trust in Rose and Butler moving forward.

In a nutshell, expect big changes in Chi Town, but maybe not the superstar additions they need to become contenders overnight. Judging by the balance of their roster, it would be very surprising if they didn't make a trade.

Joakim Noah
Chicago Bulls
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Derrick Rose
Michael Jordan
Derrick Rose
Jimmy Butler
Pau Gasol

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