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The Chicago Bulls Need To Tank This Season

balldontstopWhen the Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose for another year just 10 games into the season they were immediately taken out of the championship conversation, the Bulls are no longer a “threat” to beat, let alone challenge the defending champion Miami Heat, or even the Indiana Pacers. Could this Bulls team make a run for the playoffs? Yes. But how far could the really go? The second round? This injury has put the Bulls in a hole for another season, but if they “play it smart” they could change their franchise forever. It is time for the Chicago Bulls to tank; they need to tank more than any team in the NBA right now.

The Bulls are currently the ninth seed in the East; they are 11-16 and are in reach of a playoff spot. There are only three teams in the Eastern Conference above .500: The Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks, other than that we are looking at possibly the weakest East in recent memory. Sure, the Chicago Bulls have the talent, coaching and even a loyal fan base that could carry them all the way to a top four seed in this Eastern Conference but in the end there is no way this team is getting past the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat.

Losing Derrick Rose has caused a big dip in ticket prices, t.v ratings and overall appeal. They don’t have Nate Robinson to partially fill in the void for Derrick Rose, and though they signed D.J. Augustine he just doesn’t bring the same excitement that little Nate brought to Chicago. The Bulls are less intriguing than they even were last year.

Luol Deng is in the final year of his contract and there is a high chance that he leaves the Bulls, many teams will be ringing him when free agency begins. It is going to be very hard for the Bulls to get Luol Deng to sign an extension, they already have about $40 million tied up among Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and of course Derrick Rose. Carlos Boozer is owed over $32 million the next two seasons, therefore if the Bulls were to try and sign an extension with Deng they would probably have to amnesty Boozer. Their only option would be to trade Deng and the Bulls management says they don’t want to do that.

If the Bulls continue playing the way they are they will probably capture a playoff spot, generate a fair buzz in Chicago, sell some extra tickets, get eliminated in the first or second round and then work a recovering Derrick Rose back into the system not knowing what kind of player he will even be when he returns. When Derrick Rose does return it looks like this Bulls team will be weaker than ever, with a healthy Rose at best this team could have challenged the Miami Heat, they were still a piece or two away from being legitimate contenders. The way the league is looking now, even when Derrick Rose does make his return the future of the Bulls seems pretty empty.

If the Chicago Bulls tank this season it could be one of the smartest moves they’ve made in franchise history. The upcoming draft class is the most anticipated draft class since 2003 which featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. There is a group of college freshmen coming in that are very hyped up and are supposed to be true franchise changers.

The prospects that I am talking about have the basketball world buzzing; everyone is anticipating who the top dog is. Let’s take a look at the projected top three picks: You have 6’8, 197 lb. 18 year old athletic freak Andrew Wiggins of Kansas University, the 6’9, 250 lb. beast from Kentucky whose game is NBA ready, Julius Randle. And of course, the 6’8, 241 lb. Jabari Parker of Duke who is probably the most complete player in the draft and could make an impact immediately. Jabari’s hometown also just happens to be Chicago, IL, and he just happens to have graduated from the same high school as Derrick Rose.

If there were ever a season to tank, this is the one. If the Bulls start sitting starters out and just lay back they could end up with the most ping pong balls in the Draft lottery which would increase their chances of landing the first pick, they would then have the option of drafting Wiggins, Randle or the hometown kid Jabari Parker. This type of talent just doesn’t come every year.

Yes, it would be tough for this Bulls organization to actually throw games away, it is not what they are about. It is very easy for fans of the game or “experts” to chant tank, it’s tough for the organizations because they do have to make some sacrifices and this is after all a big risk. These sacrifices include t.v ratings, sponsors, a major decline in ticket/merchandise sales and a disgruntled fan base. However, in the Bulls situation it is all worth it. They have already lost. This Bulls team has championship expectations, winning is and always has been their number one priority, when you eliminate the chance of that happening every thing else is secondary.

Another factor is the players and coaches, egos do come into play. Tom Thibodeau is a winner who is certainly not okay with losing games,  he is one of the most competitive coaches in the league and has a ton of pride. Thibs teams have always overachieved and by the looks of it he is ready to overachieve again this season.  This Bulls roster is also full of competitive hardnosed dudes that want to win, they don’t care if there is no Derrick Rose, they still feel like they can beat any team in the league. The Bulls fans wouldn’t want to throw away a season to maybe land a top three pick, it would become a long season for die hard Bulls fans who would have to watch their team win less than 20 games this season.

But, again…the Bulls have already lost. Everyone in the Bulls organization and its loyal fans need to sit down and look at this practically, they really have nothing to lose anymore. Derrick Rose was the Bulls only hope of making some noise in the Eastern Conference this season and now that he is out there is basically no chance of that happening.

As far as tv ratings and ticket/merchandise sales go, they are already on the decline. These fans waited a long year for Rose’s “Return”, they stayed positive and looked forward to it and it ended in 10 games, now they really don’t have the patience to go through it again. The Bulls have already lost as much interest as they possibly could.

If Luol Deng leaves in the off season, than there is a chance this team could be even worse next year. Even if Derrick Rose comes back as good as he was in 2011, this team is looking at a top four seed in the East at best. The Bulls organization is all about championships and even with an MVP season from Derrick Rose in 2014-15, this team won’t be able to win one.

Thibs, Bulls fans and management need to realize that by tanking just one meaningless season that has already been lost, the Bulls could comeback as a bigger monster than ever. When I mean monster, I mean legitimate championship contenders, not only a threat to beat the Heat but a team that will beat the Heat. Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker have all the tools to be superstars in the NBA, these three guys could change a franchise forever. The Bulls need to go on stone cold tank mode, and draft one of these kids.

The 2014 NBA Mock Draft has Andrew Wiggins going first, Julius Randle going second and Jabari Parker at third. The Bulls don’t even have to end up with the worst record in the East, although it would increase their chances of landing the first overall pick tremendously, they still wouldn’t have to panic. All the Bulls have to do is land a top three pick.

To win championships in the NBA you need superstars. The new recipe for championship isn’t just one superstar, the Heat proved that you need at least two. The top contenders to win a championship this season all have two stars: The Heat, Clippers, Rockets, Pacers, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Thunder all have two stars that can take games over and that is what makes them legitimate threats to win it all. These teams also have a solid supporting cast, something the Chicago Bulls already have. The only thing the Bulls are missing are another star alongside Derrick Rose that can not only take the pressure off of him and his bad knees but put a team on his back and win games.

Earlier this season an anonymous GM admitted that they were already tanking. Teams around the NBA know what is coming in 2014 and there are definitely teams that are preparing to sneakily tank. The Chicago Bulls are five games ahead of the last place Milwaukee Bucks in the East, as funny as this sounds the last place spot is still very much in the Bulls reach.

If the Bulls were to tank they would be the most appealing team for any draft prospect. All the other teams that are tanking would still have to go through the traditional rebuilding phase and lose for another two-three years with their lottery player, the Bulls would have instant success and by instant success I mean Playoff success. The Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz would all have to go through at least a year of losing again before they could make noise in the playoffs with Wiggins, Parker or Randle as the franchise players whereas the Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and one of the three prospects would have a legitimate shot at winning an NBA championship.

Another thing Bulls management should consider is that they have the ability to keep these kids happy and keep them there forever. Chicago is a top five market in the NBA, the cities of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Orlando and Utah are just not Chicago. When superstars like LeBron, Dwight and Carmelo made decisions to leave to bigger markets Chicago was always one of the first names that came up, it is very appealing. If Randle, Wiggins or Parker were to end up in Milwaukee, Philly or Utah in today’s day and age they just wouldn’t get the exposure and be able to build their brands like they would if they were in Chicago, we would be counting down the days to when one of these guys leaves their team for a bigger market from the moment they entered the league.  Chicago is one of the most intriguing markets in the league, if the Bulls can land any of these three players in the draft they could lock them up not only for the first three years of their contract but for a very long time. The market would not be an issue it would be an advantage for any of these three guys if they were to be playing in Chicago.

Which bring us to the best possible situation: Jabari Parker. If the Bulls were to land Jabari Parker it would be the best situation for both parties, it would create one of the nicest stories in the NBA. Parker would be following in Derrick Rose’s footsteps, Rose was born and raised in Chicago and attended Simeon Academy, he then attended one year of college and was drafted first overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA Draft. The rest was history.

Yes the story is great, the hometown kid Parker gets drafted and joins Derrick Rose to take the Bulls to the promise land, but basketball wise Parker to Chicago is just a match made in basketball heaven. Andrew Wiggins has the most potential of anyone from this draft class, the 18 year old is long and freakishly athletic but he definitely has some work to do and playing alongside the ball dominating Derrick Rose in his first season could stunt his growth. Julius Randle is a walking double-double who has an NBA body but the Bulls already have one of the best defensive front courts in the NBA. Jabari Parker is by far the best fit for the Bulls.

Parker who has drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony can play both small forward and power forward, he is the most skilled of the three and has an NBA game. He has a very high basketball iq, he can shoot and score the ball, he has a post game and he also has the NBA body. Parker can make an impact right away. This is what the Bulls would need. They aren’t about to rebuild, as soon as Derrick Rose comes back they are gunning for the number one spot. The Bulls would be able to plug Parker in and reach for the stars, he would develop and would be making an impact in big games.

Parker is a good kid, he shows up and works his ass off every day and respects the game, he is a true pro already. Parker would sell shoes, jerseys and by pairing him with Derrick Rose you would have two Chicago kids putting their city on their backs, the Bulls would be one of the most intriguing teams in the league and one of the most exciting.

This situation with the Bulls can be very similar to the 1996-97 Spurs. After losing David Robinson for the season the Spurs finished with the third worst record in the NBA, they landed the first pick in the draft and took Tim Duncan. Gregg Poppovich was still the coach, the team remained the same and Duncan came in and lead the Spurs to a championship just two season after. The Spurs went onto win four NBA championships. Ask them if they wished they had won more games in 1996-97.

The Chicago Bulls have absolutely nothing to lose this season. They have already lost it all, and if they swallow their pride and accept this, they can change their franchise forever. This could turn out to be one of the greatest moves in NBA history, all the Bulls have to do is “take the year off”, rest their stars, play the youngsters, hell; trading Luol Deng would probably even be a smart move.

The Chicago Bulls are truly at a crossroads. This short term loss could create long term success, it will all be worth it. The Bulls may lose a lot this year, but they sure as hell won’t lose in this year’s draft. There is a ton of talent even past Wiggins, Parker and Randle. But if they were to tank hard and land Wiggins, Parker or Randle they would be big time winners, it would give them the star they desperately need to put alongside Derrick Rose if they want to win long term. What if Rose is never the same again? What if Rose is a shell of his former self? As scary as that sounds at least the Bulls will have the ultimate back up in place, they will have another franchise player.

The writing is on the wall, it really is now or never for the Chicago Bulls. If they ever want to be a serious contender again, they need to completely tank the 2013-14 NBA season and they will come back stronger than ever.

 By: Ekam Nagra

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