The Chicago Bulls are moving in a new direction after missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade, and that process began in earnest on Wednesday afternoon as the team sent Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster trade.
Rose, who was set to become a free agent after the 2016-17 season, netted the Bulls several pieces, including veteran guard Jose Calderon, second-year player Jerian Grant, and center Robin Lopez, but the impact of the trade goes far beyond what the Bulls gave up or lost.
For starters, the move is undoubtedly the first of many that the team will make as they try to reshape their roster. Fred Hoiberg is an offensive-minded coach that struggled in his first year in the league, and Bulls G.M. Gar Forman said in no uncertain terms that the squad will be looking to better tailor their lineup to what Hoiberg wants to do.
“In simple terms, our plan moving forward is that we need to get younger and more athletic,” he said Wednesday. “We need to find players that fit the style of play that Fred wants to play. In making this trade, we feel it’s the first step in that direction.”
The move also gives the Bulls some insurance at the center position, with Joakim Noah likely set to leave in free agency. A move to bring in a veteran big man like Dwight Howard or Bismack Biyombo could happen, but if it doesn’t come to fruition, then Hoiberg has acquired a center that will likely have a contract below market value in a league with a rapidly-increasing salary cap.
That cap is something that the Bulls will have to deal with, and the trade has interesting implications for them. Rose is set to make over $21 million in the final year of his deal, and although Calderon’s $7.7 million hit will only be on the books for the 2016-17 season, Lopez remains under contract for three more years, with a total outlay of $41 million due to him over that time.
The rising salary cap, as well as the team-friendly nature of Butler’s deal, will help to offset that cost, but it’s still an interesting decision to make for a team that has had some trouble in attracting free agent talent to the Windy City.
In addition to the impact on the roster, there is also the question about what the move means in terms of who the leader of the team will be. A power struggle between Rose and Jimmy Butler was often hinted at over the past few seasons, but even though this move would make it appear that Butler one, Forman insisted that this move isn’t just based on placating his All-Star forward.
“Obviously as an All-Star Jimmy is our best player, but I don’t know if you go as far as saying ‘it’s this guy’s team,’” he said. “I think we have a core group of players here, (but) basketball is a team game. It’s a five-man game.”
Forman also seemed to rule out the idea of still trading Butler even though they’ve sent Rose out of town, insisting that the team isn’t looking to try to blow up the entire roster and start from scratch.
“I wouldn’t call it a rebuild. I guess I would call it a retool,” he said. “We still like a lot of the players we have on this roster.”
That roster is undoubtedly going to change over the next several weeks, with the NBA Draft taking place on Thursday night and the start of free agency looming in a little over a week. The Bulls have some serious needs, including at both backcourt positions, and dealing Rose is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes the team needs to make to remain competitive in an ever-evolving Eastern Conference.