The Chicago Bulls entered the 2014/2015 season with high hopes. Their chances of winning an NBA title seemed even better when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love got injured and missed the playoffs including the series against the Bulls.
Even without Love, the Bulls still found themselves with an early out as they still fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
The logical ending to yet another disappointing season would be change and the Bulls did just that as they fired head coach Tom Thibodeau and hired former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg.
Usually the hiring of new coach means changing some of the roster around, but the Bulls brought back the 2014-2015 squad with the exception of first-round pick in the NBA Draft Bobby Portis.
Many are speculating, especially Bulls fans, why the Bulls front office would bring back the exact same team that failed to reach the NBA Finals yet again? The Bulls have a few reasons for doing just that:
1) New Coach, New System: Give This Roster One More Chance
The Bulls feel they have a team that can compete for an NBA title in the 2015/2016 season. The front office believes some of the Bulls players will fit better under Hoiberg’s offensive style of play rather than Thibodeau’s defensive run system.
If the Bulls do not improve this year from their previous season, it’s likely we will see some roster changes in 2016. However, giving this team one more year under Hoiberg is a good decision by Jerry Reinsdorf and the rest of the Bulls front office.
Remember, Thib’s hardly used more than eight man rotation, so a lot of guys like Doug McDermott or Tony Snell did not see as much playing time as they should have.
2) Jimmy Butler’s Return Was Priority #1
The Bulls had one job to do this offseason going forward and that was bringing back Butler. They did just that by re-signing Butler to a 5 year deal worth over $90 million.
The Bulls did not have that much money to spend on free agents this off-season and after re-signing Butler, the Bulls felt there were not many free agents on the market within their budget, that could contribute more to their team than their own roster could.
By bringing Butler back, the Bulls were able to keep the core of the team together for the next couple of seasons at least. Butler is coming off of his best season yet, as he averaged a career best 2o.o points per game and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
3) Stay Tuned: The Bulls Could Have Something Big Planned
The NBA salary cap is set to soar in the 2016/2017 season according to Tony Manfred of the Business Insider.
The current cap is $70 million and that will increase to a record high $88.8 million after the NBA’s new TV deal goes into effect next season.
It was also reported by BallnRoll that the salary cap will increase again to $108 million for the 2017/2018 season.
What does this mean for the Bulls? That will have money to spend with a big free agent class in 2016 and one big name out there is Kevin Durant. Is this the Bulls plan? Know one truly knows, but if you are going to have money to spend and you can afford a player of Durant’s caliber, why not go after him?
Next season the Bulls will have a payroll (without re-signing anyone or signing free agents) of around $66 million according to basketball reference. The Bulls have been looking to possibly drop Taj Gibson as early as this season.
If the Bulls tradeaway Gibson before next season, they would free up close to an additional nine million dollars towards the salary cap.
Trading Gibson would put the Bulls 2016 salary around $57 million, leaving them over $30 million to spend on free agents next season, well enough to offer Durant a max deal.
Durant is looking to sign in a big market with a roster built to win an NBA title and Chicago could be that place for him.
The Bulls have gone after top free agents and struck-out in the past. Back in 2010 the Bulls went after Lebron James and he signed with the Miami Heat.
Last year they went after Carmelo Anthony, he re-signed with the New York Knicks. If they do pursue Durant, the saying is “third time is a charm”.
Watch: Chicago Bulls 2014/2015 Top Ten Plays