SALT LAKE CITY -- There is no longer an untouchable on the Chicago Bulls roster.
Of all the different ramifications Derrick Rose's knee injury had on the Bulls organization, the biggest one moving forward is that every player on the roster now becomes available. The front office has some very difficult decisions to make over the course of the next few weeks and months.
First and foremost, the Bulls are going to have to decide whether they can build around Rose. He still has three more years remaining on his max contract after this season ends. He has little trade value given that he has had two major knee surgeries in the past two years. The Bulls may decide they can no longer build around him in the future, but he will remain in Chicago for the foreseeable future either way.
The more pressing issues for the Bulls revolve around the rest of their core. In any potential deal, the Bulls must look to get younger and cheaper assets in the form of current players or future draft picks.
Out of all the pieces the Bulls have in place that could return a haul of those assets, Joakim Noah would have the most value in any potential deal. He is an All-Star center in a league that doesn't have many of them. More importantly, he still has two years left on a deal that will pay him a little less than $25 million -- a reasonable sum given some of the outlandish contracts around the league.
Jimmy Butler also has a lot of value around the league given the fact that he is still in a rookie contract, but if the Bulls decide to go young and get cheaper assets in return then Butler would figure to be a piece they would build around in the future.
The Bull most likely to be dealt now that Rose is out is Luol Deng. The two-time All-Star is in the final year of his deal and has shown no willingness to take a "hometown discount" to re-sign with the Bulls. Given what has happened with Rose, there is no reason for the organization to hang on to Deng and allow the possibility for him to walk at the end of the season and get nothing in return. The deal will be tricky to pull off given the amount of money involved, but the Bulls must find a way.
Carlos Boozer's situation with the Bulls changes as well. It's hard to envision a scenario in which Jerry Reinsdorf and company amnesty the final year of his deal given the uncertainty surrounding the rest of their roster. Why would you pay Boozer almost $17 million to go away when you can't make a significant enough move to improve your team? The Bulls will continue to try to make a Boozer deal work but no teams have shown much interest over the last couple years in taking on the end of his huge contract.
Taj Gibson remains a valuable asset and a guy teams will surely call on, but he doesn't have as much value in his current contract (over $8 million a year) than he did during his rookie contract.
Veterans Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy Jr. could to be valuable assets for the Bulls in talks with teams in need of solid veterans during a playoff push. Hinrich is in the final year of his deal while Dunleavy just signed a two-year deal for the mini mid-level exception last summer. The question for the Bulls in these deals, as it will be in any deal moving forward, is what kind of young assets, either players or picks, will teams be offering?
With Rose's injury staring them in the face again, the Bulls are faced with the choice of deciding just how much they want to rebuild and clear out cap space for the future. They can no longer sell themselves as prospective title contenders to free agents. They are stuck once again as they try to figure out which direction they want to go and which players they want to keep for the future.
As for the rest of the roster, there is little trade value at all. Marquis Teague has struggled to thrive in the NBA game. Veterans Nazr Mohammed and Mike James could be in the final year of their respective NBA careers and rookies Tony Snell and Erik Murphy are too raw right now to know which direction their careers are headed. The silver lining in their case is that this injury should give them so more opportunities to show what they can do.
This recent turn of events also makes foreign product Nikola Mirotic an even more intriguing part of the Bulls' future. Will the organization decide to pay enough money to entice him to come over next summer and learn the NBA game? It may be even more worthwhile to bring him over next season given that the organization no longer has championship expectations and didn't have enough room for a max free agent anyway.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman has repeatedly talked about the assets the Bulls have in Mirotic and the future Charlotte Bobcats pick which is protected until 2016. But the Bobcats have improved this season and have a chance to sneak into the playoffs. If they do, the Bulls would have another first-round pick in a loaded draft, thus making the possibility of a rebuild process even more palatable.
No matter which direction the Bulls decide to go, they must decide to take one and stick with it. The window that this current group had to go out and win a title closed on Monday when the Rose news came down. In order to set up another title run, Forman and executive vice president John Paxson must make some tough choices in the days and weeks ahead.