- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the past few weeks, we've taken a closer look at each player on the Bulls roster and have seen where they fit in for the future. Now, let's take a look at the two men who put that roster together and hired the NBA coach of the year, Tom Thibodeau, last summer.
Gar Forman and John Paxson
Season recap: Forman and Paxson repeatedly said last summer that they formulated multiple plans for the organization while waiting to see where free agents landed. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to sign (or in Wade's case, re-sign) with the Miami Heat, the duo put a contingency plan into action. They signed Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson to play alongside Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, forming one of the deepest teams in the league. Forman and Paxson also hired Thibodeau -- the man who would end up maximizing the talent on the roster.
Season highlight: The regular season. The Bulls won a league-high 62 games and played hard almost every night. Rose took his game to a new level and led the team through injury-plagued stretches which saw Boozer and Noah go down for weeks at a time. The bench that Forman and Paxson put together turned into one of the most dependable units in the game. The entertaining Bulls created a level of excitement the team hasn't seen since the Jordan years. It's the main reason why Forman was named co-executive of the year with Pat Riley. Paxson finished in third place.
Season lowlight: The Eastern Conference finals. The Bulls played one of their best games of the year in Game 1, but after that it all went downhill. Boozer, who hadn't played very well in the postseason, had two solid games against the Heat but struggled in the others. Noah did not play like himself and was not much of a factor. And Rose, who had played so well throughout the season, looked worn out and didn't get much help on the perimeter, aside from Deng’s consistent play.
Final grades: Regular Season: A. Postseason: C.
Notes: Plenty of fans clamored the Bulls to trade for a two-guard at the deadline, but Forman and Paxson didn't want to give up some of their young bench pieces, namely Gibson and Omer Asik. While most people agreed with that decision, and there's no telling if a deal would have helped them beat Miami or not, there's no question that the lack of another perimeter scoring option doomed the Bulls in the East finals. After Game 1, the Bulls simply couldn't make enough end-of-game plays to win. Now, the question becomes: What can Forman and Paxson do to get another game-changer on the roster, especially given that Noah's new deal kicks in next year and Boozer's deal is also going to become more bloated over the next few years.
What's next?: After the Bulls make their selections in the draft on Thursday, there won't be much left for Forman and Paxson to do until the lockout ends. Sure, they can discuss who they might go after in free agency, but until the collective bargaining agreement is hammered out, they won't know exactly what the numbers are and what they have to work with. For the time being, they should rest assured that the organization is in good shape with Thibodeau at the helm, an MVP in Rose and a lot of young pieces behind him.
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info