Monday, May 19, 2014
Bulls must be bold (and lucky) to get Love
By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- Imagine this: Kevin Love ripping down a rebound. Derrick Rose racing down the court. Tom Thibodeau screaming like a maniac. Love firing a touchdown pass that makes the hairs on Marc Trestman's head stand up. Rose catching and converting. Joakim Noah clapping. The Bulls winning.
Are you picking up those good vibrations that Love's uncle Mike used to sing about? Those excitations? Do you need a towel?
Kevin Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and a career-best 4.4 assists in 77 games with the Timberwolves this season.
Yes, it's that time again, Bulls fans. Time to dream, time to fantasize. The time for the crushing disappointment that is life will come later.
It was only four years ago that the Chicago Bulls had money in the bank and the world at their fingertips.
In the free-agent bonanza that would come to define the league's hierarchy and perhaps the way championship teams are created, the Bulls ended up with Carlos "Plan D" Boozer and a strong supporting cast.
While it was disappointing not to land LeBron James or the other two Heat All-Stars, the Bulls, thanks to the addition of Thibodeau, quickly matured into the best regular-season team in the NBA before becoming the league's most respected star-crossed team.
No one plays harder without a superstar than the Bulls. They're a nice story with a bad ending.
Going into the summer of 2014, the Bulls find themselves in a familiar place, with big names available and bold moves desired.
The Bulls aren't young anymore. This is a veteran team with a chance to do something special and a finite amount of time to do it in.
While it's been said, often to the point of nausea, that the Bulls need a second superstar, they really need the first one back. Rose, as you might know, has played in only one postseason (aside from a fateful game in 2012) under Thibodeau. All those stories about the Bulls' last three playoff failures are essentially meaningless. Without Rose, what could the Bulls be besides a try-hard team?
The Bulls' situation is not dire, but it's clear this summer will define their near future.
Rose, who will be 26 in October, is again on the mend, a former MVP who has missed all but one game in three straight postseasons. Thibodeau has proved to be even better of a coach than anticipated, Noah is an All-Star and MVP candidate, and Taj Gibson is a borderline All-Star.
Love That Production
Only Kevin Durant and LeBron James had higher Player Efficiency Ratings than Kevin Love's 26.9 this season. PER is a measure of a player's per-minute efficiency standardized such that the league average is 15.
Kevin Durant, OKC
LeBron James, MIA
Kevin Love, MIN
Anthony Davis, NO
DeMarcus Cousins, SAC
--ESPN Stats & Information
It sounds great, provided Rose's injury woes are behind him. The ball is in the Bulls' court, but not really. Because for whatever reason -- the weather, the team's inclusive nature -- the Bulls are not a top free-agent destination.
They're in the conversation, sure. But would Carmelo Anthony leave big money in New York for a chance in Chicago? Would Love trade California dreamin' for Chicago winters? Could the Bulls swing deals to land either of them?
The Carmelo story has been well-covered, but the Love news is fresh. Love, almost five years younger than Anthony, is not a free agent this summer, but with one year left on his deal, he reportedly wants out of Minnesota.
Is he nothing more than the newest All-Star crush that will break Chicago's heart? Close your eyes and you can see him in Lakers gold.
Love has been on many wish lists from the Berto Center to the West Side. He is a multifaceted scoring power forward, the best outlet passer in the game, and get this, he's friends with Rose, who keeps his inner circle tight. They have known each other since they were highly touted teenagers, and they train together in the offseason.
Landing Love would be difficult, and not just because of the salary cap. He will have many suitors, most notably the Lakers. Love played one season at UCLA and has an L.A. presence. He is the type of "Showtime" player the Lakers need to build around during Kobe Bryant's waning days. It's been reported that Golden State is also high on his wish list, and the Knicks would love him too.
The Lakers could control this situation. They await their lottery fortunes Tuesday night. If they get a top-three pick, do they deal it for Love (they're well under the salary cap) or do they build around, say, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins?
The word is that Minnesota won't deal Love before the draft. Even so, the Bulls have assets to interest Minnesota, if not intrigue it. They have the 16th and 19th picks in this draft, a conditional future first-round pick from Cleveland and the rights to talented Real Madrid forward Nikola Mirotic. They have Gibson, who is close to being an untouchable, and shooting guard Jimmy Butler, both of whom could imbue Minnesota with veteran leadership and toughness. Boozer could be a throw-in for salary-cap reasons.
Would Minnesota take a package headed by Mirotic, who is considered the best player in Europe? Would Mirotic even come over to play for the listless Wolves and team with Ricky Rubio?
While Mirotic is intriguing and much more realistic as a future Bull, Love would immediately make the Bulls the favorite in the East. Imagine the frontcourt passing from him and Noah, not to mention the reliable scoring Love would give the team when Rose is off (or injured).
The Bulls have done an excellent job building a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and sometimes that is overlooked because they can't really matter in the postseason without Rose. The front office has provided Thibodeau with the right kind of players but not enough scoring. Boozer's old man moves and rainbow jumper are nice enough, but he has devolved into a first-quarter chucker because he couldn't be trusted (by Thibodeau anyway) in the fourth.
The Bulls need to take chances to realize their championship potential in the next four years.
The front office would love to make the kind of bold moves necessary to land a superstar like Anthony or Love. But they will need some help and maybe some luck.
The Bulls got suspiciously lucky in 2008 when they got the first pick in the draft and nabbed Rose. Six years later, with Rose, humbled by too-human knees, trying to make his comeback, the Bulls need good health and fortune to go from contender to champion.