Over the next month, CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball will take a team-by-team look at the 2013 NBA offseason. We continue with the Chicago Bulls.
How they finished 2013
The lost year. That's probably the best way to describe it. The team was supposed to try and survive until spring, then have Derrick Rose return and lead them to a postseason run, if nothing else building towards next year.
All year long, the Bulls were tough, aggressive, and consistent. They played with defensive energy, and usually had just enough offensive ingenuity to produce the low amount of points necessary for their defense to carry them. But there was one issue.
Derrick Rose never returned.
"The Return" turned into the wait, and after Rose was cleared by the doctors, it was expected he'd come back soon. He didn't play. Then he was practicing five-on-five. He never played. Then the playoffs came, and the idea was that if the Bulls managed to make the second round and face the Heat, surely the MVP would come riding in.
He never played.
In the end, the Bulls had a lot to be proud of, for battling through an absurd amount of injuries including Joakim Noah's plantar fasciitis and complications of a spinal tap that put Luol Deng in the emergency room during the playoffs. They ended the Heat's regular season winning streak and toppled the Nets. But it still felt like a "what if" year, because Rose never came back, prompting questions about his toughness and the future of the team.
Needs entering the offseason
Well, getting Derrick Rose back would be kind of nice.
From there, they needed to try and upgrade the bench. After the bloodletting last season broke apart what looked like a championship-caliber roster, the bench was.... OK last season, but it wasn't the elite level they needed. The Bulls needed a shooter off the bench, not necessarily a gunning ball-dominant gard like Marco Belinelli, but someone who could be used in certain lineups to stretch the floor.
Again, though, really they needed "The Return" to go from a marketing gimmick to an actual thing.
At No. 20 they had options, but the consensus was that they wold target a wing. They wound up with shooter Tony Snell, and it was a smart get. Snell can spread the floor and is athletic enough to do a little bit of damage off the dribble. There were a handful of guys you could see them taking, and Snell was within that group. It was a smart get We'll see if Erik Murphy, drafted in the second round out of Florida, makes the roster and stays with the team, let alone get minutes. Murphy does have a pretty versatile skillset as a big man that shot 45 percent from three last year.
Free Agency and Trades
The Bulls elected to bring back Nazr Mohammed at backup center after a serviceable 2013 campaign. Mohammed isn't going to light the world on fire, but he's decent. The Bulls are essetially waiting for next year, when Nikola Mirotic should come over from Spain.
Their big get of free agency, though, and really their only get was Mike Dunleavy. The veteran shooter signed on for a sweetheart of a deal no one could believe, and immediately fills in for the role that Kyle Korver played two years ago in the Bulls' Eastern Conference Finals run. Dunleavy isn't just a great shooter. He's a veteran player who can make the right pass, work in the offense, and isn't just decent defensively, he's down right good. He doesn't have to be great, not with Jimmy Butler's development and Luol Deng on the wing. But it shores up a position and gives them a consistency upgrade over Belinelli and Nate Robinson who both departed in free agency.
Chicago elected to waive Rip Hamilton after he failed to be the offensive savior they were waiting for.
Overall grade and accomplishments: B
They drafted well but didn't land any player who will immediately start. They trimmed some money but didn't go so cheap as to start blowing things up or moving Luol Deng for pennies just because Butler looks like the more promising long-term option.
They landed a top-notch shooter off the bench, are giving guys like Butler and Marquis Teague chances to grow in the system, and aren't making any drastic changes until they get to give Rose a chance with this roster.
It was a good, not great offseason, but really, the team's been in stasis since April, 2012. Hopefully, with Derrick Rose by all accounts set to return for the season opener in Miami, the Bulls can get back to building an NBA champion around their young star.
They just have to get him back first.