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The Pitch – Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO — Joakim Noah had better get used to seeing Cleveland a lot more in the spring again.

The Bulls always knew they were going to have to get past LeBron James in order to win a championship. Now they’ll just have to do it by going through Cleveland the next few years.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James and Joakim Noah

Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsJoakim Noah will have to deal with LeBron James a lot more now that he is returning to the Cavaliers.

With James’ decision to return to the Cavaliers, the Bulls must hope against hope that Carmelo Anthony will turn down almost $60 million in guaranteed money from the New York Knicks, or find some way to work out a sign-and-trade. The Bulls got encouraging news in the aftermath of James’ announcement, when sources toldESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that Anthony had eliminated the Lakers and is deciding between the Bulls and Knicks.

If the Bulls don’t land Anthony, they are looking at the very real possibility of heading into next season as the third-best team in their own division. James’ choice makes the Cavaliers the new favorite in the Central. TheIndiana Pacers, despite all their dysfunction at the end of the season, still have Paul George and a core that has been to the Eastern Conference finals the past couple of seasons.

If Lance Stephenson decides to sign elsewhere, that will change the dynamic within the division, but it won’t change the fact that James’ presence in Cleveland remains the biggest roadblock facing the Bulls.

James’ decision has other ramifications on the Bulls — namely, the backup plan of trying to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Steinthat Love is “intrigued” by the possibility of playing with James, and would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Cavs.

If the Bulls don’t land Anthony, the next best option is to continue calling Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders to see if they could work a deal to bring Love to Chicago.

The Bulls’ offer figured to include Jimmy ButlerTaj Gibson and/or Nikola Mirotic along with a future draft pick or two. If the Cavaliers offer Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in last month’s draft, along with a few other assets, will that be too good of a deal for the Timberwolves to pass up? Gibson and Butler are great defenders and solid players, but they don’t have the potential star power of Wiggins.

No matter what happens in the coming days in free agency, the Bulls know that James remains in their path more than ever. Like it did in Miami during his first season there, it’s going to take him some time to learn the intricacies of playing with new teammates likeKyrie Irving and company, but James is the type of player who makes everyone around him better.

The Bulls have the same kind of talent in Derrick Rose — a player who opens up space for everyone else on the floor — but Rose has played in only 49 games in the past three seasons because of various injuries. James’ move doesn’t change much in that regard. Rose must continue to work on his game and hope his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season. Until he can prove that he is healthy — and playing at the same level — it’s foolish to believe the Bulls are a serious contender to win a championship. Even if Anthony signs in Chicago, the Bulls still need an elite-level Rose to be a serious title contender.

The key for the Bulls becomes simple now. They must hope that Anthony signs with them, which would give them the superstar scorer they’ve been missing throughout the Tom Thibodeau era.

Anthony’s presence would take a lot of pressure off Rose and the rest of the team, and it would be an antidote for the intense defense James has played against Rose in the past. The Bulls have to hope that Anthony remembers what their pitch was — that Chicago offers him the best chance to win right away.

The Knicks can offer the most money, but they are still selling hope. Anthony must buy into the notion that the Knicks’ new kingpin, Phil Jackson, can turn around the roster in summer 2015, when he’ll be working with a lot more cap space.

The Bulls have to hold onto the belief that Anthony knows that the best way to get through Cleveland and to a championship is to join forces with Rose and Noah. The reality for all parties is that they are much better equipped to do that together, not apart.

Report: Bulls’ Derrick Rose prefers Kevin Love to Carmelo Anthony

It seems more and more likely that the Bulls will be heavily in the mix to add a superstar talent via trade or free agency this summer.

Carmelo Anthony may be highest on their list, given that Chicago can sign him outright once he opts out of the final year of his Knicks contract to become an unrestricted free agent. But Kevin Love is probably not too far behind, even though the Bulls would need to acquire him via trade, which could prove tricky if they want to keep the key pieces already in place.

Derrick Rose is expected to be 100 percent to start next season, and his presence is one of many factors which make the Bulls such a desirable destination. And he reportedly has a preference in which superstar he’d like to see added to his team’s roster.

From Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

According to sources close to Kevin Love, Rose’s preference is for the Bulls to work out a deal as soon as possible for Minnesota’s All-Star forward because he sees Love as more of a team player than Anthony. Chicago is in the mix with Golden State for Love, with Boston and Denver considered long shots. If it makes any difference to Melo, Rose has no plans to recruit Love, who is free next summer, either. But the Bulls already know whom he’d really prefer to play with in the future.

Every player in the league would have a preference if asked who they’d like to play alongside with. It doesn’t mean, however, that they wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to play with a whole host of talented, proven stars.

The Bulls won’t be consulting Rose on any of their roster moves this summer, and will do what makes the most sense to set the team up for long-term success. If that means clearing the cap space necessary to sign Anthony outright — leaving the team’s core intact so it could immediately contend for a title — something tells me that Rose wouldn’t have an issue with that decision.

Chicago Bulls Willing to Trade Any Player Except Derrick Rose To Land Carmelo, LeBron or Love

Anthony x Rose

 

The Chicago Bulls always seem to be one additional scorer away from being a championship contender and now they’re willing to move whatever pieces they have to, to get it, excluding Derrick Rose of course.

Ideally the Bulls would need to build around former MVP Derrick Rose (hoping he can stay healthy) and Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah.  They’re hoping to add Carmelo Anthony as that last vital piece and there’s several ways they can do it.

via Chicago Sun Times.

According to several NBA sources Sunday, the Bulls have been actively looking to improve the starting lineup at almost any cost, with Derrick Rose the only untouchable player — and not by choice.

“They are looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take,’’ one source said of general manager Gar Forman and head of basketball operations John Paxson….

Carmelo Anthony is still Plan A as the Bulls and the rest of the NBA await to see if the Knicks forward will opt out of his contract. But the Bulls are more active in their pursuit of Kevin Love than initially rumored. Also, don’t rule out LeBron James coming into play again if the four-time MVP opts out of his deal.

 

It’s long been assumed that they would amnesty Carlos Boozer but trading away Taj Gibson would be a big loss.  It’s a loss that many consider worth it.  Of course it would help the Bulls tremendously if they land one of the big aforementioned stars but you don’t want to lose depth.  A good bench is also important *cough* Heat v. Spurs *cough*.

– Shaina Auxilly (@Shay_Marie)

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