That's what made the Bull's so tough last year and helped them to grab the #1 seed in the east, their depth (until the unfortunate injury to Derrick Rose in the playoffs, which almost no team, no matter how deep, would've been able to overcome). But to be honest, the Bulls last season had a team that really wasn't that much more youthful or more energetic than we were with Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver all playing large roles, or it wasn't like they didn't have any nagging or devastating injuries to key guys like us either, with Derrick Rose, Joahkim Noah and Loul Deng all missing games or playing hurt. But they still had an amazing regular season, and were favorite's to win it all, while everyone said we "were too old!", and "it's time to blow it up!", until the playoffs.
The difference between our teams was when D. Rose missed a game, C.J. Watson stepped right in, or if Rip or Deng missed some games, Ronnie Brewer was more than an adequate replacement, and obviously Houston thought enough of what Omar Asik did when Noah was unavailable to ask him to do it full time for them. While in the mean time, we were starting Sasha Pavlovic in place of Paul Pierce on opening night and using what used to be Marquis Daniels to back him up at times during the season, or relying on a one legged fresh off a concussion Mickael Pietrus to take and miss crucial 3 pointers that could have sent us to another finals.
I think it was probably right about that time, that MP missed those three's in game 7, that Danny Ainge came up with the plan for this season, or at least came to the realization we were going to come up just short again this year, but coming back re-loaded next year was our best option. Not "blowing it up" like everyone was saying. He probably realized if it was Jason Terry or Courtney Lee (or players of their calibur) taking those 3's in a game 7 in Boston, not Miami, we go back to the finals, and, well, you know... 18!
That's why I am so excited for next season and think Danny has done an amazing job so far, while still leaving us some flexibility and ability to improve even more. We actually lost Ray Allen, and I think got BETTER, by replacing him with C. Lee. We are on the verge of not only topping the depth the Bulls, not to mention Miami, had last year, but if we fill out the last 1 or 2 open roster spots we have just right, I think we could have a team that would still do damage if ALL of our starter's missed THE ENTIRE YEAR & PLAYOFFS!!
So far we have all our starters back (as soon as AB is healthy) which was a very effective unit last year, despite the fact it wasnt a great rebounding group. Keyon Dooling is great to have back in the locker room, but I expect him to be a emergency player/coach because Jet Terry is going to give us more offense off of the bench at PG/SG than Dooling ever could, maybe still be a 6th man candidate. Like I said I like Lee alot more than Ray Allen off the bench for us too, he's a better defender and little better rebounder, plus he'll be playing with Rondo for the first time. So he shot 40% from 3pt for Houston last year, maybe he shoots 45% from three catching passes from Rajon this year, and we dont lose anything offensively? Jeff Green, I really hope he's healthy and think he can help us alot, maybe/hopefully that passiveness he displayed at times will be gone too, because he can really be an elite and versatile player on both ends of the court (and at $9 million a year for 4 years he'd better be, because up until now his career number's mirror Marvin Williams, and everyone said his contract for $3 million less was too much!). Now we get to the Center position, I like having Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins together. Wilcox was really starting to play well last year and Collins isn't much, but is a great post defender who can set screens. I think the 2 of them will make a great backup center by committee pair with Wilcox backing up Garnett against teams that have agile, athletic centers and Collins playing back up against the larger, bulkier big guys, and especially getting the nod when we play Howard/Bynum/Big Al etc., because he his an elite low post defender. Also, Fab Melo is going to have a dominant season defensively, for the Main Red Claws(I suspect his college buddy Kris Joseph will be keeping him company there, along with the recently signed Jamar Smith). I think Dionte Christmas is a total wildcard and loved what I saw out of him in the summer leagues! He could end up anywhere from being a training camp cut to D-league assignee/star, or could even become our 10th rotation player or even Avery Bradley's temporary starter replacement.
So that gives us our 9 established rotation players(in no particular order): 1) Paul Pierce, 2) Kevin Garnett, 3) Rajon Rondo, 4) Brandon Bass, 5) Avery Bradley, 6) Jason Terry, 7) Courtney Lee, 8) Jeff Green and 9) Chris Wilcox/Jason Collins. I honestly cannot think of any other team that has that much talent among it's top 9 players, and the versatility of them all will make finding that one missing piece that much easier, because they can almost all play multiple positions.
In fact, Danny has done such a good job so far that I'm hoping the 10th player we are searching for is already on the roster in the form of Jared Sullinger. I have no doubt he will be one day, but Doc's insistence on defensive execution and reluctance to let rookies learn on the fly stand in his way. I think he would be great to start alongside KG because Garnett would mask his mistakes, and even though Jared's still a rookie, I'm willing to bet he's the BEST rebounder and low-post scorer on this team already, two things we desperately need more of! Also a starting lineup of Rondo/Bradley/Pierce/Garnett/Sullinger would allow KG to "not play center" lol, protect Sully a bit by playing with our two best perimiter defenders and interior defender and also improve our bench even more by moving Brandon Bass back to a reserve role that he also thrived in.
I do have my finger's crossed Sully's impressed Doc enough because I'd really like to se him succeed early on, and definitely think he fills alot of needs for us too! However, if not we do have a couple other options available, with either the bi-annual exception ($1.95 million) or minimum contracts. And with Danny, Doc, KG and others firmly pushin this championship window open a few more years, our position to attract free agents now is much better than it was at the start of July.
One option I hope we are or have looked at is Carl Landry, if we could add him via free agency or sign-and-trade without giving up much you'd have to think we'd be a lock to go all the way! He's a legit 6'9" 250lbs and could easily start at center, moving KG back to PF(even if its just technicality anyway) and also allowing Brandon Bass to move back to being part of an elite bench unit and giving the starting 5 more rebounding and a post presence. I know the chances of getting a young player of that calibur for the bi-annual exception is slim, look at the numbers he's put up(12 pts, 5 brds, 24 mins), but look at the teams he's put them up on, and he's having trouble getting a deal for the mid-level. Look at the contracts Brandon Bass, Glen Davis and even James Posey got after averaging similiar numbers for us, and then performing during extended playoff runs for us as well. So a one year pay-cut to play a significant role with a contender could be a good career move. And if he plays just one season with us, then bolts for bigger money (cough, posey, cough) so what Jared Sullinger will be battling him for minutes all season and ready to take over by then.
Or perhaps Danny could work some more salary cap magic like he did with C.Lee to get Landry a decent pay-day to come here too? I think we still have limited rights to Mikael Pietrus and Marquise Daniels to package in a sign and trade which with the salary cap rules should allow us to offer more than the $3.09 million mini mid-level exception any other contender whos over the tax can offer, like the lakers (so we should be able to offer a starting salary higher than what Ray Allen took to go to south beach, basically, by my understanding). And New Orleans doesn't seem interested in keeping him either so I'm sure toss a draft pick or two their way, and they'd be glad to help us out!
Now like I mentioned, that would be the ideal scenario! I only proposed it because everything else has gone right for the Green so far this offseason, so why not? But if that doesn't work out, there are plenty of other viable candidates to come in and be the missing piece in this championship puzzle that is quickly being reassembled in a form Red Auerbach would be proud of! A couple of these Bi-Annual/Minimum Free Agents could easily be the 10th guy we need, the guy that just gets us over the top(I'd prefer a big, but since there aren't a ton left and this team is versatile enough, I included wing players too because I believe Jeff Green could play BACK-UP power forward).
Tracy McGrady-Probably still wants to be 3rd or 4th man, too bad, might be good fit
Mikeal Pietrus- We know what to expect, kinda
Alonzo Gee- Averaged almost 10pts and 5 brds, athletic wing who can shoot 3's too
Damien Wilkins- not there yet
Brandon Rush- My favorite after Carl landry, shot 50%fg, 45%3pt, can rebound and defend and block shots too, from the sg/sf spot!
Lou Amundson- Hustle garbage type of guy
Kyrylo Fesenko-We have Jason Collins
Kenyon Martin- Maybe worth a shot, I know you put him next to KG and they'll win you a couple games just by yelling after dunks and blocks alone
Matt Barnes- A sleeper averaged 5.5 rebounds in about 20 minutes, or about the same number Jeff Green did in almost twice as many minutes in OKC, very intriguing fit with this team, tho he is a former laker
Carlos Delfino- quality muti-dimensional player, perfect 10th man
Anthony Tolliver- can play both forward positions very well, shoot 3's and rebound, smart player
Terrence Wiliams- Ton of potential here!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if you can just get him to accc rite!!!!!
Donte Greene- ehhhhh big guy who shoots 3's, but not well
Josh howard- if hes healthy, might be worth a look
c.j. miles- scoring small forward who dislikes rebounding
Andray Blatche- Ton of potential too!!!!!! has drawn comparisons to one Kevin Garnett but never lived up to them, instead lived up to knuckle head expectations very well!! Could still be a ton of talent there and a diamond in the rough, maybe even playing with the real Kevin Garnett could make Andray act just a little bit more like him and salvage some basketball potential out of this guy before its gone!
Any other suggestions/comments?