Trading a player with the stature and allure of Derrick Rose requires more than just a cursory explanation, something Bulls GM Gar Forman was well-aware of when he met with media two hours after the trade was consummated.
Forman said moving on from the 2011 MVP was a step in reshaping this roster, and moving it away from the way things used to be—although now, one doesn’t know what to make of the current state of affairs.
“Derrick has meant a lot to this organization and to this city and to this team and has had to overcome a lot over the years with all the injuries to get back to the point he was,” Forman said. “But in putting our plan together, we felt as a first step this really made sense for us.”
The Bulls acquired Robin Lopez, veteran guard Jose Calderon and 2015 first-round draft pick Jerian Grant for Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick. With the NBA draft on Thursday, it’s another opportunity for the Bulls to move forward, although who they’ll select has become just as murky—considering they’re high on Grant and Calderon started for the Knicks last season.
Forman wouldn’t say if Lopez, a serviceable if not outright revelation for the Knicks last season after signing a free agent deal, would be a starter this coming season as Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are free agents.
Lopez averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Knicks, and league executives say he could be a source of stability on the interior, especially considering he’s played 82 games in three of the last four seasons.
Forman wouldn’t say if this is now officially Jimmy Butler’s team—or if the Bulls would entertain offers for Butler leading into the draft, as he’s been highly coveted by teams looking to make the leap into the land of the elite.
“Basketball is a team game, a five-man game,” Forman said. “Obviously, Jimmy being an All-Star is our best player. But I don’t think you go as far as saying it’s this guy’s team. It’s everybody’s team.”
Either way, the reshaping or in Forman’s words, “retooling” of the Bulls will begin in earnest and take another step forward as free agency begins on July 1.
“We like a lot of the young players we have on this roster, starting with Jimmy, who’s 26,” Forman said. “ (Rookies) Bobby Portis and Felicio, who showed towards the end of the year that (Felicio) has got a lot of upside. Doug McDermott, Niko, we’ve got the first round pick coming up tomorrow night with the possibility of two first round picks next year, so you can see kind of where were kind of trying to go. Obviously at the same time we’re trying to put the best team together that we can. I wouldn’t call it a rebuild; more of a retool.”
Whether it’s a youth movement, athletic movement or whatever you want to call it, it’s a movement and where it’s moving, only Bulls management can chart.
“We felt we need to start changing the roster,” Forman said. “We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic. And I think we’ve done that in Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant. And along with that, get a veteran who we really like in Calderon. That was important to us. It was more from a team-building standpoint trying to get this process started and try to put us in a different direction where we think we can have success down the road.”
Taking a step back for the sake of taking multiple steps forward later seems to be the goal, an aspect that isn’t always easy in today’s superstar-laden NBA. Calderon is an expiring contract at $7.7 million, and the Bulls would also like to retain guard E’Twaun Moore, but he’ll have plenty of suitors around the league as a solid reserve.
Taj Gibson is also entering the final year of his contract, and the Bulls resisted offers from suitors at the deadline last season, namely the Toronto Raptors.
Mirotic will also be a free agent after next season, his third in the NBA.
“Like we should be this time of year, we’re talking to all 29 teams and a lot of different scenarios,” Forman said. “That’s our job, to listen, to know what the market is, to evaluate what’s out there and opportunities to get better and then ultimately make a decision.”
And it looks like the moves are just beginning.