CHICAGO -- Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau were inside the gymnasium at Moody Bible Institute Tuesday afternoon evaluating prospects for the D-League's Elite Camp. Over the next few days they will watch rookies compete at the Pre-Draft Camp at UIC and that comes just days after they worked out multiple rookies at the Berto Center. Given the decisions that face them in the near future, scouting upcoming talent must feel like the easiest part of each day. The Bulls have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks and both Forman and Thibodeau know it.
Aside from deciding who they select at the end of the first round of the NBA Draft on June 28, which is a major decision on its own, let's take a look at some of the other decisions the Bulls' front office must make:
Bring back C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer?: Forman has already been on record as saying that he knows the Bulls are going to take a hit in the short term with Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and possibly Luol Deng (wrist) missing big chunks of next season. The reality for the Bulls is that the injury also uncovers a hard truth. The Bulls' roster, which was built to win this season, may look a lot different before the beginning of next year mainly due to salary cap restrictions.
Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has stated publicly several times over the past few years that he would be willing to go into the luxury tax if it made sense, but that doesn't mean the organization wants to do it. When speaking to people within the organization, you get the sense that they are going to do everything they can to make sure they go as little into the tax as they have to. That means that if the Bulls decide to match any offer for restricted free agent center Omer Asik, which figures to come in around $5 million or so, the Bulls would have to pay even more to keep Watson, Korver and/or Brewer, all of whom don't have fully guaranteed deals next year, or in Watson's case a team option.
While Brewer has always figured to be the odd man out of that group because second-year swingman Jimmy Butler could step into that role, the reality is the Bulls may also decide not to bring back Korver or Watson because of financial concerns. Watson (and his $3.7 million option) figured to be a relative slam dunk because of his familiarity with the offense and the fact that Rose will likely be out several months next season, but the Bulls have not yet made a final decision on Watson and are definitely keeping their options open both in the draft and in free agency, hoping they can somehow find a cheaper option.
Plenty of fans and media have speculated that the Bulls would go after veteran point guards like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but that seems highly unlikely given the Bulls' relative lack of cap space and desire to stay close to the tax threshold. The only way Nash or Kidd could play in Chicago is if they would be willing to take a massive pay cut and at this point that also appears extremely unlikely.
With Rose's max deal starting next season, Noah, Deng and Boozer's big deals on the books and Richard Hamilton's guaranteed $5 million for next year, along with Asik's expected pay raise and Taj Gibson's likely big payday in the offing next summer, the harsh truth for the Bulls is that this is the team they have moving forward and there aren't a lot of big moves they can make to improve the roster at this point.
Deng's status still unclear: While Forman and Co. have already had several discussions with Deng regarding his status in the Olympics, people within the organization seem almost resigned to the fact that Deng will play in the Olympics and then have surgery after the Games are over. Having surgery would put Deng out of commission for 3-4 months and the time frame may become even more scrambled given that Deng is now scheduled to participate with Watson in an NBA sponsored "Basketball Without Borders" trip to South Africa at the end of August.
Rose continues rehab: Bulls' personnel continues to be impressed by the way Rose is performing in rehab, but no one knows for sure when Rose will be participating in a game again. ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers spoke to Rose’s brother on Tuesday and Reggie Rose reiterated that Derrick would be out in California training at some point this summer, but nobody knows when that will be. The fear for the Bulls, and for that matter the NBA, is that even when Rose returns they don't know how long it will take him to regain his MVP form. The prevailing thought from most is that while Derrick may play at a high level if/when he returns next season, he won't be at his best again until the 2013-14 season.
The last word: As a public service reminder, Carlos Boozer will not be amnestied this summer. The Bulls know they will need his scoring next season, especially with Rose, and possibly Deng out. It's a good bet that Boozer, and his bloated contract, may be amnestied in the next year or two, but not this summer.