If you’re truly invested in this Bulls season, as focused as you should be on the team’s five-game winning streak heading into Sunday afternoon’s showdown in Miami, you should also keep an eye on Charlotte’s fate.
The Bobcats, winners of three in a row themselves, are now in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, by virtue of Atlanta’s ongoing free fall; the reeling Hawks, one of the feel-good stories of the first half of the season, are now losers of eight consecutive contests and sit in eighth after looking poised to perhaps host a first-round playoff series earlier this season.
Given that the Bulls own a future draft pick from Charlotte — top-10 protected this season, it seems likely that the pick will be conveyed this June — from the 2010 Tyrus Thomas trade, that’s rather significant. Additionally, while the Bulls are in solid playoff position, only a half-game behind third-place Toronto, like last year, when they were able to snag swingman Tony Snell, coming off a career-high scoring outing in Friday night’s home win over Denver, with the 20th pick, they’ll have a somewhat favorable draft pick of their own in what’s expected to be a loaded class of prospects.
So what does that mean for the future of the Bulls? Regardless of the organization’s offseason free-agent strategy, the roster is in the midst of a gradual overhaul and influx of youth.
Combined with the potential addition of 2011 first-round draft pick Nikola Mirotic — the 23-year-old forward is regarded as the consensus top player in Europe and if the Real Madrid star was in this year’s draft, he’d be the equivalent of a top-10 pick, to be conservative — the Bulls could have three rookie rotation players on the roster next season, to go along with a young nucleus of former league MVP Derrick Rose, All-Star center Joakim Noah, current sixth man Taj Gibson, third-year swingman Jimmy Butler and the aforementioned Snell.
Of course, who knows what the future holds and whether the front office sees fit to attempt to package some of those players for a big fish, but in the NBA’s current landscape, with productive players still on their rookie contracts so valuable because of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and the Bulls being a financially-conscious organization, it’s quite possible that in lieu of acquiring an established superstar, a minor youth movement takes hold.
This could all be rendered somewhat moot if the Bulls are unable to bring over Mirotic in the offseason (though an increasing number of reports out of Spain indicate that he’s eager to play in the NBA next season, having pretty much accomplished everything he can at the highest professional level in Europe) or Charlotte has some type of second-half swoon (pray for Al Jefferson’s continued health), but if the Bulls’ future is something that crosses your mind frequently, then the occasional check-in on the Bobcats’ present wouldn’t hurt.