When the Bulls take the court for the first time in 2016-17, what will the group of players that run out the United Center tunnel look like? A 29-year-old Derrick Rose will be entering the prime of his career and will be playing out the last year of his five-year, $94 million extension. Jimmy Butler will be 28 years old, and though he becomes a restricted free agent after the 2015-16 season, if he continues to progress like he did last season, it's a good bet he'll be Rose's backcourt mate for the future. Joakim Noah becomes an unrestricted free agent the same year, but if the Bulls roll the dice on a 32-year-old center who relies on his energy as much as anything, he'll be there as well.
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The Bulls have four players under contract for the 2016-17 season (Rose, Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, and Marquis Teague) so the roster will look much different than it does now. But if the Top 100 of 2017 rankings rolled out by SB Nation are any indication, the Bulls project to have a solid core to build around and compete for a championship -- at that point, they may be competing for another championship.
SB Nation's process was simple: Six NBA writers and editors "predicted who will be the top 100 players in the league in the year 2017. Then [they] commented on each other's picks." You can find the complete list here.
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Four Bulls made the cut, led by Rose at No. 5. In front of him were, in order, Kevin Durant (will be 29 years old), LeBron James (32), Andre Drummond (24) and Russell Westbrook (28). As is the case with any list projecting players four years down the road, some leaps have to be taken. It's hard to argue against the top 2, while Drummond has shown promise but still has a ways to go before being considered one of the NBA's elite. Rose and Westbrook's similar styles make them a good comparison on any list, though Westbrook is still the second option to Durant, whereas Rose will always be the top option in Chicago.
Butler was the next Bull on the list at No. 58. Though he'll be 28, he proved last year that his ceiling is still high for a player who played all four years in college, usually a kiss of death for players when talking about upside and value.
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Noah and Spaniard Nikola Mirotic rounded out the Bulls appearances at 62 and 63, respectively. Noah showed improvement last season and should only get better with Rose's return, while Mirotic has dominated the competition overseas and should suit up in a Bulls uniform. He'll be 26 years old during the 2016-17 season, but without any true NBA experience this pick, like nearly every player, is an optimistic projection.
Eleven players on the list are still in either high school or college, led by Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins at No. 8. Chicago natives Jabari Parker (No. 26) and Jahlil Okafor (No. 28) were also included. It's worth noting considering the Bulls hold the rights to a Charlotts Bobcats' future first-round pick, which will be unprotected in 2016. There's a chance the Bulls will be in position to draft one of the current amateurs on the list.
Do you agree with the list? Should players like Luol Deng and Taj Gibson have made the cut?