Predicting the future isn’t an exact science, especially in the NBA. Ask the Clippers in 2005. Ask Portland in 2000. Ask Orlando in 1995. Ask Houston in 1985. Free agency, trades, the disease of more, petty jealousies and personal problems…they can all rip a team to shreds. Out of every five 40-win teams with upside, perhaps one will eventually turn into a legit contender. The rest fall by the wayside, victims of their own promise.
This past year, we’ve seen Miami go from afterthoughts to perhaps a future dynasty. We’ve seen Oklahoma City develop into a true contender overnight. And Chicago surprised us all, mixing veteran grit and toughness with young excitement.
If you were choosing who was the brightest future, which team would you pick? Chicago, Miami or Oklahoma City? We argue. You decide.
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Comparing three teams and their future success lies in the gravity of each of their question marks. For the Chicago Bulls, a roster that’s mostly returning and a head coach with a proven ability makes their future more clear and more bright than either the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Miami Heat.
Chicago bought itself the chance at an NBA championship when it brought in Tom Thibodeau as the head coach. This past season, the Bulls weren’t exactly sliced and diced by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals but lost because of crunch-time mistakes that were more symptoms of a young team rather than unfixable flaws.
The Bulls’ 4-1 series loss at the hands of the Heat came despite strong defensive efforts, the exact kind that Thibodeau fostered with the Boston Celtics when he won the 2008 NBA title as an assistant coach. Not far off from competing on the level of the Celtics of the past few years, the Bulls are one tweak or trade (an added scoring punch, possibly) away from a championship-caliber roster.
Derrick Rose is a franchise point guard who learned this past season how to better control a close game down the stretch. In addition, the Bulls have the defensive pieces at multiple positions in starters Keith Bogans, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. They’ve also developed a cohesive bench with guys like Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver filling roles that could put opposing teams on their heels for brief stretches of the game.
If Thibodeau can better integrate Carlos Boozer into the offensive scheme to alleviate the pressure on Rose to score, this team has the role players and the star power to win it all.
Of course, the Bulls have to go through Miami, but the Heat have a bevy of questions. They’ve got little wiggle room as far as money is concerned, maybe even less than we expect if the owners cut payrolls after the lockout. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade figuring out how to play better as a duo will be tough, and even if they play fantastic basketball, the team as a whole likely won’t have enough talent around the Big Three to make a championship a guarantee. Their ceiling is limited, and neither the meshing of their larger two stars nor the fate of coach Erik Spoelstra is certain. It’s a similar situation with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had questionable defensive chops in their Western Conference Semifinals and Finals series.
When it comes down to it, a large percentage of stability comes in the head coaching position and lack of roster turnover. Chicago, more than the other two teams, has the most solidified roster on top of the most identity-driven head coach of the three.