NBA / Jul 11, 2011 / 12:00 pm

Who Has The Brightest Future: Chicago, Miami Or Oklahoma City?

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose (photo. Chad Griffith)

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.

*** *** ***

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.

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  • Promoman

    Love them or hate them, Miami has the most potential & brightest future. Even though the season was a wash, the Heat still made the Finals as most predicted before the season started. If they can get their shit together, the league will be in trouble. The Bulls have the next best future. Derrick Rose can only get better and wants to get better. As soon as he polishes his defense, decision-making, and keeps improving his shooting, the Bulls will be a problem. Boozer mainly needs to stay healthy.

  • First & Foremost

    How are the Thunder going to get better? How many FA’s want to go there and not even get a chance on offense behind Durant-Westbrook-Harden. Where is the money going to come from once Harden and Westbrook re-up?

    The Heat will have 3 players eating $52M next season. Haslem and Miller COULD stay healthy but the cap might only have the heat traveling with 8 players. Ha, and they complained about minutes last year.

    Chicago wins this because the side effect of building a defensive team is that unless those players have won a DPOY, they don’t come with horrible contracts. Also, whenever so & so wants out from his team, everyone says he should go to Chicago. Since they have reached contending status, they can get FAs at a discount and still have space remaining.


    as much as it hurts to say this, MIA probably does have at least one chip coming their way in the next few years. So their future is the brightest. The only way this team is gonna be better than they are is just buy the big 3 figuring each other out better, but they are almost good enough right now to win it all, so there isnt much they need to do.
    I think OKC have the most room for improvement. I think they can be much better than they are, which means they can be really fuckin good. Westbrook is 22, so he has time to improve as a passer/decision maker. Harden is set to break out and they have a nice frontline of Perk & Ibaka (and Aldrich should get alot better in a few years). they also have alot of flexibility and a smart head office. But as bright as things could be for them, it could go the other way. Westbrook might never figure things out, Durant could leave for a bigger market, Harden, Ibaka and Aldright might have peaked. Anything might happen in OKC.
    Chicago need to do more work than MIA and have less room to grow than OKC. Rose is their only starter who will improve much over the next few years and depending on how good he gets is how good the team will be.

  • http://cakeordeath16 keith

    I’m OKC all the way. As much as the Best have a better short term team, I think they will struggle to fit the.pieces together around the big 3. Any good coach will look at what the Mavs did right this year in stifling the role players and making the Heat play 5 on 3. Also, I think Bosh will get mad at his role and walk eventually, or be traded as a scapegoat if they don’t win next year. And someone mentioned free agents for the Thunder, well who is gonna go to the Heat only to be 4th choise? Ring chasing vets or low draft picks

  • masonjarjar

    I’m sorry but this isn’t about a team being “experienced” or not. This is about LeBron James and his inability to deliver on the big stage. Unless he gets some serious help (ie, learns now to NOT shrink in crunch time), I don’t see how he’s going to improve his game enough for his team to win a championship. He had all the tools he needed in Cleveland roster-wise. He just couldn’t get over himself.

  • http://thesphericalstudies.blogspot.com Professor J

    What I feel is the main problem with Chicago, that people rarely mention, is that their roster is filled with players who go one way.

    What I mean by that is that they have players who are either great offensive players and are liabilities on defense (like Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver) or they have great defensive players who have limited offensive games (for example, Joakim Noah, Keith Bogans and Omer Asik).

    Rose, who isn’t all that great defensively, Deng and Gibson, to an extent, are the only two-way players, that I can think of, on their roster. The problem with this is that it almost always puts Chicago at a disadvantage on one end of the floor. This was clear in the Miami series as the Bulls alternated between offensive explosions and not being able to put the ball in the basket. This is the main weakness with this team that needs to be corrected.

    In terms of the Oklahoma City Thunder, I am just not sold on that team. They had arguably the easiest path to the conference finals, having to face a Melo-less Nugget squad and barely beating the overachieving Memphis Grizzlies.

    Kevin Durant is a very nice player but he won’t get better until he can really create his own shot. If you watch the Thunder games, KD gets most of his points off transition or screens. He is a world-class scorer and shooter but I feel he still has problems creating his own opportunities. Between that and Russell Westbrook’s out-of-control game, I think the Thunder have some major issues to work through (the very least being they will eventually have to pay all of these players).

    So that leaves the Miami Heat. The Heat are obviously not a perfect team just as Lebron James has been somewhat exposed as an imperfect player. However, they still have three of the best players in the NBA on their roster. They just lost the NBA Finals. I also never underestimate Pat Riley’s ability to attract quality guys to fill out the roster (even within the guidelines of the new CBA).

    What Miami needs to do is find a way to score consistently against a zone defense. The zone employed by the Dallas Mavericks, coupled with their incredibly shooting streak, is what sunk the Heat in the Finals. But right now, the Miami Heat, love them or despise them, are the closest to an NBA Championship.

  • JAY

    OKC looks good now but so did the Baby Bulls with Hinrich, Deng, Chandler, Curry, Gordon, Crawford. Those rookie contracts will soon expire and OKC will have to make decisions on who they will sign. To me, OKC’s has the potential to grow together, but their future is cloudy. There’s too much uncertainty with those rookie contracts expiring in the next couple of years.

    Miami will have to do it with 3 guys for the next 4 years. Unless they can convince quality players to sign for minimum, or trade their picks, I can’t see them filling in their roster with quality players. If Lebron was really “about winning” he would have signed for 5Mill per year, lived on his endorsement money, and gave the team the cap room they need to build the team around the Two and a Half Men. I’m glad he didn’t though. And I’m calling out Lebron, (not Wade, not Bosh) because he’s the guy making the HUGE endorsement cash. Out of those 3, he’s the dude who could afford to take the biggest cut.

    Out of these 3 teams, I go with Chicago. They were one shooting guard away from building a Finals team and they have more flexibility with their roster than Miami does. I don’t like Boozer but I don’t think he can play any worse than he did last playoffs. That’s good news for them.

  • First & Foremost

    Knowing that Lebron loves to pass the ball and give his teammates an opportunity to score, who wouldn’t want to play with him. Mike Miller dropped 30 last season. James Jones had several great games. Eddie House was annoying if he played or not. Free agents would rather play in Miami. This team just came off of a finals appearance. As of right now, would you be willing to bet your life savings that they don’t get back to the finals?

    @Jay – Yes, they ALL should have taken bigger pay cuts but I think since Lebron was actually traded to Miami, his salary couldn’t come down any further without Cleveland getting fewer peas.

  • http://www.wtf.com Chicagorilla

    I agree that the 3 for MIA should have taken bigger pay cuts, especially since they’ll make it up in endorsements. Maybe only Chris Bosh should have taken $85 Mil, with the other two taking $75Mil. but you cant tell a greedy rich MFer nothing.

    I doubt Pat Riley wanted all them maxed out, but it was too late to try and change anything.

    But to answer the question, Miami far and away has the better future. Chicago may be at the bottom of this list because of the terrible contracts to Boozer, Deng, and Noah. Once Rose is maxed out on his extension, Chicago will be flucked when it comes to making moves. And if you know like i know, Chicago ownership is some of the cheapest and worst decision makers in the business.

    Shortly after blowing $80mil on Boozer who is a one way player, the same ownership went and blew their load on Adam Dunn….who is currently batting under .170 for the season.

  • heckler

    I didnt even have to read the article know that its Miami.
    ..and when we say “Brightest Future” we’re referring to winning. Not just the ultimate championship, but division titles, homecourt seeds, best record in the league, at the top of the league in team offensive and defensive categories etc…etc.

    I think we all know damn well its Miami. they werent even polished this seaon and had a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

    Now…for this question, Miami should not have been in the equation. Memphis Grizzlies should have been in the equation. If you wanna see a team with CONFIDENCE going into next season ball, dont miss any Grizz games.

    For all the talk about the Thunder (im a HUGE russell westbrook fan), the Thunder needed 7 games (SEVEN!) to beat the Grizz. Grizz have a brighter short-term future (2-3yrs) than the Thunder do.

    Grizz are going to be in division with aging Spurs, Rockets, Mavs and shitty Hornets.

    Thunder gonna have to outduel Portland and Denver. and Minny might actually string some wins together 3yrs from now.


    I don’t think Miami have the potential to improve as a team, they do not or will not have the cap room to bring in quality players.

    Oklahoma will be better next year as their squad matures together, as underwhelming as Perkins being added was he still gives them a good post defender and rebounder and Westbrook either develops into a true point or gives them a valuable trade chip.

    Chicago is a prime location for FA’s and the entire league seems to be interested in their worst 2 contracts(Boozer & Deng). IMO Chicago has the most wiggle room when it comes to improving their squad. Also after this year’s draft which team out of these 3 did the best? Chicago… easily. They have depth at EVERY position. Omer Asik & Taj Gibson could start for most teams and CJ Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans are ALL the type of quality role players a playoff team needs.

  • First & Foremost

    TIMEOUT!!! How come all of sudden when describing the Chicago Bulls people want to point out all of these roll players and how good they are, at what they do and how good of a coach they have but in discussing the MVP it was Derrick Rose absolutely by himself out there? Is it now convenient to say Chicago built a pretty damn good team without multipe superstars?

    carry on…

  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    wheres all the tranformer and seinfield comparisons, come on dime!

  • Clutch

    The excuse that Miami is a young/inexperienced team is absolutely idiotic. Wade has won in the Finals. Lebron has been to the finals and several conference finals. They have all played since 2003. The only inexperienced player on that team was Mario Chalmers. So they have a total of one inexperienced battle tested player. So since when are 7 year veterans considered inexperienced? Seriously how many excuses can be made for the heat and Lebron, it borders on the absurd.

    Chicago can be considered inexperience, even though they have some veterans, becuase Rose who is that teams sole offensive motor is going into his forth season and this was his first time past the first round.

    Oklahoma City, Durant is going into his fifth, Westbrook into his 4th, and Harden into his third, and this was their first time past the first round as well, their only experienced playoff tested player was Perkins who was acquired mid season and is more of a roll player.

    Those two teams can be considered inexperienced not the Heat. So why the excuses for the Heat and Lebron?

    Well its simple Lebron is arguably the most dominant athletic force of all time and certainly the most dominant athletic wing. His body is like something out of mythology but he is also one of the most mentally fragile players the league has seen. We don’t view Lebron so much as a basketball player but a pop cultural Icon in the same manner as (hate to say this) Brittany Spears. And thus we expect Lebron to succeed as his natural gifts are so overwhelming and can’t understand his failings while taking delight in them all the same. Thus even though we were all delighted when Miami lost to Dallas, we still can’t really comprehend why they lost and feel the need to make excuses about it, after all on paper the heat should beat any team in the league. However any competition is more than just throwing the possible physical skills at each other, after all if basketball was just about what players had the most talent coaches wouldn’t be needed. And that’s why the Heat lost and not their alleged inexperience. Thus at this point Oklahoma City and Chicago have to be viewed as having a brighter future as we have seen what the Heat can do but not what the other two can.

  • http://www.wtf.com Chicagorilla


    You really think Chicago did the best in the draft? They got Butler who’ll be out of the NBA as soon as his contract expires. I think they traded the other pick for a guy who is staying overseas or something. Which is a money move.

    OKC got Reggie Jackson and MIA got Norris Cole….both of them are bench players at best but thats better than Jimmy Butler imo.

    A lot of people seem to think the Bulls had a good all around team because Stacy King or the team decided to name themselves “The Bench Mob” which I thought was waaaaay over stating their contributions to the team. Thibs, DRose, and the laziness of the NBA are the sole reasons the Bulls did so well this past season.

    They have decent role players, maybe above average, but their team chemistry and willingness to follow DRose and DRose’s willingness to follow Thibs is why they were so good. But as you saw, that only gets you so far before you are in need of actual talent (in this case low post scoring) to beat the elite teams.

    Miami was just scratching the surface this past season. If those guys truely buy into playing as a team and sticking to their roles. They could very easily run the table the next 4-5 years barring injury. They are in dire need of a real coach though. Until that happens or Spo gets much better, they will struggle to beat elite teams.

    side note: I wonder how much of the lockout stuff has to do with David Stern fixing games. I wonder if the players association has had enough of that BS and are demanding he just lets the players decide the games.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    I was all set to agree with the OKC side of things. They have a superstar on the level of LeBron/D-Rose, a 2nd star ascending to the level (maybe) of D Wade and Boozer, and their role players are on the level of Chris Bosh and Chicago’s defense.

    And then I read the OKC article.

    “There is no more denying that the Oklahoma City Thunder have elevated themselves to the best team in the NBA. ” The NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks may have something to say about that.

    “He has the best shooting stroke in the league and is also the best at getting to the free-throw line, a lethal scoring combination.” Again, Dirk Nowitzki may have something to say about that “best shooting stroke in the league”, to say nothing of Steve Nash, Ray Allen, etc.

    And that ability to get to the line will hopefully get cut down this offseason when they look at his pathetic “rip through” move.

    Westbrook’s game is FAR from complete. Shooting and decision making are parts of a complete game, and Westbrook is far from complete in these respects.

    So now I’m thinking it’s the Heat or the Bulls.

  • IDOT

    The Bulls just need a SG that can hit open shots and defend. They should go after Reggie Williams from the Warriors. He’s 6’6-6’7, can play the 2 and 3, score, defend, and play some PG.

    The Heat can kicks rocks. The suck at PG and C, plus their bench is weak.

    The Thunder just need a little more size and they should start James Harden.

  • mike

    OKC will trade westbrook, sign james harden & he’ll win atleast 4 6man awards

  • goattree

    cosign Clutch @14 – the article sites individual errors, yet places the blame on an inexperienced team. Not having played with the same dudes for more than a year has nothing to do with dribbling the ball off your foot.

    And Mario Chalmers may be inexperienced in the NBA Playoffs, but dude does have an NCAA Championship on his resume. That’s gotta count for something…

  • iLL MAGO

    Toronto -> Ed Davis, Bayless, Bargnani, Demar Derozan, Jonas & his U19 MVP and well, CAP ROOM!

  • Rainman

    as much as i hate to say it…yeah, its Miami. They made it all the way to the finals in their first year together… *crickets*

    They’re bound to get a few rings

  • Rainman

    @ dagwalker: cosign dude, the OKC article had some blashemy in there.