All seems to be well on the Derrick Rose front with yesterday morning’s news that he’ll be back in 4-6 weeks.
But with Derrick Rose, we know all injury timelines aren’t created equally.
Either way, the bigger concern regarding Rose isn’t whether he’ll be back this season. It’s what the next two years are going to be like, when he’s owed north of $41 million combined. Which accounts for roughly 33% of the Bulls’ payroll next season and nearly half in 2016-2017.
I want Derrick Rose back and healthy in this season’s playoffs as bad as anyone, but you’d be lying if those numbers don’t make you uneasy. Moving forward as a franchise, the Bulls are hamstrung by Rose’s salary cap number whether he’s healthy or not. The front office has to basically pray he doesn’t get hurt again, because there isn’t much room for other assets. Even if he is (relatively) healthy, the days of him being worth $20 million are all but gone.
Not to mention, the ongoing headache between Derrick Rose’s camp and the Bulls front office is beyond tired at this point. All things considered, it might be smart for the Bulls to think about moving on from Rose as their starting point guard. Or at least not count on him as the team’s only realistic chance for an NBA Finals run.
Next season’s free agent class is full of point guards, including an intriguing option in former Boston Celtic and current Dallas Maverick Rajon Rondo. Rondo has struggled since Doc Rivers took off for the Clippers, and clearly things are a little shaky in Dallas right now.
Depending how Rondo and Dallas finish the year, he could be had for a relative bargain this offseason. Financially speaking, his value has never been lower. But basketball speaking, there’s plenty of reason to believe his value can be just as high as his four-year All-Star run from 2009-2013.
That run was derailed by his ACL injury two Januarys ago, and six months later the Celtics blew up their 2008 championship core while Rondo was recovering – leaving him as the odd man out on a rebuilding team. Since returning, his numbers took an understandable hit with less talent around him. Still, Rondo averaged more than 10 assists per night in his final 52 games with Boston.
Things aren’t working between Rondo and the Mavericks right now, which lends belief he’ll be cheap this summer. It also lends plenty of belief that Rajon Rondo is desperate for an ideal basketball situation again.
Enter the Chicago Bulls.
Besides reuniting Rondo with Tom Thibodeau, his former assistant in Boston, Chicago presents a pretty ideal basketball situation. They have an elite front court through (at least) next season with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, and an emerging star on the wing in Jimmy Butler. Thibodeau’s hallmark is defense, and it’s one of Rondo’s strengths.
Speaking of Butler, he’s also a free agent this summer and due to get a sizable deal. Let’s check a snapshot of the Bulls salary situation.
Assuming Butler gets close to $15 million (which he will), the Bulls are gonna have a hell of a time getting under the projected salary cap of $66.5 million. So how would they fit Rondo?
The natural option would be to trade Taj Gibson and a draft pick, which could create enough room for a cheaper Rondo. This would obviously be the ideal scenario, as you can have insurance against another Rose injury.
And while I love Gibson and think he’s a valuable piece, the Bulls need point guard depth more than front court depth. Not to mention, you could potentially run sets with both Rondo and Rose – as well as decreasing Derrick’s workload.
The more radical option, of course, would be to release Rose. Under the stretch provision in the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Bulls could spread out the $41 million owed over a five year period- leaving more than enough room for Butler and Rondo (or another free agent point guard).
Clearly, this is a long shot to happen – but God forbid Derrick Rose goes down again this season, it would certainly be something for the Bulls to consider.
Even if Rose returns and stays healthy through the end of this season, it’s dangerous to continue relying on his health to get the Bulls to the NBA Finals. At this point, any sort of insurance policy would simply be smart basketball.
And Rajon Rondo would make for a damn good insurance policy.
(Featured Photo courtesy of Marissa Gawel)