Despite a five-game exit in the second round of the playoffs, expectations for the Chicago Bulls are very high next season. The club is considered to have the best chance of any team in the Eastern Conference to prevent the Miami Heat from reaching their fourth straight NBA Finals.
The online betting Web site Bovada lists the Bulls betting odds of winning the 2014 championship at 12/1. Only the Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets are given a better chance to win it all.
However, the Bulls are expected to be one of the NBA’s top teams without having made any major moves in the offseason. While the Rockets added Dwight Howard and the Brooklyn Nets traded for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Bulls have yet to make a big change to their roster.
Mike Dunleavy Jr. is the team’s biggest acquisition, after having signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract. He’ll look to replace the production lost by Richard Hamilton, who Chicago just released, and Nate Robinson, who’s looking to sign elsewhere as a free agent.
It’s possible that the Bulls could pull off a trade this summer, though it doesn't appear likely. Luol Deng would be the most probable player to be on the move, considering he’s entering the final year of his deal. Before the NBA Draft, there were rumors that Chicago could trade him for a top three pick, though, those reports were quickly squashed.
Instead of looking to shop Deng, it appears that the Bulls could be prepared to hold onto the swingman with a long-term deal. Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo! Sports has reported that the two sides are in ongoing negations about a contract extension. With Jimmy Butler emerging as a potential starter, it appeared Chicago might not re-sign him and free up cap space for 2014. Now, however, it seems the Bulls will bring back their core for a run at the Finals next season.
The Bulls may be mostly done making moves by signing both of their draft picks. On Wednesday, the team announced that they had come to terms with 20th overall pick Tony Snell and 49th overall selection Erik Murphy.
In 2012-2013, the Bulls took a step back, winning just 45 games and finishing as the fifth seed in the East. Getting back an injured Derrick Rose, though, may be just as good as signing a max-contract free agent. The point guard missed the entire season and will instantly make the Bulls at top challenger to the Heat with his return.