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Bulls need fantastic four with Deng, Boozer likely to stay

Luol Deng

Luol Deng

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Updated: May 25, 2013 6:12PM



Eighty-six is a number Bulls general manager Gar Forman has thrown out several times this season, maybe as a reminder to naysayers on the outside who don’t believe the Bulls are headed in the right direction — or maybe as a reminder to himself to stay the course.

Either way, 86 has a lot of meaning. That’s the Bulls’ winning percentage when Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer are on the court at the same time.

Therein lies the problem the last three years — keeping those four pillars healthy and upright at the same time for a significant amount of time. The closest the Bulls came was the playoff run of 2011, when they lost to the Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference finals. But even then, Boozer was hobbled and Deng was banged up.

Toss in a few immovable contracts, and Forman could be handcuffed to stick with the core roster up front next season, especially forwards Deng and Boozer.

WHO’s COMING BACK

Carlos Boozer

There are more than 15 million reasons why he isn’t going anywhere this offseason, and then another 16.8 million reasons why the Bulls will look to amnesty his contract after next season. Despite Boozer remaining a model of consistency offensively, he’s still Chicago’s whipping boy. Lost in all the finger-pointing is that he again outperformed fan favorite Joakim Noah in the playoff series against the Heat — as he did two seasons ago — averaging 15 points and 8.2 rebounds to Noah’s 9.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. It wasn’t Boozer who let Chris Bosh hit jumper after jumper in the final four losses of the postseason run.

Luol Deng

Here’s the intrigue of the summer: Do the Bulls trade Deng in the final year of his contract? If coach Tom Thibodeau has any say, that’s a big no. Deng is everything Thibodeau wants in a player. He’s great defensively (both individually and in the team defense the Bulls run), unselfish offensively, an underrated rebounder and a team leader who knows it may be Derrick Rose’s face on the season-ticket packets, but it’s Deng’s dirty work on the court that wins games. A team would have to blow the Bulls away with an offer for them to part with Deng.

Taj Gibson

Inked through the 2016-17 season, Gibson is the Bulls’ starting power forward of the future. Defensively, he protects the rim and is a beast on the boards, while his offense continues to add dimensions. Although he still needs another strong post move, his 12-foot jump shot, especially from the baseline, is highly underrated.

WHO’S DEPARTING

Vladimir Radmanovic

Who will be able to forget the ‘‘Vlad Rad Era’’? Well, basically everyone. The 6-10 veteran was supposed to be a stretch four but instead spent most of the season stretching his legs on the bench.

Malcolm Thomas

NBA body with Developmental League talent.

WHO’S OUT THERE

With Jimmy Butler versatile enough to move over and play the three, the Bulls have enough depth at forward to again look for cheap, one-year veterans to fill a need off the bench.

Possible targets

Kenyon Martin, Sam Young (right).

THE DRAFT

It’s easy to forget the Bulls still have Spanish League standout Nikola Mirotic waiting in the wings for possibly the 2014 offseason, but they still need another big to start grooming.

Possible targets

Mason Plumlee (Duke/right), Tony Mitchell (North Texas), Giannis Adetokunbo (Greece).



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