OK, so the Chicago Bulls missed out on all the big prizes in this summer's sweepstakes. They didn't get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, the franchise superstar that would turn things around in the Windy City for the next six-plus years.
But there are reasons for optimism nonetheless — the Bulls have a new coach, a new scoring big man, and another year of development to look forward to from their nucleus of young stars. Life could be a lot worse.
2009-10 Record: 41-41 (third in Central Division, eighth in Eastern Conference, lost to Cavaliers in first round)
Celtics' record vs. Bulls: 109-86 all time, 2-2 last season
Familiar faces: Coach Tom Thibodeau (former Celtics assistant)
Key additions: Carlos Boozer (free agent), Ronnie Brewer (free agent), Kurt Thomas (free agent), Kyle Korver (free agent), Keith Bogans (free agent), Omer Asik (free agent, played previously in Europe), C.J. Watson (acquired from Warriors in sign-and-trade deal), Vladimir Veremeenko (traded from Wizards)
Key losses: Kirk Hinrich (sent to Wizards for Veremeenko in a salary-dumping move), Hakim Warrick (signed with Suns), Acie Law (signed with Grizzlies), Brad Miller (signed with Rockets), Jannero Pargo (remains a free agent), Flip Murray (remains a free agent)
Burning question: Will Derrick Rose blossom into a superstar?
Going into this summer, everyone assumed the Bulls' young point guard was ready to be the second-best player on a championship-caliber team. So if the Bulls landed LeBron or D-Wade and asked Rose to play second fiddle, they'd be all set to start rattling off titles.
But since that plan didn't work out, here's the new question: Can Rose be the top dog?
It was just two summers ago that the raw youngster out of Memphis went No. 1 overall in the NBA draft. He's still just a kid, yet to turn 22. But if the Bulls are going to make the leap and become a team that can go deep in the East playoffs, they need Rose to reach the next level.
He's got to be a playmaker, a defender and a deadly scorer from all over the floor. And he's got to bring it every single night — he can't show the flashes of inconsistency that bog down most players his age.
Rose clearly has the potential to be great in this league — not just a top-five NBA point guard, but top three, or maybe even top one. But how soon will he realize that potential? That's the question.
2010-11 outlook: The Bulls have a growing Rose, a great young rebounder/shot-blocker in Joakim Noah, and a brand new offensive weapon in the arsenal, Carlos Boozer. That's a very good foundation. But it might not be enough to compete with the upper echelon in the East, where Miami, Boston and Orlando still reign supreme.
If they'd landed LeBron or D-Wade, things might be different — but as it is, the Bulls are forced to make do with a solid, yet possibly still superstarless, rotation in 2010-11. The Bulls might not be ready to make that leap.
Did you know? Carlos Boozer is from Alaska. He grew up in Juneau, where he played basketball at Juneau-Douglas High School and was recruited by Mike Krzyzewski to go to Duke. Other Alaskan basketball standouts include the Heat's Mario Chalmers, who was born and raised in Anchorage, and Euroleaguer Trajon Langdon, also a former Blue Devil, who played his high school ball in East Anchorage.