They were the prototypical "scrappy young team" that gave the Celtics fits last year. They could be on their way up. Then again, reading the tea leaves around letting Ben Gordon walk could mean something different.
The loss of Gordon was truly significant in signalling a change of direction of the franchise. Where the winning of the 2008 draft lottery could've been seen as the most significant piece of an already talented team ready to contend soon, letting Gordon go meant that in the name of avoiding the luxury tax, the Bulls were instead going to try and get under the cap and re-build around Rose and a 2010 free agent.
And with a declining cap and some decisions to be made on several key players (Hinrich, Salmons, and Thomas) before getting far enough under in that summer, the Bulls may not be able to pull it off. A better plan would've been to use a decade of record profits as justification for a luxury tax bill (even for a non-elite team), and using their expiring contracts to obtain even more talent. The elite teams in the league stockpile good players and get even more, not let them walk in the name of flexibility. And Gordon was the best player ever to have played through his entire rookie deal only to let walk for nothing, a truly spectacular failure from the Bulls standpoint. Things could certainly work out ultimately, but it's a huge risk and the Bulls will need to perform this season as well as get lucky in free agency to make the gamble worthwhile.
What are the team’s biggest strengths? Derrick Rose.