Hollinger's Team Forecast: Chicago Bulls

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Chicago had to use 2005-06 to take a breath on its way up the Eastern Conference ladder, and in that sense it ended up being a pretty good season. While the Bulls lost a few games in the standings, they still ended up playing .500 basketball, and they did it without compromising their long-term goals.

All the while, Chicago knew help was on the way in the form of cap space and draft picks, thanks in part to a spectacular trade by general manager John Paxson. He sent Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis to New York in a sign-and-trade deal that brought back Tim Thomas, Jermaine Jackson and Michael Sweetney.

The real coup was not the players it brought back, but the future considerations for the Bulls. New York agreed to include its 2006 first-round pick without any lottery protection, a moronic oversight that ended up handing Chicago the second overall pick in the draft. Additionally, the Knicks gave Chicago the right to switch first-round picks in 2007, enabling the Bulls to get another high draft pick this coming spring at the expense of New York. Moreover, by not paying a lot of money to retain Curry, the Bulls preserved their trove of salary-cap space for the summer of 2007, which ended up being hugely beneficial.

Not all of Chicago's offseason moves last year worked out as well. The team re-signed Tyson Chandler to a six-season, $60 million deal, a risky move that failed spectacularly when Chandler couldn't match the defensive intensity he'd brought a season earlier and continued to struggle on offense.

There were other, milder disappointments: Ben Gordon didn't progress much from his Sixth Man Award-winning rookie season; Thomas was essentially kicked off the team after the Bulls became upset with his lazy practice habits; Sweetney showed up with a tractor tire around his waist; and Kirk Hinrich failed to lift his game beyond the heights of his first two seasons.