Last season, the Chicago Bulls put a two-game exclamation point on a frustratingly muddled season. No amount of “Playoff Rondo” can obscure the rudderless direction and inconsistent production of this franchise as was most evident in the team’s third lackluster, low scoring performance during a playoff-elimination game in the last four seasons (average 75ppg).
Unless you are currently protected by the nepotism emanating from the Chicago front office, then you know staying the course is not the way forward for the Bulls to compete in today’s NBA. However, all signs from Gar Forman and John Paxson show that the Bulls will not blow this team up by trading Jimmy Butler and plan on picking up Rajon Rondo’s team option for next season. This will most likely lead to Dwyane Wade exercising his $24 million player option.
If you take a step back and look at the current state of the NBA, though, staying the course might be the least-worst option. The stacked Golden State Warriors just completed one of the most dominant playoff runs of all time against the best player of this generation and his dominant cast of All-Stars. Very few teams look like they are positioned to break the Warriors vs Cavaliers' stranglehold on the Finals.
Chicago is not one or two moves away from contending with these super team. Moving Jimmy Butler for a full rebuild is the best option, but not if you are getting 70 cents on the dollar in return. The Celtics lowballed a deal for Butler at the trade deadline last season, even though Butler is a top-10 two-way player in the NBA. There is no reason to give Butler up for anything less than a king’s ransom, and if Terry Rozier is a breaking-point for Danny Ainge in Boston then I’m not sure which front office is more delusional?
If it is not possible to get back multiple assets including a high draft pick in this loaded 2017 draft, then building around Butler’s peak is your only option. Chicago is not going to throw money around at average players in free agency and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Teams like the L.A. Lakers and Portland Trailblazers have large, multi-year contracts tied up in players like Timofey Mozgov and Meyers Leonard. Both of which had no business stepping onto the court in last year’s Finals and even less so in today’s NBA.
There is only a narrow path forward for the Chicago Bulls, but there is still a way out. The front office will need to fundamentally change their approach to the draft, offseason moves and hit the bullseye for their future targets. It is not the perfect situation and leaving the option to blow it up looks like it will always be an escape plan, but Paxson and Forman’s jobs are on the line if they cannot execute.
Over the next few weeks, we will break down the way forward for the Chicago Bulls:
Part 1: The Draft.
Part 2: Free Agency.
Part 3: The Future.