Searching for Chicago Hope

Bulls Free Agents: Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Morrow, Michael Carter-Williams, Joffrey Lauvergne, Cristiano Felicio

2016-17 Bulls Weaknesses: 29th: 3-Point Attempts, 2-Point Percentage.  28th: Center Scoring. 27th: Point Guard Scoring. 25th: Field Goal Percentage. 24th: 3-Point Percentage.  23rd: Points. 22nd: Points in the Paint. 21st: Backcourt Points. 20th: Pace.

2016-17 Bulls Strengths2nd: Offensive Rebounding. 3rd: Total Rebounding. 6th: Points Allowed, Defensive Rating, Free Throw Percentage, 3-Point Percentage Defense.  7th: Small Forward Scoring. 8th: Shooting Guard Scoring.    9th: Defensive Rebounding.

2017-18 (3) Largest Bulls Contracts: Dwyane Wade $23,800,000. Jimmy Butler $18,696,918. Robin Lopez $13,788, 500.

Player Options: Dwyane Wade $23,800,000.

The worst thing to happen to the Bulls was making the playoffs. The best thing to happen to the Bulls was Rajon Rondo’s injury. First the playoffs. Making the playoffs convinced the Bulls the regular season was an illusion and they weren’t the mess we all saw that they were. The four game sweep by the Celtics after leading 2-0 was a heady reminder that, yes, the Bulls are that regular season catastrophe.

The Rondo injury was timely. It reminded everyone in Chicago that the trading of Derrick Rose without a plan for point guard by committee help was…well…stupid. Rondo reminded the Bulls ‘brain trust’ they are desperate for a point guard and that the Tony Snell for Michael Carter Williams deal was a disaster. MCW can’t even get in games without turning the ball over and looking confused.

So the Bulls are not much better off in the summer of 2017 than they were in the summer of 2016. They may be on the hook for Dwyane Wade’s bloated salary and frankly that looks like the case because who is going to pay him that? The Bulls hope Wade ring chases for #4 because right now he is an older broken player you can’t trust to be healthy when the playoffs come around.

Fred Hoiberg has yet to prove he is a leader in the locker room worth listening to. Players have to want to be led. It is still a toss up whether Hoiberg has the right amount of trust necessary, considering that game 6 performance of the Bulls that looked like to a man they’d rather have root canal surgery.

The obvious Bulls problem is what is going on outside of the paint. Meaning scoring. No one can make three point shots. No one can make two point shots. They need some shot making specialists and some talent at the guard position. It would be a plus if they were born after Michael Jordan won his first Bulls title. The Bulls need to get younger and find floor spacers.

On the plus side, the Bulls have a nice talent in Bobby Portis who needs to continue to develop and be consistent. I wouldn’t re-sign Nikola Mirotic. His shooting is erratic.

The Bulls, by season’s end, had no heart and little leadership and no tough as nails army who wanted to kick ass and take names. It’s a far cry from the 60 win season in 2010-11. But, alas, the NBA gives no reward for being a good team once upon a time.

Jimmy Butler is a bona fide star but what to do with him? The Bulls don’t even know. Trade him and go young? Or build around him? If they build around him they need scorers so the weight isn’t on him and at the end of the season he is not running himself ragged and nearly comatose trying to get the Bulls into the playoffs and he has nothing left in the postseason. The Bulls need a second scorer who is not Wade at the end of his career.

More often than not, the Bulls looked like a bunch of individuals plucked off the street, asked to play with one another. To make matters worse, they didn’t appear to trust each other, like each other, or have invested any emotion in this season. They definitely didn’t look like they were trying to win for Fred Hoiberg.

The Chicago Bulls have not been successful in trying to overcome LeBron James. Or, the no-star Boston Celtics crew. Or____, you fill in the blank. They were an 8th seed that walked, talked and acted like an 8th seed. No one misses them.

It’s taken a long train ride for mediocrity to visit Chicago. It was the year Steph Curry was drafted, 2009. Vinny del Negro was the coach. The Bulls starters were a rookie Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. The Bulls lost in the first round to LeBron James. But there was hope.

Where is that Chicago hope now?

Suddenly the future is murky. Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are way out of their prime. They can’t make three point shots. Jimmy Butler is the Bulls best player, an All-Star but can he stay healthy? The front court, what is left of it, is a big question mark. Robin Lopez is serviceable and will have a string of good games and then will go in the tank. How will Fred Hoiberg get this cast of characters to come together as a collective unit when he failed at that same job last year? And this year.

The Bulls are the Eastern Conference’s biggest unknown. They could trend way, way up. Or fall on their face. In the playoffs, they fell on their face. It’s hard to imagine how this gets better in four months.

 

photo via llananba