On Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls pulled off the upset in Cleveland against the Cavaliers; however, the Cavs played without LeBron James and Kevin Love. It was a win none the less though, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Chicago Bulls are in NBA purgatory.
The Troubled Chicago Bulls Are in NBA Purgatory
While the Bulls win on the road was impressive, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are a mess.
In the off-season, the Bulls shook up their roster.
They most notably traded longtime point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks and in return got veteran center Robin Lopez. They also signed veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade; however, despite the new look veteran faces, the Bulls have failed to compete in the Eastern Conference.
While they’re still the six seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls record lies at just one game above .500 (30-29). While the Bulls’ playoff hopes do remain a legit possibility, the Eastern Conference is very weak and the final three spots in the conference will be up for grabs for the remainder of the year. With that in consideration, the Bulls should be able to grab one of those spots, but that’s heavily reliant on consistent play and cohesion.
Throughout the 2016-17 season, the Bulls have struggled to remain on the same page. That’s mostly due to their veterans not being so fond of one another.
Just a few weeks ago, Rajon Rondo was highly critical of both Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade on their takes regarding the Bulls’ struggles. His comments were focused more so on Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade going to the media to address issue the Bulls were dealing with internally.
My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn't pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn't take days off. My vets didn't care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn't blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn't have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn't change the plan because it didn't work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can't win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don't deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it's the leadership.
Rondo’s message clearly shows how these Bulls haven’t been on the same page throughout the year, and clearly shows Rondo’s frustration towards the leadership of the team.
Rondo and Wade, as well as Butler’s inability to gel with another, have made to difficult for the Bulls to compete in the Eastern Conference. The bigger issue though is what the front office is doing.
The Bulls Lost the NBA Trade Deadline
This past Thursday, the NBA trade deadline past. In the days and even weeks leading up to the deadline, many wondered what the Chicago Bulls had up their sleeves given the chaos taking place both on and off the court. The name thrown around the most was Jimmy Butler.
While the 27 year old Butler has become one of the better players in the NBA, he’s also the Bulls best trade asset. A Butler trade though would indicate a full on rebuild for Chicago; however, a rebuild is the direction this franchise should be going in, but they’re clearly not so fond of doing such a thing.
In the minutes before the NBA trading deadline past, the Bulls pulled off a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. They sent forwards Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson, as well as a future second round pick to the Thunder. In return, the Bulls received point guard Cameron Payne, forward Anthony Morrow and big man Joffrey Lauvergne. This deal was a very questionable move for Chicago though.
While a full on rebuild is likely the right way to go about their struggles, this was a poor deal for general manager Gar Forman and the Chicago Bulls.
While not a franchise player by any stretch, forward Doug McDermott was beginning to establish himself a solid scoring option for the Bulls. Averaging 10.2 points per game on 44.5% shooting, McDermott was a bright spot for the Bulls and would’ve been a good peeve to build around going forward.
The bigger issue though, is what the Bulls didn’t do.
Not Trading Jimmy Butler was a Mistake
As the deadline neared, many thought the Bulls would finally pull the trigger on a Butler trade; however, they chose to keep him. That decision was a missed opportunity for them.
While Butler is the Bulls’ franchise player, he’s never been able to lead them on a deep playoff run. Also, ever since he overtook Derrick Rose as the team’s go to option, the Bulls haven’t been as formidable; however, despite his inability to lead the Bulls, many teams remained interested in pulling off a deal for him. One team willing to do so was the Boston Celtics, and while ultimately a deal never came to fruition, it had potential. The Bulls though blew it.
Currently, the Boston Celtics possess an arsenal of trade assets. They have the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick in this year’s draft (which is projected top 5) as well as next year’s. They also have young point guard Marcus Smart and rookie forward Jaylen Brown, who was selected by the Celtics with the third pick in the draft. In addition to their youth, the Celtics have gritty perimeter players such as guard Avery Bradley and forward Jae Crowder. Boston also has the expiring contracts of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko who could’ve helped balance out a trade in regards to player salaries. With all of those assets at their disposal, how could the Bulls not find common ground with the Celtics?
Granite the Celtics are playing for a Conference title, they could’ve easily surrendered a few of those assets, if not more to make a deal for Butler. Also, while they would’ve lost some depth, Butler’s stellar two way play would help make the Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford led Celtics even more of a threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Is Butler Overrated?
At the end of the day, the Bulls asking price was too high for Butler. The question is whether the Bulls overvalue him?
While his play can be electric, Butler has never truly led the Bulls to any sort of promise land, and the case could also be made that his numbers are a big exaggerated given the Bulls are an at best average unit. With that in consideration, the Bulls couldn’t deal Butler for maybe Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, a future pick, and an expiring contract?
The deal would’ve worked financially for both teams, and would’ve been a win win. The Bulls would’ve gotten some promising youth on their roster, as well as a future draft pick. On the other hand, the Celtics could’ve taken in Butler and still retain their core group. The fact that the Bulls couldn’t lower their asking price on a player who while highly skilled, hasn’t led them on a playoff run, is quite puzzling.
The Bulls are in Turmoil
The Chicago Bulls, while in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, are a team in turmoil. They have a bunch of veterans on their roster, and need to begin a youth movement; however, they missed their chance to do that at the NBA trade deadline, by most notably failing to trade guard Jimmy Butler. As a result, the Bulls remain in NBA purgatory.
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 8: Dwyane Wade (L) and Jimmy Butler (R) during a NBA game between Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on November 8, 2016.
(Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)