With the Chicago Bulls struggling to a 22-23 record at the midpoint of the season (8th in the Eastern Conference), the front office is approaching an interesting decision regarding both its immediate and distant future.
Do they press on with the current roster and hope that the season turns around? Do they try to pull off a blockbuster trade to push themselves into legitimate championship contender territory (if that’s possible? Or do they wave the white flag and rebuild from scratch?
Right now, their path looks as uncertain as ever.
Per the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bulls have “been shopping” both point guard Rajon Rondo and forward Nikola Mirotic (and possibly others that have yet to be named), but so far, no team has expressed strong interest in either player.
Rajon Rondo hasn't gotten to the FT line in over a month and also owns the NBA's worst FG% at the rim. BIG Number: https://t.co/NRTuLqD4uR
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) January 20, 2017
Rajon Rondo takes a shot at Kings teammates:
"Last year you couldn't name three people on my team, and I led the league in assists."
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 17, 2017
While it makes sense that Rondo is garnering little interest, given his age and noted attitude issues, a source told the Sun-Times that the Bulls “don’t like what they’re hearing back on [Mirotic]. Then again, that’s a [front office] that tends to overvalue its assets.”
And, if that weren’t a bad enough look for the franchise, the Bulls’ marquee free-agent signing, Dwyane Wade, has expressed uncertainty about his future with the team. Last Wednesday, he said this to ESPN:
“At the end of the year, you sit back and see what the team is, what direction they’re going in. I would be a liar to say that I want to play on a team with all 21-year-olds. You know what I mean? One of the main reasons I’m here is Jimmy. He’s the one who called me and got me to come here. So that’s a big part of my decision and everything else, is what Jimmy’s doing, what his future looks like and all that. And I’ve made it very clear. So I have no idea from that standpoint. You just have to wait and see and then see what works out.”
To say that this season is shaping up to be a spectacular disappointment still doesn’t quite capture it.
After refusing to get younger and more athletic as promised—GarPax instead doubled down on “re-tooling” with Rondo and Wade—Rondo’s been benched, Wade, at 35 years old, isn’t all that he once was, and Butler’s ascension into the upper echelon of NBA players is being wasted due to a talent-poor roster.
And yet, even after all that, ESPN’s Nick Friedell reported last week, along with the quotes from Wade, that the Bulls are STILL hesitant to “press the button on a full-scale rebuild.”
My view is that every move a team makes should be done with the purpose of increasing their chances to win a championship as much as possible. Long story short, this organization has continually shown me, and other Bulls fans, that they don’t know how to follow that metric.
They couldn’t/wouldn’t trade Pau Gasol before last year’s deadline even with him in the midst of a solid season at age 35, claiming that they saw him as part of the team’s future plans to compete (?!?!) only to let him walk at the end of the season to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.
They brought in Rondo and Wade with some misguided notion that their signings, along with Butler, could overcome the lack of bench scoring and athleticism on the roster and get the Bulls back to relevance in the Eastern Conference. They haven’t.
They still haven’t traded Taj Gibson (he’s been on the trading block for like five years), who has proven to be a solid starter at power forward this season and would boost ANY team in the league whether he started or came off the bench.
And somehow, despite the fact that their offseason plan and mid-season performance have blown up in their faces, the Bulls’ front office doesn’t want to do a full-scale rebuild now because they don’t want to admit that they failed (they already have) and don’t want to lose their jobs (there’s a good chance they could lose them anyway).
Given this continued mediocrity, Fred Hoiberg is almost surely to be fired at the end of this season should the Bulls miss the playoffs again. And if that happens, it may finally be time for GarPax to follow him out the door.
Because as currently constructed and run, the Chicago Bulls are going absolutely nowhere. And it’s time that everyone stop pretending that anything else is the case.