clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Signing Dwyane Wade is business as usual for the Bulls

Is this Pau Gasol Robbins Redux or the start of something bigger?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There is one undeniable truth about the Dwyane Wade signing for the Chicago Bulls: the people who made it happen couldn't be more satisfied with themselves for it. A Jerry Reinsdorf team has no use for the cyclical nature of competitiveness in pro sports, where "rebuild" is a dirty word that tapers the bottom line and a race to the middle is always preferable to bottoming out.

Of course, even when the Bulls succeed, they do it by accident. On the day he met the media to explain the Derrick Rose trade, Gar Forman gave his mission statement for the next year of the franchise.

"We need to get younger and more athletic. We feel it's the first step in that direction."

Two weeks later, the Bulls have gotten older and slower at point guard with Rajon Rondo and capped off their version of a perfect offseason by signing the 34-year-old Dwyane Wade on Wednesday.

It's a move that's easy to champion if you really want to. Wade posted phenomenal numbers for a player his age last season, scoring 19 points with more than four rebounds and four assists per game. His 20.42 PER is considered All-Star level and he had some truly great playoff performances, like a heroic Game 6 against the Hornets and a cool 38 points in Game 3 against the Raptors.

There's a temptation to say this changes things for the Bulls. Does Wade finally give them free agent cache? Has the franchise changed the narrative that they can't sign marquee players? It's possible, and it's still too soon to tell. But in a lot of ways, the signing of Wade reeks of business as usual for the Bulls. This is Pau Gasol, Robbins Redux. It's the Bulls going out of their way to accommodate another past-his-prime star.

Gasol put up big numbers, but at what cost? It's fair to ask the same of Wade, especially when there's ample evidence Pat Riley wasn't all that heartbroken to see him go.

To remain productive at his age, Wade has to play smart. That isn't always conducive to making winning plays. His defense will come and go, and good luck getting him to play at the breakneck pace Fred Hoiberg once envisioned. This is signing a big name for the sake of signing a big name, regardless of what's healthiest for the long-term future of the franchise or any consideration of how the pieces will fit together.

Which is to say: the Bulls just gave Hoiberg  another jumbled mess of a roster that handcuffs everything he ideally wants to do. You can forget about pace-and-space with Rondo and Wade joining Jimmy Butler on the perimeter and you can forget about a three-point heavy attack. Last season, Wade, Butler and Rondo combined for 133 three-pointers. Steph Curry made 402 by himself.

It's more than a lack of shooting, though. Where Hoiberg wants to push, the Bulls new backcourt will want to slow it down. Where Hoiberg values ball movement, this backcourt will be more comfortable catching their breath and sizing up their man. Maybe Tom Thibodeau could have corralled this roster, but it sure looks like Hoiberg will be in over his head.

That isn't to say this is a bad signing, per se. The Bulls were never going to be truly competitive and this at least makes them interesting. Wade didn't get the third year guarantee he was reportedly looking for and the player option on the second year of this deal actually makes the contract quite team friendly.

To me, the ultimate success of the 2016-17 Bulls will still have more to do with how their own young players develop than anything else.

This has to be Nikola Mirotic's time. He was outstanding when he returned from his appendectomy last season and his future is very much on the line entering a contract year. Players tend to breakout in their third season in the league. If Mirotic can do it, just imagine the money he's going to make. Conservatively, Niko is probably looking at $18-20 million per season if he delivers on even 80 percent of his promise.

Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis are two other X-factors. McDermott's shooting will be more necessary than ever and perhaps sharing the floor with Butler and Wade can give him confidence and help him grow. If Bobby Portis can turn into a stretch five, that would go along way toward alleviating the obvious spacing crisis at hand. Young players get better and if that happens this season, the Bulls could potentially be looking at a decent little season.

The Bulls have their parallel fronts in place, "competing" in the present while building for the future at the same time. The roster is essentially split down the middle: on one side there's Wade, Rondo, Butler, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez; on the other there's Portis, Mirotic, McDermott, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Cristiano Felicio.

And here's my pie-in-the-sky hope: This is the time to think big in the NBA and maybe -- probably not, but maybe -- that's what the Bulls are doing. LeBron James has talked about playing with Chris Paul and Wade before. CP3 is a 2017 free agent and so is LeBron. Is signing Wade is the first step to bringing LeBron's next superteam to Chicago? A long shot, sure, but it's something. I doubt this front office will allow itself to dream that big, but it's absolutely what they should be doing.

I don't know how good this will make the Bulls next season and I don't know if Wade's free agent pull is better than losing their way into a high draft pick. This does look like a relatively low risk move, though, and that's something I can get behind. Wade is an all-time great player who showed last season he still has a lot left in the tank.

The question for the Bulls is how much that will actually equate to winning. If nothing else, I'm excited to find out.