Credit the Bulls for this: after the spending the entire summer embarassing themselves, they still felt obligated to do it one more time, at the last possible moment, just to hammer home the theme of the offseason again for all to see. What happened between Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic at practice this week was scary, disgraceful and completely unacceptable in any context.
It also served as another reminder that, on the brink of a new season, the Bulls are the biggest punchline in the NBA. They are aimless, dysfunctional and — more than anything -- without proper leadership.
This was the offseason the Bulls were finally exposed for being the regressive franchise they’ve become. They are the team other clubs line up to trade with and the organization media outlets race to criticize. It’s an insular franchise with zero accountability that has grown complacent and lazy as profits continue to climb.
This is going to be a long, long season, rock bottom in what’s sure to be a painful rebuild. Bulls fans deserve better. What we learned this offseason is that the team doesn’t think so, or just doesn’t care.
The Jimmy Butler trade was unforgivable
Let’s start with a simple truth: the Bulls had no idea how good Jimmy Butler was or how to adequately build around him. He is gone so that they didn’t have to deal with the pressure of losing with a true star. He’s gone because they didn’t want to pay him the salary he had earned two years from now. He’s gone so that this front office can erase every last drop of responsibility to its fanbase and can now be comfortable failing on its own terms.
Yes, if the Bulls kept Jimmy Butler, they were looking at a Three Alphas sequel no one wanted to see. The problem here is threefold:
- It’s their own fault for giving Wade and Rondo those awful contracts to begin with.
- The Bulls could have built a good team around Butler if they didn’t continuously whiff on draft picks and free agent signings.
- They somehow made their lot even less desirable by settling for objectively awful trade return.
There was reason to trade Butler, sure. But at the very least, the Bulls had to pry a future draft pick out of it. Instead, they included their own pick to move up just nine spots. You could at least talk yourself into this rebuild if there was another draft pick waiting as a prize. The biggest return the Bulls got back for a legitimate star was the value of their own pick for lost season.
I have always liked Zach LaVine — read my feature on him from the 2014 Draft — but he’s an imperfect player who doesn’t defend, share the ball or get to the foul line. That’s before we talk about the torn ACL he’s recovering from or the $20+ million salary he’s owed. He will thrill you while also making you remember just how impressive the nuances to Butler’s game really were.
I’ve always liked Kris Dunn, too — read my feature on him from the 2016 Draft. He has an inspiring personal story and fun game. But the Bulls are placing a crazy bet on him. The only way this trade can save even a little bit of face is if Dunn plays like the top-five pick that he was. Of course, Dunn was one of the worst and oldest rookies in the NBA last year. It’s likely that the Bulls are the only franchise in existence who believe he can be a top-10 point guard one day.
Lauri Markkanen is going to be good, but also he’s flawed in his own ways. Is he a four or a five? How do you build an elite defense around him? In an upcoming draft stacked with bigs, how will he fit next to Marvin Bagley or Michael Porter or Mo Bamba?
It didn’t have to be this way. The Bulls let Jimmy Butler down, not the other way around.
Trading the rights to Jordan Bell was reprehensible
This was shameful, and we cannot let it go. A rebuilding team is supposed to leverage all of the draft picks it can. Hell, at least take a shot. Instead, the Bulls scouted no one and had zero conviction in their own ability to find a good player, all while a good player was staring them right in the face.
Jordan Bell is going to make this front office look very, very bad, in ways they never even considered when they made the trade. Even as they try now to rationalize it now, they make themselves look worse and worse:
Pax confirmed on @670TheScore that the Bulls "have a relatively small scouting staff" but he and Gar will be out scouting a lot.— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) October 19, 2017
This is the team that led the NBA in attendance last year. This is the team with a global fanbase that has made oh so much money off their now decades old affiliation with Michael Jordan. There is no reason for them to have a small scouting staff, other than this one: they’re too cheap or too stubborn to change.
What are the Bulls doing with that $3.5 million they got from the Warriors for this pick? Nothing good. They should give that money to Chicago Public Schools right now. They don’t deserve it.
Even if the rebuild eventually leads to new stars, it’s still same people in charge
This front office basically took the same package that landed Carmelo Anthony and turned it into Cameron Payne. This front office is either constantly lying about what they’re doing with their money, or lack the foresight to have a real plan with it. This front office will also essentially be employed as long as they want to be.
Pax said the Bulls would put savings from the Deng deal back into the team. Instead, they doubled down and sold the pick for even more $$$. pic.twitter.com/gw65cpRn32— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) October 19, 2017
No accountability, no vision, an embarrassingly small staff, and no real trust in their own ability to evaluate talent.
And this is what worries me. I can be talked into tanking. I cover college basketball and recruiting for SB Nation, so I have seen the future of the game up close. I have been writing big features on Porter and Bagley and Bamba and Luka Doncic and Collin Sexton and Wendell Carter for years. Same goes with the 2019 draft, on Zion Williamson (out today!) and Bol Bol and R.J. Barrett.
The Bulls chose this path, and now they need to be as bad as possible for the next two seasons. But why should we believe they will make the right picks if they find some luck in the lottery? Why do we believe they will be able to build around new stars in a way they weren’t able to build around Butler?
We have zero reason to give the Bulls the benefit of the doubt at this point, and that is what’s painful. I will be watching this season, because I can’t help myself. I’m not going to judge if you decide not to.