The Bulls acquired yet another PG of the future in Cameron Payne at the trade deadline. Here was Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg excited with the prospects of them all:
Hoiberg:"We've got 5 guys who can play w/ the ball in their hands, plus Jimmy & Dwyane. So we really have 7 guys who can facilitate offense"— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 24, 2017
Oh yeah, for sure.
The problem is none of these guys are very good, certainly not to the level of establishing themselves as a no-brainer starter. But if part of the rationale for this past trade deadline was to get more playing time for the younger Bulls, it does seem like a pretty easy decision:
- Start Jerian Grant, who’s young and under contract next season, and whose low-usage game fits well with the starting lineup.
- Primary backup is Cameron Payne, who’s young and under contract next season, and you just tried to sell as the prize of this trade.
Instead, for the first game post-break it was MCW taking the starting role for no real reason, though he thankfully got hurt to help Fred’s decision-making. And then it looks like Hoiberg is going to keep with Rondo as the backup, who is neither young nor under contract (I mean, he is, but Bulls are going to decline that option).
"It's a fine line, I guess, for us right now," Hoiberg said recently. "With developing young guys, but at the same time we're still competing for the playoffs. So we got to do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to win, and that's the bottom line. Right now, I like the way Rajon's playing, and he's going to stay in the lineup."
Rondo is still not actually playing well, and you can’t even reason that he helps Doug McDermott off the bench anymore since that guy is gone. The bench has produced the last couple games, but it’s been against really bad defenses and, like, what are we doing here playing Rondo?
The Bulls may take an even further step and waive a player before the March 1st deadline (after which a waived player is ineligible for the playoffs). It should be Rondo (because he should be benched, and likely wouldn’t take to it), but that’s not looking likely. There’s the notion out there that Rondo’s $3m guarantee on a ~$14m contract is ‘flexible’ for trade purposes. Though this hypothetical trade can only occur around draft time (and before free agency), and involve an incoming player who both makes a lot of money yet is bad enough to where a team just wants out from under his salary. And that hypothetical team could wait until free agency and deal such a player into another team’s cap space. That said, if the Bulls attach an asset they could use Rondo’s deal to get an actual useful player back, though that’s usually not been their M.O.. The far more likely reason is the Bulls will look to deal Rondo’s contract to get out of paying the $3m remaining if they waived him.
Instead, KC Johnson reported that either MCW or Isaiah Canaan is on the chopping block. Canaan improbably has a $200k guarantee next year, and also apparently is helpful in coaching and mentoring Payne, so maybe it’s MCW who gets cut instead? Do you care?