The Bulls have won just 31.0% of their games since the Jimmy Butler trade, the second-worst mark in the NBA ahead of only the dumpster-fire Knicks. While the Bulls have some intriguing young pieces on the roster, none of them can be considered surefire long-term cornerstones at this point (this can be argued). Because of this and the horrible record, I’d still consider the Bulls to be a rebuilding team.
However, new GM Marc Eversley doesn’t seem to think that way, and the hiring of Billy Donovan as head coach would seem to signal that Donovan and Arturas Karnisovas share these sentiments. Eversley talked to the media on Wednesday, and he’s looking at this Bulls situation as more of a retool than a rebuild.
We’re definitely trying to bring this team back to relevance, absolutely. This is the Chicago Bulls, it’s an iconic brand. There’s a tremendous amount of history. But with that, it’s a responsibility. And I think we’ve embraced that, AK, myself, (director of player personnel) Pat (Connelly) and (assistant GM) J.J. (Polk) in terms of leading this franchise back to relevance. I think we made a gigantic leap in terms of making a commitment to the fanbase by going out and getting a coach with the qualities of a Billy Donovan. We’ve talked a lot about ‘This is not a rebuild.’ We’re looking to retool this thing, and we think Billy is going to put us in a position to do that in the foreseeable future. So, yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure in terms of responsibility of getting this franchise back to relevance. But we embrace that. We embrace it on a daily basis, and some of the decisions that we’ve made on a daily basis kind of reflect that.
Donovan should certainly bring credibility to this organization after the disastrous Boylen tenure, and the Bulls are counting on their new coach to develop their young core in a way Jimbo failed to do.
Whatever you think of the young guys on this Bulls team, they had no business being quite as bad as they were the last couple of seasons. Injuries played a part for sure, but there was obvious misuse of the roster, resulting in one of the worst offenses in the NBA and a defense that had its moments but typically folded against quality offenses and in crunch time.
Eversley’s comments about the talent in place doesn’t reflect well on the previous regime:
I think it’s all of those things. It’s one the current players who are on the roster. When we came in, we talked a lot about player development. I like a lot of the players on this roster. I think if we put together an efficient, effective player development program, I think you will see a quick turnaround in terms of the output that these players give. By going out and getting a Billy Donovan, who brings a different voice to the gym. He brings winning. He brings leadership. He brings player development. And I think if you put that voice at the top of this thing, I think our players will grow. I don’t know if it’s going to be immediate, but they’re going to grow. We do have assets going forward in terms of the flexibility a year from now. Again, if we can grow these players internally I think we are going to see success on the court. This team is better than a 22-win team, the talent is. If we tweak it and do some little things, I think we’ll see some results that are positive.
Eversley obviously isn’t going to bash the roster, but he’s right on about the player development stuff (the Bulls’ old player development staff was like one guy) and the fact that this shouldn’t have been a 22-win team, even in a shortened 65-game season.
There are still plenty of questions about this core, and I have my doubts about a “quick turnaround” to legitimate success. This front office could also just be blowing smoke before making key changes.
However, if this roster is mostly set for next season outside of the addition of draft picks and some tweaks on the fringes, the hope is Donovan can coach them up into a respectable group that either makes them more attractive to free agents or at least helps build the value of their guys to make other moves ... or maybe it just all falls apart again and the Bulls wind up with Cade Cunningham in 2021.
Either way, we’ll start to get a better idea of what this new front office wants to do in the coming months as we hit the draft and free agency.