Chicago Bulls: An Organization That Continues to Accept Mediocrity

Bulls, NBA, Zach LaVine, Knicks, Nets
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Acceptance of mediocrity should not be the basis on which one judges an organization’s decision making.

Even removing the amount of judgment or strength put under the proverbial microscope, judging the way business is run has to be done in a vacuum.

Fans react and hold opinions based on the emotional bias that their team isn’t successful.

But to truly understand why this is the case, fans have to remove our fandom realize the context of those moves.

Keep this premise in mind: the Chicago Bulls’ intent as a franchise is to make money.

Rather than accusing management of the purposeful attempt to not build a winning product, the realization that making a profit has proceeded to build a championship contender must be had.

It makes sense from a business perspective – riding one of the largest markets in America with a fan base that has grown since during the Jordan Era – It’s going to profit.

And it has worked – until this past season, where the Bulls “attempted” to tank the season and retool the roster, the Bulls has the led NBA in attendance for decades.

In years prior, Bulls fans even bought the bait that former superstar point guard Derrick Rose could be the next savior of the franchise. Not that he couldn’t have been, but the combined circumstances of head coach Tom Thibadeau overplaying his starters, LeBron James existing, and Roses’ tendency to have nagging injuries put a damper on playoff hopes.

Ownership has kept brass Gar Forman and John Paxson in place because there has been no reason to remove them.

Their job has been to heel the team floating above .500 – expectations to develop and improve a front office that has never been keen on embracing modern ideologies on basketball analysis has shown by their use of assets.

Particularly, cap space.

Trading Jimmy Butler for Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine was fine. But the moves leading up to it weren’t. Trading up to select Doug McDermott, treating second round picks as disposable, and the continued practice of selecting third or fourth-year student-athletes who are “NBA ready.” And then, trading away Nikolai Mirotic and the Jordan Bell pick? These are poor decisions.

Signing Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo in the 2016 offseason, trying to push forward with one more playoff run was a misguided effort to add talent. In reality, it didn’t even fit Head Coach Fred Hoiberg’s offensive identity or scheme.

The direction of the franchise has never been to efficiently built for a winning, championship-winning product. Whether the years with Tom Thibadeau as head coach was a lucky shot in the dark at this, the organization had has had tunnel vision. The staff for scouting has always been smaller than your average NBA team – and it shows.

But at the same time, Paxton has done things like bring in David Nwaba, take Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson in the draft. Sign Robin Lopez, etc.

But are those positives a crapshoot find? Are those the hits of a misguided front office? Are they indicative of an actual vision to rebuild a winning culture?

The Chicago Bulls have too many question marks to constitute a successful rebuild.

Kris Dunn is a defensive stallwort who can who can handle the ball well. But he has a poor shot selection, below average playmaking ability, and inconsistent three-point shot. His floor is a quality backup guard on a good team. If he develops a respectable three-pointer under resident shot doctor Fred Hoiberg, he’d be able to start alongside a guard who has elite playmaking and shot creating abilities.

Ideally this would be Zach LaVine. The Bulls gave him a 4yr/80 million dollar contract this offseason, betting top dollar for his potential.

His intangibles are off the charts, but his production hasn’t matched the eye test. LaVine is able to dish out assists fairly easily. However, that’s more of a product of finding the open man as the lead ball-handler rather than point guard skill.

LaVine has shown that he can quickly glide by defenders to the basket, but he has failed to finish smoothly with poise. His shot form is crisp, but inconsistently goes in. LaVine’s shot selection also needs improvement. His effort defensively is non-existent, LaVine is practically a guaranteed missed assignment every single possession.

Jabari Parker is even more of a project. As a rookie, he showed flashes of elite athleticism as a power forward for the Milwaukee Bucks. Since tearing his ACL, Parker has since declined and hasn’t improved his overall game much at all. Since he’s played so inconsistently throughout his first four years in the NBA, his defensive instincts are some of the worst in basketball. And yet, this organization expects him to be able to play small forward.

Parker even said himself at his introductory press conference, “They don’t play players to play defense.”

Lauri Markkanen shows the most promise as a prospect, his growth as a rookie was clear as a the season progressed. He’s a legitimate threat from beyond the arc and can take wings off the dribble to the basket with ease.

Wendell Carter Jr. is the Bulls best draft pick since Jimmy Butler. His defensive versatility, rim protection, and ability to hit from deep makes him one of the best players on the team already and a vital part of the frontcourt rotation.

Is investing 60 million dollars in cap space for Parker and LaVine a viable way to rebuild? Forman and Paxton are betting all these chips on the hope that either of them may be a superstar player. That’s poor asset management.

Chicago over the last decade have been passive with their roster construction, satisfied with not taking real risks. Drafting Wendell Carter Jr. was a step in the right direction. It showed that Gar/Pax had somewhat of an idea of who the best player was on the board at seven. Even last year, taking Markkanen at seven was a step in the right direction as far as selecting talented prospects.

Perhaps the problem isn’t the evaluation of talent, but rather the application and fit. Dwyane Wade is a perfectly fine and valuable rotation player, but he shouldn’t be starting in a modern offensive system. Zach LaVine is also talented, but is a high usage and efficient score, doesn’t play team defense, doesn’t create offense for others very well, and is on a team that has no above average playmakers.

On a lesser level of concern, can Markkanen and Carter Jr. exist in a frontcourt where a modern NBA with offenses that are constantly putting bags through switches and screens to create mismatches?

Regardless if they can, they continue to attempt to build a roster that doesn’t fit shows. At first, it was Hoiberg’s offense, and now it’s the schematically fit of NBA offenses that actually will run circles around your slow big men.

The Bulls have failed to rebuild until the writing was on the wall. They were going to tank this past year but then was unable to do so well.

They continue to fail in acquiring in top tier free agents. They can’t tank or else the team’s ticket and jersey sales would too.

The state of the Chicago Bulls is problematic at best. Their direction is unknown because the real motives of ownership are clouded by the underwhelming personal hires and asset collection.

Optimism will always be a vital part of fandom. It fogs our opinions, making us biased and not realize that accepting something because it’s always been that way doesn’t justify it.

It downplays it.

Bulls fans should accept nothing else but championship aspirations. To accept mediocrity is to not truly love your team.

The Chicago Bulls organization will ride the fandom of millions until ownership changes. The Reinsdorf family is focused on pulling the udders of the cash cow until it runs dry.

Basketball is a business. Both fans and followers are at the mercy of the market they fuel by continuing to support something they love.

Putting hope into a core of LaVine, Markkanen, and Carter Jr. is precisely the blind optimism the Bulls fans will follow for the next few years.

1 Comment

  1. Lavine and Parker are 4 years in, Forman is just banking on both those guys to put injuries behind them and finally tap into their potential. If they do the sky is the limit, Jabari Parker and Zach Lavine are both 20+ ppg scorers if they stay healthy and you couple that with a guard like Dunn who is a 2 way floor general and they have surreal potential.

    That’s not to mention Carter Jr who’s insanely mobile in the paint and can stretch the floor and defend multiple positions. Lauri might just breakout and be their leading scorer this coming season, the kid is fearless and has an array of moves in the post and is an above average 3 point shooter. I think they’ll challenge for a playoff spot in the East and for all we know Dunn,Lavine,Parker, and Lauri go bananas on the NBA and make the Bulls a super team in the East.

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