Trevor Block – Indy writer
Chicago, IL – Sell, sell, sell, sell!
That should be the mantra of Chicago Bulls fans as the trade deadline approaches.
Well, by the time this reaches the masses the NBA trade deadline will have already passed. And although Chicago is unlikely to make a big splash, the last several days have sparked some interesting conversation.
First of all, Chicago’s standing right now in the NBA is about the worst place a team could position themselves in: middle of the pack. Over the last decade or so the NBA and its fans have shifted their mindset about how to build a team. With the introduction of franchise players coming out of college after one year, the most valuable position behind the champion is at the very, very bottom of the league.
Whether you like it or not doesn’t matter, but teams are and will continue to actively try to maximize their odds of a number one pick. Those stuck in the middle of the pack usually compete during the regular season, get bounced from the playoffs and then wind up with a mediocre draft spot. Not necessarily a recipe for long term success.
And so Chicago finds themselves in NBA limbo. Their roster is decimated by injuries (what a surprise) and their rookie head coach is struggling. Jimmy Butler, Chicago’s best player and team leader, has been out for a couple weeks with a knee injury that appeared to mirror that of Derrick Rose’s first ACL tear in 2012. Fortunately the injury was only minor and Butler should see the floor again sometime in March.
Derrick Rose has missed several games this year due to nagging injuries and rest, Mike Dunleavy just returned for his very first game of the season after having back surgery, Joakim Noah is out for the year with a shoulder injury and Nikola Mirotic remains sidelined due to an emergency appendectomy.
Thanks to injuries and a lack of effective coaching, the Bulls currently sit at 7th in the East, but do not look poised to move forward at all. As a matter of fact, since Chicago’s six game win streak at the beginning of January, the Bulls are just 5-13 in their last 18 games, including a current four game losing streak.
So, what do the Bulls do?
At the end of this current season, Joakim Noah and E’Twaun Moor will be off the Bulls’ payroll. They are unlikely to remain with the team. Furthermore, Pau Gasol has a player option he can pick up if he so chooses for the 2016-2017 season. In the midst of all the Pau trade talk, he has made it clear that he wishes to stay in Chicago. However, that might not be such a good idea.
Pau is now a 35 year old big man in an NBA that is decreasing its need for those types of players. Pau will remain effective until he chooses to retire, but his talents would serve a contending team much better than a middle of the pack team. Chicago needs to shoot for a quick turnaround rather than a full scale rebuild. Trading Gasol might have kickstarted such a turnaround.
There were rumors of sending Pau to the Kings for Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay and Kosta Koufos or some combination of those. The prospect is interesting, but perhaps not what Chicago is looking for.
With Noah coming off the books after this year and proving to be somewhat fragile after years of playing a difficult brand of basketball, Chicago is unlikely to resign him, though he has also expressed interest in staying. Keeping both Noah and Gasol would be foolish, as both are aging and prone to injury. Rather, Chicago should start with a fresh frontcourt via trade or the draft.
Speaking of the draft, Chicago has their own pick this year, as well as Sacramento’s pick if it falls outside of the top 10 (Bulls fans should be pulling for the Kings to make the playoffs, who are currently 10th in the West). That gives Chicago two solid options to either package for a better pick or to use, though the incoming draft class lacks the depth of more recent years.
Chicago also added a 2nd round pick acquired from the Hawks in a trade that sent Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta at the end of the trade deadline (2/18 2:00 p.m.).
Next season’s roster might look similar to the current one, but come 2017-2018, this could be an entirely different Bulls roster save for Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy.
Chicago’s current season is slipping through the cracks, which provides an opportunity to either improve the team now in hopes of some playoff luck, or retooling the roster for the coming few years.
The next few offseasons should be busy ones for Chicago’s front office.
Oh yeah. Derrick Rose, you know, the Chicago born face of his franchise for the past few years, his contract is up after next season. I’d keep an eye on that.