By Eduardo Monk Jr
After weathering a terrible playoff, NBA fans are being treated to just about the greatest offseason of all time. There have been four massive blockbusters (Ricky Rubio, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul) already, a draft that looks to be one of the best ever before the season starts and even a free agency this eventful is almost a disappointment in comparison to the rest of the headlines this offseason. Isn’t this supposed to be the boring part?
Anyway, the Chicago Bulls were a team needy of a great summer after a season highlighted with an 8th seed berth and pushing the top-seeded Boston Celtics to six games. It was clear that the current roster wasn’t going to cut it anymore. But after moving on from resident superstar Jimmy Butler, multiple starters and role players, are the Bulls on the right track?
In order to answer this, let’s answer what the right track should be. Which is the Bulls should be in a rebuild phase as of right now. Don’t believe me? Chicago was stuck in No Man’s Land for years now, completely confused about where they wanted to go and this lead to them sometimes being good enough to make the playoffs, sometimes not but always eliminated before the second round. There is simply nowhere positive to go therefore a team in this situation has to start with a clean slate and try to make something positive.
GarPax might have started understanding this with the moves on Butler and Rondo. And they might actually be doing something positive with the current roster. As sad as it may be to see fan favorite Butler go, he didn’t fit in with the Bulls timeline. The Bulls might be competitive again when his prime is well gone. And with Golden State and Cleveland being this dominant, there is not a free agent the Bulls would be able to sign to be legitimate championship caliber in this era.
So the right move was the trade him for young assets for the future. And boy, did they get young assets.
Unless you have been in a coma for a few weeks now, the Butler deal brought in dunk champion Zach LaVine, former fifth overall pick Kris Dunn and the latest seventh overall Lauri Markkanen. On the surface, it looks like a whole lot of nothing. LaVine dunks, Dunn hasn’t done (hahahahaha) anything and most casual fans have never even heard of Lauri. But with some digging, this move is actually an incredible trade.
Butler was by far the focal point of the offense this past season and without him, there’s a gaping hole in the scoring load that now feels solely on the aging Wade. But in all reality, Zach LaVine has the tools to be a top scorer in the entire league. He averaged 19 points a game this past season while shooting 46% and 39% from three. And on a team with Andrew Wiggins being the go-to scorer, LaVine will thrive in a system where he is top dog. He’s only 22, so he has a lot of room to grow still.
Kris Dunn was on too short of a leash this season to really prove his value as he was stuck on a team coached by Tom Thibodeau who is notorious for not playing rookies. But in the short 17 minutes per game he had, he solidified himself a future defensive ace. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 2 steals and a block, stats that are All-Defense team worthy. For a team now without a defensive star, Dunn is the perfect candidate to take over that role one day that Butler had left.
Lauri is just about the greatest shooting big man college basketball has ever seen and in a league so concerned about floor spacing, Marikannan is the prototypical 2017 big man in the NBA. He can shoot from anywhere, he’s a solid rebounder with a strong finishing ability. These attributes give any player the chance to be an All-Star level player.
This trade is only potential stars with a lot of ifs involved. Every one of these players could be top notch players one day but that’s it. Could be. But for a rebuilding franchise, it’s better to have three players full of raw talent than one great player rotting on a team stuck in No Man’s Land.
Through this trade and the waiving of Rajon Rondo, the Bulls are actually in a very good spot. They have nine players 24 and younger with only two above 30. For a team in rebuild mode, this is a great sign. There is no guarantee that a rebuild is going to work but the legendarily stubborn GarPax taking steps to tear down their Bulls is a very good thing.
Though it’s time to prepare for a few seasons of bottom feeding, Bulls fans, this team is in very good shape with the young talent they have. It’s going to be a crash course coaxing players like Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser, Cameron Payne, Dunn and LaVine into their full potential of All-Stars but there’s little doubt the Bulls have put themselves in a great position to one day be competitive again, post-Warriors and Cavaliers.
In GarPax we trust.