Status Que of the Chicago Bulls
Gar Forman and John Paxson decided to stray away from their dormant tendencies as they blew up the team that Tom Thibodeau built. Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose were shipped to New York for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and Jerian Grant. They traded Calderon and cut Mike Dunleavy to create the cap space to sign Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Canaan, and Dwyane Wade. In addition, they drafted Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipser. The direction of the team is a bit cloudy and the scheme Fred Hoiberg wants to run does not necessarily have the personnel fit to run it. With the Eastern Conference improving, can this Bulls team make it to the playoffs?
The Starting Five
The starting five should end up being Rondo, Wade, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez at center. On paper, this is a quality lineup because of the year-to-year production these players have put up in previous years. In reality, this group will definitely look like the California’s 405 Interstate with all the traffic in the paint. Rondo, Wade, and Butler are not knockdown three point shooters they use that shot to keep defenders honest. Rondo and Wade shoot 28 percent from three and Butler shoots 32 percent. Mirotic shoots 35 percent, but he is a streaky shooter. He has been working on his shot this offseason and has tried to get stronger. Defenders have wised up to his propensity to pump fake and look for contact so it will be interesting to see if he has adjusted. Lopez has an efficient hook shots and it is underrated. RoLo will look to get his points on lobs from Rondo and put backs. On defense, this unit could be one of the best in the league. Rondo, Wade, Butler, and Lopez will get after it on defense and take one on one match-ups personally. This mindset should rub off on Mirotic and make him want to compete on that end. These guys will cause a lot of deflections, steals, blocks, and technical fouls because they are annoying. In transition, Rondo will push the pace so Chicago should take advantage with Wade, Butler, and Mirotic. After all, baskets will be hard to come by in the half court.
Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis, Valentine, Canaan, and Cristiano Felicio should see steady play during the course of the season. Gibson, Portis, and Felicio will give good effort, energy, and intensity on defense. These guys were unheralded and overlooked coming into the league so they give it their all every time they hit the floor. Portis might be asked to shoot more threes and he has the touch to do so as he hit 30 percent of his attempts beyond the arc. Valentine, McBuckets, and Canaan will be asked to provide instant offense off the bench. McBuckets and Canaan have never seen a shot they have not liked. It may take Valentine some time to adjust, but he can contribute in every statistical category. Some think he is the perimeter version of former Michigan State teammate Draymond Green. McDermott has already caught the eye of Wade as he thinks the third year player out of Creighton is poised for a big year.
Wade and Rondo’s Impact
Wade and Rondo are champions and that is something they will bring to Chicago on a night-to-night basis. They did not come to the Windy City to miss the playoffs and tank. Wade has already asked players what happened last season and vows that it will not happen this season. They can teach the young players how to be a pro, make it through a long season, and give them valuable life lessons. The most important thing they can do is help re-establish a winning culture in Chicago. Rondo told reporters he has not been this excited to play basketball since he left Boston. Wade can help speed up the progression of Butler believe it or not. Butler is recognized as one of the best shooting guards and is considered by some as a top ten player in the NBA. Wade can help him expand his game, become a leader, and extend his prime. With the type of player Butler is, he is ready to take on that challenge.
Hoiberg is not the kind of coach that gets in his player’s face or even yell. There is a reason Rondo and Wade were brought in so they could help keep players accountable. Hoiberg’s job is to figure out a way to maximize his team’s potential. Yes, we know he has a system that emphasizes three point shooting and innovation. Yes, we know this current roster lacks elite shooters. However, the great coaches across sports adjust their system to maximize their team’s strengths and mask weaknesses. Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Pete Carroll, Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, and Thibs all make adjustments to their schemes in order to win games and have a shot at winning it all in the playoffs. Hoiberg has to come up with a game plan that maximizes the innovative players he has and masks their lack of shooters. Otherwise, the Chicago fan base and media will be saying it is time for a change. No pun intended.
Written by: DeVaughn Townes