Bulls Q&A: Getting younger (and more athletic), player/coach Rajon Rondo, Otto Porter and more
Whose stock is up and whose is down on the Bulls roster after the 2016-17 season? (K.C. Johnson)
There are just over two weeks until the NBA draft. Do you know where your Bulls mailbag is?
What do you think the Bulls’ greatest need is for the draft? I’m partial to shooting because it became obvious down the stretch that the team would have benefited from anyone who was a knockdown shooter. — Ben W.
I’m partial to shooting, too. It makes everyone better in this day and age. You have to have floor spacing to help penetration, given the rules prohibiting hand checking and emphasis on screen-and-roll play. Management said it needs to add shooting and athleticism. Adding someone adept in both categories is ideal. But I think shooting is the bigger need.
The GarPax draft model seems to always be seasoned, three- to four-year college players from major conferences. While we’re “re-tooling,” doesn’t it make sense to draft a younger, more athletic player who has a higher ceiling than a possible four-year player? I personally like Donovan Mitchell. I see a little Ben Gordon in him. — Rich, Chicago
That reputation is legitimate but there have been exceptions. Luol Deng played one year at Duke. Bobby Portis — jury is still out — played two at Arkansas. Marquis Teague — didn’t pan out — played one at Kentucky. That said, I agree with your overall assessment. And this draft lines up to possibly force their hand as it’s filled with less experienced players. The Bulls have done plenty of work on Mitchell and I can see him being given strong consideration if he’s available at No. 16. They could do far, far worse than another Ben Gordon.
Photos of Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler.
Not being glib: What is the game plan besides Jimmy Butler and why would anyone pay money to watch a team that lacks any identity whatsoever? — JaShan, Crytown, City of Tears
For the same reason someone would take the time to fill out a form and send in a question? Not sure about the paying money part and can’t speak to that since I’m fortunate to be paid to watch the games and write/report on the team. Assuming Dwyane Wade opts in, the game plan appears to be run the Three Alphas back, add two draft picks, put a premium on internal player development and look to make a big splash in 2018. That’s when the contracts of Wade and Rondo come off the books. Whether fans choose to engage in the 2017-18 season is obviously an individual choice. I’ll be there.
Am I the only one excited for the Bulls to bring back a similar roster to the one last year? They weren’t very good but they were entertaining. They were able to stay competitive while developing young players who now have playoff experience. Also, hopefully now Fred Hoiberg sees how valuable Rajon Rondo is and doesn’t bench him midseason. And it would probably be a good idea to settle on three point guards instead of six. — Tom Parker, Davenport, Iowa
Until the semi-snark at the end, I wondered if this was Gar Forman using a pseudonym. One could quibble on how much the young players developed, given how inconsistently they played. Otherwise, Hoiberg would’ve likely settled on a more consistent rotation. That said, I do think there was value in, say, Portis having a big game in the playoffs and experiencing that scene. Hoiberg already said turning the keys over to Rondo down the stretch saved the season. So I’d expect Rondo to have a similar role next season. The problem is, this franchise has won six championships. So that should be the measuring stick. And they’re a long way off from that mark.
I really do feel like this summer is the last chance to get anything of value for Jimmy Butler. It almost seems like the pathetic Luol Deng situation and that stupid core thing again. They will sell very low on him at the trade deadline and settle for a protected to No. 10 first-round pick and second-round pick. To me, Gar Forman set the price so high on purpose when he asked for Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, plus picks. What have you heard about the front office in terms of accountability? No one asked that question about how John Paxson holds Forman accountable or why wasn’t he held accountable for the clown show during the season and the players he brought in and then refused to answer questions. — Jose, Chicago
You had a lot on your chest. Hope you’re feeling better. Where to start? I actually think last summer was the prime chance to max out Butler’s trade value if that’s the direction the organization wanted to go. At the time, he had three seasons on a value max contract, signed before the new CBA. And while a two-time All-Star at the time, he took another jump this season to elite status and All-NBA. So trading him now basically assures you won’t get equal value. The Deng trade was simply a financial move to get out of the luxury tax because, with Rose on the shelf again, the franchise didn’t feel it could compete for a title. It saved the Bulls roughly $20 million. As for the Bulls’ talks with the Celtics, there were a lot of moving parts and proposals exchanged. One story I heard is that the Celtics kept changing their parameters for a deal. But it’s definitely true that the Bulls also couldn’t reach organizational consensus on whether to trade Butler. As for accountability, ownership believes in Paxson and Forman. They sign the checks. So nobody else’s opinion really matters. Even though Paxson’s title is higher than Forman’s, ownership would have to sign off on any changes.
When was the last (first?) team that built a contender not through the draft? Miami? That was a unique situation that worked once. I love Jimmy Butler but by the time the Bulls are ready to contend, he will be out of his prime. Tear it down! — Paul, Naperville
I found it telling that Paxson acknowledged the uncertainty of fully rebuilding and entering deep into the lottery, how teams can get mired for six to eight seasons there. And the Bulls lived that experience following the dynasty. I don’t disagree that Butler could be out of his prime by the time LeBron is done, er, the Bulls are ready to contend. Actually, I’d say on the tail end of his prime rather than done with it. But again, that’s why I think last June was the time to trade Butler if you were going to do a full rebuild. The team had a draft target in Kris Dunn. And more assets would’ve been coming from the Celtics. The Bulls would’ve been bad last season, adding a lottery pick to this year’s draft that is considered strong through Nos. 10 or 11. Now, Butler, to me, has played his way to the point where trading him would not get anywhere near equal value.
Can you envision the Bulls hiring Rajon Rondo as a player-coach within the next couple of years? I think that Rondo’s basketball IQ is off the charts. — Barry Pomerantz, Buffalo Grove
I talked to Rondo about his desire to be an NBA head coach one day and he said he hoped to do so without being an assistant first. So I don’t see it happening here, but you never say never in this league. I do think Rondo will be an NBA head coach one day. And I would look forward to covering him in that role.
Photos of Bulls guard Rajon Rondo.
What’s in better shape right now, the Bulls or Chicago Public Schools? — Brian, Chicago
Love the political commentary. Let’s answer it this way: I think both are in the type of shape to keep three people in our household busy. Maybe our soon-to-be sixth- and fourth-graders can convince MJ to bankroll the teachers’ pension.
It seems the decision of the summer is whether or not the front office believes Nikola Mirotic can become the starting power forward of the next four to five years. Do you think he can be that guy and do you think the front office believes it? If not, is Bobby Portis the answer? — Dan Marguiles, Northbrook
I think that overstates the situation slightly. It’s more: Can the front office afford to let assets walk for nothing? Mirotic, for all his maddening inconsistencies, remains an asset because he’s a floor spacer and under team control. That’s why management has said it wants to retain him. His restricted free agency will be intriguing. There’s a lot of money out there. I think both Mirotic and Portis have proven to be rotation players. The problem is, the Bulls need one of them to be a consistent starter.
Will the Bulls try to make a run for Derrick Rose? It would be a great asset to have him come off the bench. He’ll be close to his kid and also take a hometown discount to play for his team. — Estrada, Chicago
To quote the ever-quotable Rondo: “Um, how can I say this? No.”
What are the chances the Bulls go after Otto Porter? He’s young and can shoot 3-pointers. He would pair well with Jimmy and that first unit. If Wade returns, he could anchor the bench in a sixth man, Iguodala-type role and help Grant/Payne/Valentine develop. — Mark, Bridgeview
I agree he’d be a nice fit. But he’s a restricted free agent and if the Bulls run the Three Alphas back and re-sign Mirotic and Felicio, they won’t be able to afford him. As for Wade in a sixth-man role, I addressed that question in a previous mailbag. If he opts in, I think that’s one of the bigger storylines to next training camp.
Assuming the Bulls run mostly the same team back next year, what are some of the smaller moves around the edges you could see them make that could improve the team next season? — Stephen Clapper, Nashville, Tenn.
Justin Holiday. Jonas Jerebko. Isaiah Canaan. I’m just throwing out names of decent shooters who might be in their price range to emphasize your point that these will be “edge” moves. They can find somebody who can impact the rotation. But it’s not expected to be a headline-type name.
The Bulls’ plan is to stay relevant for the off-chance that Anthony Davis may eventually force a trade and Dwyane Wade can serve as brand ambassador to sell him on coming back to Chicago. Just thought I’d let the rest of the readers know so they can stop freaking out during these pointless Warriors vs. LeBron James seasons. — Dan Schiller, Chicago