The NBA season will be here before you know it and FanSided is here to get you ready. In the lead up to Opening Night, we’ll be previewing two teams each day, reviewing roster changes, discussing important players and challenges, and hearing the perspective of our FanSided site experts. Let’s get ready for basketball!
Inputs: Denzel Valentine (SG, NBA Draft pick No. 14); Paul Zipser (SF, NBA Draft pick No. 48); Rajon Rondo (PG, signed for two years, $28 million); Dwyane Wade (SG, signed for two years, $47.5 million); Jerian Grant (PG, traded from the New York Knicks); Robin Lopez (C, traded from the New York Knicks); Isaiah Canaan (PG, signed for two years, $2.2 million); Michael Carter-Williams (PG, traded from the Milwaukee Bucks)
Outputs: Mike Dunleavy (SF, traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers); Joakim Noah (C, signed with the New York Knicks); Derrick Rose (PG, traded to the New York Knicks); Pau Gasol (C, signed with the San Antonio Spurs); E’Twaun Moore (SG, signed with the New Orleans Pelicans); Aaron Brooks (PG, signed with the Indiana Pacers); Tony Snell (SF, traded to the Milwaukee Bucks)
Spacing has never been more important in the NBA than it is in 2016 and, to be frank, the Bulls don’t have any. That is perhaps a (slight) overstatement, of course, but Chicago is perhaps the league’s most space-challenged team and that could present a myriad of issues moving forward.
The Bulls acquired Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez over the course of the summer, and while Lopez isn’t a downgrade in terms of spacing against the player he is replacing (Joakim Noah), the Wade and Rondo additions are perplexing. In short, Wade has always been a prolific mid-range shooter that never quite extended that to three-point effectiveness and Rondo is one of the worst shooters at the point guard position in the entire league. Throw in the fact that the team’s best player, Jimmy Butler, owns a career 32.8 percent mark from beyond the three-point arc and the issue comes into view. With the trade for Michael Carter-Williams, even their backcourt bench is light on outside shooting.
Chicago does boast two strong shooters in Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, but it would be very difficult to play that duo at the same time given the defensive problems that would persist and Fred Hoiberg has his work cut out for him in terms of rotation selection this season. There is a lot of talent on this roster, but unless the head coach can solve the mystery in short order, the Bulls aren’t going to be an effective and efficient offensive basketball team.
Biggest question mark
Derrick Rose isn’t walking through the door for the Chicago Bulls and, even if the former MVP has taken a large step back in recent years, that presents some uncertainty at the point guard position. Rajon Rondo is a very famous and previously effective player, but his pedigree does not currently match up to his actual level of play on the floor.
Supporters of Rondo would point to his league-leading assist total (11.7 per game) a year ago, but that is perhaps the only asset that the now 30-year-old boasts. He won’t be helping the Bulls to solve any spacing issues (see above) given a career 28.9 percent mark from three and, in short, Rondo was arguably the worst defensive point guard in the entire NBA last season. There is some reason to believe he will improve (largely by trying harder) on defense in a better situation, but even if Rondo bounces back, he isn’t the only point guard on the roster.
In fact, the Bulls have a gaping hole of uncertainty behind Rondo, with Michael Carter-Williams, Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Canaan, Jerian Grant and even Denzel Valentine potentially jockeying for playing time. There isn’t a “pure” point guard within that entire quartet and even in today’s NBA, that isn’t ideal. Grant has the highest level of investment, but regardless of who “wins” the job behind Rondo, it is probably safe to assume that the Bulls will have a below-average tandem at point guard.
What does success look like?
For the Bulls to find success this season, not only do the “Three Alphas” of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo need to mesh, the young Bulls must contribute or this team is back in the lottery.
That means guys like Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, first-round draft pick Denzel Valentine and the Bulls’ newest addition – 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams – must all chip in or this retool/rebuild experiment will head south quickly.
What’s success for the Bulls this season? There’s a few things that are needed to make this weird roster work. The youth of the Bulls come along and make big strides in helping the Bulls win some games they probably shouldn’t this season.
And, if the youth of the Bulls that includes Mirotic, Portis, Carter-Williams, and the sharpshooting Doug McDermott can stay healthy along with their three leaders, this team could find themselves sneaking into a playoff spot late in the year.
Butler, Wade and Rondo need the ball in their hands, but the core of this organization is going to have to trust the young guys to produce. It’s not 2009. Wade’s career is nearing the end and Rondo is nowhere near the player that caused all kinds of chaos as an elite point guard.
A title isn’t a realistic goal for this team, which is something Wade has already made clear heading into the regular season. But, bringing along the plethora of young guys on this Bulls roster and making a playoff push could be considered a success, being that last season was just a complete disaster that led to a huge roster turnover.
What’s hilarious about this odd roster is that 42-40 – the record of the 2015-16 Chicago Bulls – could and probably should be considered a win for these Bulls.
(Also, the Bulls finally have a D-League team. That means this season’s already a success to a degree.)