Should the Chicago Bulls Blow Up Their Roster?
NBA rumors often have a mind of their own, as they kick start well before the season begins, and eventually either come to fruition or die down right before the league’s trade deadline.
Once teams start discovering whether or not they’re going to make the playoffs, though, new rumors are born regarding what teams could be planning for the future. Whether it’s some draft buzz, word about some marquee free agents or a total blow up of a roster, NBA rumors that come in as the regular season wraps up should never be taken lightly.
One interesting blurb has the Bulls potentially shopping shooting guard Jimmy Butler this summer. Per reports, Chicago is concerned about his knee injury and how a heavy workload this far in his career could hamper him moving forward.
Chicago has Butler signed to a big four-year deal, though, so they’re also probably curious as to what they could get back for Butler in a trade.
A few teams that either lack an impact wing player or could really use a go-to scorer are the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics and the Sacramento Kings.
With such a big contract and so many years on his deal, Butler would demand quite the haul in a trade, so it’s unlikely a current title contender could (or would) try to make it happen.
The Hawks could make some sense, as Kyle Korver has regressed and Al Horford could jet in free agency. They may not have enough assets to wow Chicago, though. Boston could swing the deal, as they have a plethora of bigs, some draft picks and appeared in the past to be open to deal just about anyone to land a star. That could include Marcus Smart and/or Isaiah Thomas. Then if Dwight Howard opted out of Houston and headed for Boston, the Celtics would suddenly be legit players again – more than they already are.
The Kings seem to be up for anything, so the likes of Rudy Gay and young guys like Ben McLemore are probably up for grabs. They also can’t really seem to get out of their own way, so it’s tough to see them figuring out a deal that works for both sides. Butler could hypothetically solve Sacramento’s issues at the two guard spot, but he probably wouldn’t love playing for a franchise in such disarray.
If a trade goes down, Orlando feels like the best fit. The Magic are busting with interesting talent, but not all of it fits their system and/or they just haven’t achieved enough success to really deem anyone untouchable. That could make Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Victor Oladipo and even Aaron Gordon attractive trade chips in a potential deal. It wouldn’t take all of them to make it happen, either, so Butler could head down to Orlando and lead a very promising, young Magic team.
No Quick Fix
The other idea is to forget this trade talk every happened and stay the course. As they stand, the Bulls are quite misguided as an offensive team that doesn’t really have a clear identity and a defensive team that no longer plays elite defense on a regular basis.
Butler himself isn’t even as much of a lock-down defender as he once was, both because he’s asked to do more on offense and because of his knee. Even at full strength, he’s not enough to mask the other issues, as Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol can’t defend anyone.
Their other best defender, Taj Gibson, is normally a backup who plays sparingly, and the next best defender is the regressing (and injured) Joakim Noah, who is likely leave this summer.
Pau Gasol is headed for free agency, and while he can still stuff the stat sheet and help carry an offense, he is a major defensive liability more often than not and is not always the most efficient source of offense.
Letting Gasol walk is probably the first step to turning this around, as his mere presence forces Chicago to run a lot of their offense through him, and at least as they’re constructed, they’re better suited doing that through Butler and/or Rose.
Rose is the other problem, as he doesn’t defense and is an inefficient volume scorer at this stage in his career. He’s flashed his old MVP form, but he’s simply not the dominant impact player he once was and it’s also beyond obvious he’s not a good enough point guard to lead this offense on a regular basis. There isn’t enough productive depth behind him to call him on it, though.
The strength of this team, when healthy, is the depth. Mike Dunleavy, E’Twaun Moore and Aaron Brooks are all serviceable role players in spurts, while Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis are a trio of young talents that already can chip in offensively and carry fairly high ceilings for the future.
Again, there is no quick fix and Chicago probably won’t get it right before next year. But fixing a likely non-playoff team does not involve mailing it in completely be trading away Butler.
Instead, the days of running Butler and the rest of the Bulls into the ground need to be over. Rose needs to be counted on less and less and eventually sent elsewhere or split into a platoon that has his inefficiency be less damning.
McDermott and Mirotic may be best served operating off the bench, but both should have more defined roles to spark the offense.
Gasol needs to go and the Bulls probably can’t waste much time trying to hold onto Noah or Gibson, either. They need to re-work where their defense starts and ends, which means re-committing to Butler as their prime wing defender and bringing in a stud big man that can threaten offenses on both ends.
How that plan gets put into place is anyone’s guess. A full blow-up isn’t what the Bulls need, though. It needs to be more calculated. Everyone mustn’t go. Chicago should pick and choose, retain their top assets, and find upgrades elsewhere. That’s easier said than done, but if they want to make the playoffs next year, they need to take a step in the right direction. Shipping Butler off in a trade wouldn’t be accomplishing that.
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