The Chicago Bulls’ never-ending slip into mediocrity probably won’t be ending this season. Chicago has endured a slow start to the season that demanded some roster-altering trades that potentially could lead to a complete overhaul this summer.
For the interim, the Bulls remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, just two games out of the 8th and final playoff spot. Their increasingly lessening chances of snagging that final playoff seed grew even more dim on Thursday, however, with news that star shooting guard Dwyane Wade would be lost for the season:
Wade exited Wednesday night’s home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies with an elbow injury, while a follow-up MRI revealed a mild sprain and fracture in his elbow.
Wade has immediately been ruled out for the remained of the regular season and it remains unclear if the 35-year old superstar would be able to make it back for the playoffs, should Chicago qualify.
With Wade sidelined, Jimmy Butler will assume a much larger scoring load, while recently promoted point guard Rajon Rondo will also handle more scoring and playmaking duties. The Dwyane Wade injury news also likely creates a new role for young swingman, Denzel Valentine.
The silvering lining for Wade is that he’s still proven to be a very useful offensive option even as he ages. The former Miami Heat star returned home to help his Bull turn back into playoff contenders, but to this point hadn’t been able to lift them despite averaging over 18 points per game.
Wade’s play has noticeable dipped on the defensive end over the years and that didn’t change in Chicago, where he was part of a team that routinely allowed well over 100 points per game.
Adding health questions to age, it’s suddenly worth wondering if D-Wade has already played his final game with his hometown team less than one full season after signing on with them.
One key reason for skepticism is Wade’s public comments about potentially opting out of his current deal following this season. Wade is still going to be under contract after this year is up, but has said previously that due to their mediocre ways, he could decide to opt out and join a contending team elsewhere.
It’s hard to falt Wade’s desire to win as his NBA career draws to a close, while the writing may also be on the wall that Chicago is ready for a full-blown rebuilding phase. Keeping an aging Wade on doesn’t really help the Bulls, especially since they weren’t an elite team even when he was healthy.
Chicago was already going to be a tough sell as a playoff team this season, and as they stand they’re not yet in a comfortable position. The Bulls haven’t even been trending in a positive direction, having lost 7 of their last 10 games.
Losing Wade only asks more out of Jimmy Butler and the rest of Chicago’s starting five. Wade leaves over 18 points per game off the court and also takes away solid playmaking and someone who Butler can defer to in the clutch.
A team already criminally lacking in scoring and shooting, the Bulls could really struggle mightily to produce points going forward. That does potentially create enhanced roles for scorers like Nikola Mirotic and Denzel Valentine, but if they can’t answer the call, this latest Dwayne Wade injury could very well sink the Bulls.
The worst part is Chicago won’t have much of a chance to make any noise in the playoffs even if they did somehow crack the top eight seeds. They’re looking at a one-and-done situation at best in the playoffs, and most likely this pushes them closer (and at a faster rate) to blowing up their roster as we know it.
Don’t be shocked to see the Bulls regress from here, which should lead to Wade leaving town and the Jimmy Butler trade rumors to heat up to an all-time high temperature.
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