What has happened to the Chicago Bulls?
Talor Hamilton dissects the Chicago Bulls apparent fall from grace.
The Chicago Bulls are most well known for having had arguably the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan. But the Bulls also have many other accolades. The youngest MVP of all time and Rookie of the Year in 2008-09 for Derrick Rose. Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14 for Joakim Noah and in 1987-88 for Jordan. The Bulls are 6 for 6 in the NBA Finals with the help of Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Craig Hodges won the three-point contest three times from 1989-92, and Steve Kerr won one in 1996-97. Jordan also won the slam dunk contest in 1987 and 1988.
The Bulls had many other great players including Scottie Pippen, Artis Gilmore, Horace Grant, Jerry Sloan, and Kirk Hinrich. Along with these, they have also had many phenomenal players in the recent past, including the likes of Rajon Rondo, Dwayne Wade, and Jimmy Butler. But each of these stars have been victims of their own special circumstances and this hasn’t really helped the Bulls. They are currently 3-20 this season, which makes them the worst team in the NBA! That is a step back from last season where they were in the playoffs and largely still seen as contenders. So the question is - what events caused this dramatic change of fortunes?
Derrick Rose is probably the most well-known story, but here is a quick review. Rose played for the University of Memphis and was drafted first overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Rose won Rookie of the Year with a stat line of 16.8 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, and 6.4 assists per game. At 22 years old, Rose was the youngest player to win the MVP in the 2010-11 season with a stat line of 25.0 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 7.7 assists per game.
Rose looked to be the next big thing until he sustained a horrible injury in the 2012 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. He tore the ACL in his left knee thus causing him to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Since then Rose has been injury prone, causing him to miss many games and leaving teams questioning whether they should sign him or not. Eventually Rose was traded to the New York Knicks in the 2016-17 season. It is unfortunate that Rose couldn’t stay healthy because I believe he would’ve been one of the NBA’s greatest players. I think he would’ve stayed with the Bulls and they would be a much better team for it.
Dwayne Wade spent a lone season in Chicago during the 2016-17 season. He would later agree to a buyout with the Bulls so he could sign with the Cavaliers and join Lebron James once again. Wade said, “...being part of a team that is in the process of rebuilding doesn’t align with where I want to be right now, no matter how difficult that decision may be.”
To be perfectly honest, he couldn’t be more correct. The Bulls are in the process of rebuilding after losing key buillding blocks of their team, and this is definitely a smart decision for a player who is now 35. Wade is moving towards the end of his career. He isn’t playing quite like he used to and if he wants to have another run at the championship, he is going to need some help
Two more instances prove that the Bulls are rebuilding. The first was the decision to release veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo is a little past his prime with the Boston Celtics, but he can still put up respectable numbers and get the ball to guys who can score. Rondo’s lone season with the Bulls was very inconsistent. He would start in some games but other times he would sit on the bench for a majority of the game. Either way Rondo is now with the Pelicans where he looks far more comfortable in his role; posting up multiple double-doubles in points and assists.
The last instance and probably the most lopsided trade this offseason, was with the Timberwolves. With the release of Wade and Rondo, the only star player left on the Bulls was Butler and he only had one more year left on his contract. Admitedly, he is in his prime right now and it was a pragmatic decision for him to do the same as Wade and jump ship, so as to avoid wasting his talent on a team that is rebuilding.
The trade with the Timberwolves included, the Bulls have received Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the seventh pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, which was used to draft Lauri Markkanen. The Timberwolves received Butler and the 16th overall pick.
LaVine, being a rising star, is best known for his dunking and amazing athleticism. However, he is still coming off of an injury from last season and still isn't expected to return until the end of December. Lauri Markkanen has already established his place on the rebuilding team, and looks like the best player on the roster right now.
Are all of these smart trades in the long run? The answer is a definite maybe. The Bulls need to hold onto these players, stop making big trades and maybe sign a star or veteran player in the offseason. They have gone into total rebuild mode to develop their young talent and roster. I don’t think the Bulls have a chance to make it to the playoffs this year, but they could be a great team in another five years; provided they play their cards right.