How this year's Bulls differ from last year's team
Hello Bulls fans,
It’s been an interesting year for our beloved Chicago Bulls to say the least. A lot of people believed this team wouldn’t win more than 20 games this season once they traded Jimmy Butler. The move signified the franchise was moving in the direction of a long and tedious rebuild. If this is the case, then how does a team in year one of a rebuild have a better record than the Lakers - a team in year 4 of their rebuild?
After the summer 2016 trade of Derrick Rose to the NY Knicks, the assumption was the Bulls were in rebuild mode. The moves that followed - signing Rajon Rondo, and then Dwyane Wade - was a little confusing to the Bulls fan base. The idea was that the three "alphas" in Butler, Rondo and Wade would make the Bulls a playoff team and surprise contender.
But Fred Hoiberg was way over his head and didn’t have the players necessary to run his offensive system, or that respected him as a head coach. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler were both used to Tom Thibodeau's system. Rondo and Wade both won championships so they had little to no respect for a young head coach like Hoiberg. The product on the court showed that these players were not willing to buy in on what was being sold from the staff. Hoiberg’s system requires guards that can consistently shoot the three, and he didn’t have that in Rondo and Wade. The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls somehow squeezed into the east playoffs as the 8th seed. The team overachieved and went up 2-0 against the Boston Celtics but proceeded to lose 4 in a row once Rondo went down with an injury.
The following off-season bore the changes that were believed to be necessary the year prior. The Bulls sent Butler and their first round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 7th overall pick in that year's draft, which they used to pick Lauri Markkanen. Bulls fans unfairly criticized Gar Forman and John Paxson for the move, but I personally loved it, and the direction the team should’ve elected to go in a while ago. The Bulls were stuck in the perpetual cycle of not being good enough to win, but not being bad enough to get a top lottery pick. In this instance the patience to make the deal yielded a bigger haul for GarPax. It was believed that draft night 2016 the Bulls were willing to trade Butler to Minnesota for the 5th overall pick to take Dunn to make him the point guard of the future. The patience allowed us to not only bring in Dunn but also Lauri Markkanen who has shown the ability to play at a high level at just 20 years old.
The 2017 Chicago Bulls started off a bit rocky. A skirmish between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis led to Niko being hospitalized and Bobby being suspended by the organization. The silver lining of this event is that it allowed Hoiberg to start Markkanen at power forward to get a good look at the rookie under the lights. Markkanen didn’t disappoint, setting a record for most 3-pointers made in a rookie’s first six games in the NBA. With a quick release and the confidence to shoot without hesitation, Lauri is a lethal weapon in the pick and pop game.
Dunn was thrusted into a starting role because of the inept play of Jerian Grant. The playing time he has received has caused him to not only develop better as an pro point guard, but also allowed him to gain confidence. I knew Dunn took that next step with his confidence when he hit crossed over an Indiana Pacer en route to a game winning shot and yelled out “F#$k him”.
The player considered at the time to be the best player acquired in the trade - Zach Lavine - has yet to step on the floor this season thanks to injury. He's a legit scoring threat and a very good fit for what the Chicago Bulls are missing right now.
This young Bulls roster bought in to Hoiberg’s system and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It’s quite enjoyable to see cohesive basketball being played with young players who are deemed the future of the franchise. There isn’t much standing around like last year with the older veterans who didn’t feel it necessary to listen to a head coach or play within his scheme. In most instances, veterans don’t respect younger unproven coaches and that was abundantly clear with the previous core. With how they're playing as a unit and also developing, this team is a more enjoyable product than what we were exposed to.