Last Thursday, the NBA’s trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls front office completed a trade, but it was not the blockbuster deal that some Bulls fans have been hoping for. Instead, the Bulls sent long time Bull Power Forward Taj Gibson, 2014 first round pick Small Forward Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for 2015 first round pick Point Guard Cameron Payne, Shooting Guard Anthony Morrow and Center Joffrey Lauvergne.
The move was a controversial one as the Bulls got rid of fan favorite Taj Gibson for an unproven point guard in Cameron Payne and two “throw in” players. But, this trade makes sense. The Bulls were able to get rid of Gibson’s expiring contract and McDermott, who has failed to live up to high expectations since being drafted. Unloading these two for a young player makes sense. Former Thunder point guard, Cameron Payne, is a lottery ticket for the Bulls and one worth taking a minor risk on. According to ESPN, NBA Writer Royce Young said, “The Thunder believe Payne is going to be a big time player, but playing behind Westbrook wouldn’t develop into the player he’s capable of.”
Therefore, the design of this trade is to allow the young Bulls to play so the front office can assess what they have in them. Getting rid of McDermott and Gibson theoretically should open up minutes to young players such as Power Forward Bobby Portis, Shooting Guard Denzel Valentine, and the stable of young Point Guards (Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, Michael-Carter Williams).
But, while this trade is decent by itself in the grand scheme of the Bulls future plan, it only adds confusion. Post Derrick Rose trade last summer, Bulls General Manager, Gar Forman, said in a press conference that he wanted to make the Bulls “younger and more athletic,” according to Bulls Beat Reporter Nick Friedell. The moves made following this statement contradicted Forman. The Bulls proceeded to sign 31 year old Point Guard Rajon Rondo and 35 year old Shooting Guard Dwayne Wade, both past their primes.
Then, Thursday’s trade did the opposite, made the Bulls slightly younger and more athletic. So, what is the plan? What is the Bulls long term direction? Are the Bulls rebuilding or are they trying to build around Shooting Guard Jimmy Butler?
There is no clear direction and there is no legitimate plan, although “Gar and Pax” will tell you there is. The Bulls are not an organization focused on winning championships. They are trying to rebuild while remaining a mediocre team, which will never work. The Bulls are more concerned with selling tickets temporarily than winning championships. A successful rebuild cannot be done in the non-committal way the Bulls are trying to do it. Pick a direction and stick to it. Either build around Jimmy Butler or blow it up.
This offseason is a cross roads for the Bulls, where a decision on Jimmy Butler must be made. Butler’s stock will likely never be higher than this summer. If the Bulls decide to hold onto Jimmy, look for more of the same mediocrity.
In conclusion, according to DJ Bean, a CSN Boston Reporter, in trade talks with the Celtics, the “Bulls wanted core players (…) rather than young/future assets for Butler so they could ‘reshape on the fly.’” Yet another example of a Bulls front office that does not have a sense of direction.