On the one hand, these roster changes should have been happening last offseason. I don’t mean these specific additions and subtractions that we’re seeing now, but the Bulls needed to shake it up last season instead of standing pat. We see where standing pat got them: a front seat on each of the players’ respective couches for the months of May and June. And on the other hand, the hometown fan in me is going to miss Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, even Pau Gasol and Mike Dunleavey. And as far as the additions go, I’m left wondering if the Bulls have made the right additions; that is, is it better that the Bulls “retool” right now, as general Gar Forman puts it, or would the option of a complete rebuild have been better suited for this franchise right now? It’s hard to say, but let’s take a look at what’s going on and maybe the fuzzy picture will get a little bit clearer.
The Bulls have now added Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, after losing former core pieces in Rose and Noah to the New York Knicks, as well as Gasol and Dunleavey through free agency and a trade in order to dump salary so Wade could be signed. At first I balked on the Wade signing, but the deal isn’t that bad. A one-year contract with a player option, and the hope by many is that he can lure some free agents to the team next year. Our own David Chasanov speculated on someone like Chris Paul having an incentive to come to Chi-town with Wade and Rondo on the team, and while we don’t want to get our hopes too high, it’s at least nice to have something to think about in the wake of disastrous 2015-16 campaign.
Then of course, the Bulls have a rookie in Denzel Valentine and sophomores Bobby Portis and Jerian Grant who are all being looked at as the new “young core” that the team will really build on, along with the true star and leader of the team, Jimmy Butler. Still though, while we can get a little excited about this, there are still many questions.
Can Wade and Rondo remain healthy, especially Wade? Other people have had similar concerns about Valentine, especially in light of Rose’s past problems. Then you have the bench that isn’t really proven outside of Doug McDermott or Nikola Mirotic. Can Bobby Portis a d Jerian Grant contribute nightly and often, especially if Wade and Rondo go down at some point during the season? And then there’s the question of the team’s big men. Robin Lopez is your biggest guy now, and while the team is hoping to see improvement from Cristiano Felicio this year in his second season, he’s still largely unproven.
I think it’s clear that the Bulls have to go after another big man before the offseason comes to a close and solidify the bench. I think it’s also apparent that the bench the Bulls currently have on this “retooled” roster isn’t quite comparable to the magnificent benches of years past. We saw that last year too, unfortunately. But hey, surprises are always nice. I think at the very least, this new Bulls roster will make the playoffs. Some are already prematurely projecting the Bulls as a Top-4 team in the East, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I think enough shaking up has happened so that the stagnation that led to last season’s debacle won’t repeat itself this year.
Will it take some time for the new team to gel together? Sure. Will it take some time for the egos of Butler, Wade and Rondo to settle out? You bet. But I’m confident that it’ll happen. This of course, still doesn’t answer the question of whether or not a “retooling” is better than a rebuild at this point. Kenny Williams wanted to “reshape” the Chicago White Sox, and we all see how that’s going right now.
But if the Bulls can really focus on the younger players like Forman is saying, maybe they can actually make this work and get the Bulls back to title contention by the end of the decade. Because I don’t care how favorably you look at the recent transactions the Bulls have made, but there’s no way they will be contending for a title in the next year or two. We’re in a new era now, and while it won’t be as bumpy and painful as 1999, there’s going to be some growing pains on this new-look Bulls team. Hopefully, Bulls fans have the patience to stick through it.