Gar Forman is our general manager and John Paxson is our vice president of basketball operations. Our beloved superstar was recently traded away for a bad return. Two of our big men are out of the lineup after a bloody fight. Oh yeah, Cameron Payne is going to be in the rotation soon, too. Clearly, there are a lot of negatives surrounding the Bulls.
In fact, there are so many negatives it’s making Bulls fans turn off the TV and put their basketball devotion to the side. That’s completely understandable. But for all you out there who continue to pay attention to these 2017 Bulls— it’s time to start focusing on the positives.
This may sound difficult, but it’s not so bad when you consider that the majority of the damage has already been done. The rebuild has already begun, so it’s time to accept the awful trade that initiated it and stop complaining about it. Yes, the Bulls should have gotten more for Jimmy Butler, but it’s been four months since that trade, stop lamenting over what could have been.
Of course I’m not suggesting that we open our arms wide, jubilantly announcing our appreciation of the Forman-Paxson combo. They still should be fired, and when they continue to make poor decisions, like trade away a second round pick, we need to let them now. But Jerry Reinsdorf has made clear he expects the diddling duo to guide the team through the rebuild, and as fans we need to accept that.
Being a White Sox fan, I happily endured watching the South Siders play this year, despite them finishing with an ugly record. How? I understood that our hope lies in the future, and so I focused on those future aspects while choosing to dwell less on the negatives.
Surprisingly, there’s a good amount of hope in the Bulls’ present and future.
Lauri Markkanen– The first thing that comes to mind is Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish phenom has outshone almost every other past Bulls rookie statistically through his first two games. Yes, his field-goal percentage isn’t great. But he’s been comfortable from behind the three-point line and has established a paint presence, averaging 10 rebounds per game.
Earlier this summer, Markkanen illustrated his leadership abilities, single-handedly powering the Finnish national team to a good result at EuroBasket 2017. Though he isn’t the go-to guy right now, his performance this summer hinted at his ability to become one.
With his small sample size, it’s hard to tell what caliber player Markkanen will become. All we can do now is enjoy his success and be hopeful for the future. That’s what rebuilds are all about.
Zach LaVine– Secondly, there’s Zach LaVine. Out of the headlines due to an ACL injury, the 22 year-old will immediately take the keys to the Bulls offense once he returns within the next two months. Averaging 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game last year, LaVine is an impact player who has shown tremendous progress since coming into the league.
If he continues to improve, he will put up Butler-like scoring with better three-point shooting, much less rebounds, and less assists. Not a superstar like Jimmy buckets, but still a top-tier shooting guard.
Everyone else- No one else on the Bulls roster comes near the talent level of the previous two players, but that doesn’t mean fans can’t applaud their progress. For example, the Bulls were down 19 points with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter to the Spurs on Saturday. Instead of giving up, the team fought its way to an 87-77 final score. In a rebuild year with Fred Hoiberg at the helm, I wouldn’t expect a young team to play with resiliency in a lost game against an accomplished team.
Yet they were resilient, and that was a pleasant surprise. Hopefully it shows that veterans like Robin Lopez are encouraging determination, and the young guys are buying into the message. However much fans resent Fred Hoiberg dragging down the locker room, we must praise the players for their energy and grit.
Let’s face it, the Bulls are awful. Even when LaVine comes back, he won’t provide an immediate spark, as he’ll need time to adjust. By that point, the Bulls will be well under .500 and will play only slightly better from then on. Come April, Chicago should have a top-5 pick.
Now, top-5 picks blossom into stars less than half the time. Bummer. However, the Bulls still might select a star, and if not, there’s a good chance they find someone halfway decent.
As for the 2019 draft, if Markkanen and the 2018 pick haven’t broken out, then the Bulls should have yet another high pick. My point is, by the summer of 2019 the Bulls are likely to sport Lauri Markkanen and two lottery picks. That trio along with LaVine could easily contend for a championship berth in 2020.
Will they? Who knows! But at this point, recognizing that possibility should brighten the outlook of Bulls fans.
Nobody accomplishes anything by dwelling on the mistakes of the past. The Bulls have moved on. It’s time for fans to make that transition with them.