The Most Likely Never Going to Happen Bulls Climb Back to the Top of the NBA Plan
To compete for a title in the NBA a lot of things have to come together. Luck, free agent signings, draft talent, young controllable contracts, and a superstar is the usual formula. That’s an immense shopping list.
Most teams never get there; some do, however, and other teams have been able to not only reach the top once, but to do so consistently (talking to you San Antonio). In Chicago, there is nothing from the past that suggests the Bulls front office has the skill needed to make all of that happen.
If you ask them to draft another Taj Gibson, they got that down. They can draft Taj Gibsons for days. But this same organization traded Gary Harris - one of the league’s rising stars - to move up to get Doug McDermott. Harris is a 20 points a game scorer in the league now. McDermott is not.
Evaluating talent hasn’t been their strong point. And that can sink a franchise quicker than anything. Just ask Sacramento.
Right now, the Bulls are 2-7 on the season. They have looked starkly terrible, and for most bad teams that might be a good thing. A bad record leads to high draft picks, and in the NBA, that is where superstars are found. Chicago’s poor draft record upends this.
Other than Derrick Rose, who had no business even going to the Bulls in the 2008 draft if not for some of the craziest of ping pong ball luck (1.7 percent chance), the Bulls front office has been mediocre at best when drafting. I’ll give them Jimmy Butler. That was a pick in a half, Buckets is a stud.
Former general manager John Paxson and current GM Gar Forman have been behind everything Bulls for almost a decade. This front office has played it safer than just about any team in the Association. While they have had some success with several reshapes of the Bulls, all have fallen short of recapturing the 90’s dominance that led to the franchises only championships. (Some would say that the Derrick Rose years were cut short because of Rose’s knee injuries. That would be a fair argument but at a closer look that team was an outlier to begin with.)
For the Bulls to recapture the championship pedigree they have been longing for I’ve conceived an outline in what I’m calling, “The Most Likely Never Going to Happen Bulls Climb Back to the Top of the NBA Plan”. Acronym coming soon.
1) FORGET ABOUT THIS SEASON
The Indianapolis Star
I’m a huge advocate of staying relevant; Chicago fans deserve it. All fans do. Regardless the product on the court, the Bulls tend to have one of the best crowd turnouts year after year. Unfortunately, the last thing the Bulls need is to win too many games and fall out of this year’s top three in the draft lottery. So, for the love of all the basketball Gods, tank it up this season.
2) DRAFT A SUPER STAR
New York Post
The Bulls may have a star in Lauri Markkanen. He showed everyone in his rookie season he has the tools to be a real nice player in the league. If he progresses in the next several seasons he could be a game changer for the Bulls. His size and skill-set fits nicely in the current NBA style of play.
Yet it’s safe to say Markkanen can’t yet be the best player on a championship team, he may just turn in to that player but he isn’t there at the moment. What the Bulls need come June is to have a shot at a top three pick and with one of those hopefully land someone like the rim rocker Zion Williamson of Duke. This dude can ball; he reminds me of Shawn Kemp. That type of player can bring all types of energy to a squad instantaneously.
Now there are outliers, Stephen Curry was a 7th pick, Kobe Bryant a 17th but most superstars are found in the top three. Michael Jordan (3rd), Tim Duncan (1st), Kevin Garnet (1st), Shaq(1st), LeBron James (1st), Kevin Durant (2nd). Blah, blah, blah. You get the picture, franchise game changers live at the top of the draft. While the Bulls found a nice piece in the draft last year with Lauri Markkanen, they need a generational talent. Williamson could be that guy.
3) SIGN A BIG TIME FREE AGENT
Watching Klay Thompson light up the Bulls for 52 last week gave me chills. The fans before the game were hopped up, singing “Only the Bulls,” and pouring love in for their home team. But by the end of the game, the entire stadium was awestruck by what had happened.
Thompson reminded everyone the level of special he is and that he is exactly the type of player the Bulls need if they want to take a run at future titles. However, the chances of signing a big fish like Thompson away from the defending champs would take some convincing and a combination of the above points.
A player of Thompson’s caliber needs to know he will be leaving his situation to join another one that will be promising for years to come. The Bulls have a chance to be that team. They are young, have a budding star in Markkanen and may have another All-Star in Zach LaVine. That makes Chicago enticing, especially if the Bulls somehow land another top draft pick.
This team can definitely raise eyebrows of a top free agent like Klay Thompson. The question is will fortune bounce their way again.
FRONT OFFICE SWAG
To really get the attention of a big-time players, the Bulls need to recapture excitement in the front office. Teams like the Lakers have Magic and the Los Angeles lights. New York is New York. Boston is Title Town. Miami has South Beach and the slick back hair assassin Pat Riley.
The Bulls comparatively lack pizzazz. The biggest figure to don the red and black is down in North Carolina. Scottie Pippen had a short run in a front office position but he didn’t seem to capture the eye of any alphas. What the Bulls need is a big gun, someone who can draw in players from their sheer presence.
I have a shortlist of people who would draw big names and when I say shortlist I mean two.
1) Barrack Obama:
He’s an Illinois native and a beloved former President. Brining him aboard would surely intrigue players of all stripes.
Let’s say Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf sells Obama a small percentage of the team. Anywhere from one to three percent ownership stake. Having the former President in decision meetings in the world’s most progressive sport would go a long way. Players would flock just to be in his presence. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Obama shooting J’s in a suit before home games.
2) Kobe Bryant:
Since Michael Jordan would never come back because of his own ownership status why not bring in the next best thing. That would be Kobe.
I know what you are thinking. No way. But here me out. Bryant almost forced a trade to the baby Bulls in the early 2000’s. He clearly modeled his game after his Airness and MJ has even said in the past he is the one player who most resembles him. Why not bring the Black Mamba to Chicago to be the guy who steps out of Jordan’s shadow?
How fitting would it be if it was Kobe who brought back glory to the Bulls in this cold post-Jordan Chicago. He clearly has the respect of current players. He is still close enough removed from the game where he is relevant in almost all NBA circles. I mean the guy won an Oscar before Leonardo DiCaprio. Bryant is the total package.
The Bulls need a culture change. They have a fun young team that goes out and plays every night but Chicago is a 10th seed at best in the East. The above script is just what the doctor order to usher in a new era of greatness.
Whether it’s the 90s Bulls, the current Golden State Warriors, or any other repeat champions, dominance takes time. Chicago has the underlying pieces and position to recapture that glory, they just need to follow a plan.