Small Ball 2016-17 Season Previews: Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls: 42-40

Key Additions: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Denzel Valentine, Isaiah Canaan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez

Key Departures: Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Aaron Brooks, E’Twaun Moore, Mike Dunleavy

The 2015-2016 season for the Chicago Bulls was a catastrophe. Not only did they underachieve, barely finishing over .500 on the year, but there was constant in-fighting, bickering, and distrust. There was a power struggle between Rose and Butler that caused a media storm for a good portion of the season. Butler was clearly the superior player at the time, but Rose was said to be unwilling to hand over the keys to the offense. Noah was constantly injured, and Butler did not mince words with the media when he talked about how he thought first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg was doing when it came to handling the team. All of these things were off-court distractions that only added to the fact that the Bulls were not playing well. It was a season to forget.

The Bulls’ defense, a brick wall in past seasons, was reduced to nothing under Hoiberg. The offense, which was supposed to improve was still nothing more than mediocre. Hoiberg was supposed to come in and change the direction of the team, but after an underwhelming performance for a majority of the season, Chicago fans were left with little knowledge about where their team was going. Until the offseason rolled around.

The Bulls decided to shake things up by shipping off Rose, Justin Holiday and a future second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and Jose Calderon. They drew a line in the sand and decided to move forward with Jimmy Butler as their franchise player. Shortly after, the Bulls lost Gasol and Noah to free agency and Mike Dunleavy in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In just a few months after the 2015-2016 season had ended, the Bulls had just one remaining starter on their roster. They added Rajon Rondo to the squad to fill the gap at point guard, and then shocked the world by stealing Dwyane Wade away from the Miami Heat. Now they have the squad that they want, but how will they fare once the real games role around?

Season Outlook:

Wade and Rondo are more than capable players, but its safe to say at this point in their careers that you don’t necessarily know what you are going to get from them. Last season Wade had somewhat of a renaissance in terms of production, but his health has been a major concern for the past few years. With Rondo, his effort has been called into question ever since he left Boston. If the Bulls can get Wade to perform at the same level he did last season and can encourage Rondo to give it his all for the entire season, then they may have something. But those two things are not close to being a given at this point.

There’s no denying the fact that spacing and three-point shooting is going to be a problem for the Bulls this season. Their three best players, Wade, Butler, and Rondo, are not effective from beyond the arc. Their only real shooters are Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, and both players have been reserves for most of their short careers. With the potential to have four non-shooters on the court at one time, where will Wade and Butler find the space to drive to the basket? Defenses will be able to collapse on Rondo when he penetrates the defense if they know that he has no reliable shooters to move the ball to. While the Bulls ranked third in the NBA with a 37 percent three-point shooting on the year, they ranked 21st in the league in three-point shots made with just 7.9. Where will they be able to find enough shooting to execute a functioning offense? That question remains unanswered.

Prediction:

The Bulls have a lot of household names on their roster, but will that translate into more wins? The shooting is a big problem, and the defense will suffer if they slide Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup to space the floor. Wade and Rondo will need to rejuvenate their defensive intensity if they have any hope putting up a league-average defense. Chicago will be in the hunt for a bottom four playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, but eventually fall short. And be on the look out for more internal conflict. Wade has said that this is Butler’s team, but there have been plenty of reports that Butler is not the best leader in the locker room. Regardless, the Bulls just won’t have enough shooting or defense to get back into the playoff picture

Chicago Bulls: 43-39

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