If it’s possible for a team to get better while getting significantly worse, the Bulls achieved that goal this summer. They’ll likely win more games, but the team is going to be infinitely worse to watch and there is no long-term play in the moves that were made.
It was not a happy offseason for me as a Chicago Bulls fan. Sure, we traded away my former favourite player, in Derrick Rose, but I was in support of that move. The Bulls got back the best player in Robin Lopez and brought in a young point guard that they could develop in Jerian Grant. The front office made all the right noise by saying they wanted to get younger and more athletic. Sacrificing this season for a chance at a high pick in the talent-laden 2017 Draft was something I could get behind, but that was the end of the things I liked.
2016 NBA Draft
Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State - Pick 14
Paul Zipser, SF, Bayern Munchen - Pick 48
I liked the Bulls draft. Denzel Valentine is the type of player that could thrive under Fred Hoiberg if he can prove to be at least passable defensively and prior to free agency, I was really excited about seeing him play behind Jimmy Butler, as well handling the ball as a point guard in a relatively significant role. In fact, if we use per-36 value, Valentine is the most valuable rookie in this class based on our projections. He’d be a lock for top 100 value in a starting role, but that isn’t going to happen. He’s worth an investment in dynasty formats for his stat producing ability, but whether he develops into a starter at all is up for debate.
Zipser is someone to watch on the Windy City Bulls this season and his game does have a decent fantasy ring to it, with the ability to distribute and hit threes from the wing, but he’s a long way down the depth chart and won’t see much action this season. Still, he’s a nice deep dynasty flier with the ability to stash him for a couple of seasons.
2016 Free Agency
Rajon Rondo, PG, Sacramento Kings
Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat
Isaiah Canaan, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Pau Gasol, C, San Antonio Spurs
Joakim Noah, C, New York Knicks
Aaron Brooks, PG, Indiana Pacers
E’Twaun Moore, SG, New Orleans Pelicans
We saw the rumours. Rajon Rondo was spotted in the airport holding an iPad with a Bulls logo. Maybe it was just a meeting. Maybe Gar Forman would come to his senses. But, no, Rondo became the Bulls’ newest starting point guard. He is signed to a friendly contract, that is only lightly guaranteed for next season, so that is a positive, but why would you take the ball out of Jimmy Butler’s hands when he has made plenty of noise about wanting to be the point guard in Hoiberg’s offense.
Then the murmurs about Dwyane Wade actually leaving Miami became louder, and of course, in fitting with their younger and more athletic mantra, the Bulls went after Wade. It’s a big deal for Wade and it could look ugly as early as next season, but the fit is more of the concern. Not only did Rondo take the ball out of Butler’s hand, but now Wade has pushed Butler out of his position and further taken the ball out of his hands.
Wade and Rondo will be similar players to what we saw last season, except Rondo won’t have the same level of freedom he did in Sacramento. Their additions are likely to stunt and possibly hurt Butler, especially with his assist numbers. A large part of what Butler does was his ability to dish almost five dimes per game. He won’t have that opportunity this season with the other two ‘Alphas’ in town.
Isaiah Canaan hits threes but does nothing else. He’ll be battling Grant and Valentine for the backup point guard minutes, but his value should be limited to a stream for three-pointers only.
Derrick Rose, PG, Justin Holiday, SG to the New York Knicks in exchange for Robin Lopez, C, Jerian Grant, PG, and Jose Calderon, PG.
Cameron Bairstow, PF to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, PG
Mike Dunleavy, SF, and draft rights to Vladimir Veremeenko to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the draft rights to Albert Miralles
Jose Calderon, PG, Denver’s 2018 second round draft pick and Chicago’s 2019 second round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for the draft rights to Ater Majok
The Rose move is a tough, but necessary one for the Bulls and it was the right one to make. Lopez is the best player in the deal and provides a nice defensive presence. His value should be similar to what he saw in New York, but he is unlikely to be a 30 minutes a night guy with Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis pushing for playing time.
Grant should get the first crack at the backup point guard role, but he’s yet to prove anything in his one season in the NBA. He was a nice addition, who is worth a dynasty look for a few years in the future.
The other trades don’t impact the roster. Dinwiddie was waived and resigned to a non-guaranteed deal and will likely play for Windy City for most of the season.
Nikola Mirotic, ESPN ADP 119, Y! ADP 82
Mirotic was a let down last season but still turned in a season better than many would realise when you look back. I spoke about Niko at length in the Third Year Player Breakout article, but at this point, he is being drafted very late, and given the Bulls’ need for shooting, he should comfortably exceed that. He exceeded it last season in a nightmare season, so chances are good he does it again.
Dwyane Wade, ESPN ADP 48, Y! ADP 70
Much like Mirotic was better than his ADP last season in a bad situation, Wade was worse than his ADP in a better situation. In Chicago, he’ll cede some touches to Rondo and Butler and with the spacing being at a premium, Wade’s game may not look as great in his new uniform. Wade also played 74 games last season, his most since 2010-11, but played the fewest minutes of his career to get to that point. There’s a big chance he plays less again and may struggle to find himself in the top 100, let alone the top 50.
Bobby Portis, PF
I’ve already discussed Valentine and Mirotic, and to me, they have the most upside on this team, but I wanted to use this section to talk about Bob Portis. Portis was a fan favourite last season, before he even stepped on the court, with many fantasy fans, and Bulls fans, clamouring to see the number five on the court in big minutes. The hype was unfounded and even when he was given the opportunity, Portis was unable to put together performances worthy of being on most fantasy rosters.
But, that was when he was a rookie. Rookies are supposed to suck unless your name is Karl-Anthony Towns. Portis has a good future ahead of him, but his defense needs work. He showed in Summer League that he can stretch to three, but it’s his defense which is going to limit him. I think 2017 is going to be the season we see top 150 production from Portis, but he is far from a lock. I also wouldn’t count out Cristiano Felicio as being a future fantasy contributor.
Seven Seconds Or Less
Jimmy Butler - likely to lose assists, which hurts his value and given his rank on some sites, he will be overdrafted.
Doug McDermott - poor fantasy player, will play PF a bit this season and provide high-efficiency three-pointers with nothing else. Defense limits his playing time.
Taj Gibson - a mid-season trade feels inevitable and while in Chicago, won’t get enough minutes to be relevant
Cristiano Felicio - number two centre who looks promising. Nice dynasty target, who if starting, is a guy to own.
Tony Snell - this guy is done. Has been poor, but defense has kept him on the roster. Offers nothing for fantasy.
43-39 - 8th Seed in the Eastern Conference
30 Questions - Chicago Bulls
Will Rondo, Dwyane, and Jimmy help or hurt each other's value?
Josh Lloyd: Almost assuredly hurt, with the main culprit being Rondo. Rondo’s addition to the Kings last season made key contributors Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, and DeMarcus Cousins, significantly worse than the season before. All three saw their assist totals drop and Butler’s value comes in part due to the fact that he approached five dimes per game last season That almost has no chance of happening again this season with Rondo and Wade around.
Kyle McKeown: The second year of Rondo’s deal is non-guaranteed, so that provides a reset button if things don’t work out. I don’t know how an offense predicated on ball movement is expected to work with Rondo dominating the ball, and in doing so hurting the value and impact of both Wade and Butler, who are most effective with the ball in their hands. Who is going to shoot threes on the Bulls? Rondo was the most efficient three-point shooter out of the three of them last season, and he hit a career-high 37 percent.
Matt Smith: They will hurt each other’s value and I think it will end in tears. Rondo obviously needs the ball in his hands to do what he does best and Butler is a shooting guard/small forward who views himself as a point guard and wants the ball in his hands. Wade has shown he can work with ball dominant players - LeBron James - and is most likely to defer for the betterment of the team at this stage of his career. I was high on Butler’s value this time last season, but I’m not going out of my way to draft him, or the others, this season.
Can Nikola Mirotic gain Fred Hoiberg's trust?
JL: Let’s hope so. He has to be the starter at the four and was tremendous last season when he was able to play decent minutes, but Hoiberg was a significant handbrake on his overall production.
KM: Who else is going to stretch the floor for the Bulls? Doug McDermott is more of a small forward than a power forward, and they have Rondo, Wade, and Butler starting on the wing. With Robin Lopez at center, the Bulls are going to be forced to start Mirotic. Unfortunately, because he’ll be the only player getting any attention at the three-point line, Mirotic might be in for another inconsistent season on the Bulls, and I won’t blame him for performing like trash in a garbage environment. When the Bulls falter, they’ll need a scapegoat, and the most likely player to be removed from the starting lineup will be Mirotic. Hoiberg will be fired by mid-season. But what should really happen is Gar Forman and John Paxson stepping down, and whoever takes over should waive Rondo so the Bulls can start Butler at point guard and McDermott or Denzel Valentine at small forward. There is no trust in Chicago these days. It’s the worst possible situation for a selfish and deluded player like Rondo. And you can bet we’ll hear from Forman and Paxson at some point this season about how they felt like they had the talent but that the pieces didn’t quite fit together right.
MS: I’d like to think so. Apart from Doug McDermott, Mirotic is the only one that can provide any sort of court spacing and three-point shooting on the roster. He fits perfectly next to Robin Lopez, whereas Gibson and Portis further add to a crowded key-way. Mirotic will also be part of his core, with Butler after this Rondo/Wade experiment goes pear-shaped.
Bobby Portis had a lot of hype in his rookie season, he's still behind Gibson and Mirotic on the depth chart, where's his dynasty value at?
JL: People love Portis and with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol gone, a lot of people will have high hopes for him. To me, though, he is behind Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio at the five and Mirotic and Gibson at the four. I feel like like people who have invested in Portis will be overvaluing his place in the league at the moment. Once the season starts and he is still limited, that might be the time to strike, but I’m not convinced Portis will ever be a top level starter. He may be, but it’s far from a given.
KM: If Robin Lopez wasn’t in Chicago, I’d be looking at Portis as arguably the favorite to start at center for the Bulls. He’d at least have an opportunity to fight for the job in that situation. But with Lopez starting at center, the only place for Portis to get good minutes is at power forward, and I don’t see him overtaking Nikola Mirotic for the starting spot there.
MS: It’s probably at an all-time low right now, so suss out his owner in your dynasty league. Owners will need to be patient while the Bulls are trying to remain playoff bound by adding veterans, whilst they have a very good young core of Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis waiting in the wings.