The Chicago Bulls hit the refresh button once again, deciding the Doug McDermott era was over and it was time to start a new Cam-Payne. While not as volatile as the presidential campaign and the current hysteria with massive changes on the agenda, the Bulls took smaller steps to reshape the roster.
Initially, I was ready to join the hostile crowds and take to the streets to protest, but after reflecting a bit, I decided to sit back and see how things go from here. While no one is sure what the plan is, and there are definitely questions about leadership, deporting McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City should not cause waves of unrest in Chicago.
Gibson was at the end of his contract, and McDermott is a player with a skill-set that does not translate to NBA stardom. Even if his numbers flourish in OKC with Russell Westbrook dishing him the ball for open looks, he’s still only a rotation player.
When the Bulls initially traded two No. 1s along with a second-rounder to move up and take McDermott at No. 11 in the 2014 draft, I was against the pick. I liked Zack LaVine coming out as a freshman rather than a senior like McDermott. I thought there was likely more future development with a younger, athletic player. While LaVine turned into a twenty-point scorer with Minnesota before tearing his ACL this year, McDermott has been exactly as expected. He proved to be limited by his athletic deficiencies. And, he was not the lights-out shooter in the Kyle Korver mold that was projected for him.
Bulls drafts have been troubling for the past five years. From selecting Marquis Teague over Draymond Green in 2012, to—in order—Tony Snell, McDermott, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine this year, there has been little contribution from the teams’ first-round picks. Whether they’re picking the wrong players or simply not able to develop them, Bulls drafts have been an abysmal failure. Because of the lack of player development, the Bulls are a team with very few resources of any value.
A possible benefit is that Portis and Valentine should finally get some court time with Gibson and McDermott gone. And, Bulls management mentioned that as one of the reasons for making the deal when speaking on ESPN Chicago radio Friday afternoon. Why they weren’t already playing is a question you could ask, since Fred Hoiberg was brought in to help develop the young players former coach Tom Thibodeau was often reluctant to play.
This trade was essentially a swap of McDermott for Cameron Payne. OKC selected him with the 14th pick of the 2015 draft, but has limited playing experience due to being behind Russell Westbrook in the pecking order. Breaking his foot twice since being drafted hasn’t helped either.
It’s really a no-lose situation for Chicago, which is why I changed my tune after initial disgust with the move. For a team going nowhere, getting rid of two rotation players might put them back in the lottery. It might leave them with a higher pick in what is supposed to be a good draft. Of course, based on recent history, it might not make much of a difference.
What the Bulls are hoping for with Payne is getting their point guard of the future. In today’s game, the point guard might be the most important position on the court. Since they liked Payne when he came out and mentioned they were even thinking of possibly trading up to get him, from their point of view, the deal made sense.
It does for me too. You need to know if Portis and Valentine are any good. And you’re only going to find that out if they’re on the court. Valentine looked good in his first two games since, shooting 8-13 on three-pointers and scoring 26 points.
Payne is the main cog to determine if the trade is a success. If he’s good, the trade worked out no matter what McDermott does. If not, it’s a wash. He made a couple of three-pointers in his first game against Cleveland, playing the entire second quarter. He also had a couple of bad turnovers. It’s going to take a bit of time for him to get acclimated to what the Bulls run. Instead of worrying about making the playoffs, hopefully he gets to be out there more often than not.
Trading for a player that has already had two foot injuries may not be the best decision, of course. But that will play out in the next few years. The Bulls had a PG that couldn’t stay on the court in Derrick Rose. If Payne’s a bust, it’s still not nearly as damning as the McDermott failure. Considering what they gave up along with passing on LaVine, that was the deal that killed the franchise moving forward. This was just clearing the wreckage and starting over.
So while it wasn’t Earth-shattering, and the future isn’t any brighter now than it was before, there is only so much you can do when you bungle the draft for so long. Bulls’ fans have been clamoring for change for ages, but to no avail. They make a tweak here and there with the roster, but in the end everything remains the same. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
Gar Forman and John Paxson seem to have lifetime jobs, and as long as they’re making the decisions, don’t expect out-of-the-box thinking. The appearance of trying to make the playoffs along with putting money into the coffers of Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf is the Chicago Bulls mandate. Winning is an afterthought.
Speaking of winning, that’s all you heard from one candidate. And win he did, to the surprise of the nation. He said we’re going to win so much you’re going to get tired of winning. I don’t know about the winning, but I sure am tired after a little more than a month in office.
The Bulls are on the road to nowhere. It may not be good, but you’re used to it. The other campaign changed everything. Up is down, day is night, and nothing’s the same. Isn’t the norm better than complete and total chaos?
Does that make you feel better about the Bulls? Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes change isn’t the answer.
Am I right or are you wrong?